35. Paper Prepared by the Interdepartmental Group for Inter-American Affairs1 2

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The accompanying documents constitute the response by the IG/ARA to NSSM 108. In order to make its address to the NSSM as comprehensive as possible, the IG/ARA was expanded to include all interested Departments and agencies. The response, therefore, has benefited from a broad range of contributions and views.

I. Methodology

In undertaking the comprehensive review requested by the NSSM, the IG/APA followed a methodological sequence which called for:

(a) a statement of current policy toward Latin America and of the assumptions and analyses that had given rise to that policy (Tab IV);

(b) an assessment, prepared by the Intelligence Community in the first instance, of the current situation in the hemisphere, the effect of current policy in bringing about the current situation, and the trends over the next three to four years which will have significant implications for policy (Tab V);

(c) a statement of U.S. interests in Latin America more explicit and more carefully defined than that which was used inferentially in the 1969 review of policy (Tab VI); and

(d) an analysis by operational sector—political/psychological, security/military, development assistance, trade, investment and the inter-American system—of the impact of current and prospective developments in Latin America on our interests; an examination of the policy implications of that interaction; an identification of the consequent issues for policy; the presentation of realistic alternative policies and courses of action for meeting the issues; and, where appropriate, recommendations for choice among the options (Tabs A through F).

With respect to certain policy issues, the IG/ARA limited itself to a summary treatment either because they are being considered in detail in other NSC modes (e.g., Cuba, which is the subject of NSSM 32, now before the NSC, and Chile of which the SRG is specifically seized) or because their complexity requires an examination in greater depth than this response to NSSM 108 permitted (e.g., the establishment of a definitive position on what constitutes a “reasonable” response to “reasonable” requests for arms).

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II. U.S. Interests and Their Consonance with Latin American Interests

A. General

Because a definition and understanding of U.S. interests are indispensable to a coherent address to policy, we have made a special effort to identify those interests. We present them below in full awareness that reasonable men differ widely in their appreciations and ordering of interests and goals and that the version of this controversial subject that we have arrived at may deserve modification and refinement—a task which the IG/ARA will undertake as part of its on-going work on the CASP system.

B. U.S. Interests in Relation to Latin America

The U.S. has a number of major interests in Latin America, which are listed below in rough order of priority. Some of these major interests could become vital3 interests in the future; and a number of them, including one of the most important ones, could cumulate now or in the future in various combinations to be a vital interest.

1. Very Important

a. Preservation of a predominance (by the combination of numbers and importance) of independent, self-sustaining Latin American countries favorably disposed to the U.S.

b. Denial of Latin America as an area from which a strategic attack could be launched against the U.S.

2. Important

c. Maintenance of the confidence of Latin America and of the world in the effectiveness, maturity and [Page 4] responsibility of our leadership as a great power in our relations with Latin America, with due consideration for the “mature partnership” concept.

d. Maintenance of access to the Panama Canal, including, under existing circumstances, its protection and control by the U.S.4

e. The existence of a strong inter-American system, including an effective collective security function.

f. Unimpeded transit for U.S. forces on the high seas and in international air space in the area.

g. Mutually beneficial economic interchange, including reasonably favorable trade and investment climates.

h. Denial to hostile powers of bases in Latin America that would enhance their non-strategic military capabilities.

i. Continued access to bauxite in Jamaica and petroleum in Venezuela.

j. Protection of the large number of U.S. citizens who live in, have economic ties in, or visit Latin America.

k. Continued access to certain naval and air bases and facilities in the area.

Economic and social progress, freedom of communications media, and maintenance of an adequate measure of internal security in Latin America are very significant, but are considered to be means of advancing U.S. interests in Latin America rather than interests in themselves.

[Omitted here is the remainder of the paper.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–177, NSSM Files, NSSM 108. Secret. NSSM 108 is published as Document 32.
  2. The NSC Interdepartmental Group for Inter-American Affairs (IG/ARA) provided an overview of U.S. interests in Latin America.
  3. A vital interest is understood to be one which directly concerns a nation’s ability to survive, or at least to survive in its existing essential character. A major interest is at the next level; it is one which significantly affects a nation’s well-being.
  4. ISA and JCS prefer “Protection and control of the Panama Canal as essential to maintaining our access to its use.”