137. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • The Deputy Secretary
  • The Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Mr. Sisco
  • Deputy Undersecretary, Ambassador Brown
  • Director General, Ambassador Davis
  • Assistant Secretary Hartman
  • Mr. Eagleburger
  • Jerry Bremer, Notetaker

Kissinger: I just wanted to spend ten minutes with you to discuss in general the Department. This grew out of a talk I had with Dean [Page 467] Brown yesterday.2 I read the Hersh article today.3 Now I don’t care about the substance of such articles, but we have these cables going all over the place and we have FSOs contradicting instructions from the seventh floor.

I just want it to be made very clear that the party is over. I don’t want to hear from you what I am doing wrong any more and any one who doesn’t like what I am doing can leave. Bob [Ingersoll], I am simply fed up. I want this place run.

My objective is this: I want to end the presumption that every FSO is the Secretary of State. The emphasis on the Foreign Service should be on the word “service”.4 The desire and honor should come from caring about and serving the United States. Now you read, for example, that article by John Wallach.5 Every newspaper man here can get twenty quotes on what the seventh floor is doing wrong. If the people down below don’t get enough information it’s the Assistant Secretaries’ fault.

The Foreign Service is a disgrace to itself. I don’t really care because I will be gone from here in two or three or five years, but it is a disgrace to itself. I am prepared for a public confrontation with the Foreign Service and it is a confrontation I can win. The prestige of the Foreign Service is not that high that it could survive such a confrontation.

I don’t care about the leaks because I will be gone anyway. The only Secretaries who survived leaks are those who tolerated them.

You have a week to make to me a solid proposal about what can be done. I may act, you should know, in a very forceful sense anyway before that.

I want Popper’s explanation of what his role was in this Hersh thing. Dean [Brown], I want you to find that out and do it in such a way that it’s the Foreign Service looking into itself and not me taking a shot at the Foreign Service.

It’s a disgrace to the Foreign Service and to the country. The method of operation here is irritating. I know. It’s a method that has worked however in other places. I am what I am and I will not change. They will have other Secretaries they don’t like too.

[Page 468]

There should be no doubt about it though, Bob, I want you to run the Department. I want the Bureaus to have a sense that they are responsible to somebody. I don’t want to hear from Assistant Secretaries that they don’t know what the policy is. That’s their fault if they don’t know.

I want no doubt on the seventh floor that I have had it. And I will get the President to back me. If you have any doubts about what will happen if I go before an Appropriations Committee, just think about it. Five years from now the Foreign Service will thank me for it.

This place is a pigsty. Take the Moynihan cable.6 It did me no particular damage, but eighty percent of the Foreign Ministers I spoke to in New York asked me how it could possibly happen in our Department of State that such a cable would be published in the New York Times.7 It did me no damage but what damage it did do to the United States.

If a Secretary of State cannot write a note on a cable without it being leaked and the Bureau then contradicting the instructions, you don’t have a Foreign Service but a rabble. There are plenty of ways to grieve around here—too many ways in fact. I do not mind people disagreeing with me. That’s not the point. You don’t notice any military majors dumping on their senior staffs.

I will take drastic action no matter what. I want to know what it is in people who are selected for the Foreign Service that makes them believe they can undermine the system. Why can’t the Assistant Secretaries control this damn Department? Why are people shuffling papers around in self-service without serving the country?

Five years from now with a good Foreign Service, it will then deserve to be at the center of foreign policy. Right now it doesn’t deserve that because the Service is not good.

Except in Africa—we have leaks—but there the Assistant Secretary is not on our wave length. And, you know, he doesn’t know what our policy is anyway. Do you know our policy? (to Hartman)

Hartman: Yes.

[Page 469]

Kissinger: Well, why is this Wallach article then quoting the French desk officer saying he’s spent twenty years of his life but he doesn’t know what our policy is?

I tell you this is going to end if I have to put half of them in the Senior Seminar.8

Eagleburger: Popper called me to say that he wanted you to know that only he and his personal secretary have seen the letter from Kubisch9 to him.

Kissinger: I haven’t even seen it.

Eagleburger: I will show it to you.

Kissinger: These were two separate problems. I had by then talked to the Chilean Foreign Minister at the OAS about doing something about human rights and I didn’t want Popper to give them a lecture before the military group and humiliate them. I don’t feel obligated to explain myself to Sy Hersh.

These leaks are simply unmanly, cowardly and disloyal. If they had guts, if there was one person who had the guts to resign, it would be something. But there must be something wrong with this system and how we take them in. No other agency has this problem in town and no other agency has such good people. In the end, of course, they are hurting the Foreign Service and not me. How can we let such a cable into the system? How can they be trusted when such single, miniscule cables get out into the newspapers? These people are not leaking for national interest, or even for national security, but for self-aggrandizement. At least when we had the disagreement on Cyprus there were disagreements about what was in our national interest.

Art [Hartman], you are the only Assistant Secretary I asked to come here, because I think EUR is basically the best-run Bureau. And you are involved in everything important that is going on in your area.

When I come back from the UN I want a plan of action from you. And I may talk to the President anyway about this problem. Let there be no doubt in the Department that there will be a showdown. I would prefer that the showdown not be public, but if it is necessary I can do that too.

Ingersoll: On the basis of what you are saying, Henry, I think we should not discuss this problem outside of this group.

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Sisco: No. I don’t think it should be outside of this group or it will go into the newspapers the next day.

Kissinger: I’m prepared to have it public if necessary. The whole thing is a sorry reflection on the Foreign Service.

Eagleburger: I don’t think you should go outside this group on this particular subject, but we do need to try to get the Assistant Secretaries together to express your concern.

Kissinger: If the Foreign Service were anywhere near self-respecting, it would have started disciplining itself over the last three months when this started happening. I cannot believe it is an unmanageable problem.

Ingersoll: We did have three good talks with the Assistant Secretaries and I felt it had improved for a while, but it has certainly gone back again now.

Kissinger: It’s worse now than ever. Now it’s malicious. At least in Cyprus it was a policy difference. Though now I notice Boyatt has told the press that he is in the Senior Seminar because he sent me a dissent memo.10

Sisco: Take Tasca. The press says you and I leaked the information about Tasca. But I am sure it was leaked by somebody down the line who has been after Tasca all along.11 Now he will come back to town and accuse us of having put the prod on him.

Kissinger: There’s this fellow Blood, who is also in the newspapers saying I sent him to the Seminar because of his behavior in Dacca.12 I do remember him well and unfavorably. He disagreed with our policy in [Page 471] Dacca. That’s not why I remember him unfavorably, but he doublecrossed us and he misinterpreted his instructions in the classic Foreign Service tradition of assuming he could do what he wanted despite his instructions. Yet I never in any way expressed any view on where he should be assigned, did I?

Davis: No.

Brown: No, we assigned him.

Kissinger: And I certainly can’t worry too much about dissent from younger Foreign Service officers. If I can’t handle junior Foreign Service officer dissent on substance I’ve got a real problem. If a subordinate had a problem with a policy, he should go to his Assistant Secretary and let the Assistant Secretary pursue it.

Ingersoll: I can talk to some of the Assistant Secretaries about the general problem.

Kissinger: Only African Bureau doesn’t leak because I tell them nothing. I have no confidence in them whatsoever.

If you had a high morale organization, and a pride in the country, if they didn’t think every Ambassador was his own Secretary of State and the payoff for every Country Director was to sit in on meetings to show what a bigshot they are, then you would have a better Department and a better morale.

Eagleburger: Another thing we have to look at is this whole question of the distribution of cables.

Kissinger: The number of cables really doesn’t matter, if you don’t trust people to distribute them 700 cables, then it won’t matter if you give them 1500.

Ingersoll: But some of these cables get outside the Foreign Service.

Kissinger: But Bob, I don’t want to hear the excuses. I hold the Foreign Service responsible. Let’s look at the Foreign Service. Every FSO lives by trading information. There’s excessive attention to prerogatives and they think they are making policy. This is nonsense, they are not making policy, they are contributing to its formulation. They are not going to be Secretary of State. The job is filled. The problem is that most of these people are not thinking strategy, but they’re thinking on the day to day basis without an assessment of the overall impact of their actions on the country. They have no pride in the Service or in the country. If you baby them, they are ok until something goes wrong.

In this last year, this one year that I have seen the Foreign Service, when the foreign policy was the one thing that held the country together and of which the country was proud, this is the way they have acted. I shall make a major effort to leave a disciplined Foreign Service behind me.

[Page 472]

How can I tell the President to have confidence in these people? Look at this food problem. The President made a decision to operate on a certain level of food aid. The next thing I know I get a bitch from the Open Forum Panel because we didn’t get this high a figure announced. Now we are operating at that higher figure over everybody’s opposition and the Open Forum Panel has no business knowing about it or about the Presidential decision. The President himself insisted on not making it public. Somehow this got to the Open Forum Panel and the next thing I get is an unclassified memo from the Open Forum Panel.13 Now I happen to agree with them. In fact, I fought everyone for the higher figure. But the lack of pride and self-respect is inconceivable. Also I should point out their reasons for supporting the 1.36 billion are wrong. It’s the same old bleeding heart masochism that you always get.

This place has become an extension of the New Statesman. Tell me how the New Statesman thinks on one foreign policy issue and I’ll tell you the State Department position.

I want to meet again with this group on a week from Thursday and get from you a precise program.

Ingersoll: Can we make it Friday because I’m due to be doing the SEATO meeting on Thursday?

Kissinger: OK. We’ll do it Friday.14

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 346, Department of State, Memoranda of Conversations, Internal, Aug. 1974–Mar. 1975. No classification marking. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office in the Department of State.
  2. No record of this talk has been found.
  3. Seymour Hersh reported in an article in the New York Times on September 27 that Kissinger had rebuked David H. Popper, Ambassador to Chile, for his remarks to Chilean officials regarding human rights issues. (Seymour M. Hersh, “Kissinger Said to Rebuke U.S. Ambassador to Chile,” New York Times, September 27, 1974, p. 18)
  4. Kissinger repeated similar views of the Foreign Service in an interview with James Reston on October 6, portions of which are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976, Document 46.
  5. Apparent reference to John Wallach, Foreign Editor of Hearst Newspapers and syndicated columnist.
  6. In telegram 12063 from New Delhi, September 10, Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan reported comments made by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi indicating that reports of CIA activity against Chilean President Salvador Allende confirmed to her that the United States was plotting against her government. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, D740252–0012) The telegram was leaked to the press and appeared in an article by Seymour Hersh in the New York Times on September 13. (“Concern by India on C.I.A. Related,” New York Times, September 13, 1974, p. 11)
  7. Kissinger traveled to New York on September 27 for annual UNGA meetings and for the SEATO Ministerial meeting on October 3. He returned to Washington on Octo-ber 3.
  8. Established in 1958, the Senior Seminar is a Department of State advanced professional development program designed for small groups of experienced mid-level Foreign Service officers, military officers, and officials of other agencies.
  9. Jack B. Kubisch was the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs until September 4.
  10. Thomas D.Boyatt was the Department of State Desk Officer for Cyprus before and during the attempted overthrow of President Makarios in July 1974 and the Turkish invasion of the island that followed. On August 9, Boyatt sent a Dissent Memorandum to Kissinger, outlining disagreements with U.S. policy in Cyprus. The memorandum was subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on Intelligence (Pike Committee) on October 2, 1975, as part of its investigation of the Intelligence Community. Kissinger refused to comply with the subpoena and was cited for contempt of Congress. (See Document 54, especially footnotes 3 and 10 thereto.)
  11. Henry J. Tasca was Ambassador to Greece until September 16, 1974. Sisco’s remarks regarding press leaks refer to newspaper reports alleging Tasca’s unresponsive attitude toward Washington’s directives before and during the coup against Makarios. On September 16, the Washington Post reported that Athens Embassy personnel felt Tasca had been made the scapegoat “for the sharp deterioration of Greek-American relations” following the Cyprus crisis and the subsequent overthrow of the military junta in Greece. (Jim Hoagland, “Envoy Recall Angers U.S. Athens Staff,” Washington Post, September 16, 1974, p. A1)
  12. Archer K. Blood, then Diplomatic Adviser to the Commandant of the Army War College, had previously served as Consul General in Dacca (Dhaka) until June 1971. On April 6, 1971, Blood had supported a written protest by Consulate General officials of U.S. policy in East Pakistan. The text of this protest is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XI, South Asia Crisis, 1971, Document 19.
  13. Not further identified and not found.
  14. No record of a Friday, October 4, meeting of this group was found. The group, however, did meet on Sunday, October 7. See Document 139.