255. Memorandum From Roger Hansen of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Suggested Approach to the North-South “Conceptualization” Effort

After thinking about the best approach to this problem during my first two weeks on the job, let me briefly outline the pros and cons of four alternative procedures and request your reaction and advice. Please excuse the lengthy memo, but if we can’t figure out a productive [Page 764] way for me to serve you and the President, then it really doesn’t make much sense to keep me on the payroll even though I would hate to leave. First, one word about the task you have given me.

Task Definition

As I understand it, you would like me to try to develop a policy-relevant conceptual framework against which all U.S. governmental decisions having any impact on any or all aspects of “North-South” relationships—economic, political, strategic, normative and institutional—can be measured. I assume you consider this task to be of some importance because without such a conceptual framework, the government will continue to make decisions on the merits of each case as it arises, with (1) no attention paid to the impact of a decision on a purely “economic” issue (e.g., the Common Fund) on any other issue on the “North-South” agenda (e.g., LOS III, G–77 and Non-aligned policy vis-a-vis the Middle East situation, the strengthening of Lome Convention ties, proliferation, etc.); and (2) little attention to the implicit tradeoffs within the “economic” realm (e.g., Common Fund versus trade liberalization, new sources of “automatic” resource transfers, etc.). In short, I assume the task to be to see if the U.S. Government cannot rise above “eclectic incrementalism” in its approach to North-South relations, and to institutionalize an approach, perhaps increasingly multilateral (stage one, greater OECD concentration; stage two, OECDG–77 consultation and/or negotiations) in which all implicit tradeoffs across the relevant spectrum of North-South issues are automatically raised and considered.

Option No. 1—The Straight PRM–8 Approach


1. The PRM–8 process is well under way; the due date for all papers is February 28.2 Answers to the questions raised in it are needed for spring 1977 North-South negotiations. If the agencies can be forced to produce papers which are broad in scope and medium-term in time-frame, they can be a valuable input into the assigned task.

2. If the PRM–8 process can be used to force the agencies to address the final issue listed (“North-South political issues and the conceptual aspect of the structure of U.S. relations with the LDCs”), my task will be considerably facilitated.

3. If the tasked agencies also pay attention to the first sentence of the final paragraph of the PRM (“Each study should analyze the contribution of the various policy options to U.S. domestic and global economic interests, humanitarian interests, international political relation [Page 765] ships, and security interests.”) my task should be all the more aided by the PRM–8 process.


1. Most of the papers are very likely to be unifocal (economic), short-term and biased in favor of no change. This is probable for three reasons. First, most papers are coming through the EPG process. Second, most are being written by parts of the bureaucracy which have long-held positions to defend (e.g., the E Bureau of State). Third, most of these parts of the bureaucracy fall into what I call the “false concreteness” school in their conception of the North-South issue. Most are devout believers that the “South” does not exist as a serious diplomatic unit; that whatever solidarity is present is rhetorical only; and that the U.S. can and should “get the LDCs back to rational, bilateral relationships with the U.S.”

These people may be right. But they are not likely to produce helpful or intelligent papers on the crucial issues.

2. Because of the upcoming negotiations (UNCTAD, CIEC), the short-term bias of the paper writers, and, to some extent, the wording of the PRM, the focus of the exercise is very likely to be very short-term in nature. If so, it will be very difficult to use the PRM–8 process to accomplish my task as I interpret it.

3. Since most papers are coming via the EPG route, I personally have no involvement in the process until the papers reach the NSC proper. And even if I did, the short-term deadline date (February 28), the nature of the players, and the focus on upcoming negotiations all inhibit my ability to use the PRM–8 process until a very late stage in the game. [None of this should be viewed as a criticism of Bob Hormats, who is one of my closest personal friends, who has been very helpful, and who has always had my professional admiration. It is simply a statement of an unavoidable bureaucratic dilemma.]3

4. Cons No. 1 and No. 2 listed above are not the products of my thinking alone. They are reflected by many people with whom I have talked in both State and Treasury. Even a very high-placed CFR Committee on Studies colleague of yours now at State with more than a passing interest in North-South issues is concerned that the State channels for PRM–8 are most likely to produce an unproductive set of papers for the broader task you have assigned to me. And the worst evidence concerning my fears surfaced today (February 10) when an Assistant Secretary who had just finished reading the E Bureau’s 57 page draft of the most crucial issue—that relating to “political issues and the [Page 766] conceptual aspect . . .”4—told me that “it is the most narrowly focused, damage-limitation exercise I’ve ever read. It gives the President a view which presents only problems, and no opportunities. It’s so bad we can’t even improve it with revisions, and are considering an outright dissent and maybe a proposed alternate draft. But, given channels here, I don’t think we can possibly win.” This characterization, to repeat, is made about the sole “political” paper on the PRM–8 list, which was assigned to the E Bureau. Furthermore, these concerns are shared by S P at State.5

Option No. 2—The Two-PRM Approach

This approach would recognize the high probabilities that the PRM–8 papers will not be of much assistance to my broader task, though perhaps quite useful for the next six months of discussions and negotiations. Therefore it would call for a second PRM specifically addressed to the longer-term issues with more stress on the linkages between economic, political, security and normative issues. The exercise might best begin immediately after the PRM–8 papers were completed.


1. The new set of instructions could provoke much more detailed intra- and inter-Agency thought and discussion of the longer-term conceptual framework being sought.

2. A different set of bureaucratic actors, without long-held positions on the issues to defend, would provide the major impetus for the review. For example, a carefully worded PRM might guarantee that much more initial input was produced by the regional bureaus, SP and the IO Bureau at State rather than the E Bureau. If political, institutional and security questions are asked—noting that much of the economic analysis has already been provided in the PRM–8 process and noting further that that material would be used in the second stage—then the people involved from the very start will be those (probably) better qualified to examine the broader issues we wish to analyze.

3. If a new set of actors can become involved from the beginning under new PRM instructions, there would be no need to involve the EPG. We would already have their PRM–8 input, we could see that people like Hormats, Chuck Frank,6 and Fred Bergsten/Dick Cooper/Tony Solomon stand-ins were involved so that all new economic issues would be analyzed with the highest degree of professionalism, and [Page 767] last, but (parochially?) not least, I could actually draft the new PRM and be centrally involved from the outset (as, of course, could Tom Thornton now that he’s on board as the permanent North-South “cluster leader”).


1. For various bureaucratic reasons you might prefer not to ask for back-to-back North-South PRMs.

2. There may be no way to assure that a more bureaucratically “disinterested” and analytically “interested” group would be put to work on the new PRM by Department Secretariats. No matter how the PRM is worded, Secretary Vance, for example, might end up sending it to the E Bureau.

3. Even with a completely recast and non-overlapping mandate, entrenched bureaucratic interests (mostly of an economic nature) might limit the capacity of the PRM system at its best to play the kind of conceptualizing role which you are after in the North-South arena.

Option No. 3—Radical Surgery on PRM–8

This option presupposes that the papers, coming through the EPG process, will fall far short of what will be required to present the President with a cogent option (or policy) paper. The radical surgery would necessitate a sharp break in the process once the PRM–8 papers get through the EPG process and reach the NSC per se.


1. All good work could be salvaged; all bad work sent back for redrafting or scuttled. For example, the State paper on political aspects could simply be dropped as “not germane at this time.”

2. It would avoid a second North-South PRM.

3. Within the NSC a great deal of alternate drafting of the worst work might be undertaken and (hopefully) substituted for the Agency originals.


1. This approach might call for you to take harsh actions on papers cleared by Cabinet members. You might wish to avoid being put into this position.

2. The procedure will probably leave major gaps to be filled, and could raise the issue of “the proper role of the NSC” as a major drafter of sections of PRMs.

3. Even if the cracks could be papered over, it is very difficult to believe that the end product would not be a rather inferior product.

Option No. 4—A Radical Alternative to PRM–8

The PRM–8 is off to such a bad start at State that two major bureaus within the Department now feel that they may end up carrying out [Page 768] right dissents to the Secretary rather than attempting to rework the present draft. It is possible that they may try for a major postponement in the intra-Departmental due date to write a major alternative presentation. In either case, there is reason to be concerned with the probability of success of their challenge, since the “official” draft has been handled through all the proper channels, and perhaps with minor changes, will probably receive the endorsement of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs.

Given this situation some consideration should be given to withdrawing PRM–8 before it proceeds any further. A new PRM with much more lead time and a newly written mandate would then present the opportunity for a much broader consideration of the relevant issues. Alternatively, what you referred to as a “study group” approach might be attempted in place of the PRM approach.


1. If the PRM–8 process is to produce anything of value, much more time is needed and a rather lengthy intra-State Department review process will be required. The only other way to circumvent a choice between a bad PRM and postponed deadline would be for you to intervene directly with Secretary Vance to express concern that the State draft is totally out of character with the President’s campaign themes on the subject and in no way aids in the process of thinking about the issues from a new perspective. The draft is presently characterized as “pre-Kissinger” by thoughtful critics within the Department. And unless you desire to intercede shortly, it might be far better to withdraw PRM–8 than to let it proceed. For if, without very major changes, it does survive the EPG/NSC process, it will serve the President very poorly.

2. A hand-picked study group might be the only way to get imaginative thinking on a rather new subject from the bureaucracy.

3. Is an early North-South PRM needed? A good one would be nice to have, but with the present odds against getting one out of PRM–8, a withdrawal of the request may be the best way to avoid the unfortunate set of choices entailed in the options.


1. Decisions will have to be made on some issues on the North-South agenda shortly, i.e., a position on the Common Fund, and on CIEC issues. The latter, of course, can be postponed for a few months.

2. Withdrawal of PRM–8 may avoid a minor disaster, but it provides no positive answer to the need for serious inter-Agency consideration of North-South issues.

3. Perhaps, despite the lead role of State in PRM–8 preparation, other agencies will object so strongly to State drafts that the exercise can be saved.

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(1) Do not accept Option No. 1 (The Straight Approach).

(2) Do not accept Option No. 2 (The Two-PRM Approach) unless you find it preferable to Option No. 3 (Radical Surgery), Option No. 4 (Radical Alternative), or a combination thereof.

(3) Accept Option No. 3 unless you feel that the potential conflict this might create between the NSC and some major Departments is a risk you are not prepared to accept at this point in time.

(4) If you feel that the system is not ready for the risks entailed in Option No. 3, approve Option No. 4. If you do so, we (Hormats, Thornton and Hansen) can explore the relative merits of a new PRM versus the “study group” approach.

My apologies to both you and Bob Hormats for not consulting with him on the actual wording of this memorandum. I have discussed it in general with him, but he has been so busy I have not consulted him on it in any real detail. And perhaps I am acting too hastily, but right or wrong my personal judgment is that you may have to make a decision on this issue by early next week at the latest, or lose the flexibility you still retain at this time.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 25, PRM–08 (1 of 3) [1]. Confidential. Sent for action. Copies were sent to Hormats and Thornton. Aaron wrote at the top of the page: “ZB—I have asked Hansen to set up a meeting with you me Hormats + Owen for early next week. D.A.”
  2. See Document 254.
  3. Brackets in the original.
  4. Not found.
  5. In a February 11 memorandum to Aaron, Hansen discussed in greater detail the concerns that had arisen within the Department of State about the draft response to PRM 8. (Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 25, PRM–08 (1 of 3) [1])
  6. Charles Frank was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Social Affairs.