124. Letter From President Johnson to the Shah of Iran1

Your Imperial Majesty:

Your letter of February 26th2 shows how clearly you, too, understand the lesson so vividly confirmed in Vietnam—that “a healthy and orderly community” is the best defense against disruptive elements. That is why I am sending my Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to see how we can speed progress in helping the Government of Vietnam bolster this first line of defense.

The military campaign there must go on; yet its ultimate purpose is to enable the Vietnamese leaders to press the war against hunger, disease and ignorance. The problem in Vietnam is that both of these campaigns must be waged at the same time, and there are scarcely enough resources—human or otherwise—to go around.

This is the tragic backdrop of so many of our hopes for the security and well-being of free men everywhere. I fully understand your own preoccupation with decisions as to what resources you will allocate to preparing your military forces in case they are needed and your determination that those forces be as effective as you can make them. I myself have been deeply impressed since assuming office with the difficulty, even in a country as bountifully endowed as mine, of making constant choices between programs, all of which are worthwhile. I am coming to believe that the essence of great leadership is the ability to pick from an impressive field the few that are truly crucial.

Every leader must make those choices for himself, but I am pleased that you have sufficient confidence in us to seek our opinion as to how we can most effectively work together. Happily, the findings of the military survey team which has just completed its work will be available for discussion with you in the course of the annual military-economic review later this spring. I might say that Secretary McNamara has been my mainstay in developing revolutionary analytical tools for weighing cost factors in the tremendously complicated choices I must make. I hope that our joint military-economic talks will give us an opportunity to bring that kind of analysis to bear on your problems in whatever ways may prove helpful.

I am reassured by the knowledge that, for many years, our countries have worked together extensively to safeguard peace and stability in the [Page 223] Middle East. Wherever our discussions lead, we can be certain that our mutual respect and common goals will enable us to move ahead in honorable cooperation. I look forward to continued close consultation with you as we do our utmost to solve those problems which touch the heart and marrow of people everywhere—the preservation of national security and the search for the best possible lives for our countrymen.


Lyndon B. Johnson
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 21. No classification marking. The letter was transmitted in telegram 932 to Tehran, March 15. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15–1 IRAN)
  2. See Document 122.