406. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaughton) to Secretary of Defense McNamara1



  • Southern Africa

The purpose of this memorandum is to alert you to the difficult decisions that will confront the United States when the UN reconvenes in April and focuses its attention once again on Southern Africa.

[Page 695]

During the last session of the General Assembly, the US actively supported two resolutions involving Southern Africa: one on South West Africa declared that South Africa’s mandate had terminated and established a committee to recommend means for administering the territory under the UN to permit self-determination;2 and a second on Southern Rhodesia declared mandatory economic sanctions on selected commodities in an effort to bring down the white-minority regime.3 Neither resolution, of itself, is expected to work. South Africa is not likely to relinquish peacefully its mandate, and the economic sanctions against Southern Rhodesia are given little chance of bringing down the current regime as long as South Africa and Portugal refuse to participate.

We can expect to be confronted with new pressures for an escalation of measures against Southern Africa when the General Assembly convenes in April. Specifically, we could be called upon to support (i) economic sanctions against South Africa and the Portuguese Territories or (ii) the use of force to implement a blockade against Southern Africa or to intervene militarily in Rhodesia.

Extended Economic Sanctions: Extension of sanctions to South Africa would be extremely costly. It would mean an annual balance of payment loss to the U.S. of about $250–300 million and, more importantly, about $840 million to the UK (UK estimates). This impact, plus the possible jeopardy of $3 billion in UK investments, would probably preclude UK participation. But, even with UK participation, sanctions against South Africa would not be expected to succeed because of South Africa’s high degree of self-sufficiency and South Africa’s ability to retaliate by such measures as withholding its gold from the market—it produces about 70% of the West’s annual output of gold.

Blockade or Military Intervention: The Joint Chiefs have stated that a blockade against South Africa alone would require four carrier task forces (4 carriers, 24 destroyers and 3 submarines), and treble this number if extended beyond six months because of rotational and repair requirements. The force requirement would be greatly increased if, as would be likely, the Portuguese territories had to be included (also involving us in a possible military confrontation with our NATO ally). In face of present US military involvement in Vietnam, it would be impossible to participate in a military operation of this magnitude without a substantial increase in our present military posture, including the call-up of [Page 696] reserves. (See attachment for military requirements under various contingencies.)4

Up to now, the US seems to have been working on the promise that we must make every effort to satisfy African aspirations on Southern Africa issues. It is at the least questionable, however, as pointed out in the CIA Special Memorandum at Tab B,5 whether our short-term relations with Africa would suffer significantly if we took a more moderate stance. In fact, the wiser course of action—particularly when looking to longer-term relationships—would seem to lay in dealing more frankly with key African leaders. If explained properly, they should be quick to understand the factors that militate against the realization of their aspirations over the short term and the unwisdom of pressing the United Nations to adopt courses of action which it cannot carry out. If we continue unrestrained support for the positions pressed by the Africans, we will soon reach a point where we will either have to support more drastic action or back down in an embarrassing fashion.

Against this background, I think it would be useful for you, sometime between now and April, to have a quiet word with Secretary Rusk, and possibly the President. From what we can see of Secretary Rusk’s attitude, I believe that he views the matter much as we do, but there are strong forces favoring a more extreme position, and Secretary Rusk would probably welcome your support.

John T. McNaughton 6
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 71 A 4546, 092 Africa. Secret. Drafted by Bader and Lang on January 15.
  2. For text of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 2145 (XXI), October 27, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 585–586.
  3. For text of U.N. Security Council Resolution 232 (1966), December 16, see ibid., pp. 608–610.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not found.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates McNaughton signed the original.