45. Memorandum of Discussion at the 397th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1–3.]

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4. U.S. Policy Toward the Horn of Africa (NSC 5903; NSC 5615/1; OCB Report, July 9, 1958, on NSC 5615/1; NIE 76–58;1 Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated February 18, 19592)

(Copies of the briefing note which Mr. Gray used in explaining NSC 5903 to the Council are filed in the Minutes of the Meeting and are also attached to this Memorandum).3

At the conclusion of his briefing Mr. Gray called on Secretary Herter.

Secretary Herter said that he had only one comment to make with respect to U.S. policy toward the Horn of Africa. This was to point out that we are now finding ourselves in real trouble with the Lion of Judah. On the proposition offered by the British of joining British Somaliland with Somalia when the latter area became an independent state in December 1960,4 the U.S. had supported the U.K. proposal. Haile Selassie had disliked both the British proposition and our support of it and we were now engaged in trying to cool him off and to rid him of the notion that the U.S. had ganged up against him with the former colonial powers, Britain and France.5

The President said that if the French still had the strength to hold French Somaliland with the important port of Djibouti, he was inclined to doubt if it was wise to ask them now to give up French Somaliland. That area could be very advantageous to us all from a geo-political point of view as a means of blocking Soviet access.

Agreeing with the President, Secretary Herter said that actually the U.S. had a greater interest in the Horn of Africa from a geopolitical point of view than had been indicated in the paper. In response to this statement Mr. Gray called the attention of the Council to the many claims on our resources which came from competing areas throughout the world. The President said he thought Mr. Gray’s point was correct and that he was not quarreling with the point of view [Page 183]expressed in NSC 5903 by the NSC Planning Board. He would, however, hate to see the Red Sea completely bottled up at both ends by people who might not necessarily be or remain our friends. Secretary Anderson then stated that he felt that the Council should face up squarely to a significant national security issue which was suggested by the present paper. In Secretary Anderson’s view we were heading rapidly into a situation where a lot of little, newly independent countries were coming into being and would inevitably turn to the United States for support. All of these little countries wanted to act like great big countries. This would mean increased demands on the resources of the U.S. for assistance. He greatly feared that sooner or later the bulk of financial support for Somaliland and similar newly developing countries would be expected to come from the U.S. He doubted very much, in turn, whether we could persist much longer in letting the entire world believe that we can and will support all these newly independent countries. This meant to Secretary Anderson that as the U.S. became more reluctant to provide the desired assistance, these newly independent countries would turn to the United Nations instead. On the other hand, if the United States should get into development programs for such countries, this would mean that of course the Soviets would likewise become involved. The Soviets, of course, could afford to undertake kinds of trade and contributions in their currency that the U.S. could not afford to make in dollars. Furthermore, Soviet aid programs through the United Nations or otherwise would result in an infiltration of Soviet agents in the guise of technicians and engineers whose ultimate objectives would be to subvert the government of the countries they were professing to aid. This being the case, Secretary Anderson expressed the opinion that the best recourse for the U.S. was to be found within the framework of the World Bank. Accordingly we may have to go further than we have thus far in increasing the resources of the World Bank so that the Bank would constitute a source to which these small countries could turn in order to foster their desired economic growth. The World Bank was a stable institution and the Russians were not in it. Secretary Anderson believed this to be a very fundamental point.

The President said that he had never been in the area of the Somalilands and inquired what kind of an area it was. Did Somalia consist of wild jungle? Mr. Allen Dulles said that most of the Somaliland area was dry and desert. Some of it was pretty high in elevation. The President then inquired whether the Somalia people were primitive and aborigines. Mr. Dulles replied that a great many of them certainly fell in that category. Mr. Stans pointed out that in the course of his own travels he had encountered Somali natives in Kenya who [Page 184]were probably much the same as their brethren in the actual Somali areas. They were certainly primitive. On the other hand, the Somali women were said to be the most beautiful in Africa.

The President, citing his experience with primitive peoples in the Philippines, expressed some wonder as to how the natives of Somalia could expect to run an independent nation and why they were so possessed as to try to do so. Mr. Allen Dulles confirmed the President’s doubt as to the capability of the Somalis to organize and administer a modern civilized state.

Mr. George Allen called attention to the support which President Nasser was giving to those Somalis who were Moslem as opposed to the Ethiopians who were in many cases Christian. In turn Secretary Anderson called attention to the great importance of the port of Djibouti which he described as a place from which this whole area could be controlled. He added that he would very much like to see U.S. and other private capital go into the Somalilands. This might provide a way out of the dilemma we were encountering with respect to allocating our assistance resources. Apropos of a comment by Admiral Burke that at the present time the U.S. had only three or four destroyers based near the general area, the President said he was certainly getting very weary of watching the U.S. build bases which we were unable to abandon for fear the Russians would presently take them over.

Admiral Burke expressed considerable anxiety over the influence exerted in the Somalilands by Egyptian teachers and others who exerted influences in the area inimical to the interests of the U.S. Admiral Burke thought that a sustained effort should be made to bring to the U.S. young Somali natives who had displayed a potentiality for leadership in the area. He stated that such young leaders should be trained very carefully and at some length in the U.S. and he said that this was perhaps the most important single thing that the U.S. could do to advance its interests in the Horn of Africa area.

Secretary Herter commented that the suggestion made by Admiral Burke would apply equally well to other sections of the African Continent. The President likewise expressed sympathy with the point of view advanced by Admiral Burke.

With respect to the problem of nations about to become independent, Mr. Gray pointed out that the Planning Board would begin next week to discuss a paper on this subject.6

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The National Security Council:7

Discussed the draft statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5903; in the light of the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thereon, transmitted by the reference memorandum of February 18, 1959.
Adopted the statement of policy in NSC 5903.

Note:NSC 5903 approved by the President for implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, and referred to the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency designated by the President.

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by S. Everett Gleason.
  2. See Document 44 and footnotes 2, 3, and 4 thereto.
  3. This memorandum transmitted a memorandum of February 16 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense stating that they found NSC 5903 acceptable from a military point of view. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5903 Series)
  4. Not printed.
  5. Reference is to a statement made by British Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd in Hargeisa on February 9 indicating British plans for increased self-government in British Somaliland and acceptance of eventual union between the Italian Trust Territory of Somalia and British Somaliland when the two areas became self-governing.
  6. A “Note on Ethiopian-Somali Problem,” drafted by Deputy Director of the Office of Northern African Affairs John A. Bovey, Jr., on February 25, summarized this matter. (Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5903 Series) Documentation concerning this matter is ibid., Central File 645U.75. The French opposed both the Lennox-Boyd statement and the abortive U.S. proposal, although neither concerned French Somaliland.
  7. Between March and May, the Planning Board considered a series of draft discussion papers on the subject “New Independent Countries and U.S. Policy” the last of which was dated May 6, 1959, but none was sent to the National Security Council. The draft papers and records of the relevant Planning Board discussions are ibid., S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1.
  8. Paragraphs a and b and the Note that follows constitute NSC Action No. 2053, approved by the President on March 2. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)