63. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)1

I am much gratified that as Chairman of the Senior Interdepartmental Group you will be “carrying on other duties and responsibilities of the Special Group (Counter Insurgency) which has been abolished.” I have been chairman of this group for the past three years and believe that real progress has been made in that field. We have learned from mistakes and know considerably more about the matters on which to concentrate. The problem requires constant and detailed attention to see that where local governments are under attack or potential attack our country teams develop sound and adequate plans and that these plans are promptly and effectively supported in Washington.

Viewing the world as a whole, with the exception of Vietnam, things have been going relatively well in recent years. This is partly due to foresight on the part of the United States, increasing awareness of the dangers on the part of local governments and heavy handedness by the Communists. The split within the Communist Movement has contributed to their difficulties.

Communist action follows two main courses: a) subversion, terrorist activity, leading to guerrilla action; b) political action of various types including efforts to develop popular or united fronts.

I think the most serious threat at the present time is in Thailand. In this case although much good work has been done, I feel that there is not as yet either a government or US program adequate to prevent the situation from spreading. Although the military and police programs are being given attention and are vital, the psychological and political [Page 147]programs have not been adequately thought through or implemented. As you know Peiping has announced that there will be a war of liberation mounted before the end of the year and the Communists are hard at work.

Charlie Maechling who has been my assistant and entire staff in this operation is assembling the papers in an orderly manner to turn over to Harry Schwartz whom I understand is to be your staff director. In passing, I might say it has been my feeling that the Committee of Assistants has been an effective body. Each Agency has wanted to get a job done before the subject hit the Special Group (CI) and we have found that this pressure has been a useful stimulus for needed action in Washington.

I am pleased that the Assistant Secretaries are to have a regional group as this is the level at which much of the work must be done. On the other hand, a number of matters are of Department-wide, Government-wide, and world-wide significance that cannot be dealt with adequately on a regional basis. Among those are the education and training of U.S. personnel going to the field, the police training program, labor and youth problems, etc. Overall, it is essential that the spotlight of the top side of government attention be given to these activities or else important or even vital matters get overlooked.

I would like to have a general chat with you about this one day this week at your early convenience.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/S-Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, SIG Miscellaneous. Confidential.
  2. Harriman apparently met with Ball on March 11, according to a March 11 briefing memorandum from Schwartz to Ball. (Ibid.) No other record of the meeting has been found. Documentation on the disposition of Special Group (CI) responsibilities, including implementation of the agreements and decisions reached at the key SIG meeting on July 26, are ibid., SIG Minutes and SIG Agendas, and in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, State Department, Special Group (CI) Assignments to Other Departments and Agencies. A 10-page March 17 memorandum for the record, prepared by Harriman’s assistant Charles Maechling, Jr., details the many principal subjects that were still pending before the Special Group (CI) at the time of its termination. (Ibid., Senior Interdepartmental Group (SIG), Memos and Misc. [I], Box 60) For the record of the agreements and decisions reached at the July 26 meeting, see Document 82. In a July 14 memorandum to Rostow, Saunders detailed how the IRG/NEA was going about handling “the old CI Group’s business.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, State Department, Interdepartmental Regional Group)