12. Editorial Note

During the 1976 Presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter asked Cyrus R. Vance, who had served as Secretary of the [Page 56] Army, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Special Envoy on the Cyprus and Korean situations, and negotiator at the Paris Peace Talks during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, to serve as one of his foreign policy advisers. After Carter made his offer, Vance consulted with Richard Gardner, Anthony Lake, and Richard Holbrooke to gain a better sense of Carter’s views. As he explained in his memoir of his tenure as Carter’s Secretary of State: “He had a set of values that I found attractive. His thinking reflected a principled approach to foreign affairs, which I believed essential for the reestablishment of a broad base of domestic support for a more comprehensive foreign policy. His views on specific issues, although still largely unformed, were in the centrist mainstream in which I felt comfortable. I concluded that this intense and energetic man had a real chance to become the next president of the United States.” (Hard Choices, page 29)

Upon further assessment and consultation, Vance agreed to join Carter’s foreign policy team. In the early fall of 1976, Vance wrote that Carter had requested him to prepare a “memorandum setting out specific goals and priorities for a Carter foreign policy, should he be elected.” (Ibid., pages 29–30) Under cover of an October 24, 1976, memorandum to head of the CarterMondale Policy Planning Group Jack Watson, Vance sent two copies of a 25-page “Overview of Foreign Policy Issues and Priorities” memorandum. On the first page of the overview, Vance noted that it “rapidly surveys, if not all the trees in the foreign affairs forest, at least the clumps of trees.” He continued with a broad statement of themes, which he felt should constitute the primary elements of the Carter administration’s foreign policy:

“(1) In its dealings with the Soviet Union, the United States will keep itself strong, and will stand resolutely firm to protect key United States interests. At the same time, the new Administration will continue to direct its efforts toward the objective of a further reduction of tensions between the two countries.

“—Although of central importance, US/Soviet issues will not be permitted to so dominate our foreign policy that we neglect other important relationships and problems.

“(2) The new Administration will bring a new sensitivity, awareness and priority to the vast complex of issues clustering around the relationships between the industrialized and the unindustrialized world, and the new set of global issues that are emerging, such as energy, population, environment, and nuclear proliferation.

“(3) The United States will continue in international forums its unwavering stand in favor of the rights of free men and, without unrealistically inserting itself into the internal operations of other governments, to give important weight to those considerations in selecting foreign policy positions in the interests of the United States.

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“(4) In its conduct of its foreign policy, the new Administration will proceed with gravity, not flurry; will not try to do everything at once or solve all the world’s problems; and will keep its mind focused on long-term general objectives, not just the crises of the moment.

“(5) The new Administration will accept the necessity to make the Congress and the American people joint partners in foreign policy matters. To do so, the President will assume major public leadership on foreign policy matters, and make a major investment in educating the public to perceive the difference between its long-term interests and its short-term interests, and the difference between the interest of the nation as a whole and the interests of particular subconstituencies and interest groups within the United States.

“These are pervasive general foreign policy themes. But a President will not always have the luxury of setting his own agenda and his own timing. Unforeseen crises will occur, demanding instant reaction. And the new Administration will inherit several deep-seated, impacted sore spots (e.g., Mid-East, Korea, Greece-Turkey-Cyprus, Panama) that will require prompt attention, as appears in later pages.” (Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State, 1977–1980: Lot 84D241, Odds & Ends From the Transition)

Vance indicated that several others, including George Ball and Zbigniew Brzezinski, had been asked to prepare similar overview papers for Carter. For Brzezinski’s memorandum, which he coauthored with Henry Owen and Richard Gardner, see Document 13. As for his overview, Vance asserted: “My own was to become a kind of foreign policy road map and a standard against which I measured our success and failure in attaining the goals we ultimately set for ourselves.” (Hard Choices, pages 29–30) The full text of the overview is printed as Appendix I in Hard Choices, pages 441–462.

On November 30, Vance flew to Georgia to meet with Carter. That evening, they discussed many of the items outlined in the overview paper. At the conclusion of the meeting, Vance recalled that Carter asked him to serve as Secretary of State. The next morning, Vance shared with Carter his thinking about staffing the Department of State before the discussion turned to other choices for cabinet positions. He later reflected:

“In keeping with his declared intention to make greater use of the cabinet, and to keep his personal staff out of the line between them and himself—a sentiment I shared—Carter chose his cabinet officers before he named his White House team. He asked whether I had any objection to Zbigniew Brzezinski, who he had worked with at the Trilateral Commission, as White House adviser for national security affairs. I said that I did not know Brzezinski well, but I believed we could work together. I asked two conditions: first, that it be made clear that I would be the [Page 58] president’s spokesman on foreign policy; second, that I had no objection to Brzezinski’s offering Carter independent foreign policy advice—in fact I encouraged the president to seek a variety of views—but that I must be able to present to him my own unfiltered views before he made any foreign policy decision. Carter readily agreed, and we turned to other subjects, including other names for cabinet posts.” (Ibid., page 34)