379. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, New York, September 22, 1960, 4:15 p.m.1

OTHERS PRESENT

  • Prime Minister Salaam2
  • UN Ambassador Hakim
  • Ambassador Dimechkie
  • Foreign Secretary General Amoun
  • Secretary Herter
  • Assistant Secretary Jones
  • Colonel Eisenhower

During the course of amenities, the Prime Minister praised the President’s UN speech.3 The President said one of his main objectives had been to give assurance of the peaceful intentions of the U.S. He [Page 655]referred to the dispatch of U.S. troops to Lebanon in 1958 as a dramatic example of our desires for peace and hoped that things had gone well in Lebanon since then.

The Prime Minister said things had indeed developed well in Lebanon. General elections had been held and foreign elements of the Lebanese political body have been fused satisfactorily into the government. Lebanon still has many refugees from Palestine who are desirous of returning to their homeland. That, plus the struggle of the Arabs in Algeria, constitutes the main sore point for the Arabs.

The President expressed regret over the condition of Arab refugees. He said our people had been reluctant to press the refugee problem because it is difficult to see prospects for real rapid improvement. The Prime Minister said they favor dealing with this problem through the UN. He pointed out that some UN resolutions have not yet been implemented. He said the refugee elements become more explosive every day as they grow in numbers of people and in strength of arms.

The President said he is encouraging all nations with refugees to build their industries proportionately. He referred to the situation in Japan, which, with 95 million people, possesses so little arable ground (less than California) that she must be industrialized. The Prime Minister said that Lebanon was industrializing as fast as possible. In answer to the President’s question, he said the refugees remain in their camps because they refuse to give up hope of returning to Palestine. The Lebanese Ambassador said that many refugees still retain the keys to their old homes.

The Prime Minister then referred to Algeria. He referred to the President’s September 22nd speech advocating self-determination of peoples. He said the Arabs interpret this reference as advocating freedom for Algeria. The President said the U.S. has always stood for self-determination for peoples, back to the days of President Wilson. The difficulty in Algeria is the fact of the French-European settlers. He said he thinks De Gaulle has tried hard to bring about a peaceful solution to that problem, and that we could support De Gaulle’s position as outlined in the speech of September 1959. The Prime Minister said that De Gaulle is supplying words and not actions. Furthermore, in his use of the word “pacification,” the connotation is anything but pacific.

The President admitted that De Gaulle is not a simple man. The President had presumed that De Gaulle wanted elections in Algeria soon, but De Gaulle had pointed out the difficulty of holding elections while fighting is going on. When the Prime Minister referred to the UN, the President admitted De Gaulle’s dislike of that body. The Prime Minister said that the main hope of the UN is the President’s support.

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The President said that when he was in Paris last year De Gaulle had offered freedom to the French Community. De Gaulle had told him, however, that the difficulty in Algeria is the fact that they possess no recognized spokesman. An Arab woman in the Cabinet had told the President that the mass of Arabs in Algeria trust De Gaulle. De Gaulle had reemphasized that no spokesman for the Arabs in Algeria exists.

The Prime Minister said the trouble is that the U.S. is not experienced as are the Lebanese in dealing with the French. One technique of the French is to obtain sympathizers to their own views and then call them representatives. The President said he had had experience with the Arabs in North Africa from his days in the war and had learned at that time how little he knew of Arab politics. For example, he had been disturbed over oppressive local laws against the Jews. He had given an order for repeal of these laws and had received a disturbed letter from a rabbi warning him that such action would bring retaliation in the form of violence against all Jews in Algeria. The Prime Minister added this was the same case of the woman who talked to the President.

The President said that he gives De Gaulle credit for believing what he says. De Gaulle is honest, although he may have some blank spots in his vision. The Lebanese Ambassador asked why it required a half million French soldiers to combat a few non-influential rebels. The President said he had mentioned this to De Gaulle, who had pointed out the fact that the bands were concentrated and were operating in difficult terrain. Perhaps if De Gaulle had been generous in the beginning, he could have settled with profitable economic ties between the two nations. The Prime Minister brought up the UN again and the President repeated that De Gaulle is adamant on this subject. The Prime Minister repeated there is no other course for solution. The spirit of the world is like that of the Algerian rebels; freedom at all costs.

The President said he should think the situation of the Algerian people would be better than average for Africa.

The Prime Minister quoted a speech by the President in his 1952 election campaign, in which he had allegedly said that all subject peoples must be emancipated before the world can know real peace. The President corrected the Prime Minister’s quotation and reminded him that he had insisted that peoples must be prepared to take over. This contrasts with the attitude of Sekou Toure who says no preparation is necessary. The President advocates going to the people and laying before them the opportunity for independence in the Philippines in which the Philippines were prepared for independence at U.S. expense. For 35 years the Philippines underwent constant expansion of their training in self-government. In 1935 we promised to free the [Page 657]Philippines in 10 years. During that period of transition, the Philippines had a commonwealth government. Also during that time we gradually instituted tariffs but plowed under the proceeds to the further building up of the Philippines. Even at that, when the time came, the Philippines were woefully unprepared. Compared to their situation, however, other peoples are far worse off.

The Prime Minister said the fault of this unpreparedness elsewhere is the fact that colonial powers have not foreseen the situation wisely. The President quoted some figures he had seen recently regarding the Congo. Apparently in this entire nation there are only 16 college graduates, one doctor, and one lawyer. This was why the President had emphasized the matter of education in his speech that morning.

The Prime Minister said he appreciated the educational problem. Lebanon itself is reputed to be a forward country in the Arab world but this forwardness is a facade only. Lebanon is 20% developed and 80% underdeveloped, and a part of the country is highly underdeveloped. Lebanon has a population of 1.5 million people. It is in need of roads, doctors, water and schools.

The President admitted the building of a nation takes time. A nation must help itself with the aid of others. Things like clinics, accountants, and the like, are needed. The Prime Minister agreed that the initiative must come from the country itself. He quoted that God helps those who help themselves.

The President repeated that responsibility is on the nations themselves and that improvement takes time. The Communists, in an effort to create discontent, tell everybody that growth should be overnight. Our doctrine is that evident improvement, even though gradual, is conducive to high morale. The Prime Minister said it is difficult to differentiate between the Communist line and the legitimate aspirations of all subject peoples to throw out the colons.

The President said he could not see how any people with any religious feelings could be Communists. To those with any religion at all, death is better than slavery. He realizes that to the man in the Congo the issue is not placed in such stark terms. In our case, if the choice is put to the people, we will fight to the last man.

The Prime Minister said that you cannot “sleep on” religion as proof against Communism. This is proved by the number of Moslems who have turned Communist. The President agreed that to the peasant whose goats are starving the issues are not clearcut.

John S. D. Eisenhower
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Secret. Drafted by John S.D. Eisenhower. The source text indicates that the conference took place in the President’s suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel while Eisenhower was in New York to address the General Assembly.
  2. Saeb Salaam became Prime Minister on July 28 after elections in Lebanon and formed an 18-member cabinet at President Chehab’s request.
  3. For text of President Eisenhower’s address before the General Assembly on September 22, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960–61, pp. 707–720.