75. Letter from the Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson) to the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council and Counselor of the Department of State (Rostow)0

Dear Walt: I have gone over with interest your paper on Basic National Security Policy1 and take the liberty of submitting a few comments.

The paper obviously covers a great deal of ground and with much of what is said I am in entire agreement. What troubles me about it is primarily a matter of emphasis and balance, not so much what is said as what is not said.

It seems to me (1) that the paper concentrates almost entirely on the contest with Communism and how to win it, and (2) that, even within that restricted framework, disproportionate emphasis is laid on the military factor. Certainly no one would deny that the successful conduct of the struggle with Communism is central to the maintenance of our national security and national purposes, or that a very strong military deterrent together with other military, including counterguerilla, capabilities are vital components of a successful national strategy.2 My concern [Page 258] is that certain other equally important elements are passed over very cursorily, leaving the impression that their place in our national strategy is relatively inconsequential.

I have felt, long before taking on my present job, that the multilateral framework existing in the United Nations and its related agencies created for the United States both opportunities and duties which can contribute substantially to the achievement of our national purposes. Even if one narrows his interest to the struggle against Communism, certainly the eventual orientation of the Afro-Asians and Latin-Americans is a factor which in a hot war could be most significant, in a prolonged cold war competition could be decisive.

Our two chief instruments for influencing these nations are (1) economic and military aid and (2) our policies and tactics in the UN and its subsidiaries. Of course there are many other of our national purposes and national interests which are closely involved in the UN and which have little or nothing to do with our struggle against Communism. Yet the original draft of the Security Policy paper3 touched on the UN only in the most sketchy fashion and, while the re-draft is an improvement, it still falls decidedly short of what I would consider adequate to balance other elements in the paper. I therefore strongly urge that this section be again reviewed with IO and substantially more of the material supplied to S/P by IO be incorporated. We have submitted detailed comments to IO for this purpose.

Another most significant area in which it seems to me the paper is seriously out of balance is in the relative emphasis it places, on the one hand, on the development of military and political means of combating the Communist threat and, on the other, the development of equally essential means of controlling nuclear weapons systems which, as they are refined, magnified and proliferated, tend to become an even more critical threat to our national security and our national purposes. True, the latter subject is dealt with in the paper but it seems to be largely subordinated to the other aim in a fashion which makes me doubt whether, if the directives of the paper were scrupulously followed, we should ever escape from the self-defeating, even though temporarily necessary, escalation in which we are now engaged.

To be more specific, in the basic section entitled “The Setting”, pp 3-5, there is only the most tangential and cloudy reference to the fact that an essential element of the setting is that at present our national security could be largely nullified and most of our national purposes frustrated in [Page 259] a matter of days or hours, simply by accident or miscalculation. (In this connection I would contest most strenuously the assertion (p. 78) that “The possibilities of a nuclear war coming about by accident or miscalculation are statistically real if, on the whole, unlikely.”)

Proceeding from this incomplete account of the setting, the paper immediately moves on to “The Clash” and “The Threat” which concentrate almost exclusively on dealing with the Communist threat. The paper then proceeds to an “Outline of Strategy” in which Military Policy is given a probably unavoidable priority but in which that policy is described in terms of “a stable military environment”, than which no imaginable conception could under present circumstances be in my opinion more unrealistic or more dangerously misleading. Is it in fact possible to recall any time in history when the military environment has been less stable or more perilous to humanity and to civilization?

Later in this 285 page document “Arms Control” is briefly treated pp. 76-84. In the section on “Relations with Communist Nations” there are three paragraphs pp. 176-178 on “The possibility of a detente” and “Negotiation”, but these two subjects are treated very gingerly as though both detente and negotiation were instruments more likely to profit totalitarian than democratic states, an assumption for which I see no justification.

Let me reiterate in conclusion that with much of the paper I am in enthusiastic agreement. The extensive attention given throughout to “building a community of free nations”, which involves both strengthening our ties with Western Europe, and contributing to the economic and political development of Latin America, Asia and Africa, is certainly admirable. So are many of the proposals, military and non-military, for dealing more effectively with the Communist threat.

But I remain deeply troubled by what seems to me the dangerous underemphasis on the threat of uncontrolled nuclear weapons systems to our national security, and on the failure to recognize and utilize adequately multilateral instrumentalities for the pursuit of our national goals.

Sincerely yours,

Adlai E. Stevenson
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 69 D 121, BNSP 3/26/62. Secret.
  2. Reference is to the March 26 draft of “Basic National Security Policy;” see Document 70.
  3. Next to this sentence Rostow wrote the following marginal note: “I don’t, but I can see how he would.”
  4. Apparent reference to the February 24 draft, the first of the Rostow drafts to be widely circulated.