419. Notes of a Meeting of the National Security Council1


  • National Security Council Meeting in the Cabinet Room—Wednesday, September 13, 1967

Meeting convened: 12:32 PM

President departed meeting 12:58 PM

Attending were: The Vice President, Secretary McNamara, Under Secretary Katzenbach, General J.P. McConnell, Leonard Marks, [Page 905] Ambassador Goldberg, Under Secretary Paul Nitze, CIA Director Dick Helms, Secretary Henry Fowler, Joe Sisco, Bromley Smith, Walt Rostow and George Christian.

The President opened the meeting calling on Under Secretary Katzenbach.

Katzenbach pointed out that Secretary Rusk will be going to the United Nations for the usual meetings of Foreign Ministers. He said these are very helpful and useful to have these bilateral discussions, although it is very wearing on Mr. Rusk. Katzenbach said that the Africans are better than they used to be. They held together well, and they are more realistic than they used to be. Katzenbach said the President’s announcement of the U.N. Delegation with new and different people is very helpful politically both to the United Nations and to this Administration domestically. Katzenbach said that Joe Sisco briefed the NATO people on the Middle East and this was helpful, but he is not sure that they will stay considering the pressure the NATO countries are under. On Vietnam, Katzenbach said Goldberg has been having discussions with the U.N. delegates.

The President said he appreciated what Katzenbach said about the United Nations delegation. The President then called on Goldberg for discussion of the major issues facing the United Nations General Assembly.

Goldberg said there are about 100 items on the General Assembly agenda, many of these are repetitious. The principal issues listed by Goldberg were Middle East, Vietnam, non-proliferation, Chinese representation, oceanography and African problems.

Goldberg began with the Middle East saying that there are some signs of moderation in the Arab camp, and some signs of hardening in the Israeli camp. He said this presents a problem for us. Israel has serious internal problems and it is difficult for any Israeli spokesman to be “sweetly reasonable.” Goldberg pointed out that Israel takes the President’s statement of June 192 and uses those portions it likes and omits those portions it does not like. On the withdrawal issue, they have referred to the President’s statement on June 19. Goldberg said he believes the United States has a sound policy. We don’t charge the Israelis with aggression. Goldberg said it will be more difficult in the next session to hold the line against a resolution in line with our desire for peace in the Middle East. He said he believes Israel feels now that they would have been better to support the Latin proposal we supported which also included a withdrawal provision. They were with us tactically [Page 906] in getting the Latin Resolution voted, but they now say that was merely a tactical support, Goldberg said. Goldberg said the minimum conditions for a sensible peace in the Middle East is a commitment by the Arab states that they are not in a state of war with Israel. If the Arab states do this (and Goldberg pointed out that the Khartoum Conference did not say this) we may have to part with the Israelis on formulation… . Goldberg said the Israelis have not faced up to the demographic problem… .

Goldberg then turned the discussion to Vietnam. He said he has not discussed this with all members of the Security Council. Our friends are timid and reluctant. They don’t want to come along. They don’t think the Security Council will reach a settlement. If they are solid in this belief, nothing could come out. He said Canada, Great Britain and the Danes have shown great diffidence. Russia says don’t get into this. They said they would veto a straight resolution.

The President asked who feels we should go to the Security Council.

Goldberg said the general feeling is that we ought not to do it.

The President asked how many on the Council.

Goldberg replied 15. Goldberg pointed out that Argentina, Brazil and China are with us on going to the Council. Bulgaria is lukewarm, Denmark would rather not be involved, Ethiopia is a question mark, France is no, India is against us, Japan will go along but they are not enthusiastic, Mali is against us. Nigeria wants planes, and if we give them planes they will do whatever we ask. Russia is against us, United Kingdom is against, but will vote with us if pressured.

The President then summarized saying that actually there are only three for us.

Goldberg said he wanted to take exception to a statement made by Secretary Rusk that there will be a future time to go to the United Nations with this. Goldberg pointed out that this will be the last time we can manage the Security Council. He said that we could probably maneuver the Council if we put the maximum pressure, but that after January, this would not be possible, because we lose Japan for Pakistan, and Pakistan is no friend. We lose Mali. We lose Bulgaria for Hungary; Nigeria for Senegal; Argentina for Paraguay. Goldberg also pointed out that Russia may be playing a waiting game. They may try to go before the new Security Council with a Resolution condemning our bombing.

The President asked what was thought of our going to the U.N. and getting defeated.

Goldberg said I don’t think this would be considered a rebuff, although the press may say it is a rebuff.

The President asked can we close off … .

[Page 907]

Goldberg said no, if they were solid we would have nine votes, but they don’t want to be involved.

The President asked what Goldberg’s recommendation was.

Goldberg replied I would go recognizing the great dangers. We could not come out with anything that would hurt us. I don’t think anything would come out at all. There would be some who would say this was a rebuff, but this would show to the Mansfields and that group that we at least tried.

Secretary McNamara said I’d be for going before the United Nations if there was any possibility that it would pass. But I don’t think it will and they will say it was a rebuff because of our unreasonable and inhumane action in the bombing. On balance, that would be a loss in my judgment.

Goldberg said I don’t agree.

Katzenbach said he agrees with McNamara. If we got Ethiopia in and got the nine votes to inscribe it, and the question was on unilateral cessation, I figure there would be five in favor, five against, and five abstaining. Probably Algeria and Ethiopia would abstain. That would put Canada and the United Kingdom really on the spot. I think a 5–5–5 situation would be no gain for us.

McNamara said he believes such results would feed the Mansfields et al with new fuel to tell us to stop the bombing.

The Vice President said it depends on what the issue is. If we are rebuffed, the reason may be phrased because we held our old position of quid pro quo. While I am anxious to have the United Nations have some involvement in this, I don’t think we should do it if we don’t have the votes.

Goldberg said one thing that has been overlooked is that we may not get to the resolution at all. Russia will not support a move to amend on the bombing. Hanoi has already said this and Russia has picked up this line. In my judgment the resolution would just flounder into a state of disagreement and we would get credit for having tried.

The President asked, is that a plus in relation to where we are now? I feel that Mansfield might think that would be a plus, the President said.

Katzenbach said Mansfield would regard those evils as we do.

The President said you should talk to Mansfield when he gets back from Japan.

Goldberg then began discussing the non-proliferation treaty. Saying the likely situation will be that the ENDC will suspend its deliberations soon and the discussion of the non-proliferation treaty in the assembly will be in circumstances which there is no agreement on [Page 908] Article III. Our objective should be in concert with the USSR to maintain the present non-proliferation treaty intact to try to assure certain of the non-aligned of our willingness to consider the assurances problem within the context of the U.N. resolution. Our aim should be to have the matter returned to the ENDC so that further attention can be given to Article III and consultations can be undertaken within the ENDC to see whether the assurances problem can be taken care of in the form of the U.N. resolution.

The President departed the meeting at 12:58 PM, and turned the remainder of the meeting over to the Vice President.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings File. Secret. The notes were forwarded to the President in the form of a memorandum from Jim Jones of the White House staff.
  2. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 630–635.