192. Editorial Note

Secretary of Defense McNamara proposed to include an announcement of the Johnson administration’s decision to deploy an ABM system in an upcoming address before the United Press International Editors and Publishers in San Francisco on September 18, 1967. For McNamara’s early thoughts on the purposes of this speech, see Document 185.

In an August 8 memorandum to McNamara, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Warnke advised that McNamara’s speech should say only that he was leaning toward a THIN–X and a China-oriented ABM deployment, “but avoid making a firm commitment to proceed with a deployment,” which, he felt, should wait until the President’s budget message in January. He added that such a postponement would allow time for consultation with U.S. allies, “who are undoubtedly still relatively unfamiliar with the arguments favoring deployment of a THIN–X system, as opposed to a Soviet-oriented deployment.” He went on to remind McNamara that he had promised Canadian Defense Minister Paul T. Hellyer that he would consult with him before any U.S. decision was made, and he outlined how the NATO allies as well as Japan and other Pacific allies could be consulted. At the least, he believed that if McNamara announced the ABM deployment in his September speech, the administration should first undertake urgent consultations with Canada and other U.S allies. On Warnke’s memorandum, McNamara initialed the option recommending to the President that he make a firm commitment to deploy in his September address, and he added a note: “If a ‘commitment’ is to be made in the S.F. speech, remind me to ‘consult’ with Hellyer ahead of time.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, 471.94 ABM (Jul-Aug) 1967)

In an August 16 memorandum to McNamara, Warnke quoted as reclama a memorandum of conversation at the April 6 NATO Nuclear [Page 615] Planning Group meeting in which McNamara promised that the United States would not act unilaterally on ABMs without consulting its allies. In case McNamara still pressed for a full announcement in his San Francisco speech, Warnke offered four initiatives to prepare U.S. allies in advance for this eventuality. None of the “Approve” or “Disapprove” options following each initiative is checked. (Ibid.)

Meanwhile, on August 9 McNamara circulated a draft of his speech to key principals in the Johnson administration. In an August 16 memorandum to McNamara, Under Secretary of State Katzenbach commented that the draft was “a masterful job.” He wondered, however, if McNamara had to be so specific regarding ABM deployment in the speech when “we are committed to consult further with our allies and in particular with the Nuclear Planning Group,” which would not meet until September 28–29. He suggested that McNamara intimate in his address only that the administration was “moving in the direction of a thin deployment, stopping just short of announcing a final decision.” Among a few other suggestions, he also warned against emphasizing the Chinese nuclear threat as a reason for the decision. “It might be better,” Katzenbach cautioned, “to balance the protection of our offensive missiles with the protection against the Chinese threat.” (Ibid.)

Under cover of an August 19 memorandum to President Johnson, McNamara forwarded the August 9 draft of his speech to the White House. In this memorandum McNamara quoted Katzenbach’s suggestion to delay final announcement of the decision, but added, “I disagree. We are prepared now to make the decision and I believe we must make it. If we decide to go forward with the ‘thin deployment’ but fail to announce the decision, we are placing ammunition in the hands of our critics who will use it for partisan purposes.” The President initialed the draft, presumably indicating his approval, but he also asked for comments on the draft from Joseph Califano. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Department of Defense, Vol. V, Aug. 1967 [2 of 2], Box 12) Califano generally endorsed its contents, but thought that there should be a statement in the speech or in an accompanying announcement of the budgetary impact of the ABM decision. He wanted to consult with Rostow before the speech was given on how to handle its impact domestically, “since all hell is likely to break loose from the liberals and the urbanists.” (Memorandum from Califano to Rostow, August 27; ibid.)

When Adrian S. Fisher, Acting Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, learned of McNamara’s proposed San Francisco speech, he urged Secretaries Rusk and McNamara to delay the announcement of the ABM deployment, which would adversely affect the ongoing negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. His September 1 letter to Foster is printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, [Page 616] volume XI, Document 204. He also submitted an ACDA paper, dated August 25, on the arms control considerations of a U.S. ABM deployment decision, attached to an August 28 memorandum to Secretaries Rusk and McNamara and Walt Rostow. For text, see ibid., Document 202. In an August 31 memorandum, McNamara thanked Fisher for the paper and added that “my staff has been giving active consideration to the problems it discusses, and they will be in touch with your staff regarding them.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, 471.94 ABM (July–Aug) 1967)

In an August 28 handwritten letter to Rostow, Spurgeon Keeny agreed that the proposed light anti-Chinese solution was “probably the best solution” and that the draft speech effectively provided the strategic background and rationale for the ABM decision. Like Warnke, Katzenbach, and Fisher, however, he opposed an early announcement:

“I still think that the decision is premature, politically as well as technically, and that, if it is made this year, it should be as part of the regular budget cycle. A decision in mid-September will focus all attention on this issue in isolation from other military hardware decisions; and in its present form I am afraid it will meet strong objections from all sides. The anti-ABM forces will consider it a foot in the door, and the pro-ABM forces will consider it a grossly inadequate system which fails to protect the U.S. population against the Soviet threat. Technically, I think there are some unanswered questions as to how well and how long this system would actually deal with the early Chinese threat.”

Realizing that McNamara was determined to make the full announcement, Keeny offered specific comments on parts of the draft speech. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Department of Defense, August 1967, Vol. V [2 of 2], Box 12)

Also on August 28, Keeny sent Rostow a memorandum warning against the “categorical statements” in the speech on the U.S.-Soviet strategic balance. He worried that if the administration later “had to back off from any of them, it will seriously undercut confidence in the Administration and our present strategic posture. Moreover, I am afraid these statements will antagonize rather than convince Congressional critics, and I am sure that they will complicate any possible discussion of the issue with the Soviets.” He argued that McNamara should instead “emphasize not our strategic superiority but our very high level of confidence in the reliability of our deterrent under any circumstances.” (Ibid., Country File, USSR, ABM Negotiations (II), Box 231) For text of an August 29 memorandum to Rostow, in which Keeny reiterated his arguments for postponing an announcement of the ABM decision until January, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XI, Document 203.

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Two days later, Keeny sent a memorandum to Rostow elaborating on the technical questions relating to the effectiveness of the proposed ABM deployment against even an early Chinese ICBM threat. To his memorandum he attached NIE 11–4–67 (Document 183), and the Montgomery Report Summary, an internal OSD study, dated August 10, 1967. The latter has not been found, but it warned among other things, according to Keeny’s summary of it, “that the Chinese could include first-generation penetration aids on the same time-scale as our ABM deployment and a more sophisticated family of penetration aids a few years later at relatively small cost (10% of their ICBM program).” In conclusion, Keeny advised that “it would be wise to spend a few more months understanding this problem before we announce deployment of a specific system.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, China, Vol. 10) For Rostow’s summary and assessment of NIE 11–4–67, see Document 187.

To a September 6 memorandum to McNamara, Warnke attached a suggested added paragraph to the speech, which indicated that despite the ABM decision the U.S. Government was still anxious to reach agreement with the Soviets on limiting offensive and defensive strategic arms. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 72 A 2468, 471.94 ABM (Sep) 1967)

Meanwhile, the Johnson administration developed plans to notify U.S. allies in advance of the contents of McNamara’s speech. Attached to a September 8 memorandum from Keeny to Rostow is a schedule, approved by an interdepartmental working group, for briefing European and Asian allies, the Soviet Union, other key Asian and Middle East countries, and U.S. posts abroad. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, ABM Negotiations (II), Box 231) For a memorandum of McNamara’s conversation with Hellyer on September 12, see Document 190. For text of the statement to be delivered to the North Atlantic Council on September 14, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XI, Document 210.

Internal memoranda and telegraphic instructions relating to the briefing of U.S. allies are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 12. Llewellyn Thompson, Ambassador to the Soviet Union, expressed his concerns about the deployment decision and the announcement in telegram 896 from Moscow, September 2; text in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XI, Document 207. Instructions to inform the Soviet Representative to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee of the September 18 speech were sent in telegram 37260 to Geneva, September 14. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 18–6) The text of a letter from John A. Gronouski, Ambassador to Poland, to the Chinese Embassy in Poland, notifying the People’s [Page 618] Republic of China of McNamara’s impending announcement, was transmitted in telegram 38805 to Warsaw, September 16. (Ibid., DEF 12)

McNamara apparently incorporated into the final text of his speech several of the suggestions advanced by administration principals and his Department of Defense advisers. He included verbatim, for instance, the first sentence of Warnke’s suggested draft paragraph attached to his August 16 memorandum. Text of McNamara’s September 18 speech is in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pages 16–25.