261. Night Note Prepared by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Rodman)1


I gave a luncheon speech today, at Cap Weinberger’s invitation, at a Defense Department conference on “low-intensity warfare.”

I commended the Pentagon for its efforts to examine the whole range of new military and paramilitary challenges—from counterterrorism, to aid for freedom fighters, to Grenada-type operations. We clearly need to develop our military doctrines and tactics—and our security assistance and covert programs—to defend our interests in these new situations. I noted there is a wide spectrum of challenges, but their common feature is ambiguity: They are problems that seem to throw us off balance and leave us groping for ways to respond or even debating about the need to respond. Our adversaries try to ensnare us in our own moral scruples. They have deliberately shifted to these more ambiguous kinds of threats because we have successfully deterred nuclear and conventional war.

I argued strongly that we cannot let our adversaries use our devotion to peace to paralyze us. In particular, it is clear (contrary to what Mrs. Thatcher said the other day) that international law gives us the [Page 1142] right to defend ourselves.2 When we let extremists succeed, we only undermine our moderate friends. We need to develop all our tools, military and non-military; we need to re-learn how to keep secrets; and we need to show staying power.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Peter Rodman Files, Department of State Chronological File, Chron 01/09/1986–01/20/1986; NLR–488–12–19–13–3. No classification marking.
  2. Presumable reference to remarks Thatcher made at a January 10 news conference in London for U.S. correspondents. In reference to questions posed regarding the possible British response to the Reagan administration’s call for retaliatory strikes against Qaddafi, Thatcher asserted that both Great Britain and Northern Ireland were subject to terrorist attacks but that “at no stage has anyone in this country suggested that we make retaliatory strikes or go in hot pursuit or anything like that.’” Thatcher “quickly acknowledged that the analogy she appeared to be drawing was inexact, noting that the position of the Irish Republic on terrorism was ‘wholly different’ from Libya’s. ‘But once you start to go across borders,’ she said, ‘then I do not see an end to it. And I uphold international law very firmly.’” (“Thatcher Asserts Strikes on Libya Could Sow Chaos: Says Terror Must Be Fought Legally—Rejects Trade Curbs as Ineffective,” New York Times, January 11, 1986, pp. 1, 4)