194. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Rostow) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • De Gaulle, Africa, and Southeast Asia
There are two reasons why the major Western powers must concert their policies in Southeast Asia and Africa. First, the Communists are systematically exploiting our differences in policy. They have been a major Communist asset in Africa and Southeast Asia. These differences arise out of the special history of each Western power in each area and from differing short-run interests. The historical differences in outlook must be overcome in the face of present reality. The lesser short-run interests must be resolved so that the larger common interests may come to dominate Western policy in these areas. Second, situations arising in Southeast Asia and, perhaps, in Africa, may draw us close to a test of military strength with the Communists. The possibility of armed conflict affects all of our peoples, notably in an age of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the possibility of a deterring conflict depends substantially on our [Page 291] presenting a united front to the Communists. For these reasons, political and military, the President believes that high level tripartite discussions of a Western strategy in Africa and Asia are urgent. In this matter he finds himself close to the views of General De Gaulle.
Africa. The President profoundly respects the deep understanding of the revolutionary forces at work in Africa, which President De Gaulle has revealed. Due to French and British statesmanship the West has some chance of developing over a period of years an Africa which would present us with only modest military and political dangers, and which might, in time, form a constructive part of the Western system.
In Africa, Britain and France are still bearing a primary responsibility; but the U.S. is being drawn increasingly into African affairs. In some areas we are working well together; in others we have not yet found a wholly satisfactory basis for common action.
In the President’s view, what is basically required is a common Western strategy rooted in three objectives. First, where positions of potential political stability and strength exist, we should work with all the wisdom and resources we can muster to create islands of responsibility. For example, this seems possible in Tunisia, Nigeria, and possibly the Ivory Coast. Second, we must work together to fend off Communist efforts to trap areas in Africa where the great revolutionary forces at work have given the Communists opportunity to expand their influence. Mali appears such a case of potential danger, and the Horn of Africa area. Third, we must work together to minimize dangers to the common interest arising from the painful process of disengagement from colonialism. Here Angola is much on our minds. (How much better off we all would be if we had begun three or four years ago to consult seriously together on the Congo and Angola.)
Frankly, the U.S. has quite enough commitments in the world, and there is no compulsion in the American Government to extend those commitments where our allies, much strengthened by their remarkable growth in the 1950’s can deal with the situation. But we are prepared to sit down and consider together with Britain and France—and with other Western nations where their interests are involved—the broad lines of a common strategy and how the day-to-day tactics and tasks of execution may best be allocated and managed.
With respect to North Africa, the President has been impressed by General De Gaulle’s vision of the kind of regional development which would be possible after the Algerian settlement is achieved. President Bourguiba is obviously thinking in similar terms. This is a matter in which initiative must arise, evidently, from the Mediterranean powers; but the U.S. is anxious to be helpful in the evolution of a constructive regional solution in the long run. And its emergence as a realistic objective [Page 292] could conceivably contribute to the pacification of the North African area.
The President would be interested to hear De Gaulle’s views on the appropriate broad strategy which we should all pursue in Africa and believes that these matters should promptly be explored on a communal basis by the Western nations most concerned.

[Here follows discussion of Southeast Asia.]

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Brubeck Series, Africa. Secret.