Time for the Trump Administration to Formally Rescind NSSM 200
Revoke NSSM 200 and Apologize for the Evil Done
Last week I wrote about the admirable work that the Trump administration is doing to promote the pro-life cause at the international level. It is extremely encouraging to see administration officials forming coalitions with other pro-life nations, in order to push back against the anti-life mentality that dominates among international bureaucrats. The United States wields enormous global influence, and it is fitting that it should use that power to protect national sovereignty and the rights of the most innocent and defenseless.
For the United States to adopt a foreign policy that is explicitly committed to proactively fighting the murder of innocent unborn babies and promoting a holistic and truly pro-life approach to women’s health marks a radical shift. Indeed, far too many people remain ignorant of the fact that a great deal of U.S. foreign policy is poisoned by a commitment to exporting coercive population control, built upon contraception and legal abortion, in order to protect U.S. interests.
It’s all spelled out, quite explicitly and with chilling bureaucratic objectivity in The Kissinger Report, adopted by the Nixon administration’s National Security Council in 1974. This nefarious top secret document, also known as National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200), was classified until the late 80’s. It has the subject heading “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.” The document was the result of collaboration between the CIA, USAID, and the Departments of State, Defense, and Agriculture.
This document has never been rescinded. Quite the contrary: it’s quite clear that its argumentation has seeped deeply into U.S. foreign policy, as well as Western-led “philanthropy” in general. In my opinion, the time is far past due for the U.S. government to formally disavow this evil document, with its barely concealed racism and embrace of a condescending and destructive ideological colonialism.
NSSM 200 and Population Hysteria
NSSM 200 was written and adopted at a time when overpopulation hysteria was at its peak. Paul Ehrlich had published The Population Bomb in 1968, predicting widespread famines and starvation in the coming decades if population was not radically curtailed. The apocalyptic opening line of Ehrlich’s book – “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” – has gone down in infamy as one of the most wrong-headed predictions in history. So have many of Ehrlich’s other predictions.
As The New York Times summarized in a surprising article about how wrong Ehrlich proved to be, in his book Ehrlich “went on to forecast that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s, that 65 million of them would be Americans, that crowded India was essentially doomed, that odds were fair ‘England will not exist in the year 2000.’ Dr. Ehrlich was so sure of himself that he warned in 1970 that ‘sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come.’ By ‘the end,’ he meant ‘an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.’”
It should be astonishing that after being so dreadfully wrong on every one of his predictions, Ehrlich still managed (and currently manages) to maintain a reputation as an “expert” whose prognostications are routinely sought by the media (not to mention, rather discouragingly, the Vatican). But that is another matter for another day. The point is that Ehrlich’s apocalyptic predictions were in the air in the late 60s and early 70s. His book sold millions of copies, and many people (including those in positions of authority) were entirely convinced that he had spoken the truth. Drastic measures were deemed necessary to avert catastrophe.
NSSM 200 is suffused with the thinking of The Population Bomb. It opens by echoing dramatic predictions about the rate of population growth, concluding, “Growing populations will have a serious impact on the need for food especially in the poorest, fastest growing LDCs. [Less Developed Countries].” It adds, “The most serious consequence for the short and middle term is the possibility of massive famines in certain parts of the world, especially the poorest regions.”
However, at various points, the document is clearly far less concerned with the supposed dire effects in these so-called overpopulated countries. Instead, the authors are clearly more anxious about the impact that the population crisis, and the social unrest they predict will ensue, on the U.S.’s access to natural resources needed to ensure that country’s continued prosperity and security. The document is blunt in its language:
The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States….
In other words, the fact that people in poor countries are having more babies than the U.S. government thinks wise is a threat to the U.S….and something ought to be done about it.
NSSM 200’s Sinister Solution: Coercive Population Control
The National Security Council’s proposed solution is stark in its simplicity. “[I]f future numbers are to be kept within reasonable bounds, it is urgent that measures to reduce fertility be started and made effective in the 1970’s and 1980’s,” states the document.
The question, of course, is how to go about doing this. As far as the authors are concerned, the U.S. can and should invest enormous resources in the effort. In the first place, within U.S. foreign assistance programs, “preferential treatment” should be given “to cost-effective programs to reduce population growth; including both family planning activities and supportive activities in other sectors.” That is to say, rather than providing the necessities of life to needy countries, the U.S. should focus on exporting birth control and, of course, abortion.
When it comes to the most controversial methods to reduce population growth, including coercion and abortion, the authors resort to mealy-mouthed double-speak. But despite their efforts, it’s quite clear where they stand: if they can get away with coercion, they will, and the more abortion, the better.
On the one hand, the authors claim that the various agencies involved in drafting the document have“no specific recommendations to propose on abortion.” But they immediately add, there are “certain facts about abortion that need to be appreciated.” The first of these facts is that “no country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion.” Given that the whole document is about the imperative urgency to reduce population growth in developing nations, this statement hardly leaves any doubt about what the U.S. government would like to see in developing countries when it comes to greater access to contraception and abortion.
On the issue of coercion is where NSSM 200 really plays its cards. The document gives lip service to avoiding coercive measures (what the document euphemistically refers to as “leverage”), worrying that any appearance of forcing countries to reduce their birth rate could lead to local push back. “There is,” warn the authors, “the danger that some LDC leaders will see developed country pressures for family planning as a form of economic or racial imperialism; this could well create a serious backlash.”
Indeed. LDC leaders might see it that way. And it could lead to serious backlash. And quite rightly so.
But, this apparent glimmer of wisdom turns out to be fool’s gold: for, in the very next paragraph the authors immediately propose ways that developed nations might pressure third world governments to adopt their population control measures anyway. As they write:
There is also some established precedent for taking account of family planning performance in appraisal of assistance requirements by AID and consultative groups. Since population growth is a major determinant of increases in food demand, allocation of scarce PL 480 [Food for Peace] resources should take account of what steps a country is taking in population control as well as food production. In these sensitive relationships, however, it is important in style as well as substance to avoid the appearance of coercion.
In other words: We’ll give you food, but only if you prove that you’ve taken steps to reduce the number of people in your country who need to eat the food we’re giving you. But this isn’t really coercion, the authors seem to think, even if it might have the “appearance” of it.
This is all wordplay of course. This is coercion of the most cynical sort: weaponizing developing nation’s poverty and reliance on foreign aid for the bare essentials of life in order to foist a particularly sinister ideological agenda with a hidden motive. Naturally, the provision of birth control and promotion of abortion will be couched in humanitarian concerns, as providing for the needs of the people in these countries. But in reality, the underlying motive is the United States’ concern for its own national security, and access to scarce resources.
Time to Abrogate NSSM 200
Unfortunately, The Kissinger Report and its mentality took deep hold in U.S. government departments and programs. Citizens in third-world countries who are literally starving and thirsting often live with the paradoxical reality of having access to a superabundance of condoms and other contraceptives (as well as legal and illegal abortion), for which they did not ask, while lacking the food, water, medical care, and other basic necessities for which they are pleading.
In some cases, the policies advocated in NSSM 200 have led the United States to become complicit in horrific atrocities. For instance, for many years the U.S. funded the activities of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in China. Exposés of UNFPA’s activities there have shown that UN officials were involved in enforcing China’s brutal one-child policy, which includes the use of forced abortion. Thankfully the Trump administration ceased funding to the UNFPA in 2017.
However, as I mentioned, NSSM 200 has never been abrogated. As such, it still amounts to the U.S. government’s formal position on population questions. Nowadays, many governments are beginning to wake up to the fact that it is not overpopulation, but population implosion that poses a grave risk to national security and social stability. But regardless of the practical considerations, moral principles clearly show that for one country to pressure, and even demand, that another country reduce its population using immoral means is a grave injustice. It is to our eternal shame that United States foreign policy included such evil principles, based upon such disrespect for the sovereignty and cultural integrity of developing nations. I express my gratitude to the Trump administration for beginning to change the tenor in our foreign policy, and urge them to formally revoke NSSM 200, and to apologize for the evil that our country perpetrated under its influence.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing email@example.com.