10. Editorial Note

On March 16, 1964, the Johnson administration began a concerted effort to reaffirm the ideals of the Alliance for Progress while establishing its own policy on Latin America. At noon that day the President delivered a major address before an audience of U.S. and Latin American diplomats. The ceremony, held at the Pan American Union, [Page 28] marked the third anniversary of the Alliance as well as the inauguration of the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress (CIAP). Although Johnson noted that the program owed much to the “vision” of his predecessor, he vowed that U.S. support for the Alliance would not diminish in the wake of Kennedy’s assassination. As a sign of his personal interest, the President declared that the recent appointment of Thomas C. Mann “reflects my complete determination to meet all the commitments of the United States to the Alliance.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book I, pages 381–384) The same day the Department of State announced that Mann would assume direct responsibility for economic assistance to Latin America as an Assistant Administrator of the Agency for International Development. To allow Mann the freedom to exercise full authority in Latin American affairs, the relevant operations in both agencies would be reorganized, merging the Bureau for Latin America (AID) with the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs (State). (Department of State Bulletin, April 6, 1964, page 540)

March 16 was also the first of a 3-day conference for U.S. Ambassadors and AID mission directors in Latin America. Mann had summoned these officials to Washington for consultation on the administration’s policy, in particular, the Alliance for Progress. Most of the conference, which included sessions on regional as well as bilateral affairs, was considered off-the-record. Nevertheless, the day after the conference ended, The New York Times published an account of a closed session in which Mann allegedly suggested abandoning Kennedy’s policy to deter Latin American dictators. The article, written by Tad Szulc, reported that Mann had emphasized the difficulty in classifying political leaders as either “good” or “bad,” citing, for example, such authoritarian presidents as Adolfo López Mateos of Mexico, Víctor Paz Estenssoro of Bolivia, and Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay. According to Szulc, Mann argued that the administration should be guided by practical not moral considerations: promoting economic growth while protecting U.S. business interests; and avoiding intervention in internal affairs while continuing to oppose communism. Senators Hubert H. Humphrey (D–Minnesota) and Wayne Morse (D–Oregon) were reported to have reacted to Mann’s remarks by insisting that the United States “fight for the preservation of democracy in Latin America as part of the Alliance.” (The New York Times, March 19, 1964)

The Johnson administration reacted swiftly to The New York Times article. In a telephone conversation with Mann and President Johnson the morning of March 19, McGeorge Bundy mentioned “the trouble about that Szulc piece.” The discussion continued as follows:

Mann: Well, I’m going to do something on that.

Bundy: I assumed you would be going to.

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Mann: Yeah, we’re going to do something on that. This is also very distorted.

Bundy: I have no doubt of it. [Laughter] That I—the time Szulc writes a straight story will be the news.

Mann: I talked both to [Senator Ernest] Gruening and to Morse this morning and they’re not worried about it.

Bundy: Good. Well, I guess that—just a moment—anything else, sir?

“President: Do we have some Ambassador you reckon is talking to Szulc or do you have enough Departmental people in there doing it?

Mann: I think a lot of this—I think this came from, probably from somebody in the AID side of the Department, but I can’t be sure. We had a big group and you don’t get—If you don’t talk about these things and you don’t have any coordination, the Bureau doesn’t function. You talk, then they distort. But this is a gross distortion of what I said on— I said essentially the same thing that Morse said: that we were in favor of democracy—

“President: I hope you let him know that before he makes a speech.

Mann: I’ve already called him. I’ve already called him, and he said he does know that. I called Gruening too. They’re both not worried about it. I’m going to have a talk about the whole problem, which is a very complex problem, but this is just a [unintelligible] job as I’ve ever—slanted, distorted—

“President: OK, my friend.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation among President Johnson, Thomas Mann, and McGeorge Bundy, March 19, 1964, 11:27 a.m., Tape F64.18, Side A, PNO 4) The portion of the conversation printed here was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.

Later that afternoon Richard I. Phillips, press spokesman for the Department, issued the following statement: “United States devotion to the principles of democracy is an historical fact. United States policy toward unconstitutional governments will as in the past be guided by the national interest and the circumstances peculiar to each situation as it arises.” (Circular telegram 1730, March 19; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 US) In spite of this denial, the position attributed to Mann by The New York Times soon became known in the press as the “Mann Doctrine.”