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67. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams)1

May I urge that the time has come to gin up an action program on Libya. In four years I haven’t met a single optimist on this non-country; there are only varying degrees of pessimism. True, Libya is no more fragile than many other African or Arab states, but we have a very special interest in it—not only because of Wheelus Base but oil investments approaching $1 billion.

We’ve spent a lot of time and energy devising a good strategy to prolong our hold on Wheelus. But we’ve been rather passive about the larger [Page 102]problem—preserving Libya’s independence by helping it toward a higher degree of internal stability and growth. From where I sit, we don’t seem to be worrying enough about Libya—not State, AID, DOD, CIA, or above all the British, who seem either unduly complacent or increasingly prepared to write Libya off.

A more active policy wouldn’t necessarily cost us much, because Libya’s own oil revenue (if halfway efficiently used) would more than suffice. What we mostly need are some ideas, energy and preventive diplomacy. With luck, we may have a few years yet before a succession crisis calls Libya’s future into doubt, but it could happen any time. So I see merit in mounting a preventive effort right now.

Inter-agency task forces seem a bit passe these days, but why couldn’t an informal action program be drawn up under State’s leadership? An NPP might be in order, but this would take too long.

As an initial stop, Dave Newsom when in London Thursday could be instructed to probe hard for both the UK’s own sense of the situation and what concrete measures they might propose. Given our still substantial joint interest in Libya, there might be merit in developing a joint program.

  • Second, why not tell Dave that, when he gets to Libya, he should ask the Embassy on your behalf to come up pronto with its own version of an action program, aimed at complementing our Wheelus negotiating strategy by focussing on a broader target.
  • Third, why not ask the Agency to come up with some political action suggestions aimed at strengthening Libya’s independence and fortifying the position of friendly elements. None of us have any brilliant ideas as yet, but we’re never going to get any unless we start worrying the problem.
  • Fourth, we might think again about discreet ways of warning off Nasser, for whatever these are worth.
  • Fifth, are we or the British doing enough to encourage the Libyans to spend their own money wisely? I fear we have concluded that our aid phase-out deprives us of much leverage. I’m not sure this is valid, given Libya’s continuing dependence on US/UK support for its very security. But at any rate, I’d rather make an effort and fail than not make one.

The above ideas by no means exhaust the possibilities; others may have wiser thoughts. But the real need is to anticipate the problem while there’s yet time. I’m sure you agree with me—the important thing now is to bell the cat.

R.W. Komer 2
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Libya, Vol. II, 7/64–12/68. Secret. Copies were sent to Harriman, Rostow, Bundy, Hutchinson, and Polk.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.