16. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Nitze) to the Assistant Secretary of State-Designate for International Organization Affairs (Cleveland)1

Dear Mr. Cleveland: The Department of Defense has studied the “Statement of New United States Policy on the Congo,” prepared in the Department of State,2and notwithstanding the risks involved, fully concurs that a new policy along the general lines indicated should be adopted on an urgent basis.

With regard to the three steps proposed for simultaneous implementation, the following comments are offered:

Strengthened Mandate to the United Nations. Defense fully agrees with the need for such a mandate and its objectives. Defense is particularly interested in the proposal to bring the Congolese military and police forces under effective United Nations direction and control. There are clear risks in pursuing this course of action and great care will have to be used in order not to over-extend the capability of the limited United Nations forces available to maintain law and order throughout the Congo. The United Nations should disarm only those Congolese forces unwilling to respond to direction by the United Nations while at the same time making maximum use of those Congolese armed units which prove amenable to control. The whole subject of re-training, control, use and deployment of the Congolese Army is a most important matter from our security point of view. The Department of Defense would recommend that immediate implementing plans for the military neutralization action in the Congo be developed, including the training and the use of Congolese forces in civic action programs.
Broadly Based Congolese Government Including All Principal Political Elements of the Congo. Defense feels that any such government must preserve the position of Kasavubu as Chief of State in order to prevent loss of prestige for both the United Nations and the United States. There is always the danger that the proposed coalition might fall into the hands of individuals whose purposes are known to be inimical to Western interests. This risk must be fully recognized.
Establishment of UN Administration for Congo. We concur in principle with the ideas advanced and feel that, as a practical matter, the United States should be prepared to furnish whatever support the United Nations may require in carrying out this course of action.

It is noted that the need for the immediate development of detailed tactical plans has been recognized. The Department of Defense stands ready to collaborate in their preparation as appropriate.

While Defense fully endorses the spirit of the final paragraph of the State paper, namely the determination to make the proposed UN program succeed, it would seem that the US should develop now a fall-back policy position. In the event of the failure of the new approach, it would appear that it would be in the US interest to continue to support the United Nations in the Congo so long as the United Nations forces remain there. However, we should be prepared to undertake a vigorous unilateral course of action at the same time. In connection with this need for a fall-back position, we have prepared and enclose herewith a list of actions,3 short of armed intervention, which we consider would be appropriate for implementation.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have expressed the view that the United States is capable of successful military intervention in the Congo without degrading its general war posture to an unacceptable degree. However, our capability to successfully conduct other similar type operations elsewhere in the world would depend on the extent of US commitment of forces to the Congo.


Paul H. Nitze
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.70G/1–3161. Secret.
  2. Reference is to an undated draft bearing that title; a copy is filed as an appendix to a January 31 JCS memorandum to the Secretary of Defense (JCSM–52–61), which responded to a request from Nitze for JCS views on the draft and on U.S. capabilities for military intervention in the Congo and the consequences of such intervention. A revised version of the draft was enclosed with Document 17.
  3. Not printed.