97. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Wolfowitz) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Eagleburger)1


  • US Policy Toward the Third World

A Conceptual Overview of the Third World: Diversity and Complexity

Conventional stereotypes about the Third World fail to recognize the fundamental diversity and complexity that characterize the nations usually so described. It is misleading to conceive of the Third World as a single entity for it includes not only the poorest nations of the world in which starvation and disease are still the most pressing problems, but also nations like Singapore that have worked miracles of economic growth through free market policies, sparsely populated oil-producing countries that have acquired enormous wealth through the OPEC cartel, and major potential economic powers like Brazil.

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The common identity provided by anti-colonialism still feeds on powerful currents of national pride and historic resentment but it increasingly is overshadowed by economic, ideological, religious and other differences. And it should be increasingly clear that the common desire for development and growth is best satisfied neither by autarchy nor a new dependence on redistribution and restriction, but by increased participation in a dynamic international economy.

The conventional concept of North-South relations focuses too narrowly on economic problems. We must also recognize the need for political development in nations whose weak governmental institutions leave them prey to subversion, unable to accommodate legitimate opposition, even willing to accept external intervention or to embark on external aggression.

Nor, finally, can we ignore the imperatives of peace and security. Many of the developing nations face endemic internal and international violence, fueled from many sources—ethnic, religious, economic, ideological, and territorial. This violence threatens all aspirations for economic and political development. It is made even more dangerous by the possibility of additional states acquiring nuclear weapons. And the potential it affords for Soviet exploitation constitutes one of the most serious long-term threats to US and Western security.

US Interests and Objectives

Rejections of conventional stereotypes about North-South relations must not lead us to lose sight of the huge stake that the US has— economic, political, strategic and moral—in the progress of the developing world. Early in this Administration, Secretary Haig announced that promoting peaceful progress in the developing world is one of the four pillars of our foreign policy.2

The US and even more so our industrialized European and Japanese allies have become increasingly dependent on Third World products and markets. Dependency has given way to interdependence as the flows of commodities, manufactured goods, and capital increase in both directions. Protectionism now threatens the interests of all sides.

Frustrated aspirations for development lend instability to many new states and international economic disarray heightens the problem. The results open opportunities for encroachments by the Soviet Union and its radical allies in key strategic areas of the developing world which threaten vital US and Western interests. These threats have involved the West in morally ambiguous interventions not easily explained or understood in open societies. By encouraging a logic of violence in the Third World, the Soviets hope to exploit the resulting moral confusion [Page 353] in the West and to involve us in situations where military hardware and the techniques of repression count for more than diplomatic sophistication and economic development.

The complex and diverse problems of the developing world present not only serious threats but also historic opportunities for the West. As developing nations move beyond the bitter experience of colonialism, they are increasingly likely to reconsider the market-oriented economic models that traditionally have spurred Western growth. They will also look to the West for the aid, trade, capital, training, and technology needed for development. Many are increasingly inclined to accept Western help in negotiating peaceful solutions to their conflicts. They may come to see that Soviet assistance and the socialist model are neither a panacea for underdevelopment nor a spur to political legitimacy or regional security. And they should recognize that the US shows far more respect for the genuine non-alignment that inspired the NAM and for the North-South dialogue proposed by the G77 than does the Soviet Union. US policy must seek to grasp the opportunities that would be lost by a rigid adherence to either North-South or East-West cliches.

A US policy that reflects the diversity and complexity of the developing world cannot be guided by a single goal or rely on a single instrument. Our efforts to promote peaceful progress and to protect Western interests in the developing world require mutually supporting efforts to: (1) foster economic development, (2) support democratic political evolution, (3) resolve or dampen conflicts, and (4) address threats to security.

Basic Policy Approaches

The foregoing analysis suggests the broad strategic objective of US policy toward the Third World—to transform the ground of superpower competition from the logic of violence to the more favorable ground of development.

A. Countering the Logic of Violence

Reagan Administration foreign policy seeks to prevent the logic of violence from perverting Third World aspirations for independence and development. We do this by pursuing both peace and security, by addressing both the indigenous causes of violence and Soviet attempts to exploit them.

1. We pursue peace through structured processes for negotiation and compromise, for example, in the Middle East (Camp David, Habib’s ceasefire) and Namibia (Western Contact Group).

2. We bolster security against those who attempt to impose violent solutions by [Page 354]

Supporting international peacekeeping forces (e.g., UN in Lebanon, Cyprus, and Golan Heights, MFO in Sinai, OAU force in Chad).
strengthening our own military capabilities through our own and NATO rearmament efforts.
developing the RDF and insuring access to facilities in Kenya, Oman, Somalia, and other countries.
bolstering the capabilities of threatened Third World states to defend themselves through US and allied security assistance.
pressing for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea and the restoration of Afghan and Kampuchean independence.
acting to counter Soviet proxies and allies such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Libya, South Yemen and Vietnam and supporting countries threatened by them.
devising pragmatic nuclear non-proliferation policies to deny weapons to dangerous states (Libya) and reduce the incentive for their acquisition by threatened states (Pakistan).

Countering Soviet intervention in the Third World also helps to promote a more constructive US-Soviet relationship based on restraint, reciprocity, and respect for the independence of others. By settling conflicts and enhancing regional security, we create conditions that prevent Soviet intervention and US-Soviet confrontation.

Peace and security are mutually reinforcing goals: making our friends more secure often makes them more able and willing to take risks for peace and settle their disputes; settling disputes among our friends often makes them more able and willing to cooperate for our common security. At the same time peace and security provide the best environment for economic development and democratic political evolution.

B. Promoting the Logic of Economic and Political Development

The positive objective of our policy is to demonstrate that the West, despite the colonial past, is the best partner in promoting development.

1. Economic development

At Cancun the President reaffirmed the American interest in and commitment to economic growth in the developing world.
In following up Cancun, we try to avoid fruitless “North-South” polemics and to ensure that any “global negotiations” protect the integrity of existing international financial institutions.
We maintain the US commitment to bilateral ($6.3 billion in FY83) and multilateral ($1.8 billion) economic assistance, but restructuring it to focus on areas that are most important to our interests, to maximize the effectiveness of free enterprise, and to encourage LDC [Page 355] policies conducive to growth. Early emphasis on Jamaica ($112 million) and the CBI ($660 million) exemplify our approach.3
We promote trade, private investment, and reliance on free markets, which together with US programs for technology transfer, institution building, and training are indispensable keys to economic growth without which aid alone is ineffective.
We place emphasis on agriculture, focus concessional assistance on poorer LDCs, and maintain assistance to voluntary family planning programs where appropriate. In many countries, unprecedented population growth, resulting in a doubling of population in two–three decades, has implications for both political and economic stability.
Our assistance is closely integrated with our other objectives: supporting democratic development (El Salvador—$226 million), promoting peaceful settlements (Egypt—[illegible] billion and Israel—$2.5 billion; Zimbabwe—$78 million); bolstering security against Soviet or proxy threats (Pakistan—$532 million; Tunisia—$154 million; Somalia—$9 million; Sudan—$230 million).
We remain faithful to traditional American humanitarian objectives (largest donor to African, Afghan refugees—$419 million for migration and refugee assistance).
The result of our reshaped approach and of the President’s personal commitment was the first passage of a foreign assistance bill by Congress in three years.4

2. Democratic evolution

We have adopted a pragmatic human rights policy aimed at producing results, preferably through traditional diplomacy that emphasizes respect for human rights as a foundation for political cohesion and for better relations with the US.
In El Salvador we have supported free elections and efforts to curb human rights abuses.
The Caribbean Basin Initiative is designed partly to encourage and protect promising democratic institutions in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras and elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America.
In Liberia we are assisting efforts to return to civilian rule.

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C. Fostering Allied and Regional Cooperation

In seeking to counter the logic of violence and promote the logic of development we cooperate with our allies and with regional groups and powers.

In the CBI, we cooperate with Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia, as well as the other nations of the Caribbean region.
We work with the Central American Democratic Community to promote economic development, democracy, and security.
We work with ASEAN on Kampuchea, the OAS on Central America, and the OAU’S peacekeeping force in Chad.
We seek to build our strategic association with China while maintaining the security of all our traditional friends in Asia.
We encourage prosperous friends to provide needed assistance such as Japan to Egypt and Pakistan or Saudi Arabia to Sudan.
  1. Source: Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/P Files, Memoranda and Correspondence from the Director of the Policy Planning Staff to the Secretary and Other Seventh Floor Principals: Lot 89D149, S/P Chrons PW 4/21–30/82. Confidential. Drafted by Tarcov, Keyes, Feldstein, Kaplan, and Thornton on April 23; cleared by Benedick, Pratt, Levitsky, Michalopoulos, Graner, George Brown, McMullen, Wilcox, and Dodd, and in substance by Miles and Wolf. Alex Wolff initialed for all clearing officials. The memorandum is backdated. Also scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXXVIII, International Economic Development; International Debt; Foreign Assistance. Wolfowitz sent the memorandum to Eagleburger under an April 23 covering note, writing: “Attached is the paper that you requested on U.S. policy toward the Third World. This whole exercise has brought home the need for a more fundamental look at this issue.” (Ibid.) An April 16 draft is ibid.
  2. For a representative example, see Document 50.
  3. See Document 82. The administration transmitted the proposed Caribbean Basin Initiative legislation to Congress on March 17. For the President’s remarks upon signing a message to Congress submitting the legislation and the text of his message, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1982, Book I, pp. 312–317.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 77.