24. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter 1


  • Unity and the New Foreign Policy Team

Somehow I feel quite confident that the conventional wisdom to the effect that Muskie 2 and I will be in a new fight is going to be proven quite wrong. Leaving aside the fact that you would not tolerate a fight, and that neither Muskie nor I desire it, the overriding consideration which makes me feel confident that the Washington gossips will be proven wrong is that the basic outlines of your foreign policy have been defined more precisely in recent months both by your speeches and by events.

It is particularly important in this context that the new Secretary speak often to the American public and convey to it a strong case on behalf of your policies. Cy never did it, and the people around Cy continuously conspired either to dilute your policy or to divert it into directions more to their own liking. The so-called zig-zags in our past policies have been more apparent than real and have been exaggerated by an absence of a strong public voice by the Secretary and by leaks and a lack of discipline in the State Department ranks. In this traumatic period, there will be a particular temptation by the State Department bureaucracy to even the score (meetings on this subject have already been held at Foggy Bottom). It is essential, if we are to avoid more intensive struggles and bad press, to emphasize the need for teamwork and discipline. The State Department officials you have invited to Camp David3 provide an opportunity to speak directly to at least some of the elements of that bureaucracy that need to be brought into line. (A candid appraisal of who they are and what they represent is attached.)4

Accordingly, there are some specific steps which you should consider from the start so that the genuine potential for unity, with Muskie clearly speaking as your principal spokesman, does not get undermined [Page 82] from within. To that end, I feel you should seize the first opportunity to make your position clearly known on a number of subjects:

1. The most important statements of your policy are contained in your State of the Union Message,5 and that policy must be supported by everyone.

2. It is important, to the extent that it is possible, that the Deputy Secretary be someone who is dedicated to your policy in addition to being loyal and acceptable to the new Secretary. If Warren 6 cannot stay on—and I do hope he will—you should make an effort to obtain a centrist, possibly even a liberal Republican, who will mitigate the excessively dovish sentiments of some of the second echelon people who are likely to remain on the 7th Floor.

3. The fact is that the top people in State have not been appointed because of their loyalty to you. Since Muskie will not be coming on board for a couple of weeks, it might be useful for Warren to give you his recommendations in the meantime regarding possible changes. In different ways, Kennedy, Johnson and other Presidents asserted much more control over appointments in State than you did over your first three years, and the absence of such control does not work to your advantage.

4. Now clearly is the time for me to take a lower profile, since the vacuum that was created by Cy’s disinclination to defend our policies will be filled by Muskie. I will keep some of the scheduled appearances which have been designed in connection with the forthcoming primaries, but I will minimize any additional ones. I would like to be able to increase slightly some of the quiet consultative contacts with foreign governments which are necessary to give them the needed insights into our strategic thinking, while confirming the fact that we are operating as a team. This is particularly needed with our Allies, with whom we simply do not engage in genuine strategic consultations, and they may be necessary at some point also with some of our Asian friends. I would intend to make these contacts as private as the one undertaken in January, about which nothing has become publicly known and which therefore need not be seen by State as an invasion of their prerogatives. Moreover, it could be important symbolically if Muskie on his own initiative occasionally asked me to join him in some contacts, for example such as the one he may be undertaking with Gromyko in Vienna.7 [Page 83] Such a gesture of self-confidence on his part could be useful in emphasizing the new unity, and you might encourage him to do so.

5. You should also suggest to Muskie that he chair more PRC meetings. SecState started off by chairing all of the PRCs, and that worked well; then State slacked off and reduced the level of its representation as chairman. As a result, for example, we have recently had to take over the Cuban refugee situation8 together with Jack Watson. You should stress to Muskie the importance you attach to his involvement in the interagency process and particularly to his chairing the PRC.

The presence of several senior State Department officials at Camp David will give you an opportunity to convey your message directly to at least some of the elements in the State bureaucracy that have not been entirely on your wavelength in the past. The following is a candid assessment from our perspective of the strengths and weaknesses of those who will be there.

David Newsom, Under Secretary for Political Affairs: An old-line Foreign Service Officer and a good mechanic in making the interagency process work. He has been very responsive to your guidance. He has worked extremely well in resolving ancient rivalries between State and CIA, much to the benefit of our overall political reporting performance abroad. In dealing with the crises that have beset us in recent months, he once complained to the NSC staff, “You must have some patience; I am dealing with a generation of leadership in the State Department who think that power is irrelevant in foreign policy.” In sum, he has been loyal and helpful. His principal drawback is that he is not forceful and has stumbled in public on a couple of occasions, such as when he informed Senator Church of the Soviet brigade in Cuba.

Peter Tarnoff, Executive Secretary: He is young, bright, capable, and an intense loyalist to the former Secretary as well as to the State Department’s prerogatives. He is a bureaucratic manipulator whose loyalty to the Department comes before his loyalty to you or your policies. He is not entirely trustworthy. He cooked up his trip to see Fidel Castro,9 claiming that the Cubans wanted to talk to us but, in fact, when Castro met with Tarnoff and Pastor, Castro made clear the entire meeting was at the State Department’s initiative. There are rumors he plans to be reassigned. This would be good.

[Page 84]

Ben Read, Under Secretary for Management: One has to have sympathy for anyone trying to deal with the State Department bureaucracy on a shrinking real budget. Their burdens have increased; their resources have not. Still, Ben Read has managed to gain a bad reputation both in other agencies who have to deal with State and within the State Department bureaucracy itself. He has managed to take a thankless job and turn himself into a major obstacle to the conduct of a number of important activities. For example, he is implacably hostile to any intelligence activities and a major impediment to cooperation between the State Department and CIA. For this reason, we have had to depend on David Newsom to resolve legitimate problems. Even within his own organization, he has pursued some senseless policies, such as trying to strip our Embassy in San Salvador of the six working wives who are essential to its functioning in the current crisis.10 Ben Read is currently rumored to be angling for a major policy-making position; I doubt if he would be supportive of your approach since he has given so little weight to—and even worked against—your initiatives which have fallen into his area up to now.

Tony Lake, Director, Policy Planning Staff: You know Tony from the transition planning team. He is currently the head of the Policy Planning Staff but has functioned primarily as Cy’s speechwriter and preparer of Congressional testimony. He is one of the more balanced, younger officers who has been brought into the Department and has been the channel that has facilitated coordination between the NSC and State during some of the rougher times. He has been loyal and supportive. His principal drawback in State has been that he has not managed to turn the Policy Planning Staff into a policy planning instrument. There is a great need for such planning, but he will only be able to do so if he gets firm support from the new Secretary. In this connection, he is quite close to Senator Muskie, having served as his foreign policy issues man during the 1972 campaign.11 In a nutshell—a dove, but not a doctrinaire one.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 23, Meetings, Muskie-Brown-Brzezinski, 5/80–6/80. Secret; Personally Sensitive.
  2. Vance was succeeded by Edmund Muskie, who entered on duty as Secretary of State on May 8.
  3. The President met with Department of State officials and others at Camp David on May 3. See Document 25.
  4. Not found attached.
  5. For the text of the President’s State of the Union message delivered before a joint session of Congress on January 23, see Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pp. 194–200.
  6. Warren Christopher.
  7. Muskie met with Gromyko in Vienna on May 16. For the memorandum of conversation of this meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VI, Soviet Union, Document 278.
  8. Also known as the Mariel boatlift. Beginning in April 1980, Fidel Castro allowed any Cuban who wished to do so to depart Cuba from Mariel. The boatlift lasted 162 days and during that time over 100,00 Cubans fled to the United States. See “The ‘Freedom Flotilla’ Ends,” Washington Post, September 28, 1980, p.A12.
  9. Information on this trip is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America.
  10. A reference to the reduction of personnel at the Embassy in San Salvador. Information is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America.
  11. Muskie campaigned for the Democratic nomination during the 1972 Presidential election. He was defeated in the primaries by George McGovern.