134. Paper Prepared in the White House1


General Guidelines

1. The talk should be short, 10–152 minutes.

2. The tone should be confident, positive, and forward looking rather than dwelling on past sins in our dealings with Panama.3

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I. A brief history (1 minute)

A. Background of the 1903 treaty.

B. Magnitude of the engineering achievement.

C. The 1959 and 1964 troubles, and how they led a series of American Presidents to seek a modernized treaty.

II. What the new treaties do (2 minutes)4

A. Partnership with Panamanians.

1. Training in Canal operations.

2. Collaboration in the new agency.

3. Toll-sharing.

4. Sharing of defense responsibility.

B. Guarantees of perpetual neutrality after 1999.5

C. The sea-level canal.6

III. Answers to the following main objections to treaties:

A. The Canal is ours; we bought it and paid for it, so why should we give it away?

B. We will no longer be able to defend the Canal, and the Treaties will hurt our national security.7

C. Our ships could not go to the head of the line in time of emergency.8

D. The Treaties will create a power vacuum, which the Communists could fill. They are another sign of our retreat from world power and another opening for our enemies.9

E. The Panamanians are incapable of operating the Canal.10

F. They could close it at will—and might, because of their political instability.11

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G. General Torrijos is unpredictable, unreliable, and a violator of human rights.12

H. The Treaties are costing our taxpayers an arm and a leg.13

I. We have negotiated in secret and have succumbed to political blackmail.14

J. The Treaties take away our option to build a sea-level Canal some place besides Panama.15

IV. Why we should have the new Treaties.

A. For national pride—ours and the Panamanians.

1. We should have the same 20th century regard for others as we showed in another recent treaty, the Alcan pipeline agreement.16 In today’s world, a “Pipeline Zone” would have been unthinkable.

2. We are mature and confident; fairness is a function of greatness. Also, our strength has always rested on our ability to adapt to change.

3. Panamanian pride deeply engaged, particularly since the referendum.

B. Better economic, commercial, and political relations with Latin America and whole third world through elimination of last colonial vestiges.

C. Treaties necessary for national security.

1. They ratify present rather than past realities, and are hence more likely to be observed.

2. They make the Panamanians our partners in Canal’s defense, rather than indifferent bystanders.

3. Thus they make it easier, not harder, to defend Canal.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Papers of Walter F. Mondale, Box 65, Foreign Countries—Panama Canal, (1–2/1978). No classification marking. Carter initialed the document and wrote: “cc Fallows, Powell.” A notation on the document reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Carter circled “15.” The talk took place on February 1. See footnote 4, Document 99.
  3. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Concise—tough—pointed, one idealistic part—use McCullough’s letter for idea.”
  4. Carter wrote: “Have format. a) Concern or ? b) refutation (a series)” in the right margin.
  5. Carter placed a checkmark next to this sentence in the right margin.
  6. Carter placed a checkmark next to this sentence and wrote in the right margin: “No bidding by outsiders to parallel & bypass US—Panama Canal.”
  7. Carter wrote in the right margin: “McAullife—50,000 men, JC’s 100,000. We want partnership—not military confrontation c” Panama.”
  8. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Quote treaty & joint statement.”
  9. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Disruption of our relations c” Panama & Western Hemisphere nations = opening for Communists.”
  10. Carter wrote in the right margin “Engineering feat—simplicity. 22 years, many now” and “US never had sovereignty.”
  11. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Good faith of Panama gov’t—Record—75 years” and wrote: “We want canal open & neutral.”
  12. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Senators, others, favorably impressed. Took case to people in referendum—OAS monitor.”
  13. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Fees are source of payments to U.S. & to Panama. Orig investment vs total receipts.”
  14. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Negotiated in good faith. Open principles—Terms publicized when known.”
  15. Carter wrote in the right margin: “Studies for 75 years. Emphasize recent (LBJ) study.” Presumably a reference to the “Interoceanic Canal Studies, 1970: Final Report.” See footnote 4, Document 76.
  16. Presumably a reference to the U.S.-Canadian agreement on principles applicable to a northern natural gas pipeline which would be built in both Alaska and Canada, signed in Ottawa on September 20, 1977.