32. Memorandum From Roger Morris of
the National Security Council Staff to the Presidentʼs Assistant for
National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
Washington, February 6, 1969
NSC Review Group Meeting, 3 p.m. today
The NSC papers on Biafran relief tell the
(1) We cannot reasonably expect to expand relief under our present
low-involvement policy with Federal Nigeria. The Feds are literally on
the verge of breaking with us now. Yet, present relief is by all odds
not adequate to the need and will leave us
under severe criticism here at home.
(2) If we want to expand relief anywhere near the need, we have to become
more involved in supporting Federal Nigeria. Or we move toward Biafra to offset the losses we take in
breaking with the Feds.
The attached talking points for this afternoonʼs Review Group meeting are
designed to highlight this basic choice. The IG options paper, as it
stands, is useful in arguing the pros and cons of specific policies—
“neutrality”, arms supply, etc.—which have been loudly and imprecisely
urged from the Hill and elsewhere.
It makes sense, however, to pinpoint the basic choice and focus the
discussion by doing a concise summary paper here, somewhat along the
lines we followed with the Middle East discussion. We could certainly
clear such a summary paper informally with Pedersen, et al. before we
send it with the others to the NSC.
Your talking points also ask for some minor but useful additions to the
relief systems paper (the first paper):
—They skipped a step by omitting an airlift system, technically feasible,
which could meet the maximum estimated need in Biafra.
—The paper should point clearly at the degree of direct U.S. involvement,
including military participation, necessary to make these systems work
in the real world.
—There should be some discussion, pro and con, of the ideas for a
Presidential Relief Coordinator or Citizensʼ Committee, which have such
currency on the Hill and in academic circles.
In sum, your talking points say (a) we need minor revisions on the relief
paper, and (b) we will do a summary paper here which puts the options
more precisely in the perspective of the basic policy choices they
Washington, February 6, 1969
- The two papers on Nigeria we have before us—(1) alternative
relief approaches and (b) principal policy options as they
affect relief—are intended to tell the NSC the political implications
as well as the methods of feeding people in the civil
war. I understand there will be a Background Paper coming shortly.
We might begin by asking, in a technical vein, if the first
paper clearly sets out what the NSC should know about the alternative relief
- I wonder about the omission of an airlift system which, by itself,
could meet the maximum estimated need of 30,
000 tons per month. If this is technically
feasible—and it would theoretically allow us under
one or two of the policy options to meet the need—it
should be included.
- It might also be very useful to indicate, under
each Relief Course, the degree
of U.S. involvement practically necessary to
implement that course given the capability or policy
of others. This should include involvement of U.S.
military personnel and equipment. The NSC ought to be able to
run through these courses and put their fingers on a
definite threshold at which our direct participation
would be quite visible and might amount to a U.S.
takeover of the relief operation.
- Given Presidential and Congressional concern, the
NSC may also be
interested in a brief
discussion, pro and con, of the alternative means
of coordination of the U.S. relief efforts. I
have in mind specifically the proposals for a
Presidential czar or Citizensʼ Committee which have
been discussed in Congress and elsewhere. Could
these be considered without lengthening the paper
Could the IG revise the first paper in
this manner and have it back by noon on
Beyond these technical points in the first paper, I wonder if
the second paper makes clear the broader policy questions
the options imply. The burden of the paper seems to be that
any real expansion of present relief involves—willy nilly or
consciously—important political choices. I see two basic
- We can stay with the relief prospects (not very
good) of present policy, which amounts to de jure support of Federal
Nigeria and de facto
support of Biafra through relief (Option 1). Or we can choose more
relief, which involves greater support for one side
or the other.
- If we decide to expand relief beyond the prospects
of present policy, we can give more support to
Nigeria to offset the greater de facto help expanded relief gives Biafra
(Options 2 and 3). Or we
can shift away from Nigeria toward Biafra. (Options
4, 5, 6)
As I read the options paper, it tells the President he cannot
reasonably expect to expand relief beyond the potential of
present operations without
encountering this choice. Do we agree on this
I do not think it necessary to revise the options paper to
get at this conceptual clarity. As it stands, it does treat
some specific policies—“neutrality”, arms supply to
Nigeria—which the NSC
probably ought to see argued separately pro and con.
I would propose, however, to do a concise summary paper here.
It would introduce the two papers by listing very briefly
the relief prospects and political costs connected with:
- —continuing present policy as against changing to
a more active approach;
- —the choice between changing by a move more
strongly on the Federal side or a shift to Biafra.
I should think that kind of summary would be useful to give a
general thrust to discussion of specific options.