Version classiqueVersion mobile

La France dans le regard des États-Unis

 | 
Frédéric Monneyron
, 
Martine Xiberras

Affaires étrangères

13- France’s First Texan: Lyndon Johnson and the Challenge of Charles de Gaulle

Thomas A. Schwartz

Résumé

La politique étrangère de la présidence de Lyndon Johnson est aujourd’hui l’objet d’un intérêt nouveau. Occultée par la guerre du Vietnam, la politique européenne de l’administration Johnson mérite d’être mieux étudiée, en particulier pour ce qui est la manière dont elle a géré les politiques d’alliance. Dans sa poursuite d’un apaisement des tensions avec l’Union soviétique et, en même temps, dans sa volonté de conserver le leadership américain au sein de l’alliance occidentale, Johnson s’est trouvé confronté à la politique du président français Charles de Gaulle. La décision de De Gaulle au début de l’année 1966 de retirer la France du commandement militaire intégré de l’OTAN fut à l’origine d’une des plus importantes crises dans les relations entre l’Europe et les États-Unis. Même si cette crise est significative d’importantes différences structurelles dans les approches américaine et française de la diplomatie et de la politique d’alliances, cet article montre que la gestion de la crise par Johnson, qui a permis une restructuration de l’OTAN et a dirigé l’alliance vers les voies de la dissuasion et de la détente, a relevé le défi de De Gaulle et a constitué une des réalisations les plus importantes de sa présidence.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Time, September 19, 2005, p. 41.
  • 2 L. L. Gould, « The Revised LBJ », The Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2000), p. 80. My own book, Lyndon Jo (...)
  • 3 Most notably, H. W. Brands ed., The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson: Beyond Vietnam, College Sta (...)

1In the wake of the ongoing war in Iraq, and the massive rebuilding effort occasioned by Hurricane Katrina, Time magazine recently headlined a story, « President Bush Meet President Johnson. »1 Indeed, the growing number of parallels between the experience of America’s second president from Texas, and its first Texan, who served almost forty years ago, has occasioned considerable conversation in recent days. But this should not obscure the fact that there has already been, over the last few years, some reassessment of that larger-than-life character, Lyndon Baines Johnson. The historian Lewis L. Gould argues that « in the academy and the political arena alike, there is renewed interest in the large visions that drove Lyndon Johnson and a fresh desire to modify the historical picture of his presidency. »2 Vietnam still overshadows any interpretation of Johnson’s foreign policy, but there has been renewed interest in other areas of the world where the Johnson’s Administration took initiatives3. Western Europe, where vital American interests were at stake and the United States faced important challenges, should serve as an important part of any reconsideration of Johnson’s impact. President Charles de Gaulle’s decision to withdraw French forces from the integrated military command of the North Atlantic alliance was one of the most important challenges Johnson faced as president. Occurring almost midway through Johnson’s tenure, it offers a window into presidential decision making on foreign policy other than Vietnam, a topic far more thoroughly analyzed. De Gaulle’s move, as well as Johnson’s response, can not be seen in isolation, since the French move was part of a larger challenge to all aspects of American hegemony in Europe, including financial and economic policy. Although often overlooked by historians, the Johnson Administration handling of the NATO-France crisis proved to be one of its finest moments, an opportunity to demonstrate statesmanship and effective alliance management for a President whose priority was dealing with domestic poverty and the racial divisions of American society.

I. Rethinking Lyndon Johnson

  • 4 E. Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, New York, 1968, p. 378.
  • 5 A. Peyrefitte, C’était De Gaulle, Paris, 1997, p. 48.
  • 6 H. Brandon, Special Relationships, New York, 1988, p. 200.

2Almost every analyst of Johnson’s foreign policy begins with the quote from Eric Goldman, the Princeton historian who wanted to be the Arthur Schlesinger of the Johnson years. Goldman wrote « Lyndon Johnson entered the White House not only little concerned with the outer world but leery of it. "Foreigners are not like the folks I am used to", he remarked, and he was only half-joking. »4 Johnson’s larger-than-life personality, along with his flamboyant Texas-style and occasional crudeness, have allowed this stereotype to be widely believed. De Gaulle seems to have seen LBJ as something of an ignorant and parochial American politician, remarking once that he was a « cowboy-radical », and a « sergeant who’s been crowned »5. The dramatic contrast with the martyred John Kennedy, who was pictured by the London Times journalist Henry Brandon as a « living fusion of the American and European cultures », only intensified this negative portrayal of Johnson6.

  • 7 R. Dallek, « Lyndon Johnson as a World Leader », in Brands, ed. Beyond Vietnam, pp. 8-9.
  • 8 R. Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973, New York, 1998, p. 90.

3However, as Johnson’s biographer Robert Dallek put it, « To date, commentators on LBJ’s foreign policies have been more guilty of superficial analysis than Johnson was. » With the opening of the archives of the Johnson Library, and most importantly the records of his phone conversations, historians are increasingly recognizing that Johnson was « a forceful foreign policy leader who consulted, listened to differing opinions, made up his own mind, and acted upon his conclusions with confidence that, all things considered, he was doing the best he could for the national interest. »7. Although Johnson’s priorities in his first years in office were focused on his domestic legislation, he was too smart and experienced – many historians forget his role as Senate Majority leader during the Eisenhower years – to neglect the fundamental importance to any American president of international affairs. And although it might be tempting on European issues to credit the « best and the brightest » advisors, it was Johnson who made the decisions. Only a few months before his death, McGeorge Bundy, in uncharacteristically blunt language, told an interviewer, « It is total baloney that we, Rusk, McNamara, and Bundy were running the government... We understood we were working for a president... who insisted on making his own decisions. »8

4In making his decisions, Lyndon Johnson wanted to maintain control of the policy process. Although he came to recognize how much events in foreign relations could be beyond his control, this did not keep him from attempting to exercise his own prerogatives as President to guide the process of setting US policy. But Johnson also liked to keep his intentions hidden – and options open – until he was ready to act. His obsessive secrecy and concern with leaks to the press – other than the ones he would initiate – is well known, and to some extent accounts for the famous « credibility gap » which undermined domestic support for his Vietnam policy. But it also makes the task of the historian difficult, since Johnson was rarely explicit about the direction of his policy or his own sense of the respective trade-offs in making decisions. Nevertheless, by studying his pattern of decision making, it is possible to recognize a coherent view, one which built on that of his more illustrious predecessor Kennedy, and also paved the way for the detente which his more articulate – at least on foreign policy matters – successor, Richard Nixon, always claimed credit.

II. Alliance politics and alliance management – the argument

  • 9 Note à compléter
  • 10 J. L. Gaddis, We Now Know, New York, 1997, p. 201.
  • 11 FRUS 1964-1968, 15, p. 354. On this particular occasion, Erhard asked LBJ for a visit to Germany, s (...)

5Historians and political scientist have long noted the similarity between the institutions of American government and the development of those of its post-war creation, the North Atlantic alliance9. Locked in to a set of consultative arrangements and governed by a set of alliance norms, Western countries evolved certain patterns in their discussion and decisions on major alliance questions. Within the institutions and decision making forums of the Western alliance – both security structures and economic groupings – foreign policy issues were increasingly « domesticated », with transnational political coalitions and networks, as well as domestic political pressures, playing far more important roles than those within traditional alliances. Given the wide range of issues with which the nations within the alliance had to cope, a large degree of decentralization (similar to the American government), and contacts between various national departments and ministries, both informal and formal, were essential to avoid immobility. Not surprisingly, however, each department had its own understanding of the respective priorities that should govern the choices made. Defense, Treasury, and the Foreign Offices might well recognize their common goals, but have extraordinarily different understanding of the relative importance of each. This meant that it was not uncommon for the United States – as well as its allies – to speak with many voices, a cacophony often amplified by the developing international media. As Yale’s John Gaddis notes, in a moment of understatement, such open, democratic alliances « complicate the lives of policy-makers, to be sure. »10 Within such a situation, the President’s role as alliance leader, and his objective in managing and maintaining the alliance for its larger objectives, becomes critical. Johnson attempted, largely through his Presidential staff, to control both his own bureaucracy and influence the political leadership and bureaucracies of the major NATO countries. Johnson, as McGeorge Bundy once put it, was a very « majority leader » President, who was attentive to the domestic politics of his allies and the concerns of his fellow political leaders, and who sought to maintain the vital consensus of the alliance even as he committed to a process of gradual change. Although denigrated for his excessive concern about domestic politics, Johnson’s recognition of their importance was far more insightful than his realist critics acknowledge. The election cycles within the alliance, the strength and parliamentary majorities of various leaders, and their ability to deliver on the promises they made, were all factors important in Johnson’s thinking. Even when it would prove difficult for him, Johnson never failed to ask his alliance counterparts, « ... what could he do for him, what would he like to take home with him for his people? »11

6Johnson’s understanding of the degree to which domestic and foreign policies were intertwined within the alliance played a central role in his behavior during the NATO crisis.

7In its three years in office, the Kennedy Administration had initiated a series of policy initiatives in alliance policy, including the desire to implement the « flexible response » strategy, replace national nuclear deterrents with a multilateral force, encourage a European build-up of conventional forces, reduce the American balance of payments deficit, maintain the dollar-gold link, expand trade with Europe, encourage the admission of Britain into the Common Market, and reach agreements with the Soviet Union to reduce the danger of nuclear war. Johnson inherited these unrealized policies, and would come to recognize that they might require tradeoffs and compromises. To some extent, the story of the French withdrawal and the NATO crisis is one in which the president took advantage of the opportunity presented to him by de Gaulle to craft an alliance-wide compromise of these various objectives, partially satisfying and dissatisfying the Western nations. It was a success in alliance management during a period in which great initiatives were impossible, but in which a different approach might have led to the decay and collapse of NATO.

III. The background to the crisis – U.S., French, and German relations before 1966

  • 12 H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism, New York, 1995, p. 94.
  • 13 Beschloss, p. 162.
  • 14 Time, June 12, 1964, p. 42.

8From the tragic beginning of his administration in November 1963, Lyndon Johnson approached de Gaulle’s France with caution. Though confident as he often put it, that when a crisis hit, « we will be able to rely upon our French friends to be at our side », LBJ realized that those times would be few and far between12. The fiasco over Johnson’s invitation to de Gaulle to visit the US, coupled with France’s recognition of the Beijing government in January 1964, led a resigned LBJ to agree with his friend Senator Richard Russell in a telephone conversation that « we’ve got no control over their foreign policy. »13 De Gaulle’s continuing attack on American policy in Vietnam and his advocacy of « neutralization » of Southeast Asia, no matter how prescient that might have been, also complicated relations between the two countries. As Time magazine editorialized in July 1964, « From NATO to the U. N., Latin America to Red China, there is hardly an issue or an area in world politics on which France has not taken a stance at variance with U. S. policy. »14 Almost instinctively – and perhaps surprising given his reputation as a man who sought constant approval – Johnson recognized that attempts to win the General’s favor were doomed to disappointment, and that the real key was to avoid additional damage to the alliance from a nasty public debate that might force other allies to choose between Paris and Washington.

  • 15 Richard Barnet, The Alliance, New York, 1983, p. 240.

9By contrast, Johnson felt a certain affinity for the Germans and their newly appointed chancellor, the firmly pro-American Ludwig Erhard. Having grown up in the Texas hill country with a German grandmother and German settlers nearby, Johnson always spoke of his admiration for the Germans, although this sentiment was always mixed with a certain apprehension. Johnson told McGeorge Bundy that his « overwhelming interest was to make sure the Germans did not get us into World War III », and he set about strengthening a relationship that had grown strained during the Kennedy-Adenauer period. He invited Erhard to spend the Christmas holidays in December 1963. In wide ranging talks, Johnson made clear his own commitment to reducing East-West tensions, but was careful to try to build up Erhard’s prestige in Germany by treating him as a uniquely important ally. He gave the German a Texas-size cowboy hat, took him deer hunting, and brought Erhard to a number of German-American communities near the ranch. At the end of the love fest he announced to the press that « I like simply everything about him », while the German responded, « I love President Johnson, and he loves me. »15

  • 16 FRUS 1961-1963, 8, p. 544.
  • 17 Beschloss, p. 145.
  • 18 Time, January 10, 1964, p. 23. The account of the Erhard-Johnson talks in the German documents make (...)
  • 19 G. McGhee, At the Creation of a New Germany, New Haven: Yale, 1989, p. 148.
  • 20 FRUS 1964-1968, 11, p. 22. See also G. T. Seaborg, Stemming the Tide: Arms Control in the Johnson Y (...)
  • 21 FRUS 1964-1968, 17, p. 12.

10As important as these contrasting alliance relationships were, Johnson’s number one foreign policy issue was the threat of nuclear war. Johnson took very seriously, in a manner which is increasingly difficult to recapture for an audience in the year 2000, his responsibility to reduce the danger of a nuclear apocalypse. At the first National Security Council meeting after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson read a Bundy-prepared statement that, « The greatest single requirement is that we find a way to ensure the survival of civilization in the nuclear age. A nuclear war would be the death of all our hopes and it is our task to see that it does not happen. »16 Like his hero-politician Franklin Roosevelt, Johnson was also determined to improve relations with the Soviet Union, a direction that would, incidentally, steal some of the thunder from de Gaulle’s own efforts at detente. One of Johnson’s first successes in Congress came in December 1963 with the passing a bill allowing the sale of wheat to the Soviets. In a telephone conversation with Bundy the day after New Year’s 1964, Johnson complained about the lack of flexibility in the US position toward the Soviets, comparing the US position with the rigidity of the former German Chancellor Adenauer17. Although Johnson recognized the implication of his stance for the Germans, he still pushed them toward a more conciliatory posture. He told Erhard that the United States was « going down the road to peace, with or without others », and asked the chancellor to be more flexible toward the Soviet Union18. Johnson emphasized that he believed that a policy of detente was the best approach to German reunification and progress with the Soviets19. In April Johnson gave an interview to a German magazine in which he told the Germans that they needed to consider the Russian point of view on a question like German reunification. In late January LBJ avoided taking any retaliatory action when the Russians shot down an American plane that had strayed into east German territory, killing the three Americans on board. In February 1964, Johnson used the surplus of fissionable material possessed by the U. S. to persuade the Soviets of the wisdom of a mutual cutback in the production of uranium for atomic weapons20. In May, in a speech which coincided with his « Great Society » speech at the University of Michigan, Johnson affirmed his interest in reducing tensions in Europe and spoke of the need to « build bridges across the gulf which has divided us from Eastern Europe. »21 Throughout his campaign for the presidency in 1964, Johnson affirmed himself as the « peace candidate » against the strident anti-communism of his Republican rival Barry Goldwater, who had suggested giving NATO’s Supreme Commander the authority to use nuclear weapons.

  • 22 Johnson Speech, November 8, 1963, in Department of State Bulletin, Dec. 2, 1963, p. 852.
  • 23 G. C. Smith, Speech, April 22, 1964, in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents 1964, Washington (...)
  • 24 LBJL, NSF Subject File, Box 23, Memo, Discussion of MLF, April 11, 1964.
  • 25 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 36, and LBJL, Henry Owen, Oral History, p. 11.

11Yet Johnson, who began his Presidency with the phrase, « Let us continue », was also committed to other parts of Kennedy’s « Grand Design » for Europe, including the proposed Multilateral Force. On this issue he could only expect de Gaulle’s unwavering opposition. Designed to head off German interest in national nuclear forces, and to give Germany a role in the decision to use nuclear weapons, the MLF proposal had changed considerably since it first emerged late in the Eisenhower Administration. Although his attitude was always ambivalent, Kennedy had supported the concept and allowed planning to proceed. Indeed, only two weeks before the assassination, Vice President Johnson was dispatched to give another public endorsement of the idea, calling it « a first step toward a greater European voice in nuclear matters. »22 By early 1964, the MLF proposal involved the creation of a « fleet of surface warships, armed with Polaris missiles, owned, controlled, and manned jointly by a number of NATO nations. »23 After Kennedy’s death, State Department supporters of the MLF, many of whom hoped to use the MLF to push their goal of a politically unified Europe, wanted Johnson to renew his earlier commitment and put pressure on the Europeans to act. At a meeting with the President on April 10, 1964, George Ball argued that the MLF would « give Germans a legitimate role in the defense of the Alliance, but on a leash. » Thomas Finletter, the US Ambassador to NATO, reported that the Europeans had the impression Johnson wasn’t interested in the project. He argued that the « U. S. had to stop being diffident about the MLF. »24 The only major reservations about the MLF came from William Foster, head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, who worried that the MLF would damage the chance for a disarmament or non-proliferation treaty25.

  • 26 LBJL, Gerard Smith, Oral History, p. 7.
  • 27 LBJL, NSF-SF, Box 23, Rostow to LBJ, December 5, 1963.
  • 28 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 36. See also Geyelin, p. 159.
  • 29 FRUS 1964-1968, 11, p. 264.

12Johnson took up the challenge that Finletter presented. The President was most interested in the argument that Germany would have to be treated as an equal with regard to nuclear weapons. In characteristic language, Johnson told his advisers, « the Germans have gone off the reservation twice in our lifetimes, and we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen again, that they don’t go berserk. »26 Rostow reinforced Johnson’s fears when he told him, « if the multilateral solution is shot down now, as it was in 1932, the swing to the Right is all too likely to repeat itself. »27 Johnson thought the MLF could « satisfy the pride and self-respect of the Europeans », and decided to set a year-end deadline for signing the treaty. Nevertheless, in a warning that was prophetic of his later decisions, LBJ also cautioned « against trying to shove the project down the throats of potential participants »,28 and emphasized to his advisors that while they « work on the Atlantic nuclear problem, we keep Soviet interests in mind. »29

  • 30 For an early but still important treatment, see J. D. Steinbrunner, The Cybernetic Theory of Decisi (...)
  • 31 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 113.
  • 32 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 136.
  • 33 Ibid., p. 133.
  • 34 R. Neustadt, Memo of Conversation, « Wilson Visit and the MLF », December 6, 1964. I want to thank (...)
  • 35 To make sure that MLF supporters got the message, Johnson deliberately leaked his decision to James (...)

13The story of the demise of the MLF has been told in greater detail elsewhere.30 The Johnson deadline did produce a great deal of diplomacy during the summer and fall of 1964, but Johnson’s own attention was focused on his election bid. After securing his mandate, and before meeting with the newly-elected British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, Johnson surveyed the political support within the US government and the alliance and found it wanting. Even the situation in Germany, as MLF supporter George Ball reported, was divided, with Erhard facing serious divisions within his own party.31 Bundy’s warning that Johnson would need to conduct a « great effort of political education » in order to secure passage of the MLF sobered Johnson to the dangers the MLF posed to his political power.32 With historical analogies in mind, LBJ decided he neither wanted to be a Woodrow Wilson, trying to push a League of Nations on a hostile Senate, nor a Franklin Roosevelt, squandering his electoral landslide in a Supreme Court packing plan.33 « If Europe isn’t for it, LBJ told a small group of advisers, then the hell with it. » Reminded of the argument that American prestige was already committed to the MLF, and that the US had to save face, Johnson dismissed the concern with one of his favorite sayings: « While you’re trying to save face, you’ll lose your ass. »34 American pressure for the MLF came to an end, and although Johnson told the British and Germans that they were welcome to devise their own solution, the MLF lost its centrality in America’s NATO policy.35

  • 36 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 158
  • 37 Time, December 25, 1964
  • 38 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 301.

14When the dust settled, Bundy praised LBJ telling him that « this was without doubt the most productive and useful two days that we have had in foreign affairs since President Kennedy went to Berlin. »36 But the American change in policy was also regarded by many as the « year’s most spectacular rug-pulling operation » and « a victory for de Gaulle » that went along with his victory in setting a joint grain price within the Common Market.37 Although the president might have been unsettled by this characterization, the lessons he drew from the MLF issue had more to do with the making of policy. Johnson became ever more aware of the problem of controlling the interactions between parts of the government and their counterparts within the alliance, with the result, as Bundy would put it later, that there are « members of this Government on both sides of this question who instinctively and insistently press their own preferred tactics without making sure they are in line with the President’s thinking. »38 Controlling the policy making process to enable him to make necessary tradeoffs and compromises would become Johnson’s objective during the next alliance crisis.

  • 39 Newsweek, January 11, 1965, p. 16.
  • 40 F. Costigliola, The Cold Alliance, Boston, 1994, p. 142.
  • 41 Newsweek, November 1, 1965, p. 44.
  • 42 Newsweek, December 13, 1965, p. 42.

15For a short time Johnson believed that the removal of American pressure for the MLF might induce a more conciliatory line from President de Gaulle39. However, in one of de Gaulle’s most famous press conferences in February 1965, the General attacked the role of the dollar in international monetary arrangements and called for a return to the gold standard. The attack on American « monetary hegemony » was only the beginning of a year in which US-French relations deteriorated significantly. US escalation in Vietnam and intervention in the Dominican Republic were extremely unpopular in France, with 30 % of all French people regarding Johnson as the « greatest threat to peace » (only two percent fewer than Mao) and de Gaulle himself attacking the United States as the « greatest danger in the world today to peace. »40 By the end of the year de Gaulle was quoted by one diplomat as saying that « I will not rest until the last American soldier has left Europe »41, while Johnson abandoned his restraint and remarked that de Gaulle was « a grouchy old grandfather grumbling by the stove », and « like a train that scatters people walking on the track. But as soon as the train has passed I am back again with my friend Erhard, walking arm in arm down the track. »42

  • 43 The report is clearly ambivalent on the subject, reflecting the presence of John McCloy on the Comm (...)
  • 44 New York Times, June 24, 1965.
  • 45 FRUS 1964-1968, 11, p. 264
  • 46 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 300.

16In 1965 Johnson’s focus was on passing his Great Society program and dealing with the deteriorating situation in Vietnam. Relations with Europe were not a priority, and outside of a flurry of activity in the summer of 1965 to prevent a devaluation of the pound, European issues rarely occupied the President’s attention. The one issue that did develop more fully was the Administration’s increasing interest in the possibility of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty with the Soviet Union. The Gilpatric Committee, a high-level group Johnson set to work after the Chinese nuclear explosion of October 1964, came in with a report early in the year advocating a high priority for a non-proliferation treaty, although it split over the question of whether this should come at the expense of any nuclear sharing arrangements with Europe43. Domestic interest in a treaty also increased – Robert Kennedy, Johnson’s most-feared political rival and a leader of Senate liberals, adopted non-proliferation as his cause in his first speech in the Senate in June44. Bundy held talks in November 1965 with Dobrynin, and reported to the President the « opportunity for a real Johnson breakthrough » if the US could find some way to bury the MLF, or as it was now referred to, the Atlantic Nuclear force, for once and for all.45 Bundy thought that McNamara’s proposed Nuclear Planning Group, a « software » solution that involved consultation about nuclear strategy rather than control over any weapons system, might satisfy German ambitions. Johnson was still reluctant to dash German hopes completely, and kept the possibility open during his talks with Erhard. He also kept urging David Bruce, the US Ambassador to Britain, to keep Wilson’s « feet to the fire » on his willingness to negotiate an arrangement with the Germans46. Johnson refused to trade away any possibility for a nuclear sharing arrangement until he could construct a package that would satisfy German concerns.

  • 47 Francis Bator later recalled that he smiled at Bundy as others in the meeting made the Article V ar (...)
  • 48 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 258.

17Movement on a possible NPT only reinforced de Gaulle’s fears of superpower hegemony, increasing the US suspicion that the General would act soon against NATO. The elections in France, scheduled for December, further encouraged this belief, and led to the first contingency planning. In October 1965 the Johnson Administration had one of its first high-level meetings to consider a French move against the alliance. The subject was a State Department draft of a National Security Action Memorandum entitled « France and NATO ». The Department’s draft took a very hardline approach, threatening that « the United States would withdraw Article V protection from France if the country ceased to participate constructively in the Alliance. » Johnson’s White House advisors objected strongly, led by McGeorge Bundy. Bundy called the statement an « empty threat », and argued with an air of resignation that the United States « might as well face the fact » that the French assumed they had US protection regardless of what Washington might leak to the newspapers47. Perhaps with an eye to the upcoming French elections, George Ball fired back that the Article V threat was one of the few Washington had that might affect the French people. McNamara jumped into the argument as well, stressing that a France that did not contribute troops or support facilities was not entitled to US protection. He also raised the issue of Congress, and the problems the Administration would face if France should cease to participate constructively in the organization and activities of the Alliance. Ambassador David Bruce intervened in the debate to suggest a compromise formulation which papered over this division within the Administration, and simply asserted that « the US security commitment given in Article V will obviously have to be re-examined by the President, so far as it relates to France. »48

  • 49 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 309.

18This argument between White House staffers and the representatives of the State and Defense departments reflected the different priorities and agendas of each group. State was determined to protect that pillar of American diplomacy, the NATO alliance, and to punish the French for undermining it. State was also afraid of the example that the French might set, especially with the Germans. Secretary of State Dean Rusk reprimanded the US Ambassador in Germany, George McGhee, for taking a position that Rusk felt encouraged good relations between the French and the Germans « at any cost. » In language similar to that which he used when discussing the communist world, Rusk told McGhee that « the present French leadership responds to firmness and exploits any whisper of weakness... We should not display any lack of confidence in our own positions or any willingness to compromise them in the interests of transient amity between France and Germany – and this applies to nuclear and offset arrangements, as well as other elements of policy. »49 To some extent the U. S. diplomats held out an unrealistic hope that they could command the French public’s sympathy in their efforts.

  • 50 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 304.

19McNamara’s and the Defense Department’s position was a more complicated one. On the one hand, he complained that the Gaullist challenge would « force us to adjust to a peacetime arrangement which would endanger our wartime capability » (p. 254), and weaken the possibility of a truly effective policy of « flexible response ». But the U. S. perception of what was needed for flexible response was already changing, affected by the demands of Vietnam and the sense of a reduced threat in Europe. De Gaulle’s defiant position opened up back door opportunities for the Defense Secretary to reduce the conventional American military presence in Europe. In talks with the British, McNamara had already complained bitterly of the « inadequate German force contribution » and the need for a substantial increase. McNamara was stymied by what he saw as a German over-reaction « if we withdraw a battalion », yet an unwillingness to face up to their responsibilities50. De Gaulle’s behavior might create opportunities for a reduction in US troop presence in Europe, an objective McNamara increasingly championed, especially as offset negotiations with the Germans became more difficult and Congressional pressure intensified.

  • 51 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 254-257.

20For their part, both Bundy and Bator recognized that Johnson was « determined that France should not be allowed to push the US around », but that he, Johnson, would « want to play the large cards with France himself; particularly he will want to control what is said to the French and when. » Johnson’s determination reflected his awareness that his Cabinet secretaries did want a much tougher line toward the French, aware that de Gaulle’s behavior complicated their relations with other allies as well as the all-important Congress. Nevertheless Johnson was determined to maintain his own grip on policy, a grip that would allow him to connect his response to the French with other priorities the US had. Bundy hinted at one of those in the meeting, when he discussed the possibility of trilateral arrangements with the Germans and British, and that these might be particularly helpful in moving forward on the « nuclear problem ». By this he meant not only the doomed MLF or ANF, but the possibility of connecting US responses to movement on bridge-building with the Soviets and non-proliferation, objectives that had risen in the list of US priorities, and that could serve as effective responses to aspects of de Gaulle’s policies51.

IV. De Gaulle’s March 1966 letter

  • 52 Newsweek, March 21, 1966, p. 46.

21De Gaulle’s electoral triumph in December 1965, along with the failure of Johnson’s 37-day bombing pause in January to prevent a renewed escalation of the war in Vietnam, paved the way for de Gaulle’s decision to withdraw France from the NATO organization. Although it seems as though de Gaulle’s move was planned well in advance, media speculation focused on de Gaulle’s conviction that « the Cold War with Russia is over and that the NATO defensive alliance is therefore not only obsolete but, worse, an impediment to a permanent entente between West and East Europe ». There was also speculation that de Gaulle feared a US-dominated NATO would drag Europe into conflicts like Vietnam52.

  • 53 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 325.
  • 54 Ibid., p. 326.

22De Gaulle’s letter of March 7, 1966 began with the assurance that France would remain an active member of the western alliance, « determined even as today to fight at the side of her allies in case one of them will be the object of unprovoked aggression ». However, France was now determined « to recover the entire exercise of her sovereignty over her territory », a sovereignty that was « impaired » by the presence of foreign military forces and her participation in « integrated » commands53. De Gaulle’s distinction between France’s treaty obligations and the peacetime organizational arrangements of the alliance presented the Americans with a dilemma which had not been fully anticipated. The letter, as Johnson’s first reply noted, raised « grave questions regarding the whole relationship between the responsibilities and benefits of the Alliance », but Johnson held off from being more specific54.

  • 55 Ibid., p. 327.
  • 56 Ibid., p. 337.

23In preparing a full response to the de Gaulle letter, Johnson’s NSC deputy Francis Bator was guilty of considerable understatement when he suggested that « your advisors may disagree ». Was there a distinction between the treaty and the organization? Bator put forth a strong case for not pressing the issue yet. He appealed to Johnson’s common sense: « It is a fact of geography that a U. S. threat to deprive France of our protection is at best barely credible and at worst, just plain silly. It is like threatening to abandon Kentucky in the face of a land attack by Canada. It is hard to do unless one is prepared to throw in Ohio. If we are going to defend the Germans against the Russians, we cannot help but defend France too »55. Bator stressed that the Germans would « look to us for guidance », in any response to de Gaulle, and urged Johnson to approach the issue cautiously. The real problem, as his White House staff stressed to LBJ, was « as always... not France but Germany – and the more we agitate the alliance the more we may bring this potentially divisive issue to the fore. »56

  • 57 T. J. Schoenbaum, Waging Peace and War: Dean Rusk in the Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson Years, New Yo (...)
  • 58 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 452.
  • 59 Ibid., p. 337.
  • 60 Ibid., p. 336.
  • 61 Bohlen to Rusk, March 7, 1966, Central Files, DEF 4 NATO, Box 2186, NA.

24On the other side of this issue powerful emotions were at work. After de Gaulle told him that every American soldier must leave France, Dean Rusk replied, « Does that include the dead Americans in military cemeteries as well? »57 (Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson later told Johnson that he had said this to de Gaulle)58. The State Department reaction reflected this indignation, urging what one critic called a « clarion call to propaganda battle. »59 It wanted to push an accelerated program of integration in NATO, in effect arguing that « the best way to stop de Gaulle is to beef up the alliance – make it more integrated rather than less. »60 On this point, Rusk and Ball received support from their formerly reluctant Ambassador in France, Charles Bohlen. Bohlen had been an advocate of restraint in dealing with de Gaulle, but he now felt the General had gone one step too far. He told LBJ that the French withdrawal had radically changed the situation, amounting to a « complete destruction... of the entire NATO organization and cooperative defense efforts. » To accept de Gaulle’s move with equanimity would, in Bohlen’s words, « have a chilling effect upon the opposition in France », and lead to a « panic » in French public opinion61. Although State took the lead in proposing a tougher policy, it could count on support from Defense and Treasury, as well as the senior « Wise Men » like Dean Acheson and John McCloy, whom Johnson brought in for advice on the issue (Johnson appointed Acheson to chair the committee to determine a response). The State Department, however, was determined to use the interlude created by McGeorge Bundy’s departure and before Walt Rostow’s succession as National Security Advisor, to reassert its own role in determining the direction of American foreign policy. It wanted to place the White House staff on the defensive.

  • 62 As respected a historian as Warren Cohen wrote, « Perhaps as a result of advice from men like Bundy (...)
  • 63 The Gallup Poll found that well over half of all Americans did not believe France was « a dependabl (...)
  • 64 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 349. F. Costigliola argues that this sentence contains a « gendercoded » for (...)
  • 65 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 376.
  • 66 G. Ball, The Past Has Another Pattern, New York: Norton, 1982, p. 336.
  • 67 L. Johnson, The Vantage Point, New York, 1971, p. 305.

25Johnson resisted this move, determined to retain control of the process. Historians have generally not given Johnson credit for resisting the temptation to exploit the French action for his own short term political gains62. Polls at the time demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of Americans disapproved of de Gaulle’s action, and Johnson, in the midst of the Vietnam conflict, could have chosen to exploit this issue as a diversion63. Johnson chose not to arouse passions, and stressed instead the last sentence of his response to de Gaulle’s letter that « As our old friend and ally her place will await France whenever she decides to resume her leading role. »64 Johnson insisted that he saw « no benefit to ourselves or to our allies in debating the position of the French government », and that « Our task is to rebuild NATO outside of France as promptly, economically, and effectively as possible. »65 George Ball noted that Johnson « incessantly restrained me from making critical comments », about de Gaulle66. And in one of his most famous remarks, the President told McNamara, « When a man asks you to leave his house, you don’t argue; you get your hat and go. »67

  • 68 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 357.
  • 69 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 376.

26Although Johnson asserted a line of restraint in response to de Gaulle, this approach was still subject to implementation by members of his government who did not share his preference. This became clear as the various issues, including questions of Allied overflights of French territory, the continued transportation of oil across France, and reentry rights for NATO forces into France in the event of war, were addressed. One of the most important of these was the issue of French troops stationed in Germany. Consisting of air and army units comprising approximately 76,000 personnel, these forces posed less of a military question than a political one68. The French government made it clear that although these forces would no longer come under NATO command, they would leave the forces in Germany if the German Government wanted them. The German Government faced a dilemma: if it insisted that French troops could remain only if they remained committed to NATO, it would precipitate a French withdrawal and cause a major setback in Franco-German relations, with important domestic political consequences. The Gaullists in the Christian Democratic Party, led by such figures as Franz Josef Strauss and having the support of the former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, would vigorously protest such a move, and would have significant public support. In a note of significant understatement, the American ambassador in Bonn, George McGhee reported that « If the present confrontation results in a withdrawal of French forces... German public opinion will not react with exhilaration. » Indeed McGhee suggested that such a clear failure in the attempt to « build Europe » would lead the Germans to a renewed focus on « the other elusive goal of German foreign policy-reunification », a game in which, McGhee commented the « key cards are held by the other side. »69 On the other hand, if Germany agreed to seek a new arrangement with the French, that would seem to reward De Gaulle’s nationalism, and it raised questions about a special status for France that would be particularly irritating to Washington. In effect, de Gaulle’s policy was forcing the Germans to choose between Paris and Washington, a choice no German political leader could afford.

  • 70 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, 354.

27On this issue most of Johnson’s advisers wanted to take a very firm stand. At a meeting on April 4, with Rusk, McNamara, Ball and Acheson present, they decided that the United States « should fully support » the Germans if they took a hard line toward the French and their troops in Germany, « and do nothing to dissuade them ». If the Germans decided to try to negotiate an agreement with de Gaulle about the troops, the « US should urge them to incorporate in these new arrangements effective safeguards assuring their use in accordance with NATO requirements and an adequate quid pro quo giving to other allies in Germany facilities in France such as transit and overflight rights. »70 These conditions were designed to be unacceptable to the French and call their bluff. They were the basis of the instructions given to John J. McCloy, the President’s special envoy, as he prepared for talks with Chancellor Erhard a week later.

  • 71 LBJL, NSF, Agency File, NATO, Vol. 3, George Ball, Memorandum for the President, « Guidance for Joh (...)
  • 72 LBJL, Bator Papers, Chronological File, Box 3, Telegram, Bator to LBJ, April 11, 1966.
  • 73 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 367.

28Johnson was at his ranch when the State Department finished drafting the instructions for McCloy. George Ball sent them to the President, with the note that this « will constitute Mr. McCloy’s instructions. »71 When Bator saw Ball’s message, he objected to what he perceived as pressure on the Germans to take a hard line. He believed that such pressure would both complicate Erhard’s position in German politics as well as go against Johnson’s own clear preference for a muted response to De Gaulle’s challenge. He feared that « if under US pressure, German-French negotiations fail, and French Divisions withdraw, Germans will join other Europeans in blaming us for resulting grave damage to German-French relations. » The desire to avoid choosing between Paris and Washington, Bator warned, is « still at the center of German politics ». Bator immediately cabled LBJ at his ranch asking him to change McCloy’s instructions. Bator urged a less conditional American approach, offering the Germans support for whatever they decided to do about the French troops72. Johnson, who was on vacation and « wanted to focus on his cows », did not look at Bator’s message until later in the week, after McCloy had already met with Gerhard Schrîder, the German Foreign Minister, and delivered the tougher message. However, when Johnson read Bator’s message, he immediately told Dean Rusk that he agreed with Bator, and that the Secretary should change McCloy’s instructions. Johnson wanted the Germans to know, as McCloy subsequently told Chancellor Erhard, that the « United States should support any position taken by the FRG that recognized the seriousness of the situation and provided an adequate response to the French. The FRG must itself decide the position it wishes to occupy in Europe. We are not thinking of forcing the FRG toward any policy or decision. »73

  • 74 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 441.
  • 75 L. S. Kaplan, NATO and the United States, Boston: Twayne, 1988, p. 121.

29The Germans ultimately decided that the political importance of the French troops outweighed any other considerations. Faced with a major electoral defeat in a key provincial election in July 1966, Erhard « must have given de Gaulle the impression the Germans would never invite the French troops to leave no matter what. »74 Although the arrangements governing French troops in Germany were not finalized until Erhard was replaced by the Grand Coalition, they were clear once the United States decided not to make it a decisive issue. France was allowed to keep its troops in Germany on its own terms, free, as Lawrence Kaplan noted, « from alliance obligations and free, for that matter to leave whether or not the Germans or Americans wished them to go. »75

  • 76 Interview with Francis Bator, Cambridge, Mass., December 16, 1995.
  • 77 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 391-392. For Acheson’s own account of this meeting, and his subsequent rappr (...)

30Johnson’s « soft » treatment of de Gaulle aroused the fury of his advisers, notably Dean Acheson, who told Bator at a Washington dinner party that « You made the greatest imperial power the world has ever seen kiss de Gaulle’s arse. »76 Acheson’s fury was not confined to Bator, and exploded directly at LBJ during a White House Meeting in May 1966. Bruce believed that the President was « primed » to object to an Acheson draft on negotiations with France, and felt that LBJ launched into a « wholly intemperate attack » on his anti-de Gaulle advisors. Johnson’s criticism, in Bruce’s words, ignited « the Acheson powder magazine » and the former Secretary of State raised his voice against the president. As Bruce put it, the « fat sizzled in the fire for quite a time ». The President continued to insist that everyone in the Administration remain « scrupulously polite in references to the General », and on this point his advisors found him unyielding77.

  • 78 Cleveland to Leddy, November 5, 1966, Central Files, DEF 4 NATO, Box 1567, NA.

31This portrait of conflict between Johnson and his advisors over the French issue is only part of the picture. The other part is the recognition by Johnson and his aides that the French move constituted an opportunity to solve many alliance related issues, from flexible response, to nuclear-sharing, to the financial burdens of the US presence. Acheson himself, despite his occasional outbursts, played a vital role in this process, abandoning his earlier stance in favor of the MLF and embracing detente as an objective of the alliance. So much more was now possible with France out of the picture, at least for the immediate future. As Harlan Cleveland, the US Permanent Representative to NATO would put it: « ... in recent years France has been a drag on NATO... We are increasingly able to take advantage of the new surge of life which this vessel, even with all its barnacles, begins to feel now that it is no longer trying to drag a bucket. »78

  • 79 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, pp. 407-408.

32The Acheson Committee’s recommendations focused on « emphasizing, clarifying and implementing NATO’s political function » and in particular its political function in organizing the West’s approach toward a detente with Eastern Europe. The Committee acknowledged the danger of « leaving the field of East-West relations to General de Gaulle », and it proposed a more positive policy toward improving the « Central European environment ». It urged that « at every stage in policy making and execution scrupulous attention must be paid to German interests and sensitivities », a concern that clearly met with the President’s approval79.

  • 80 Bator to LBJ, April 4, 1966, Chronological File, Box 3, Bator papers, LBJ Library.
  • 81 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 396.

33De Gaulle’s move had contributed to Johnson’s sense, as he told Bator, of the importance of being « nice to the Germans. »80 Although Johnson himself had been responsible for « pulling the plug » on the US push for the MLF, the de Gaulle challenge renewed his sensitivity to continuing German interest in a nuclear option. The President knew that his Administration had already gone far down the path toward a « software solution » using the Nuclear Planning Group in NATO to give Germany a sense of participation in nuclear decision making. Nevertheless he pleaded with British Prime Minister Wilson to not « leave the Germans under the impression that we have shifted our views just when they were moving towards us », noting some movement in Erhard’s proposals. Johnson wanted the British to give the Germans at least the appearance of a serious consideration of their proposal and to avoid pressing them to accept any. One of the most important elements in Johnson’s response to de Gaulle was the German question, or as he told Wilson, « we cannot risk the danger of a mdderless Germany in the heart of Europe. »81

  • 82 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 455.
  • 83 LBJL, NSF, NSC History. Trilateral Negotiations and NATO, 1966-67, (TNN), Box 50, Bator to LBJ, Sep (...)
  • 84 Time, September 30, 1966, p. 29.
  • 85 To meet an estimated yearly gap of $500 million between what the Germans would pay and what the cos (...)
  • 86 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 473.
  • 87 McGhee, pp. 192-193.

34Although Johnson wanted to keep US relations with Germany at the center of his concerns, events and other priorities worked against his intention. In the summer of 1966 it became increasingly clear that Germany would not be able to pay its offset costs, those contributions in the form of purchases of American weapons, designed to « offset » the costs of stationing US troops in Germany. The German economy was experiencing a minor slowdown, and Erhard’s party had suffered a serious political defeat in a Land election in North Rhine Westphalia. At the same time the British were also experiencing difficulties in affording their expenditures for the British Army on the Rhine (BAOR), and they were demanding increased German payments or threatening to withdraw their troops. In response to both De Gaulle’s withdrawal and the offset issues, Senator Mansfield was pushing for an American withdrawal of up to half of US forces in Europe. In the midst of these disintegrating forces, it became clear that Johnson could reach a deal to move ahead with the Soviet Union on the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, if the US would agree to language that largely eliminated any possibility of a MLF or ANF. In late August 1966 the United States suggested a form of « Trilateral Negotiations » between the US, Britain, and Germany to resolve the offset problem. Earlier in the summer Bator had suggested to Johnson the creation of some type of « mixed commission » of the US, UK, and Germany which might « protect our balance of payments » and hammer out a consensus « on an allied defense posture in Europe which will provide deterrence and the insurance of a reasonable conventional option. »82 Now through Bator and other channels, the Americans sought to convince the Germans that although they would insist on the current offset being met, changes in the manner of future payments were negotiable. However, Erhard refused to agree to the arrangement, stubbornly insisting on seeing Johnson personally before he agreed to the talks. With Erhard’s political position in Germany now precarious, Bator told LBJ that « for us it is important – even more than Erhard’s survival – that we not appear the culprit if he falls. »83 Press reports made it clear that Erhard « badly needs a success at the White House »,84 but Johnson, backed strongly by McNamara and the Treasury Department, would not allow a « stretching out » of the current offset payments85. Both Cabinet Secretaries were thinking of the possible Congressional reaction to an American retreat. But Johnson also seems to have made the judgment that Erhard could no longer deliver politically, that any deal he might make with the weakened chancellor was unlikely to stick. In a long and painful meeting, Erhard pleaded that a potential successor might « not show the same loyalty and determination to cultivate close ties to the United States. »86 However, in the end Erhard remained true to form and put up little resistance87. When he returned to Germany without a success given by his American friends, his government collapsed. The new government consisted of a « Grand Coalition » between the Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party. Kurt Kiesinger from the Gaullist faction of the CDU became Chancellor, with SPD leader Willy Brandt taking over as Foreign Minister.

  • 88 D. L. Bark and D. R. Gress, A History of West Germany, Vol. 2: Democracy and its Discontents 1963-1 (...)
  • 89 H. Zimmermann, Dollars, Pounds, and Transatlantic Security: Conventional Troops and Monetary Policy (...)
  • 90 Rusk was particularly impressed with Brandt’s appearance at NATO, noting that he demonstrated that (...)

35The collapse of Erhard’s government was a blessing in disguise for Johnson’s European policy. Erhard had been the most loyal of allies, and Johnson felt a genuine warmth toward him. However, Erhard was increasingly ineffective as a political leader, and his weakness had shown at the polls in Länder elections88. In the weeks preceding the trip, his top aide had resigned and his Defense Minister only barely survived a vote of confidence. One recent analysis notes that « in Germany the prevailing opinion was that Erhard’s fate was sealed anyway and the visit to Washington was just the last straw. »89 With his resignation and the coming of the Grand Coalition, Johnson now had a stronger, if more independent-minded, German government to deal with, one more capable of taking risks and far more interested in moving forward on detente90. Most importantly, however, Johnson and his advisers recovered rapidly, using the crisis to push for a solution that dealt with both the security and economic issues underlying NATO.

  • 91 LBJL, NSF Speech File, Box 5, Speech to Editorial Writers, October 7, 1966. Zbigniew Brzezinski, la (...)
  • 92 LBJL, NSF Speech File, Box 5, Rostow to LBJ, October 6, 1966.
  • 93 LBJL, NSF Speech File, Box 5, Bator to LBJ, October 13, 1966.
  • 94 I am not arguing that the U. S. deserves the credit for Ostpolitik, only that at this time it was a (...)

36On October 7, 1966, Johnson told a conference of editorial writers that « we must improve the East-West environment in order to achieve the unification of Germany in the context of a larger, peaceful, and prosperous Europe. »91 The speech was an important signal, and expressed « a doctrine congenial in Europe, different from de Gaulle’s, without quarrelling. »92 Johnson also affirmed that the United States respected « the integrity of a nation’s boundary lines », and encouraged the removal of territorial and border disputes, a none-too-subtle reference to Germany’s refusal to recognize the Oder-Neisse line and the loss of its eastern territories. The Bonn Embassy had sought a last minute change that would have softened the reference, but the State Department insisted it remain, to provide « gentle support to those people in Germany who want slowly to back away from a self-defeating position. »93 In effect, the Johnson Administration was lending its support to a transnational coalition in support of detente.94 Among those who were encouraged by this was Willy Brandt, who became Foreign Minister in late 1966 and initiated his policy of Ostpolitik

  • 95 K. Bird, The Chairman, New York, 1992, esp. pp. 590-593.
  • 96 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 535.
  • 97 LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, LBJ to McCloy, March 1, 1967, and Memorandum for the Record, « (...)

37To handle the Trilateral negotiations, Johnson appointed John J. McCloy, the former American High Commissioner in Germany95. McCloy strongly opposed significant troop reductions, and argued against the idea that the level of forces should depend on the offset payments. Opposing him was McNamara, who advocated a reduction of two divisions, and personally favored even a more drastic cutback. In presenting the options to the president, Bator stressed that this « decision will cast a very long shadow on our relations with Germany and Europe, with consequences for domestic politics. »96 Johnson now took command. Through a series of meetings with the Congressional leadership and his negotiators, Johnson laid down the path he wanted to follow. With the Congressmen Johnson « managed » a breakfast, taking a hard line « more arbitrary than I like, which made it difficult for them to disagree with the President of the United States ». With McCloy, Johnson insisted that the former High Commissioner pressure his German friends « that they have to be realistic ». Noting that the Fredericksburg Germans with whom he grew up were « great people; but by God they are as stingy as Hell », Johnson told McCloy that « they have got to put in some money ». They would have to help the British as well, as a BAOR withdrawal would encourage demands for a similar American action. Johnson feared that without a German offer, he would have to cut two divisions. When McCloy warned « you are on the verge of the collapse of the Alliance », Johnson replied, « Jack, I know that; I’ll try to hold this Alliance together longer than anybody else will, longer than the British will, and longer than the Germans. But they have got to put something in the family pot. »97

  • 98 LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, McCloy to LBJ, May 17, 1967.
  • 99 LBJL, Bator Papers, Chronological File, Box 4, Memorandum for the President, March 8, 1967.
  • 100 LBJL, Bator Papers, Box 4, Memo to the President, February 23, 1967.
  • 101 LBJL, Bator Papers, Chronological File, Box 4, Memorandum for the President, April 21, 1967.
  • 102 LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, McCloy to LBJ, March 22, 1967.

38The Germans did. They agreed to purchase and hold some $500 million in US Government medium-term securities, and even more importantly, agreed to make public their intention to refrain from buying gold98. The so-called « Blessing Brief » was a significant German concession, one which would be extremely helpful in managing the balance of payments deficit99. In effect, as Bator told the President, the US had also scored a victory against the French, « negotiating the world onto a dollar standard », and to « recognition of the fact that, for the time being, the US must necessarily play banker of the world and that the continuing threat to convert gold is simply unacceptable. »100 Bator expected that America’s concessions to the Germans in the Trilateral talks would contribute to gaining German support in the ongoing negotiations dealing with international money101. The US withdrew one division and 96 aircraft, although for appearance’s sake, these forces remained committed to NATO. The British proved more difficult, and the Americans had to increase their own spending in Britain to help the Germans reach a 90 percent offset of the exchange costs of the BAOR. McCloy wrote Johnson that « although from time to time the trading instincts of your Fredericksburg Germans cropped out in the FRG representatives, I am not certain that the subtler but still acquisitive instincts of the British are any less formidable. »102

  • 103 Haftendorn, p. 397. Kaplan ends his study by noting that John Leddy’s 1968 conclusion that « NATO i (...)

39The Trilateral Agreements of May 1967 were in part a stopgap measure. They temporarily secured the Alliance’s financial basis – and protected the dollar – giving Johnson the weapon he needed to fend off Congressional challenges. More importantly, they were one of the first examples of genuine burden sharing within the Alliance. A German analyst recently noted the « greatest success of the trilateral talks » was that the offset question, rather than becoming an « explosive issue » within the Alliance, « paved the way for the its consolidation. »103

Conclusion

  • 104 P. Galante, Le Général (Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1968), p. 162. De Gaulle added that, « If he did (...)

40Both Lyndon Johnson and Charles de Gaulle left office early in 1969, having transformed their countries. Johnson’s legacy within the United States remains a contested one, but in the diplomatic arena, he proved far more able than is conventionally thought, and may well have handled European relations far more successfully and capably than many of his successors, including his fellow Texan currently occupying the White House. Lyndon Johnson guided the United States with a policy that balanced the solidarity of the Western alliance with the need to stabilize the Cold War and reduce the nuclear danger. His administration began a process of treating Western and Eastern Europe as a whole, recognizing that the division of the continent could only be overcome by a patient and sustained effort to reduce tensions and build bridges between East and West. Charles de Gaulle once said that « Roosevelt and Kennedy were masks over the real face of America. Johnson is the very portrait of America. He reveals the country to us as it is, rough and raw. »104 Obviously De Gaulle did not mean to flatter Americans with this comparison of their recent leaders, but in retrospect, he may have given the United States an unintentional compliment.

Notes

1 Time, September 19, 2005, p. 41.

2 L. L. Gould, « The Revised LBJ », The Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2000), p. 80. My own book, Lyndon Johnson Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003) is a part of this effort.

3 Most notably, H. W. Brands ed., The Foreign Policies of Lyndon Johnson: Beyond Vietnam, College Station, 1999.

4 E. Goldman, The Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson, New York, 1968, p. 378.

5 A. Peyrefitte, C’était De Gaulle, Paris, 1997, p. 48.

6 H. Brandon, Special Relationships, New York, 1988, p. 200.

7 R. Dallek, « Lyndon Johnson as a World Leader », in Brands, ed. Beyond Vietnam, pp. 8-9.

8 R. Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973, New York, 1998, p. 90.

9 Note à compléter

10 J. L. Gaddis, We Now Know, New York, 1997, p. 201.

11 FRUS 1964-1968, 15, p. 354. On this particular occasion, Erhard asked LBJ for a visit to Germany, something Johnson was unwilling to give him.

12 H. W. Brands, The Wages of Globalism, New York, 1995, p. 94.

13 Beschloss, p. 162.

14 Time, June 12, 1964, p. 42.

15 Richard Barnet, The Alliance, New York, 1983, p. 240.

16 FRUS 1961-1963, 8, p. 544.

17 Beschloss, p. 145.

18 Time, January 10, 1964, p. 23. The account of the Erhard-Johnson talks in the German documents makes it clear that Erhard was sensitive about any perception of difference in the American-German approach to detente. Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1963 Vol. III, (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1994), p. 490.

19 G. McGhee, At the Creation of a New Germany, New Haven: Yale, 1989, p. 148.

20 FRUS 1964-1968, 11, p. 22. See also G. T. Seaborg, Stemming the Tide: Arms Control in the Johnson Years, Lexington, Mass., 1987, pp. 39-49.

21 FRUS 1964-1968, 17, p. 12.

22 Johnson Speech, November 8, 1963, in Department of State Bulletin, Dec. 2, 1963, p. 852.

23 G. C. Smith, Speech, April 22, 1964, in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents 1964, Washington, 1967, p. 459.

24 LBJL, NSF Subject File, Box 23, Memo, Discussion of MLF, April 11, 1964.

25 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 36, and LBJL, Henry Owen, Oral History, p. 11.

26 LBJL, Gerard Smith, Oral History, p. 7.

27 LBJL, NSF-SF, Box 23, Rostow to LBJ, December 5, 1963.

28 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 36. See also Geyelin, p. 159.

29 FRUS 1964-1968, 11, p. 264.

30 For an early but still important treatment, see J. D. Steinbrunner, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision Princeton, 1974.

31 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 113.

32 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 136.

33 Ibid., p. 133.

34 R. Neustadt, Memo of Conversation, « Wilson Visit and the MLF », December 6, 1964. I want to thank Prof. Ernest R. May for making this available to me.

35 To make sure that MLF supporters got the message, Johnson deliberately leaked his decision to James Reston of the New York Times. Geyelin, pp. 171-177.

36 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 158

37 Time, December 25, 1964

38 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 301.

39 Newsweek, January 11, 1965, p. 16.

40 F. Costigliola, The Cold Alliance, Boston, 1994, p. 142.

41 Newsweek, November 1, 1965, p. 44.

42 Newsweek, December 13, 1965, p. 42.

43 The report is clearly ambivalent on the subject, reflecting the presence of John McCloy on the Commission, one of the MLF’s strongest supporters. FRUS 1964-1968, 11, pp. 173-182.

44 New York Times, June 24, 1965.

45 FRUS 1964-1968, 11, p. 264

46 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 300.

47 Francis Bator later recalled that he smiled at Bundy as others in the meeting made the Article V argument, recognizing that simple geography made the threat a pointless one. Interview with Francis Bator, December 1995, Cambridge, Mass.

48 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 258.

49 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 309.

50 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 304.

51 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 254-257.

52 Newsweek, March 21, 1966, p. 46.

53 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 325.

54 Ibid., p. 326.

55 Ibid., p. 327.

56 Ibid., p. 337.

57 T. J. Schoenbaum, Waging Peace and War: Dean Rusk in the Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson Years, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988, p. 421.

58 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 452.

59 Ibid., p. 337.

60 Ibid., p. 336.

61 Bohlen to Rusk, March 7, 1966, Central Files, DEF 4 NATO, Box 2186, NA.

62 As respected a historian as Warren Cohen wrote, « Perhaps as a result of advice from men like Bundy and Bohlen, his ambassador to France, Johnson was uncharacteristically tactful in all of his dealings with the French president. » W. Cohen, D. Rusk (Totowa, 1980), p. 262. However, Bundy had left the government by this point, and Bohlen’s response to de Gaulle’s step broke from his earlier advocacy of restraint. Brands is a noteworthy exception to this tendency of historians to credit Johnson’s advisors for anything he did right in foreign policy. Brands, Wages of Globalism, p. 102.

63 The Gallup Poll found that well over half of all Americans did not believe France was « a dependable ally of the United States », and these figures were almost two-thirds for college-educated Americans. The Gallup Poll 1935-1971, p. 2017.

64 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 349. F. Costigliola argues that this sentence contains a « gendercoded » formulation that indicates the continuing American desire to dominate both France and the Alliance. F. Costigliola, France and the United States: The Cold Alliance Since World War II, New York: Twayne, 1992, pp. 145-146.

65 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 376.

66 G. Ball, The Past Has Another Pattern, New York: Norton, 1982, p. 336.

67 L. Johnson, The Vantage Point, New York, 1971, p. 305.

68 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 357.

69 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 376.

70 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, 354.

71 LBJL, NSF, Agency File, NATO, Vol. 3, George Ball, Memorandum for the President, « Guidance for John J. McCloy », April 10, 1966.

72 LBJL, Bator Papers, Chronological File, Box 3, Telegram, Bator to LBJ, April 11, 1966.

73 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 367.

74 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 441.

75 L. S. Kaplan, NATO and the United States, Boston: Twayne, 1988, p. 121.

76 Interview with Francis Bator, Cambridge, Mass., December 16, 1995.

77 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 391-392. For Acheson’s own account of this meeting, and his subsequent rapprochement with LBJ, see his letter to Anthony Eden, June 29, 1966, in Among Friends: Personal Letters of Dean Acheson, eds. D. S. McLellan and D. C. Acheson, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1980, p. 279.

78 Cleveland to Leddy, November 5, 1966, Central Files, DEF 4 NATO, Box 1567, NA.

79 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, pp. 407-408.

80 Bator to LBJ, April 4, 1966, Chronological File, Box 3, Bator papers, LBJ Library.

81 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 396.

82 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 455.

83 LBJL, NSF, NSC History. Trilateral Negotiations and NATO, 1966-67, (TNN), Box 50, Bator to LBJ, September 25, 1966,

84 Time, September 30, 1966, p. 29.

85 To meet an estimated yearly gap of $500 million between what the Germans would pay and what the costs were, McNamara advocated reducing American spending in Europe by $200 million, and considering the withdrawal of a significant number of American combat personnel, which he acknowledged would have a “traumatic” effect on NATO. LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, McNamara to LBJ, September 19, 1966.

86 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 473.

87 McGhee, pp. 192-193.

88 D. L. Bark and D. R. Gress, A History of West Germany, Vol. 2: Democracy and its Discontents 1963-1988, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, p. 57. Although Bark and Gress repeat the argument that American obstinacy caused Erhard’s downfall, the evidence they present suggests otherwise.

89 H. Zimmermann, Dollars, Pounds, and Transatlantic Security: Conventional Troops and Monetary Policy in Germany’e Relations to the United States and the United Kingdom, 1955- 1967, Doctoral thesis, European University, Florence, 1997, p. 241.

90 Rusk was particularly impressed with Brandt’s appearance at NATO, noting that he demonstrated that the new German government « will not be bound by the rigid theology of the Adenauer period... » FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 517.

91 LBJL, NSF Speech File, Box 5, Speech to Editorial Writers, October 7, 1966. Zbigniew Brzezinski, later to be Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, took full credit as author of the speech in his oral history at the LBJ Library. He modestly believed that it « fundamentally reversed the priorities of the United States in Western Europe. » In truth, the idea of a major speech on European policy was one of the contributions of the Acheson group, and had a number of contributors. The first drafts were written by Bator. FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 385, and Interview with Francis Bator, Cambridge, Mass., December 16, 1995.

92 LBJL, NSF Speech File, Box 5, Rostow to LBJ, October 6, 1966.

93 LBJL, NSF Speech File, Box 5, Bator to LBJ, October 13, 1966.

94 I am not arguing that the U. S. deserves the credit for Ostpolitik, only that at this time it was ahead of the Germans on the issue and capable of lending considerable political support to those in Germany who wanted to move in that direction. For the signs of interest in Germany for such a policy, see R. Morgan, The United States and West Germany, 1945-1973, London: Oxford University Press, 1974, pp. 155-158.

95 K. Bird, The Chairman, New York, 1992, esp. pp. 590-593.

96 FRUS 1964-1968, 13, p. 535.

97 LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, LBJ to McCloy, March 1, 1967, and Memorandum for the Record, « President’s Conversation with John J. McCloy », March 2, 1967.

98 LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, McCloy to LBJ, May 17, 1967.

99 LBJL, Bator Papers, Chronological File, Box 4, Memorandum for the President, March 8, 1967.

100 LBJL, Bator Papers, Box 4, Memo to the President, February 23, 1967.

101 LBJL, Bator Papers, Chronological File, Box 4, Memorandum for the President, April 21, 1967.

102 LBJL, NSF, NSC History, TNN, Box 50, McCloy to LBJ, March 22, 1967.

103 Haftendorn, p. 397. Kaplan ends his study by noting that John Leddy’s 1968 conclusion that « NATO is in a better state of health than the pessimists predicted a few years ago », may have understated Johnson’s achievement. Kaplan, « US and NATO », in Divine, p. 143.

104 P. Galante, Le Général (Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1968), p. 162. De Gaulle added that, « If he did not exist, we’d have to invent him », a statement that makes it clear how his simplistic caricature of Johnson was important to de Gaulle’s own policies.

Auteur

Est professeur d’histoire à Vanderbilt University. Il est l’auteur de America’e Germany : John J. McCloy and the Federal republic of Germany (Harvard University Press, 1991) et de Lyndon Johnson and Europe : In the Shadow of Vietnam (Harvard University Press, 2005). Il a publié en outre une trentaine d’articles sur l’histoire des États-Unis et des relations internationales.

© Presses universitaires de Perpignan, 2006

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search