29. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Daily White House Staff Meeting, 20 April 1964

Mr. Bundy presided throughout the meeting.

[Here follows discussion not related to China.]

National Policy Papers. Today Bundy’s staff had another of its periodic discussions on national policy papers, this one prompted by [Page 56] Rostow’s insistence that he will be able to get a China policy paper out which will be agreed and which will offend no one.2 Some people believe that if the paper can be agreed to, it will not say much, and thus hardly will be worth the effort. There are others who believe that if there is sharp disagreement over the paper, focusing on the issue of the Offshore Islands, the whole matter might become a campaign issue.

The government faces a basic dilemma with respect to the policy papers. If they can be used as campaign fodder, that is not good; and everyone feels they will be leaked if they have potential political value. On the other hand, it would be equally unwise for the White House to send the word out that no one is to do any thinking for the next year.

This dilemma was openly recognized at the meeting, and some discussion resulted on ways to deal with the matter. There was general agreement that it would be very useful, and indeed almost necessary, for the government to focus on policies and programs for use by the government in 1965. These papers would, of course, be useful to either the same or a new Administration. Cooper would handle this problem by setting small study groups to deal with particular problems. He was virtually the only one, however, who believed such work could be kept secret. Amory suggested that perhaps the groups like the Council of Foreign Relations could be useful. Bundy, who believed that the Council suffered essentially from the same inhibitions as the government in either getting a small group together or in keeping the discussion secret, preferred a more informal approach. He is thinking in terms of isolating some problem areas, e.g.—Cuba, East-West trade, perhaps China—for discussions among selected individuals. He wants problems that seem manageable and people that are knowledgeable. He asked the staff for any suggestions on either that they might have.

Brubeck made an interesting point when he said that what often starts out as a new look at an old policy often ends up with the people who support existing policy being provided another opportunity to get a restatement. Bundy added that not only was that true, but that for most high level people in government, you could tell what door they would come out of by watching which one they went in.

One other point worth mentioning came up. Forrestal and Bundy both believe the Rostow paper on the consequences of a ChiCom nuclear capability[Page 57] 3 have defused the issue too much. They believe such a development would have far greater political consequences than does Rostow, and they are probably right since they are in a key position to influence our reaction. In the discussion today, however, the only consequence was that it seems clear the matter will be looked at again.

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 25, Chairman’s Staff Group, April 1964. Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by NSC staff member Colonel William Y. Smith, USA.
  2. At the April 15 staff meeting, Bundy and Komer briefly discussed Rostow’s desire to get approval of a policy paper on the Republic of China; Komer thought it was “not much of a paper" and that “now is just not the time to decide policy on China.” At the April 17 meeting, Bundy told Komer to tell Rostow not to seek approval of the policy paper on China because it “would raise more problems than it would solve, particularly this year.” (Memoranda for the Record by Smith, April 15 and 17; ibid.)
  3. Reference is apparently to an undated paper entitled “The Implications of a Chinese Nuclear Capability,” attached to a memorandum of April 17 from Rostow to the President. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, China, Volume I) It was evidently not sent to the President. Document 30 is a revised version.