24. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Near East-South Asia IRG Meeting
  • Wednesday, 16 August 1967
  • Discussion of the Holmes Study
There was really no discussion of the Holmes Study2 as such; several central related issues were raised and debated for almost two hours.
Stuart Rockwell, the action officer on the IRG/NEA effort which parallels the Holmes Study, reported that a group centered in EUR and INR (Tom Hughes) thought the Soviet threat was overdrawn and the need for action less urgent than described in the Study.
Harold Saunders (White House) observed that the policy initiatives are the same tired old programs with which Congress is disenchanted. Additionally, he posed the following questions:
Is the Middle East-North Africa an area of real significance to the United States?
Even if the Soviet threat to the Middle East-North Africa is as described, would Soviet domination of this area really threaten our interests in Europe?
Is it useful to consider policy initiatives that obviously are unsupported by Congress and are outside of our available resources and capabilities?
Assistant Secretary Battle held firmly to the view that the Holmes Study Group properly did not include the U.S. domestic political climate and the availability of resources in their consideration. At the same time, he said, it would be unrealistic to proceed very far with the Holmes proposals without obtaining broad policy guidance from the President on the proposed strategy. The alternative to the Holmes proposal, he thought, was a policy of disengagement and isolationism.
I briefly traced the history of the debate over the past decade on Soviet intentions and capabilities in the Middle East and noted the relevance of NIE 10-2/65 and more recent estimates on the Mediterranean, the Horn of Africa and the Near East.
Saunders’ persistent effort to dismiss the Holmes policy initiatives as “old, tired and ineffectual measures” was vigorously met by State and Defense with the assertion that a thorough and responsible review had simply reaffirmed the efficacy of some of the old and tested instruments. Saunders was supported by Battle on the point that our existing arms sales and military aid policies were in serious trouble; that here a new approach was needed. Battle proposed that the IRG/NEA place this problem on its agenda for an early meeting.
Finally, there was much discussion of Western European interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Saunders argued that if the Soviet activities in the area were, as alleged, a threat to Europe, the Europeans had demonstrated remarkably little interest; thus, either the Europeans or the Study Group members were wrong. The dominant view expressed was that the U.S. relationship with most Western European nations in Africa and the Middle East had been partly competitive and that the role of the UK and U.S. as police of the Middle East and defenders of Western interests against Soviet aggression had long been taken for granted by Western Europe. I argued that the U.S. had hardly paid lip service to any policy of encouraging the Western Europeans to play a greater role in the area; in isolated instances when the United States Government had gotten into trouble, it had shown an interest, ad hoc, in increasing the consultation and cooperation with specific European countries on the problem at hand. There was full agreement that, regardless of the cause, Europe appears reluctant to play a military-political role in the Middle East.
James H. Critchfield 3
Chief, Near East and
South Asia Division
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/NE (Critchfield) Files: Job 80-00205A, Box 5, IRG/NEA Working File, Near East, North Africa & Horn of Africa. Secret.
  2. Document 22.
  3. Printed from a copy that indicates Critchfield signed the original.