79. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kaysen) to the Chairman of the Policy Planning Council and Counselor of the Department of State (Rostow)0


  • Comments on March 26 Draft BNSP
The world as viewed in this document divides neatly into two parts—a free world and a Communist world. Although the ambiguous position of a nation like Yugoslavia is recognized in detail, such details are not reflected in the grand scheme. The free world is defined by exclusion as simply the whole world minus the Communist bloc, and is referred to either as the free community or as the evolving free community of nations. In this context our security policy rests on two simple propositions. First, we should guard the boundaries of the free world, i.e., prevent any movement of nations from the free world to the Bloc (pp 8-11, 14-16). Second, this is a feasible task. We can always succeed in preventing any undesirable change by the proper combination of the threat of military force, the application of military force, including counter-subversive and counter-guerrilla force, and the provision of economic aid. The use of other instruments of diplomacy is also recognized, but given a lesser place (pp 22-31).

These axioms imply two further propositions. First, Communism is an aberration on the path of political-economic development. No nation becomes Communist mainly because the Communist forces within it form the best organized, most aggressive, most able political group whose appeal to rising political elites—university students, army officers, would-be prophets of national development—is strong enough to carry the day. Not only did Marx not proclaim the universal truth; he proclaimed the universal myth, false in all instances. It is Communist subversion and indirect aggressions, Soviet or Chinese led, not social revolution internally generated, that is the cause.

That the present balance of membership between the free community of nations and the Communist bloc is the optimum balance is the second major corollary of the two fundamental propositions. Indeed if the world does divide neatly into two parts and the smaller part is trying to expand at the expense of the larger, there is something obvious about the proposition that it is in the interests of the larger part to resist such a [Page 269] shift. Even at this level of analysis, however, obvious does not equal correct. If, for example, we were to observe that the costs of our resisting expansion are related to the strength of the expansive impulse on the other side and, further, if we suspected that the strength of the expansive impulses might obey the familiar dynamic law of proportionality to the difference between the present situation and the pre-set goal (e.g., world domination), then we can see a simple counter-example to the truth of the obvious proposition.


There is an alternative view of the world which appears more useful for the purposes of defining national policy. From our own perspective, the world is divided into at least three, rather than two, parts, the boundary lines of which are by no means well-defined or firm. One part consists of the U.S. and the nations most closely associated with it in terms of fundamental security interests: the NATO Alliance. Another group consists of the Sino-Soviet bloc. Other nations have attachments to these two groups of different degrees of permanence and strength. The essential problem of our security policy is at the minimum to prevent a significant shift in the balance of power between the two polar groups and, to the extent consistent with other constraints on our policy, to increase the unity, power and influence of our own group at the expense of the Bloc. The constraints which operate to limit the means available and appropriate to this purpose fall broadly into two classes: those arising from our nature as an individualistic, voluntaristic, democratic society and those arising from the limitations of our own power and that of the group of nations with whom we are most intimately bound. An important part of the limitations of our own power arises from the fact that, while the other NATO nations have goals closely similar to ours, they are not in fact identical, and we deal with them by consensus rather than direction. Although, logically, it falls into the first category of constraints on our policy, the awful character of thermonuclear war deserves mention as a separate constraint. Its consequences for the character and possibly the survival of our civil society are such that it becomes an instrument of policy whose uses are sharply limited.

From the polar Soviet perspective the world looks much the same, and our problem is to some extent the converse of theirs. We say “to some extent” because the role of an ideological doctrine in the Soviet world perspective has no parallel in our own world view. The doctrine of freedom in individual and national choice is not one that readily fills a parallel role to the doctrine of universal class struggle ending in the ultimate triumph of communism.

The draft BNSP cogently states the significance of the revolution of modernization which is sweeping the under-developed two-thirds of the world as the environment in which the contest between ourselves and the Bloc is taking place. It also properly states our hopes in respect to this struggle. However, we must interpose a calculus of cost between our [Page 270] hopes and our goals, and it is in this calculus of cost that the draft is deficient.

It is clear that an entirely different order of priority attaches to maintaining the integrity and unity of the inner group of nations with which we are closely allied. This high priority is reflected both in the major significance that NATO has in our military policy and in the framework of organizational arrangements for economic and political cooperation within the North Atlantic community. Our military commitments to defend at least these areas is on a par with our military commitment to the defense of the United States itself. This commitment is central to the intimacy of political and economic relations within the area. It is an important question as to how far we extend this framework to include Australia, New Zealand and Japan. One question that arises in this connection, is the extent to which China will grow to possess military power that threatens these nations to the same extent that Soviet military power threatens Western Europe.

For the other parts of the world, our commitments are hard to state in general a priori terms. In general, we do, as the draft states, wish to help nations on the path to modernization and self-realization, with a political orientation at least neutral as between ourselves and the Bloc, other things being equal. And by the same token, other things being equal, we wish to prevent, if we can, any nation from joining the Bloc, or orienting itself strongly to it. But it is difficult to say something less general and abstract. In a given situation, we must evaluate all factors to decide what kind of extension of Bloc influence or power raises what kind of questions for us of countering it on the one hand; and on the other, what means to attempt to counter it are available at what costs and with what prospects of success. In general, it would appear safe to say that in most cases we would resist direct expansion of Bloc power by overt military means, but even here it is difficult to make strong over-all commitments. If the Chinese Communists infiltrate Burma, and follow this infiltration by an overt march across the borders of Burma, which the Burmese do not resist, are we prepared in fact to respond? If not, can we successfully communicate to the Chinese Communists the sense that we are? If after five more years of growth of Soviet influence in the Afghan Army, that Army revolts, overthrows the present regime and invites the assistance of the Soviets in their revolt, how should we be prepared to respond?

At all those lesser levels of violence covered by the phrase “indirect aggression and subversion,” the difficulty of stating any general policy line is even greater. A primary instrument—perhaps even in fact a necessary condition—in successful resistance to indirect aggression is local leadership with a will to resist and significant popular support (though not necessarily majority support in any conventional sense). There is a serious problem of how far we in fact are able to go, as well as how far we [Page 271] are ready to go in creating such governments where they do not exist. If Nkrumah1 allows himself to be influenced more and more by Moscow-trained and Moscow-oriented members of his government, can we in fact do much about it and even if we can, should we try?

The conclusion to be drawn with respect to our policy in the large part of the world outside our own central group and the Soviet Bloc is that we proceed here on a case-by-case method. To be sure we start with some sense of relevant priorities, some calculus of costs and returns. It is obviously of far greater importance to our own policy goals to keep India on its present somewhat western-oriented neutral path than it is to keep Burma from being infiltrated by Chinese Communists, and we should behave accordingly. In Latin America, it is far more important to try to keep Argentina and Brazil economically progressing and politically stable than it is to prevent Georgetown from becoming a quasi-Communist capital.

The perspective here sketched has obvious implications for both aid policy and military policy. While it remains true that there are reasons for giving aid not intimately connected with the orientation of a nation in the contest between ourselves and the Bloc, it also remains true that we cannot ignore this contest in determining aid priorities. The whole argument for giving Latin America a special priority is a political one, not one based on development criteria.

What we are prepared to defend by military means, and what we state or suggest we are prepared to defend, is still the key element in the application of our power. Ultimately it is these commitments, explicit and implicit, which form the framework of our foreign policy, since they give substantive content to the term “vital interest” used in a literal sense. Therefore, the difference in perspective suggested here makes an important difference in the way we view our military responsibilities and accordingly in the way we determine our military needs.

If these criticisms and comments are well taken, one appropriate way to meet them is by changing the organization in the draft so that it reflects priorities in our security policy to a greater extent than it now does. In particular, it would appear appropriate immediately after discussion of the nature of the threat and the world environment in which it operates to discuss our relations with NATO; to follow this by discussion of other areas of strong interest, e.g., Latin America and Japan; and then to discuss other parts of the world in general terms along the lines of the present draft.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 69 D 121, BNSP 3/26/62. Secret.
  2. Kwame Nkrumah, President of Ghana.