365. Memorandum by the President’s Special Counsel (Sorensen)1

While those of us who were hearing the problem for the first time were reluctant to speak out this morning, I believe Secretary Dillon and [Page 750] Director Bell share my doubts about the wisdom of sending American combat forces to the Congo:

American forces can rarely be sent into combat successfully for reasons not fully understood and endorsed by the American people; and I think it would be difficult to explain to most Americans why American forces must intervene against non-communist Katanga. The use of our forces with respect to Cuba, Vietnam and even Laos was more clear cut—and, even in Lebanon, Eisenhower could point out the dangers of a communist or leftist government. I am fearful that this move will dissipate the wide-spread support and confidence engendered in this country and Western Europe by the more careful approach in Cuba.
Instead of expending our energies twisting U-Thant’s arm to secure his agreement to our military intervention, could we not be pressuring him instead to improve the UN military plan of operations, to line up pilots from other countries to fly American planes, etc.?

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Sorensen Papers, Classified Subject File, Congo. No classification marking. The document is headed “TCS–12/17/62” and bears a handwritten notation “NSC.” There is no indication that this memorandum was sent to anyone. For Sorensen’s recollection of the discussion that prompted this memorandum, see Kennedy, p. 638.