299. Memorandum from Maj. Smith to Gen. Taylor, September 201

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  • State of the World

1. Mr. Rostow has written an extremely interesting and provocative paper dealing with two questions: (1) What accounts for the odd state of affairs of the world today, and (2) what should we do about it? I have redlined its key portions.

2. Mr. Rostow attributes the present situation to five factors: (1) the diffusion of effective power away from both Moscow and Washington; (2) the easing of tensions following the Berlin and Cuba crises; (3) the impact on the rest of the world of recent US-Soviet negotiations; (4) reduced fear of communism as a result of Khrushchev’s setbacks in his post-SPUTNIK adventures; and (5) the Sino-Soviet split.

3. To meet this changed situation, Mr. Rostow suggests: (1) continuing an even greater US military presence abroad; (2) increased use of foreign aid for political purposes; (3) continued muted ideological conflict to dramatize the limits of the détente; and (4) more Western collective enterprises, including continued support for the MLF, moves toward a common strategy, and increased NATO political consultation.

4. Mr. Rostow’s analysis of the present state of the world is better than his suggestions as what we should do about it, his description better than his prescription. As he admits, only one of the trends he mentions seems long term—the diffusion of power; the remaining items are essentially manifestations or derivatives of this central trend. Nonetheless, the diffusion of power thought is so compelling and on the mark that alone it provides an adequate base point for describing the unfolding state of the world. The US is confronted with a centrifugence of power, thus the disappearance of the bipolar world; and we must learn how better to deal with the new environment.

5. With respect to Mr. Rostow’s prescriptions, intuitively there seems something wrong with suggestions which add up to a conclusion that we should face a changed world situation with policies [Facsimile Page 2] of “more [Typeset Page 1282] of the same.” It implies that we have a “policy for all occasions”, one capable of handling any contingency, one like the proverbial speech, available to influence any audience on any subject. To me, such a condition can only mean (1) that our policies have been wrong in the past, (2) that they are so general in nature that they are not very useful at any particular time, or (3) that they are wrong for the future. I tend to accept the last alternative.

6. Few of the key policies mentioned by Mr. Rostow seem to recognize the diffusion of power, of which he speaks. Redistribution can only give smaller nations more latitude in their policies. Governments which want freedom of choice will not accept the firm political commitments to the West inherent in the permanent stationing of US forces on their soil. Nations in the middle will see themselves increasingly in a buyer’s market with respect to aid; they will choose the product with the fewest political strings. Finally, the MLF cannot satisfy the major European’s desire for a greater voice in nuclear matters unless the present US proposal is modified. Stripped to its essentials, our present MLF proposal is nothing more than an effort to extend the life of the US veto over the nuclear forces of NATO, while making the Europeans pay part of the nuclear bill.

7. Rather than planning to ride tired horses faster for another decade, we should seek new approaches. One approach would be to go the route of diffusion, accepting it and trying to mold it to our own purposes. Under this alternative, we should more and more substitute mobility exercises and temporary appearances for permanent military presence. We should accept that foreign aid will be increasingly used for economic rather than for political purposes; indeed, we should encourage this trend to diminish any growing political influence at our expense of our Allies, whom we wish to share a larger burden of economic (and eventually military) assistance, but whose policies may diverge from ours. We should support, if not encourage, measures which give Europe nuclear interdependence rather than nuclear servitude; the alternative is their aloof independence. We should slowly seek to expand trade between East and West within the limits of economic and political prudence, recognizing that this could have a multiplier effect on our Allies. (Economically, it used to be said that if we sneezed, Europe got pneumonia. This same effect may work in reverse with trade.) We should investigate international monetary mechanisms available to help solve the problems for other nations we will create by improving our own balance of payments position.

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8. The fundamental rationale for such a policy is that, with the winds of change in the air, a policy of status quo that is blown over can only create greater uncontrolled change and chaos than could be the case. We should instead seek controlled instability through policies [Typeset Page 1283] accepting and encouraging moderate change. Key elements of such a policy as outlined in the previous paragraph would be greater engagement with the East, a further melting of the cold war, and fewer permanent overseas forces and bases.

9. An alternative to the policy described above would be to continue to apply, indeed even increase, pressure on the Bloc and thus attempt to maintain a bipolar world in all important matters through the medium of allocating such enormous resources to the East-West conflict that the efforts of the rest of the world would be dwarfed. The diffusion of power would be exploited to make the Bloc more subject to piecemeal attack—politically, and if necessary, in some cases, e.g., Red China, perhaps militarily. Our policy would in some respects resemble the course we followed in the World War II mobilization. We would make large material sacrifices in the short run to assure ourselves greater freedom in the long run. The over-all objective would be to place such strains on the Bloc’s already precarious economic balance that the principal regimes would collapse from within. We would then be prepared to step in with a Marshall Plan to rehabilitate the Bloc in a non-communist image.

10. One or the other of the courses above—developed and refined—which recognizes and uses the changing distribution of power, would seem preferable to Mr. Rostow’s suggestions. Given our American ethic, the first alternative seems the only acceptable route, but the second merits evaluation.

  1. Comments on Rostow’s paper on the present state of the world. Confidential. 3 pp. National Defense University, Taylor Papers, 40B2–B4.