14. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1


  • OAS Action Against Cuba


With reference to the NSC decision of March 5 to seek support for a resolution which, inter alia, would authorize future use of force against Cuba in the event of further subversion, I recommend that you now authorize the Department to agree to the milder alternative along the lines of the enclosed,2 in view of the impossibility of obtaining the necessary two-thirds’ support for a stronger text and in view of the desirability [Page 39] of obtaining as broad support as possible for any action to be taken.3


Consultations undertaken by the Venezuelans and ourselves with the other American Republics on the March 5 text have shown considerable opposition to the “blank check” concept in paragraph 2 under which, as you recall, the OAS would not authorize the use of force against Cuba at any time in the future without going back to the OAS, should there be a repetition elsewhere of the type of subversive campaign Castro undertook against Venezuela last fall. From the point of view of public opinion both at home and abroad, it seems to us highly desirable that there be as broad support as possible for some meaningful action against Cuba, including, if possible, Mexico’s vote. Therefore we believe it desirable to revise the basis of the idea involving the possible use of force to one of individual and collective self-defense and embody this concept in a separate resolution on which we have some hope for virtually unanimous agreement. The other provisions of the March 5 draft concerning surveillance around Cuba, severance of diplomatic and economic relations, suspension of air and surface transportation and appeal to other free world countries for cooperation, would then be put in one or more separate resolutions, but would be in the form of recommendations rather than as binding decisions as provided in the earlier draft.

The revised draft would still offer the advantages of clearly establishing the doctrine that Castro-type subversive activities constitute “aggression” and that, under the right of self-defense, some action could be taken by us in support of an aggrieved state at its request in the future without awaiting recourse to the OAS.

Dean Rusk 4
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL CUBA. Secret. Drafted by Allen and approved by Bunker.
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. A note on the memorandum indicates this recommendation was “approved by the President at lunch with Secretary 5/19/64.” According to the President’s Daily Diary Johnson met his Tuesday Luncheon group—Rusk, McNamara, and Bundy—on May 19 at 1 p.m. (Johnson Library) No substantive record of the meeting has been found. The Department circulated the revised text of the draft resolution on May 21, pending Venezuelan approval. (Circular telegram 2171; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–8 VEN) The Venezuelan Government subsequently agreed to the proposed revision, but continued to insist on taking action at a meeting of Foreign Ministers rather than the OAS Council. (Circular Telegram 2214, May 28; ibid.)
  4. Printed from a copy that indicates Rusk signed the original.