368. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State1

Secto 5. Eyes only Acting Secretary from Secretary. Have studied Haiti contingency paper submitted May 292 by Achilles group and consider it good job within possibilities such papers. As illustrated by many events past and recent history, such papers may have little relevance to unfolding events. Very existence such papers (such as pre-invasion NSP paper on Korea) has narcotic effect through impression we have answered our policy problems and can rest until events fit assumption of paper. I suspect life is more complicated than that.

Haitian paper means to me that we see no good answer and are preparing to look for bad ones. The ways to find better answers is to look for different questions. Following is one attempt which my colleagues can multiply and assess.

Haiti is the cesspool of the Western Hemisphere, under a dictator whom we abhor. The situation is ripe for Castro-type effort and we ourselves cannot in good conscience say that this could be worse for the Haitians however damaging to US and cause of freedom in the Americas.

Since we are already supporting the Haitian economy why not do a good job? Why not talk out with Duvalier our readiness to help Haiti make a major surge forward in economic and social development on the assumption that he will remain in power and might be ready to write a gleaming chapter in Haitian history? His policies cannot help but be modified if he takes up such a dare and the more he advances down such a trail the more pressures are built up to build a decent regime or be forced to get out.

I can imagine a US military development group centered around engineer, medical and signal components which could work with his own armed forces on development projects. Even if Duvalier is initially disinterested in schools, he might be ready to set up a network of simple aid stations and health centers where people would congregate and be available for extension-type information through visual and sound aids.

Suggest we put together ideas which we would wish to see carried out by a decent Haitian Government and then consider whether Duvalier might get on with them. He just might have moments when he yearns to be a decent man.

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This might mean changing Ambassadors, eating a bit of crow and enduring a certain amount of criticism. But waiting for a chance to use force is no answer either, because the problem is neither military nor cloak and dagger. Would like report on this upon my return.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 738.00/6-261. Secret. Rusk accompanied President Kennedy on a State visit to France May 31-June 3.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 367.