3. Minutes of an NSC Review Group Meeting1 2

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  • FIDP and Latin America


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State—Arthur Hartman
    Charles Meyer
    Donald McHenry
  • Defense—G. Warren Nutter
  • CIA—Edward Proctor
  • JCS—Lt. Gen. F.T. Unger
    Brig. Gen. John J. Kenney
  • OEPHaakon Lindjord
  • Budget Bureau—James Clark
  • AIDJames Fowler
  • USIA—Henry Loomis
  • Commerce—Robert Simpson
  • Treasury—Anthony Jurich
  • NSC Staff—Morton Halperin
    Viron Vaky
    C. Fred Bergsten
    Winston Lord


The Review Group agreed that the paper on Foreign Internal Defense Policy was important, that it should be reaffirmed by the present Administration, and that implementing guidance should be issued. It was envisaged that an NSDM would be put out shortly to accomplish these ends.

The Group reviewed the Latin American Study and discussed broad policy concepts. It was agreed that a modified precis along with the overview section would provide an excellent basis for initial NSC treatment of hemispheric policy. The NSC Meeting on this subject the next week would provide an educational setting for the Rockefeller report. Although policy issues would be flagged for forward thinking, no decisions would be made pending receipt of Rockefeller’s recommendations.

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[Omitted here is material unrelated to Latin America.]

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Kissinger described the Latin America paper as a massive document and a thoughtful one. He thought it would be useful to concentrate on the precis for NSC purposes. He believed that discussion could focus on general issues, while waiting for the Rockefeller report to get into specific problems. Meyer agreed with this approach.

Kissinger believed that before treating our objectives in Latin America and our style, there should be discussion of what we are trying to do and what should be our basic stance in the hemisphere. He noted that the paper listed three fundamental approaches—paternalism, withdrawal, and partnership. He believed that these terms were somewhat loaded. For example, no one would favor a “paternalistic” attitude. He believed it was useful to treat this question somewhat differently. Will we be operating in this hemisphere on a general theory like the “dumbbell” theory for Europe, or were there other options and different points that might be useful to include even though they did not fit into an exact category.

Meyer thought that one of the key points for NSC consideration was the question of whether or not we have a special relationship with Latin America, either factually or emotionally. If there is a special relationship—and he believed that this was the case—then the way in which we treat this relationship in policy terms falls into a series of options and sub-options. Kissinger thought we should be clear on what we mean by “special relationship”.

Meyer believed that in addition to the precis, the overview section should be read. These 53 pages provided direct answers or implied answers to almost any question concerning Latin America and its relation to the U.S. In sum, he believed that a revised precis plus the overview should provide the guts of the first NSC review and that any other material could be folded in after Rockefeller returned from his mission. Kissinger asked whether the rest of the group agreed with this approach. Unger agreed that the overview did elaborate a great deal on the precis and that he had found it worthwhile. Vaky thought it was useful to use both the overview and the precis, but pointed out that since the former was longer, it was able to spell out the choices more precisely. The overview elaborated upon, but did not essentially add to, the precis. It did discuss the special relationship and U.S. interests in the hemisphere in a way which the precis did not. He believed that how we look at Latin America in comparison with the rest of the world should be inserted into the precis. On balance, he thought that a combination of the precis and the overview would serve well for NSC review. He believed that the issues that had to be surfaced at this time were conceptual ones.

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Kissinger commented that the special relationship as explained in the paper rested substantially on historical bases, many of which were now under challenge. He saw a dual question. First, has there been a special relationship? The answer is yes when one looks at the Monroe Doctrine and our 19th century foreign policy. Then one must ask what conclusions should we derive for this period of history? Should there be a special relationship and what should it involve?

Jurich interjected that he would like to see a statement on hemispheric interests, of which Latin America was a part. In looking at the four predominant purposes outlined in the paper it appeared that one could question any one of the four but it bothered him to be asked to choose a general purpose; our policy is bound to vary from country to country. Meyer noted that this led to the question of whether one treated the hemisphere as a whole or pursued a country-by-country approach. Kissinger suggested that after defining the special relationship, one could then address this point. There could be a discussion of what we are trying to do in a general way before getting into particular strategies. He did not profess to be a Latin American expert. When the European region is discussed, he hears that we are in favor of economic regionalism and opposed to military regionalism. However, be believed that for Europeans the incentives might be just the opposite. Furthermore, an economically unified Europe is likely to be a competitor. Hartman noted that he would like to argue with these points about Europe at another time. Kissinger responded that he was not necessarily against European economic regionalism. He was willing to pay the price for this objective, but we should acknowledge that there is a price. In Latin America we should ask what are the incentives for unity—are there any besides opposition to the US? Are we trying to promote a unified Latin America along the lines of the dumbbell theory; or would we face problems like we do in Europe and should we therefore proceed on a country-by-country basis?

Meyer commented that, oddly we might be doing both. He said that our credo is to see a unified Latin America. At the same time, one voice breaks down into 22 in terms of national interest. He did not foresee during the next 20 years a unified hemispheric force against the US. In response to Kissinger’s questions, he confirmed that he meant that a unified economic force was unlikely while a unified political force was more possible. He did not foresee a unified military force.

Kissinger believed it was useful to include some of these points so that we know what we were aiming for in Latin America. Another question to be considered was the relationship of our policies to domestic [Page 5] structures in Latin America. The issue was treated somewhat under one of the optional strategies. The President always asks whenever he sees Latin American delegation, what are we trying to do in this region? Why are we providing economic aid, what purposes are we trying to achieve? He did not know if the paper’s strategies answered these questions. Trying to steer the NSC meeting toward tentative answers to these questions would help the Administration deal with specific problems within that conceptual framework.

Meyer commented that the options were trying to illustrate what we should attempt to do and not what we have been doing. Kissinger noted that the four purposes were not mutually exclusive. For example, he could see a commitment to economic development under almost any political strategy.

Vaky concurred that the options were not mutually exclusive; it was a question of where one placed the major emphasis. If the major interest is in economic development we might pursue one track, while if it is in representative democracy one could pursue another. Our approach might differ from country to country, and we could do different things in different parts of the hemisphere.

Kissinger queried what we mean by representative democracy in this hemisphere. He noted a problem in this regard. For example, there might be an authoritarian government which the US opposes because of its lack of popular support. We think we can move it toward a representative government with US pressure. However, instead it could secure popular support through anti-American actions. In this case he wondered what we had achieved. He was referring to Peron or Velasco—type governments. He thought it was worth considering where the incentives now lie for societies. Maybe the US influence is so narrow or counter-productive that we risk creating what we hope to avoid. Meyer noted that this problem was treated in the paper, and Kissinger suggested that it be highlighted. He wondered whether we had a strategy for getting liberal representative government. Meyer replied that we did not.

Kissinger noted that option 2 emphasized economic development over political structure, and in that sense presented an alternative. Crimmins responded that the option said that we favor economic development but that this was not a complete alternative. There is no necessary difference between options 1 and 2. Kissinger responded that it was a matter of emphasis. He thought the second option represented a “promotion of economic development with relatively little regard to the domestic structure that brings it about”. Meyer believed that a statement along these lines was accurate. Kissinger commented that option 3 emphasized anti-Communism and stability as the primary objectives. He asked what [Page 6] was the essence of option 4. Meyer said that it was a first cousin of option 2, and Crimmins noted that it tied in closely to the question of whether or not there should be a US-Latin America special relationship. A passive stance would reflect the view that we should downgrade the concept of a special relationship and play a more passive role, letting Latins run their own affairs. Meyer confirmed to Kissinger that this reflected his view of option 4 and that it was therefore a cousin of option 2.

Unger agreed with the points that Kissinger was bringing forth. He leaned toward options 2 and 4 with regard to purpose and option 3 with regard to style. The key question remained: what do we want in Latin America? He thought that Kissinger described this issue well with his illustration of a dictatorial government gaining popular support through anti-Americanism. He thought it was worthwhile to sketch this type of situation; this would provide a better basis for choosing among the options.

Kissinger declared that this excellent paper was one of the very best in the NSC system to date. Unger concurred that it was a good paper. Meyer noted that there are a number of hemispheric responsibilities with regard to our past special relationship and our requirements for the future. He thought, however, the day would come when we would be reviewing our policies toward sub-regional groupings. Jurich added that he thought that the four options in the paper should be considered in those terms and not for Latin America as a whole. Vaky noted that this point was made on Page 13 of the overview paper.

Kissinger commented that, even after making that point, some general problems remain: For example, how should we react to military dictatorships? Meyer regarded this as part of our umbrella treatment. Kissinger agreed that an umbrella was needed in this case. Specific responses, however, could vary by country and it would be a mistake to overgeneralize. He noted that one of the most useful roles for the NSC was the education of the principal decision-makers, not just the making of decisions. It gave them an opportunity to face a range of issues which they normally do not consider, so they would have the necessary background when specific issues arise. He would therefore see a need to spend the first third of the meeting on Latin America for briefings; then a conceptual discussion; and finally a few specific caveats. This was probably as far as the NSC would get.

Jurich thought we needed a current assessment of whether our present position in Latin America was viable, whether it was horrible, or whether we were just going through a stage. Kissinger hoped that after the meeting [Page 7] we would never again use the term “horrible”. What was good now might be a horror in three years; we must know where to place our emphases.

Meyer believed that there was an excellent evaluation of the overall situation on Page 2 of the paper. Kissinger agreed that everything said in the meeting was in the paper. His major problem was with the four strategies presented. They did not seem mutually inconsistent. The principals were not likely to be expert, so the issue should be put in the best way for their comprehension.

Proctor thought the paper was very good. Loomis had one question of semantics. At the bottom of Page 2 he thought “revolution” might give the idea that overnight changes were unlikely, whereas in fact they were likely, even if no blood were shed, and could lead to major policy changes. Peru at present was a case in point, as was Castro’s Cuba. Meyer said that what was meant was fundamental change in the three basic aspects of society (political, economic, social). Vaky added that revolution, in these terms, was not likely to happen in Peru again.

Meyer also noted that one of our most difficult jobs regarding Latin America was to clearly define our options. The policy choices run to shades of gray, especially if we start with a general umbrella and then differentiate for individual countries.

Kissinger said that the principals were more concerned with other areas of the world but that the President was more insistent on specific answers concerning our goals in Latin America. For example, what groups, if any, should we support? This paper seemed to say that we should stay out of domestic politics. Meyer said he would argue that this was the proper approach. No one disagreed when he asked if there were any dissent. Fowler, however, noted that we would inevitably get into domestic politics, if we focus on economic growth in Latin America, through our involvement in their fiscal policy, exchange rate policy, etc. Vaky said even this depended on how we defined our role whether we simply provide resources or whether we get actively involved. Jurich said he would not be so categorical as Meyer about our staying out of domestic troubles in Latin America. Meyer concluded that he was just being responsive to the message of Vina de Mar which was that we should stay out. Kissinger queried whether the Alliance for Progress represented intervention. Jurich thought that it had come to be viewed as such.

Kissinger said that change did not promote liberal democratic regimes; it was not relevant to what they wanted. Vaky noted that the question [Page 8] comes back to how the US is seen by Latin America. Are we to take on authoritarian regimes and exercise our influence? Kissinger said that it was not a question of using physical power, but that many believed that we have a moral mission to promote liberal democracy. Vaky believed that we had to make a basic decision concerning our approach to Latin America. We could be the mother hen and the other countries could be the chicks no matter what was our overall purpose. Or we could employ pure conventional diplomacy. Or we could pursue another sort of relationship, helping in specific areas, in a mutual rather than tutorial effort.

Kissinger posed the issue as being whether or not we have a stake in the domestic evolution of Latin American countries. Meyer believed that this question covered the political, military and economic aspects of our policy. Kissinger continued that if we have a stake in domestic evolution, he wondered what effect we could have pursuing this objective. This question was treated at some length in the paper. If one takes the view that we should be more aloof, the implications of that approach become clear. This problem of our attitude toward the evolution of domestic structures covered the question of our attitude toward military dictatorships.

Crimmins believed that one would have to answer such questions selectively. Countries like Panama or Brazil or Nicaragua each presented a different situation. One might find that one was pursuing all four operational approaches at one time or another, and for good reason. Kissinger asked whether this was in effect telling the President that one could not have an overall policy but instead we have to react or wait until the dust settles. He wondered if there was a general principle that could guide our thinking for specific decisions. Vaky noted that there would be broad variations in the application of any general principle.

Fowler noted that some adjectives were used in a misleading way. For example, stable is closely linked to anti-communist. He thought stability by itself had certain advantages in many cases. In response to Kissinger’s query, he did not believe that stability was necessarily inconsistent with development. Vaky suggested dropping the word “stable”. Fowler thought that viable was perhaps a more useful concept than stable and that a friendly country need not necessarily be anti-communist. Economic development could occur under several different ways of allocating resources. Some countries could develop without distributing benefits by concentrating on growth and reinvestment. This might not be the situation we would want. These types of variations, e.g., economic development along the lines of the early Soviet system, were not treated in the overview.

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There was some further discussion of this issue. Kissinger then asked why we cared about economic development in Latin America. Fowler responded that development generally meant less chance for hostilities. Some would say it was a symbol of progress. Vaky added that development meant a better chance of having a stable society, of constructing a sensible world in which it was easier to do business. Therefore there were two prime reasons for development. First social stress arising from underdevelopment can create a battleground. Secondly, there was the humanitarian aspect of development, along the lines of the Barbara Ward thesis.

Kissinger asked whether we knew why development was our primary objective in Latin America (if this was the case). Vaky placed this question in a historical and psychological framework. Development is the question. that Latin American countries are most concerned with and that defines their relations with the United States. It can cause troubles, witness Peru. To the extent that we can overcome such difficulties we could have easier relationships, which could be translated into UN votes and other constructive channels. Bergsten noted that we jeopardize our political relations with Latin America if we don’t respond to their priority concerns for economic development. Kissinger acknowledged that economic development was a Latin American priority, but asked the further question whether we should therefore help. Vaky and Bergsten repeated their views, and Kissinger believed that these thoughts should be briefly stated in the paper. Loomis added that increased development could bring more bona fide two-way trade.

Kissinger declared that the foreign aid program was in deep trouble and that we needed a new rationale to save it. Just because the Latin Americans want development won’t help our political problems with the Congress. The President is searching for a persuasive rationale. Vaky noted that we can say that we do more for Latin America rather than Africa, for example, either because of our special relationship, or because we have greater specific interests, such as the more than 20 votes in the UN. He added that this country accepted the psychological concept of a hemispheric community. Both the people in this hemisphere and elsewhere in the world view our relationship in this way. Thus alienation from Latin America would have a harmful impact; the problem was how to prevent such alienation. Kissinger wondered whether we should encourage other countries, like the Europeans, to help out in the economic development of Latin America. Meyer said that we should; Crimmins added that it was highly doubtful that other countries would take on large responsibilities.

In response to Kissinger’s question, Meyer confirmed that he did not expect answers at the NSC meeting to the four specific policy issues raised in the paper. It was useful to introduce the discussion of at least the first three of these issues in terms of the basic questions that they raise. Vaky noted that from page 7 to the end the precis covered these four issues. Kissinger asked whether the pros and cons were adequately [Page 10] stated. Unger thought they were adequately treated in the overview, e.g., the treatment of police and military equipment on page 25.

Kissinger wondered whether it was possible to get by Monday evening a statement of the basic conceptual problems as had been discussed by the group. Meyer replied that he thought these could be inserted into the precis in time. Kissinger then said that the revised paper would be distributed to the principals and Review Group members simultaneously. We could then circulate any major comments on the new material. There followed a brief discussion of the NSC schedule, which Kissinger noted he would be checking with the President.

Simpson referred to the pros and cons with regard to US purposes on page 2. He thought the treatment of the question of protecting US investments was somewhat misleading by being confined to options 1 and 3. This question really is contained in all the alternative courses of action. He thought it was more accurate to indicate that options 2 and 3 were favorable to the growth of investments while options 1 and 4 provided no special opportunities for this objective. Meyer noted that this was a sensitive issue in our current relations in the hemisphere. Meyer concurred with Kissinger’s suggestion that perhaps no course of action that we took might help with this difficult problem. Simpson assumed that our policy with regard to protecting American investments was not at issue. He therefore believed that stating it as an advantage, under one course of action and omitting it under the other three was misleading.

Vaky suggested that the NSC meeting would treat the conceptual issues that had been raised at this meeting. Kissinger added that the four specific issues should be introduced to the principals who will have to make decisions on them later on. There would be no answers to these questions, but it would be useful to raise them as issues that will have to be faced. They could thus be kept in mind as the Rockefeller Report was reviewed.

Unger raised the problem of whether we should give economic aid multilaterally or bilaterally. He noted that this issue was folded into all the options and thought it might be pulled out for separate treatment. Kissinger agreed this was an issue and that the method of assistance was independent of the purposes we were trying to achieve.

There was brief discussion of the relationship of the Latin American study and its consideration to the forthcoming Rockefeller Report. Kissinger repeated that there would be no specific decisions on the policy issues before Rockefeller’s views were submitted. Meyer noted that the Rockefeller Report would cover both global and bilateral considerations. Kissinger concluded that once the report was submitted, there would be agreement with Rockefeller on what parts of it could be made public. The meeting was then adjourned.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files) Box H–111, SRG Minutes, Originals. Confidential. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The revised version of the Latin American Study, which was written in response to NSDM 15, is published as Document 4.
  2. The participants reviewed U.S. interests and policy in Latin America. In addition, the participants discussed issues of political structure, economic development, and the future of U.S. assistance to the region.