31. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Irwin) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Merchant)1

Dear Mr. Merchant: In reply to your letters of February 82 and 11,3 the Department of Defense has considered the outline paper entitled “Review of Bases of Present Hemispheric Defense Policy”. Your request has been given careful consideration by the various interested elements of the Department of Defense, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recently developed specific military courses of action to reinforce the United States policy toward Latin America, with particular emphasis on the Caribbean area. They have also recently completed their annual review of U.S. strategic objectives to include those for Latin America. In the light of these recent efforts, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that at this time there is no justification from a military point of view for a major reorientation of U.S. military policy toward Latin America nor for a change in the U.S. strategic concept for defense of the Western Hemisphere. As you know, representatives of the Department of Defense are currently participating in the development and coordination of a draft Operations Coordinating Board report on U.S. policy toward Latin America;4 if deemed desirable, this could be an appropriate forum in which to raise these matters again.

Although there may be compelling political and economic reasons for a review of U.S. military policy toward Latin America, we believe that such a review should be conducted not in isolation but in conjunction with the political and economic aspects which occasion such review. Unfortunately, there is not adequate time for a sound and orderly consideration of your proposals prior to the departure of the President for Latin America on February 22, 1960; however, we stand ready to aid in whatever way we can in your consideration of these problems.

Sincerely yours,

John N. Irwin II
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 710.5/2–2060. Secret.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 30.
  3. Not found in Department of State files.
  4. Apparent reference to Document 13.