726. Memorandum from Chase to McGeorge Bundy, December 121

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  • Cuba—Standing Group Item

1. I am going to New York this afternoon to give a talk to some Peace Corps types, training at Columbia: this is the talk I told you about a couple weeks ago. I will be back on the last shuttle tonight.

2. This afternoon State will be sending over a short memorandum to the President. While it is still being thrashed out over at State, it will probably explain the two options involved in controlling arms shipments between Cuba and Latin America—(1) involving stop and search of Cuban vessels on the high seas (possible use of force, with [Typeset Page 1856] escalation implications) and (2) involving the search of suspect vessels in territorial waters (no force and no escalation implications).

The memorandum will probably also attach a draft cable to Mexico City and Rio, asking our Embassys to make informal soundings on host government reactions to the option regarding the use of force. Implicit in the memorandum may be the thought that if the Mexicans and Brazilians are willing, then we are too.

3. It is hard to know exactly what State is going to come up with, but you may want to watch for the following points when the package comes over:

(a) I personally think that the President should, at a minimum, reserve his position on the “force” option. In my humble (and probably lonely) view, the “force” option, which involves possible escalation, should be measured not only against other possible OAS actions, but against other courses of action (unilateral and bilateral) which can bring about escalation; assuming we want to heat up the Caribbean area, it is not necessarily axiomatic that a bad multilateral method is better than a good unilateral method. In this regard, the Standing Group meeting tomorrow should be helpful; as I understand it, bilateral and unilateral courses of action, to make life difficult for Castro, will be discussed.

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3. With regard to the cable, I think it is O.K. to make very informal soundings of the Mexicans and Brazilians on the possible use of force; the chances are high that these countries will be quite negative. Yet, there is always the off-chance that they would indicate their willingness to use force if the evidence of subversion is good (and it probably will be). Therefore, in my opinion, the cable should reflect the thought that although we are interested in the Mexican and Brazilian views, we have definitely not made up our own minds on this point. That is, even in the unlikely event that the Mexicans and Brazilians are mildly in favor of (or would abstain) the force option, we are not committed to go ahead with it.

Gordon Chase
  1. Possible courses of action in controlling arms shipments between Cuba and Latin America. Secret. 2 pp. Johnson Library, NSF, Country File, Vol. A (Gordon Chase File), 11/63–5/64.