201. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson1
Backing up success. It is hard to overestimate the potential significance of the army’s apparent victory over Sukarno (even though the latter remains as a figurehead). Indonesia has more people—and probably more resources—than all of mainland Southeast Asia. It was well on the way to becoming another expansionist Communist state, which would have critically menaced the rear of the whole Western position in mainland Southeast Asia. Now, though the unforeseen can always happen, this trend has been sharply reversed.
The coup in Ghana is another example of a fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western.
The point of this memo is that we ought to follow through skillfully and consolidate such successes. A few thousand tons of surplus wheat or rice, given now when the new regimes are quite uncertain as to their future relations with us, could have a psychological significance out of all proportion to the cost of the gesture. I am not arguing for lavish gifts to these regimes—indeed, giving them a little only whets their appetites, and enables us to use the prospect of more as leverage.
But my experience is that the bureaucracy will err on the side of caution rather than initiative; hence my suggestion that, in expressing your pleasure to SecState and others over the Indonesia and Ghana coups, you make clear that we ought to exploit such successes as quickly and as skillfully as possible. You have no idea how important a word from you can be in setting the tone for the bureaucracy. And in this case I strongly suspect that my own suggestion is quite in accord with your own political instinct.
If you prefer, I would pass this word to Rusk and Bell; but at the moment there is simply no substitute for direct word from you.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. XXI. Confidential. There is an indication on the memorandum that the President saw it.↩