306. Editorial Note
On November 14, 1984, from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., President Ronald Reagan met with Secretary of State George Shultz and his Assistant for National Security Affairs Robert McFarlane in the Oval Office. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary) The purpose of this meeting was twofold: to discuss the global agenda and foreign policy for the second term, as well as to address the growing divisions within the administration, specifically between Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger over the Soviet Union, arm control, and various other issues. In his November 14 diary entry, Reagan wrote: “A long meeting with Sec. Shultz. We have trouble. Cap & Bill Casey have views contrary to George’s on S. Am., the middle East & our arms negotiations. It’s so out of hand George sounds like he wants out. I cant let that happen. Actually George is carrying out my policy. I’m [Page 1104] going to meet Cap & Bill & lay it out to them. Wont be fun but has to be done.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, volume I, January 1981–October 1985, page 396)
In his memoir, McFarlane recalled discussions with Reagan in the lead-up to this November 14 meeting. During their return trip from California (see footnote 2, Document 305), McFarlane brought up the sensitive issue of disagreements between Shultz and Weinberger with Reagan: “‘I must tell you, Mr. President,’ I said, ‘that I fear that nothing can get accomplished if you don’t recognize that you face paralysis within your administration owing to the largely personal animus that exists between Cap and George.’
“I told him I believed he would find that the process would work more smoothly if he built his team around one or the other of these two men, but that together, they were like oil and water. If he insisted on keeping them both, I said, ‘then you’re going to have discord, and you’re going to have to be the arbiter and be much more active.’
“These were thoughts I had been having for a long time, and it was time to air them. The need for constant mediation between Shultz and Weinberger was exhausting, pointless, unworthy and immensely frustrating, and although I felt I handled it well, I felt it was important to make this pitch to the President and that he either change the configuration or become more actively involved and in control of his own administration.” (McFarlane, Special Trust, page 286)
Once back in Washington, McFarlane met with Shultz: “I told Shultz about the discussion. George and I had discussed the problem he had with Cap on a couple of occasions, and he professed himself perplexed by Weinberger’s apparently deep-seated hostility and jealously of his role. He immediately agreed to broach the subject with Reagan himself. At my instigation, Shultz regularly came to the White House twice a week for private meetings with the President. At the next one of these meetings, he picked up the thread of discussion I had had with Reagan on Air Force One.” (Ibid., page 287)
Although no notes of this meeting were found, Shultz discussed the meeting in detail in his memoir. (His account corresponds to his talking points and preparatory meeting papers in the Department of State, A Records, Miscellaneous Papers of Secretary Shultz and Charles Hill, Lot 89D250, Misc File 1984.) Shultz wrote: “I asked Bud McFarlane to attend that key meeting, at 1:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, November 14, at which I would give my detailed views to the president. We talked for a full hour, after which I spent another half hour with Bud. I told the president that his administration was deeply divided and that I wanted to set my views out for him. ‘Standing still with the Soviets is not an option. The choice is to negotiate new agreements or enter a world with no arms limitations. Opponents of negotiations are [Page 1105] not troubled by the disappearance of arms control. They argue that nothing useful has resulted, that agreements will undermine public support for defense, and that arms control should be an exercise in public relations.’ In fact, I said, ‘negotiations have produced security-enhancing agreements.’ I called attention to the Austrian State Treaty, the Berlin Accords, the Atmospheric Test Ban, the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the Outer Space Treaty as examples. I pointed out that the SALT I Treaty put a cap on further growth in the number of Soviet launchers at a time when we had no program to increase ours and that the ABM Treaty prevented costly deployment of systems that would not have yielded reliable defense, given the technology at the time.
“I had asked the CIA to tell me what a world without current nuclear arms limits and with no arms control agreements in force would look like down the line. I got back the view that in such a scenario Soviet missile warheads would likely double over the next ten years. I noted to the president that this doubling did not assume any vast new commitment of Soviet resources but that the effort to keep pace with them on ballistic missiles was very costly for us, politically as well as financially. An ‘unconstrained environment,’ I argued, ‘is detrimental to the security interests of the United States.
“We need to do better than existing agreements,’ I said, ‘and seek reductions in the numbers of warheads, as you have proposed.’ I also argued that the opponents of arms control misread the key relationship between arms control efforts and public support for defense spending. ‘Congress,’ I argued, ‘will not support key weapons systems without meaningful negotiations. Similarly, allied support will be problematic if arms control efforts unravel. Extreme positions and inflexibility will not enhance our position but undermine it. Thanks to your policies, the United States is confident and strong and the question now is whether we use strength to achieve significant new accords with the Soviets or see an unlimited increase in nuclear weapons, along with greater tension. Most people in your administration are quite comfortable with the present situation,’ I said, ‘and are doing all they can to block any effort to engage with the Soviets and achieve arms control agreements.’
“The president interjected frequently as I talked, and it was clear he had thought all this through. His point of view mirrored my own. It troubled him that people within his administration opposed the kind of arms control agreements he had advocated and even opposed an attempt to build a constructive relationship with the Soviets.
“At the end of our discussion, I told the president, ‘To succeed, we have to have a team: right now there isn’t one. Cap Weinberger, Bill Casey, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and I just don’t see things the same way.’ Leaks, end runs, cutting people out, refusing to follow through on [Page 1106] decisions—all these tactics were constantly in use. ‘I have always been able to develop a team wherever I have worked,’ I said. ‘Here I have been unable to do it. I can’t produce a team for you. I’m frustrated and I’m ready to step aside so you can put somebody else in at State who can get along with them. You will see no results without a team.’
The president told me he wouldn’t stand for any thought that I would leave. ‘I’m not ducking out,’ I said. ‘There’s nothing I’d rather do than stay here with you and work out these problems. I have no hidden agenda.’ I left it at that.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, pages 496–498) Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam’s November 14 note recounts Shultz’s report of this meeting, noting that “the Secretary laid it on the line that the reason we were having problems was that people were not working together as a team and that with respect to arms control agreements with the Soviets and a negotiated settlement in Central America, people failed to agree with the President’s policy.” (Department of State, Executive Secretariat, S/S–I Records, Deputy Secretary Dam’s Official Files: Lot 85D308, Personal Notes of Deputy Secretary—Kenneth W. Dam—Oct. 1984–June 1985)
According to Shultz, McFarlane informed him the following day that the “president intended to speak personally to the others involved to get them to pull together and that Meese, Baker, and Deaver had asked Vice President Bush to weigh in after that. I had stirred things up, and that was to the good, but I had no illusions that the battle would end.” (Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, page 498) In his November 15 diary entry, Reagan wrote: “Cap W. came in re some defense problems. I didn’t take up the Sec. St. problem with him—pending a session with the V.P. who has some input on that matter.” The following day he wrote: “Tomorrow morning I’m meeting with Cap W. & Bill Casey to iron out (if I can) some difficulties involving George S.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, volume I, January 1981–October 1985, page 397) According to the President’s Daily Diary, he met with Casey and Weinberger on the morning of Saturday, November 17 from 10:28 to 11:21 a.m., before leaving to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in California. No record of this meeting was found. (Reagan Library, President’s Daily Diary)