266. Letter From the Coordinator of Population Affairs, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Department of State (Benedick) to Director of Central Intelligence Casey1

Dear Bill:

It has been a while since your visit to Athens,2 and I am delighted that you are back in Government in such a vitally important role. Marshall Green has told me of the luncheon meeting with you last week, and of the discussion on the importance of global and regional population developments to U.S. foreign policy and national security.

As you may know, since Marshall’s retirement in 1979, I have taken over the population policy portfolio, a fascinating job that has involved me in areas ranging from biomedical research to moral theology.

The recent CIA report, Population Growth and Sociopolitical Tensions: Five Case Studies, demonstrates impressively the linkage between rapid population growth and potential instability in key areas of interest to the U.S.3 The highly concentrated analysis and the excellent and imaginative graphics enhance the impact of the studies, which I intend to use in the Department to sensitize people to this often-overlooked factor in our national security.

I was also interested to see recently that Professor Jack Goldstone of Northwestern, in an NFAC seminar, traced rapid population growth as a contributing factor to revolutionary movements in Europe from 1500 to 1900.4 The UN also has an ongoing study, under Professor Nazli Choucri of MIT, of possible linkages between population factors and international conflict.5

As Marshall has probably told you, I and others are concerned that the “moral majority” issues may be exerting an unwarranted spillover on U.S. policies and programs in this area. Notwithstanding the excellent statement on population in the Ottawa Summit Declaration [Page 742](enclosed),6 there is a definite reluctance in some Washington quarters to recognize the importance of population factors, and the urgency for actions to address them—both in our aid programs and in biomedical research into better and safer methods of fertility regulation. We have not, for example, been able to include population as one of the points for the President in Cancun,7 even though we have information that a number of other world leaders—including Kreisky, Gandhi, Schmidt, Suzuki, Lopez Portillo and Zhao—will raise the subject.

Even in some academic circles, it has become suddenly fashionable to state that the “population problem” is an invention of doomsayers, that family planning is a form of left-wing “social engineering,” and that the world will somehow come up with a technological quick-fix (a new Green Revolution, space colonization, etc.). These arguments are seductive in their optimism and conducive to a “do-nothing” posture, especially in an atmosphere where budgets must be slashed.

The argument has weak intellectual underpinnings, ignoring the effects of population growth in diverting resources from investment to consumption, the costs of job creation, diminishing land productivity, and the political and social fallout from massive urbanization, unemployed youth, etc. One cannot effectively implement global “supply side economics” without paying attention to the demand side. Especially at a time of budget cutting, population assistance should stand out for its inherent cost-effectiveness in terms of the entire development process.

Experience has shown that population programs can work, even in the relatively short run, and a large number of LDC leaders have expressed themselves publicly on this issue. Even the Catholic Church does not have a closed mind; enclosed is a reprint from the National Catholic Documentary Service, Origins, of my plenary statement at the UN Population Commission earlier this year (the first time they have published anything on population from a non-orthodox source).8

I would welcome the chance to discuss informally with you and your staff specific ways in which we might work together on this issue, which underlies and exacerbates so many of our foreign policy problems. In this regard, also enclosed is a note on possible reactivation of an interagency group on this subject which is currently dormant; I [Page 743]would welcome your views on this proposal.9 In addition, I hope you might consider additional case studies, similar to the five just completed, for such countries as Pakistan, Morocco, Nigeria, Zaire, Zimbabwe, Mexico, and Brazil.

With warmest wishes,


Richard Elliot Benedick10


  1. Source: Department of State, Subject Files, Population, 1961–1992, Lot 93D390, PREL—Population as a National Security Issue. No classification marking.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. The CIA study, dated September 1981, is in the Bush Library, Vice Presidential Records, Domestic Policy Office, Garrett Files, Invitations/Correspondence, January–March 1981.
  4. See Goldstone, “The Comparative and Historical Study of Revolutions,” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 8, August 1982, pp.187–207.
  5. See Nazli Choucri, Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Population and Conflict, Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1984.
  6. Not attached. See Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Documents of Summit Meetings in the Past, “7 Ottawa Summit Declaration.” (accessed online)
  7. Reference is to the Cancun Summit on International Development Issues held in October 1981.
  8. Not found.
  9. Not found. In an October 30 letter to Benedick, Casey wrote: “I agree that insufficient attention is being given to US policies and programs in the population area. I welcome your proposal to reactivate an interagency group on international population policy and we would gladly participate.” (Department of State, Subject Files, Population, 1961–1992, Lot 93D390, PREL—Population as a National Security Issue)
  10. Benedick signed “Richard” above his typed signature.