18. Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs1


I. U.S.-Latin American Relations: The Need For A New Conceptual Framework

A. The Historical and Present Concept: Pan Americanism

The concept of Pan Americanism has guided U.S. policy towards the countries of Latin America for over a century. The notion has been of a community of republics, with a common history—a struggle to be independent of Europe—and a common ideal—representative democracy—which would cooperate to build a new order in the Western Hemisphere. Until recently this conceptual framework served us and the Latin Americans well. It provided a philosophical rationale as well as a juridical basis for what was in fact a hegemonic power system with the U.S. at its head.

By and large the Latin Americans acquiesced in having the United States shape the Inter-American System. This attitude reflected their own weakness, but also their perception that it was in their interests to have the United States bound to them in a formal system in which they could attempt to inhibit the unilateral use of U.S. power or turn it to their own advantage.

Today we are in a very different world, and the changes have combined to render an Inter-American System led by and dependent upon the United States unacceptable to Latin America and, indeed, to us as well.

While this situation was recognized as early as 1969, we have thus far been unable to establish a satisfactory new kind of relationship to replace the old one. The result in the multilateral framework has been to create a vacuum which some Latin American regimes highly critical of U.S. policy have exploited.

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The sharp deterioration in multilateral relations has not been paralleled in the bilateral area, our bilateral relations with the majority of Latin American countries being quite satisfactory. Nevertheless, the two kinds of relationship—multilateral and bilateral—obviously interact. The Inter-American System provides individual Latin American states with a sounding board for their attacks on us in the case of bilateral conflict. Otherwise friendly states are forced to take sides. The present multilateral relationship also is a vehicle for all the states in the region to press for non-reciprocal U.S. concessions which they could not expect to obtain in a bilateral context.

If we continue to operate with the old multilateral relationship, however, our bilateral relations will suffer. We will be increasingly subjected to a multilateralization of bilateral grievances. We will be increasingly embarrassed because our rhetoric about Pan Americanism will be belied by reality. Failing to see any response to their demands for unilateral U.S. concessions, the Latin Americans will be encouraged to unite around extreme Third-World positions in global forums and to participate in economic arrangements inimical to our interests. We will be unable to manage our bilateral relations in isolation from these multilateral developments, and the result will be a spreading political alienation of the countries of the Hemisphere.

B. The Main Outlines of a New Conceptual Approach

Latin America and the United States must draw back from their outmoded relationship in order to lay the basis for a more realistic interlocking once the region is stronger and more highly developed.

The shift from a bipolar to a multipolar world can only be transitional as political structures must eventually be adapted to the growing interdependence of nations. In the meantime, states which by themselves are unable to compete with the great powers—the two military superpowers plus China and Japan—must seek to form blocs with other states in a similar position and with whom they have ties of culture, history, or geography.

Farthest along in Europe, the regional bloc concept is taking hold in Latin America as well. The Latins’ attempt in the 1960s to slavishly imitate Europe and form a common market failed to fulfill the high hopes held out for it because the economies of the area were too fragile and were competitive rather than complementary.

More modest attempts at regional collaboration have been more successful. Subregional efforts at economic union, such as the Andean Pact, the Central American Common Market, and the Caribbean Free Trade Area, have been able to make progress. Perhaps as significant in the long run, the Latins have shown themselves increasingly capable of acting in unison in international politics. The Latin American bloc in international forums is now a regular fixture. The Latins’ custom of cau[Page 82]cusing to form a common front vis-à-vis the United States has been institutionalized in CECLA.

The United States attitude toward Latin American regionalism has been ambivalent. We have given economic assistance to the subregional economic groupings. On the other hand, we have expressed misgivings about Latin American political collaboration—e.g., CECLA—because it has been so obviously designed to strengthen the Latins’ hands in dealing with us. We have opposed proposals that a Latin American bloc be institutionalized in the Inter-American System.

If we accept the proposition, however, that some such “dumbbell”—always latent in the U.S.-Latin American relationship—is inevitable and, indeed, responds to the deep psychological need of the Latin nations to assert their independence of the U.S., we might wish to make a virtue of necessity. Regionalism of Latin America, and sub-regionalism within Latin America, could serve as the new conceptual basis for relations in the Western Hemisphere.

This “new regionalism” would differ from the old regionalism—Pan Americanism—in that the United States would stand somewhat apart from it—supporting it when possible, dealing with it in a new juridical framework, differing with it on specific issues—but not as a participant on an equal footing with all of the other countries. There would be “linkage” but not 100% membership. The new relationship would not be unlike the one we are seeking to establish with Western Europe.

Such a conceptual framework should afford the United States a number of advantages:

1. The present de facto situation in which confrontations between the United States and the Latin American nations stem from a different perception of interests would be rationalized—would become in a sense de jure. While we would be confronted, as we now are, with a regional, Latin American position on a number of issues, it would be understood that neither we nor the Latin Americans had the obligation to conform our policies. There would be less grounds for recrimination that we were not living up to our obligations under Pan Americanism.

2. We would gain greater flexibility in the conduct of our relations with the rest of the Hemisphere. We would have less inhibitions about discriminating among the nations of the Hemisphere on the basis of their relative size, development, proximity, and interests. Instead of striving to achieve one lowest-common-denominator type policy for “Latin America”, we would have a more realistic web of policies—bilateral, sub-regional, and regional.

3. We would have a firmer basis for demanding greater reciprocity in our relationships with the other nations of the Hemisphere. It should be clearer that an end to the hegemony and paternalism that was associated with Pan Americanism also means the end to a system in which [Page 83] only the United States had “obligations” and “commitments” and all the others had “rights.”

In the long run, such a system should strengthen the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean by fostering self-reliance and a sense of a destiny. Before the end of this century we should see another regional center of political and economic strength in the world, one with which, like Europe, we would deal as equals and have close political and economic ties, and which would be a constructive force for world order.

[Omitted here are Part II: “A New Set of Relationships”; Part III: “New Policy Initiatives”; and Part IV: “Major Operational Problems: The Next Six Months.”]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry A. Kissinger, 1973–77, Lot 91D414, Box 3, NODIS Letters HAK [Henry A. Kissinger], 1973–77. Secret; Nodis. Kubisch forwarded the 17-page paper to Kissinger under cover of an October 6 briefing memorandum. According to Kubisch’s briefing memorandum, Kissinger had requested such a study at his September 27 staff meeting. No record of the September 27 meeting has been found. During an October 5 luncheon in New York for Latin American delegates to the United Nations, Kissinger announced the beginning of a “new dialogue with our friends in the Americas,” commenting that any new policy “should be a policy designed by all of Latin America for the Americas.” For the text of Kissinger’s remarks, see Department of State Bulletin, October 29, 1973, pp. 542–543. The complete paper is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–11, Documents on American Republics, 1973–1976.