129. Memorandum for the Record1
The President and the Vice President met with the NSC Staff on Friday, May 27, largely to get acquainted. The President began the meeting by outlining his philosophy of our foreign policy. He made these points:
- We have to stay strong militarily, not because we want to use force but just because we have now learned that force is sometimes necessary to keep peace. “My father used to tell me that love would solve 95% of the world’s problems but that you had to be strong to solve the other 5% because some people do not understand the language of love and friendship.” Later in the meeting he came back to this theme. Thinking about the $60 billion defense budget, he said “Think what wonders I could perform with that money if I could put it into agriculture and health and education.”
- This strength is not to set up a fortress America. In this world which is now 3 billion people and will be 6 billion in not too long a time, we just can’t survive by keeping to ourselves. So in our own interests we have to worry about the other fellow.
- More than that we can’t rest while other people are miserable in such numbers. “They are human beings just like we are. They laugh like we do. They cry like we do when they are hurt. They eat like we do, although not so well. They need clothes and shelter like we do.” So a nation blessed with the riches ours has can not sit back while others like ourselves are in misery.
The Vice President spoke generally on the same theme of circulating the ideals of the Great Society into a world wide effort against poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
The President picked up one of the Vice President’s remarks and said he wanted to make very clear his position on Vietnam. He said he obviously was under all kinds of pressure to “get out with General Fulbright, go in with General Goldwater, and General Gavin wants me to ‘hunker up like a jackass in a hailstorm’.” He said he had looked at all the choices. He didn’t see how any President of the United States could do other than what he has chosen to do. He admits he could be wrong. But having decided on this course, he is absolutely determined to see it through. No one should be under any illusion that we will be pulling out.[Page 402]
The President said he was very happy with the memos, analyses, and recommendations coming from the staff. What he would like to see more of now is “ten new ideas” in his reading folder every night. He said these were beginning to flow but he wanted more and more of them.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Harold H. Saunders Files, NSC, SIG, IRG, 4/l/66–8/31/66. Secret. Prepared by Saunders on July 13.↩