1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967|
Released by the Office of the Historian
The Wise Men's Meeting of November 1 and Planning To Stay the Course, November-December 374. Editorial Note On November 1, 1967, Under Secretary of State Katzenbach submitted to Secretary of State Rusk a report entitled "Prognosis for Vietnam." The purpose of the study, compiled on an interagency basis, was to make projections of progress in the war 1 year hence if current policies and programs were continued. The report consisted of a section on politics authored by State Department analysts, an economic projection by the Agency for International Development and William Leonhart of the National Security Council Staff, an analysis by the Central Intelligence Agency on the anti-Viet Cong infrastructure effort, and a final section by Leonhart examining pacification. In the covering memorandum, Katzenbach distilled the conclusions of the study: "In briefest summation, there is a consensus that one year from now we will be stronger than we are now, making continued progress against the VC, and slowly building up the GVN--but that there will not have been a decisive and undeniable breakthrough, that the enemy will still be very much with us, that it will remain difficult to produce dramatic and convincing evidence of a victory in the near future." The full text of the study is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., Nov./Dec. 1967. 375. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson/1/
The Wise Men's Meeting of November 1 and Planning To Stay the Course, November-December
374. Editorial Note
On November 1, 1967, Under Secretary of State Katzenbach submitted to Secretary of State Rusk a report entitled "Prognosis for Vietnam." The purpose of the study, compiled on an interagency basis, was to make projections of progress in the war 1 year hence if current policies and programs were continued. The report consisted of a section on politics authored by State Department analysts, an economic projection by the Agency for International Development and William Leonhart of the National Security Council Staff, an analysis by the Central Intelligence Agency on the anti-Viet Cong infrastructure effort, and a final section by Leonhart examining pacification. In the covering memorandum, Katzenbach distilled the conclusions of the study:
"In briefest summation, there is a consensus that one year from now we will be stronger than we are now, making continued progress against the VC, and slowly building up the GVN--but that there will not have been a decisive and undeniable breakthrough, that the enemy will still be very much with us, that it will remain difficult to produce dramatic and convincing evidence of a victory in the near future."
The full text of the study is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron., Nov./Dec. 1967.
375. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 1, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 2EE Primarily McNamara Recommendations. Top Secret; Sensitive. The memorandum was marked as a draft as a means of eliciting opinion on its content; see footnote 1, Document 177. In the attached covering note, McNamara wrote: "Yesterday at lunch I stated my belief that continuation of our present action in Southeast Asia would be dangerous, costly in lives, and unsatisfactory to the American people. The attached memorandum outlines an alternative program. The memo represents my personal views. Because these may be incompatible with your own, I have not shown the paper to Dean Rusk, Walt Rostow or Bus Wheeler. After you have read it, if you wish me to discuss my proposals with them and report back to you our joint recommendations, I will do so." In his memoirs, McNamara asserted that this memorandum served to "do one thing: it raised the tension between two men who loved and respected each other--Lyndon Johnson and me--to the breaking point." On November 29 the President announced that McNamara would step down as Secretary of Defense at a later unspecified date and would be nominated for the post of President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (also known as the World Bank). See McNamara's In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, pp. 311-314.
This memorandum explores the likely consequences if we go ahead with our presently planned course of action in Vietnam and considers whether more promising alternatives exist. The purpose is to begin to focus for your decision the actions we should take over the next 15 months in order to achieve the maximum progress towards our objectives in the South while retaining the maximum domestic and international support for our efforts.
In Section I, "Outlook If Present Course of Action is Continued," I state my opinion that continuing on our present course will not bring us by the end of 1968 enough closer to success, in the eyes of the American public, to prevent the continued erosion of popular support for our involvement in Vietnam.
In Section II, "Possible Alternative Courses of Action," I examine both a halt in the bombing and an expansion of our military operations as alternative means of achieving our political objectives in Vietnam.
In Section III, "Recommendations," I state my belief that we should announce a policy of stabilization of our military effort indicating that we plan no further increase in our forces in South Vietnam, and no expansion of our operations against North Vietnam. This posture would help to convince Hanoi that we are prepared to stay in Vietnam as long as necessary, and that we are resigned to a long struggle. It would also increase support for the war at home by removing anxiety about possible increases in our activity. To further increase support for the war effort and to probe the possibilities of a negotiated settlement, I recommend we plan on a halt in the bombing of the North. And finally, I suggest we examine our military operations in the South with a view to taking steps which will reduce our casualties and increase the role of the Vietnamese.
I. Outlook If Present Course of Action is Continued
1. Expansion of Forces
Under present plans, we will continue during the next 15 months gradually to expand the US and free world forces in South Vietnam. The number of American troops will, during this period, increase from the present level of 465,000 to 525,000 while the aggregate increase in other free world forces from outside South Vietnam will bring their total in the area from 59,000 to 75,000.
The additional numbers of combat troops will not produce any significant change in the nature of our military operations. The increase in numbers is likely to lead to a proportionate increase in encounters with the enemy, and some increase in the number of casualties inflicted on both sides. But neither the additional troops now scheduled nor augmentation of our forces by a much greater amount holds great promise of bringing the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces visibly closer to collapse during the next 15 months. Nonetheless, we will be faced with requests for additional ground forces requiring an increased draft and/or a call-up of reserves.
2. US Ground Operations in South
The military effort in the South would continue along the general lines now being pursued. US forces would be used along the DMZ and opposite the North Vietnamese staging areas in Cambodia and Laos. These forces would also be used in "search and destroy" operations against large enemy units and main base areas of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.
The South Vietnamese armed forces would continue to be used primarily for "secure and hold" operations and in support of pacification. There are no present plans to turn a larger share of the campaign against main enemy forces over to the South Vietnamese.
Accordingly, the present US casualty rate will probably increase if the present program is pursued. This would mean between 700 and 1,000 US killed in action every month, for a total during the fifteen months of 10,900 to 15,000 additional American dead and 30,000 to 45,000 additional wounded requiring hospitalization. This would bring our total killed in action in the Vietnam campaign to somewhere between 24 and 30,000, close to the Korean total of 33,000, and 75,000 to 90,000 wounded requiring hospitalization.
Continuation of the North Vietnamese attack across the DMZ and use of Laotian and Cambodian territory will produce repeated requests for ground operations against the "sanctuary" areas.
3. Bombing Operations in the North
During the next 15 months, we would expect to run about 115,000 attack sorties against North Vietnamese targets, including approximately 12,000 attack sorties in the restricted areas of Hanoi and Haiphong.
Although no change in the nature of the bombing campaign against North Vietnam is contemplated, the continuing destruction of previously authorized targets will lead inexorably to requests for authority to attack more and more sensitive targets in the centers of Hanoi and Haiphong. There will, as the bombing attack proceeds, be increasing pressures to take direct action to prevent movement of matériel by sea into North Vietnam and to attack the irrigation dikes.
Pacification efforts similarly would continue along the lines now being pursued. Better utilization of the South Vietnamese regular forces, regional forces and popular forces in the provision of security for the Revolutionary Development Teams would be attempted. Principal reliance for this improved performance would be placed on an increase in the number of US Advisors and some integration of US and Vietnamese forces. The chances of dramatic impact by any measurement of security are slim. The Pacification Program is moving forward but progress is slow and likely to remain slow.
5. Political Evolution
Although the development of the form of representative government has certainly been encouraging, it is not at all clear that the image or performance of this government over the next 15 months will make it appear to the US public to be a government worthy of continued US support in blood and treasure. A new government operating without parties or party discipline amid numerous competing cliques, is bound to have difficult going. It will be faced with hard political and economic decisions in meeting strong inflationary pressures in a disrupted country.
6. Probable Results of Present Course of Action
In South Vietnam, I believe that following the present course of action will bring continued but slow progress. However, I do not anticipate that this progress will be readily visible to the general public either in the United States or abroad.
In North Vietnam, the bombing attacks have been unable to interrupt the flow of supplies and men needed to maintain the present level of enemy military action in the South. Whatever is done in the way of approving additional targets, improving our tactics or munitions, or reorienting the focus of our sorties, unless the "obstacle system" is spectacularly successful, there is little prospect that we will be able to cut off the men and ammunition needed to continue to inflict the present casualty rate on our forces.
Nor is there any reason to believe that the steady progress we are likely to make, the continued infliction of grievous casualties, or the heavy punishment of air bombardment will suffice to break the will of the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong to continue to fight. Nothing can be expected to break this will other than the conviction that they cannot succeed. This conviction will not be created unless and until they come to the conclusion that the US is prepared to remain in Vietnam for whatever period of time is necessary to assure the independent choice of the South Vietnamese people. The enemy cannot be expected to arrive at that conclusion in advance of the American public. And the American public, frustrated by the slow rate of progress, fearing continued escalation, and doubting that all approaches to peace have been sincerely probed, does not give the appearance of having the will to persist. As the months go by, there will be both increasing pressure for widening the war and continued loss of support for American participation in the struggle. There will be increasing calls for American withdrawal.
There is, in my opinion, a very real question whether under these circumstances it will be possible to maintain our efforts in South Vietnam for the time necessary to accomplish our objectives there.
II. Possible Alternative Courses of Action
In appraising alternatives, it is significant to review the list of military actions presented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 17 in response to your request of September 12 for their recommendations of additional actions to bring the conflict to a speedy conclusion./2/ The striking fact is that none of them relate to our conduct of military operations in the South. Six would involve increased operations against North Vietnam--mining the ports and waterways, making greater use of our naval forces to attack North Vietnamese shipping and aircraft and expanding bombing and covert programs. The other four involve extension of our activities in Laos and Cambodia. I do not think adoption of any or all of these proposals would bring us significantly closer to victory in the next 15 months.
/2/See footnote 12, Document 357.
There are obviously other possibilities for expansion of our military operations, both against North Vietnam and in South Vietnam. We might extend our efforts to eliminate aggression from the North by expanding the geographic scope of the ground conflict. We might intensify the bombing attack to try to break the will of the North to continue. But no further expansion seems likely to achieve sufficient visible progress in the next 15 months to assure the required public support. (See the Appendix for a discussion of ground action in North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and air action against the ports and dikes.)/3/ And most programs of expanded military action carry major risks of widening the war.
The alternative possibilities lie in the stabilization of our military operations in the South (possibly with fewer US casualties) and of our air operations in the North, along with a demonstration that our air attacks on the North are not blocking negotiations leading to a peaceful settlement. The remainder of this memorandum deals with the use of a bombing halt for this purpose and the decisions that are associated with the stabilization of our military program.
(a) Complete Cessation of Bombing in the North
A decision to stop the bombing is a logical alternative to our present course in Vietnam. The bombing halt would have dual objectives. We would hope for a response from Hanoi, by some parallel reduction in its offensive activity, by a movement toward talks, or both. At a minimum, the lack of any response from Hanoi would demonstrate that it is North Vietnam and not the United States that is blocking a peaceful settlement.
If a halt is to be called in the bombing, we should be prepared to continue it indefinitely. During this time, however, we would plan to continue to bomb the infiltration trails in Laos.
After the bombing stops, we could expect Hanoi to repair roads and bridges, improve its anti-aircraft defenses and take other steps to be able to move supplies and men at reduced cost if the bombing resumes. During this period, Hanoi would of course be able to move supplies more openly and more economically toward the South. However, these actions would not necessarily increase the amount of support now provided to the enemy forces operating in the South, since our present air campaign does not limit this support to its present level.
Moreover, if artillery fire or other overt pressure from across the DMZ were to continue, we could establish a policy of returning fire, including air bombardment of their artillery positions. Hanoi, however, might well respond to our halt in the bombardment of the North by the cessation of artillery fire and large scale infiltration from across the DMZ. If this is its only product, the bombing halt would have achieved a major benefit in reduced US casualties.
If there were to be a substantial expansion of North Vietnam's operations in the South, either in general or only immediately south of the DMZ, we could resume our air attacks at such level as we saw fit.
We would have to anticipate strong resistance to any resumption. Many here and abroad will always argue that if we wait just a little longer negotiations leading to peaceful settlement will ensue. Politically, resumption will be extremely difficult if Hanoi has responded to the halt by substantial reduction of its offensive, whether or not accompanied by any movement toward talks. But if the halt has bought us an appreciable easing of North Vietnam's military pressure, resumption would be unnecessary and imprudent. In short, the difficulty of resuming will vary inversely with the amount of overt military action continued by North Vietnam. Restraint on its part will create the greatest pressure to continue the bombing halt but the least disadvantage in doing so.
If we halt the bombing without advance sign of reciprocal action and without setting a time limit, the North Vietnamese initially may conclude that the US resolve is weakening. They will be encouraged to believe that the course they have been following is correct. They will also recognize the risk that failure to respond to a bombing halt, either by reduction of the level of operations in the South or by entering into talks, might lead the US to resume bombing at intensified levels. The North Vietnamese leaders will expect considerable pressure to agree to talks, both from free world countries and from the Soviet Union, which will be aware that resumption and intensification of the bombing would face it with a difficult choice.
Suspension of the bombing, particularly for a prolonged period, must be expected to have some adverse effect on the morale both of non-Communist Vietnamese and of US troops fighting in the South.
In sum, a halt would have the following consequences:
1. It is probable/4/ that Hanoi would move to "talks," perhaps within a few weeks after the bombing stopped.
/4/The President circled this word and wrote: "How do we get this conclusion?"
2. There is a strong possibility/5/ that, whether or not talks ensued, a halt would be accompanied by a cessation of enemy military activities across the DMZ.
/5/The President circled this phrase and wrote: "Chapter and Verse--Why believe this."
3. Hanoi, at least initially, would be likely to use the talks for propaganda purposes rather than as a forum for serious negotiation./6/
/6/The President wrote at the end of the sentence: "I agree."
4. As the talks continue, however, the internal dynamics of the situation would create pressures and opportunities for both parties that might well result in productive discussions moving toward a settlement short of the total elimination of North Vietnam's intervention in the South but consistent with our objective of permitting the South Vietnamese to shape their own future.
5. If large scale shelling and infiltration across the DMZ does not stop, or if Hanoi prolongs fruitless discussions while taking military advantage, resumption of the bombing could be made acceptable to the majority of the American people.
6. At a minimum, we would have made clear that our bombing is not preventing peaceful political settlement.
(b) Stabilization of Our Military Effort
With or without a bombing halt, we could state clearly for both internal and public guidance our decision to stabilize our level of military effort in the absence of any major change in the enemy threat. The following elements would be involved in a decision to stabilize military operations:
1. No increase is to be made in US forces above the current approved level.
2. There will be no call up of reserves.
3. No expansion of ground action will be undertaken in North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia./7/
/7/In the Appendix McNamara considered the expansion of the war in Southeast Asia. In arguing against such an expansion of operations, he noted that an invasion of the North, even just to clear out rocket sites near the DMZ, could bring about an intervention by combat troops from the PRC. Even if this intervention did not occur, the problem remained that in the secured areas any reduction in infiltration would be nullified as soon as U.S. troops withdrew. Likewise, neither would a ground action against NVA infiltration routes and staging areas in Laos and Cambodia prove beneficial. Inaddition, an intensification of the bombing attack against the territory of North Vietnam might hamper but would not prevent continued infiltration southward, would have little impact on the DRV's prosecution of the war as a whole, would risk confrontation with the Soviet Union, and would lead to intense domestic and international criticism.
4. No attempt will be made to deny sea imports into North Vietnam.
5. No effort will be made to break the will of the North by an air campaign on the dikes, locks, or populated targets--efforts will be made to hold down civilian casualties in the North.
6. We will engage in continued efforts to restrict the war.
7. We will endeavor to maintain our current rates of progress but with lesser US casualties and lesser destruction in South Vietnam.
8. We will be willing to accept slow but steady progress for whatever period is required to move the North Vietnamese to abandon their attempt to gain political control in South Vietnam by military means.
9. In light of the political progress of the GVN, we will gradually transfer the major burden of the fighting to the South Vietnamese forces.
In announcing this stabilization policy, we would have two objectives. First, we would hope to attract greater support by allaying apprehensions that the conflict would be expanded by our actions beyond Vietnam. Second, we would hope to increase pressure on Hanoi to enter into negotiations and/or to reduce their military efforts in the South.
I recommend that we:
1. Decide on, and announce, the policy of stabilization outlined above, that we assert that we are making slow but steady progress and expect to move ahead without expanding our operations against the North, and without increasing the size of our forces in the South beyond those already planned.
2. Plan a halt in the bombing for some time before the end of the year. This halt seems advisable, if not mandatory, entirely apart from its actual effect in bringing about negotiations and a settlement of the Vietnamese conflict. The argument of many who oppose the American effort in Vietnam comes down to the proposition that American air attacks on North Vietnam are what keep the war going and prevent political settlement. A cessation would thus clear the atmosphere and should minimize further loss of domestic and international support for our efforts. Moreover, I believe there is a strong possibility that a bombing halt would lead to suspension of overt enemy operations across the DMZ. And a bombing halt is likely to lead to talks with Hanoi. It is possible that such talks would lead to productive negotiations on at least some issues. No other course affords any hope of these results in the next 15 months.
3. Review intensively the conduct of military operations in the South and consider programs which involve (a) reduced US casualties, (b) procedures for the progressive turn-over to the GVN of greater responsibility for security in the South, and (c) lesser destruction of the people and wealth of South Vietnam.
Robert S. McNamara
376. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 2, 1967, 8:15 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, November 1, 1967-Meeting with Foreign Policy Advisors. Secret.
This memorandum incorporates a brief summary of the discussion last night/2/ plus some suggestions for how the meeting this morning might be handled.
/2/The President did not attend this November 1 meeting. This reconvened version of the Wise Men group consisted of the most senior foreign policy officials of the current and past administrations. The group, which had last met in 1965, at that time included Acheson, Lodge, Vance, Taylor, Fortas, Clifford, McGeorge Bundy, John McCloy, Arthur Dean, Douglas Dillon, Omar Bradley, Matthew Ridgway, Robert Murphy, and George Ball. In a memorandum to the President, October 20, Rostow discussed recommendations agreed upon by himself and Clifford for inclusion in the group and the briefings it would receive prior to exploring the possibility of a pause. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 6 E, Bombing Pause Decision by U.S.)
I. Report on the meeting.
1. The meeting began with two briefings: one by Gen. Wheeler and the other by George Carver. I would urge you to check with Clark Clifford and others, but I found the briefings impressive, especially Carver who hit just the right balance between the progress we have made and the problems we still confront. He handled the population control data in a lucid but credible way. There was hardly a word spoken that could not be given directly to the press. You may wish to consider a full leadership meeting of this kind, introduced by yourself, after which you could put the whole thing on television, perhaps when Bunker is here.
2. They both concluded that there was very great progress since 1965. We can't count on sufficient progress in the next 15 months to collapse the enemy; but Carver made two good points with respect to the future:
--In part, the future is in our hands and the South Vietnamese's. In particular, the appointment of good officials and effective attack on corruption and a sharp improvement of the ARVN in pacification operations could produce dramatic change.
--From the point of view of Hanoi, they would make a strategic decision to end the war when they had decided the U.S. would not behave like the French did in 1954 and when a viable state structure seemed on the way to emerging in Saigon.
3. Sec. Rusk then, over drinks, reviewed the attitude of Hanoi towards negotiations, emphasizing that their eyes were increasingly fastened on American politics.
4. The general discussion then came to focus around two issues:
--The problem of sustained support for our policy within the U.S.; and the bombing question.
Arthur Dean and General Bradley spent a good deal of their time on the domestic situation and how to present the story of the war in ways which would encourage our people to unify and stay the course. Dean cited the kinds of questions he got in talking to college audiences. Dean Acheson put forward the view that the bulk of the university student opposition stemmed from an understandable desire not to have to go to fight in Vietnam. He was challenged by Mac Bundy and others that this was part but not all the story.
5. On bombing the line up was about as follows:
--All agreed with McNamara, who read from a CIA document, that bombing did not prevent the present level of infiltration of men and arms./3/
/3/See footnote 1, Document 351.
--George Ball and Dean Acheson urged that we use bombing as a negotiating chip against pressure across the DMZ. Acheson said that we should stop bombing when they did not press across the DMZ and resume bombing when they did until they got the point. Sec. Rusk pointed out we had tried to establish that connection but had failed; but they rather ignored what he was saying. Bob Murphy and General Bradley, in particular, said that out of their experience over the years they were sure that the bombing was having some effect on operations in the South, although it could not be precisely measured. In this discussion it emerged that while Helms agreed with Sec. McNamara that the present level of bombing would not have a demonstrable effect on flows to the South, he disagreed with the judgment that a stoppage of bombing would not result in increased flows to the South. It might.
6. Arthur Dean made strongly the point, out of his experience, that an excessive eagerness to negotiate or a broad humanitarian gesture to the Communists is interpreted as a sign of weakness by Communists.
7. At the close Sec. Rusk urged them all to put their minds to this question: In the face of the situation, as it was outlined to them, what would they do if they were President?
8. Douglas Dillon's questions mainly centered on possibilities for escalation against the North; that is, mining the harbors, hitting the dikes, etc.
9. Incidentally, I detected in this group no sentiment for our pulling out of Vietnam.
II. This is one possible way to handle the meeting this morning at 10:30 a.m./4/
/4/Rostow's notation on the memorandum indicates that the agenda was "checked by phone with Clark Clifford."
1. Thank them for giving their time; and suggesting the importance of maintaining the existence and substance of the meeting in confidence. You would like to call on them again. But they constitute so weighty a group that public knowledge of their meetings might be misinterpreted and lead to speculation of crises.
2. A President faced with the present situation constantly must ask himself two questions:
--Is our course in Vietnam right? If it is right, how can we increase public understanding and support for that policy? As they are aware, Hanoi's view of U.S. public understanding and support is a major front in the war--perhaps now the most important front.
3. The first question is: Is there anything that we are not doing in the South that we ought to do?
(You might go around the table on this issue.)
The second question: With respect to the North, should we: continue what we are doing? Mine the ports and plan to take down the dikes when the water is high? Unilaterally reduce or eliminate bombing of North Vietnam?
(Again around the table.)
The third question: Negotiations. Should we adopt a passive policy of willingness to negotiate but wait for their initiatives?
If we should try additional initiatives, what should they be?
Despite their refusal of the San Antonio formula, should we unilaterally cease bombing and just see what happens?
The fourth question: Taking into account all that they know, do they believe that we should in one way or another get out of Vietnam?
The fifth question: What measures would they suggest to rally and unite our own people behind the effort in Vietnam?
I suggest that Tom Johnson be present and keep a tally sheet on each man with respect to each question.
377. Memorandum From the President's Assistant (Jones) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 2, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, November 2, 1967-Meeting with Foreign Policy Advisors. Top Secret. In another memorandum to the President, undated, Jones summarized the consensus opinions of those at the meeting on the five questions the President asked relating to policy in South Vietnam, the bombing of the North, negotiations, withdrawal, and public relations. (Ibid.)
Meeting convened--10:42 a.m.
Meeting adjourned following luncheon at 2:15 p.m.
Attending were: Clark Clifford, George Ball, McGeorge Bundy, Maxwell Taylor, General Omar Bradley, Robert Murphy, Henry Cabot Lodge, Secretary Dean Rusk, Secretary Nick Katzenbach, Governor Averell Harriman, Assistant Secretary William Bundy, Secretary Robert McNamara, CIA Director Richard Helms, Dean Acheson, Justice Abe Fortas, Arthur Dean, Douglas Dillon, Walt Rostow, George Christian and Jim Jones.
The President greeted the group around the Cabinet table and pointed out that he did not know the details of what had been accomplished in their discussions to this point. He said he did want to raise some questions that concerned him. "I have a peculiar confidence in you as patriots and that is why I have picked you," the President said. He said he wanted to know if our course in Vietnam was right. If not, how should it be modified? He said he is deeply concerned about the deterioration of public support and the lack of editorial support for our policies. He pointed out that if a bomb accidentally kills two civilians in North Vietnam, it makes banner headlines. However, they can log mortar shells into the Palace grounds in Saigon and there are no editorial complaints against it.
The President said he watched General Norstad on television Thursday morning. He found it interesting. "I agreed with almost all he said up to the point of bombing." The President said that Norstad did not say yes or no on the bombing issue. He (Norstad) did point out that the Administration has not unified the nation because we have never told the country that we are really willing to negotiate. The President said Norstad commented that he did not believe the credibility argument, but merely ended up saying the government has failed to communicate with the nation about our willingness to negotiate.
The President said he thought that "when we sent men to nearly every capital that this would dramatize our willingness, but apparently the people have forgotten this./2/ So the question is how do we unite the country?"
/2/Reference is to the 37-day pause and concurrent peace initiative of December 1965-January 1966; see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. III, Documents 242 and 254.
The President said: "I would like to consider the following five questions and get your advice: 1.) What could we do that we are not doing in South Vietnam? 2.) Concerning the North, should we continue what we are doing, or should we mine the ports and take out the dikes, or should we eliminate the bombing of the North? 3.) On negotiations--should we adopt a passive policy of willingness to negotiate, or should we be more aggressive, or should we bow out? 4.) Should we get out of Vietnam? (At this point the President noted a poll from a Congressional district in Iowa which had 11,000 responses. The poll showed that 34% favored our pulling out; 20% approved the present policies and 40% thought we should do more. The President also said some other polls have been taken in some of the larger states. These show that about 30% favor either a pull in or pull out of Vietnam. Those who want to do more comprise about 35-40% and those who approve of what we are doing now are about 30%. "So it's about 70-30," the President said, "but that 30 has grown from 15%.") 5.) What positive steps should the Administration take to unite the people and to communicate with the nation better?"
The President then called on Secretary Rusk.
Secretary Rusk reported that the group started their meetings yesterday with briefings by George Carver of the CIA and General Wheeler. Rusk then read from a letter marked personal and confidential from U. S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker which reflected on his first six months in Saigon./3/ In general, the letter noted that there has been improvement in the past six months. The military has established a base which has allowed us to go on the offensive. The training of the Vietnamese units has improved considerably. The civil side of the war is proceeding well with the constitutional process and the pacification success equalling in importance the military improvements. The village and the hamlet programs are going well and the Chieu Hoi program is expanding. Bunker's letter points out that last year the revolutionary development program really got underway. The newly elected government, especially Thieu and Ky, know that they must show progress in order to gain support of the people. Steady progress is being made. Much still needs to be done, however, such as a vigorous processing of the war, elimination of corruption, improvement of the standard of living, especially in the rural areas. Bunker wrote that in the past we have been overly optimistic and have become prisoners of this optimism. However, he is enthusiastic about the progress being made.
/3/Not further identified.
Rusk then reported that the group talked about the bombing program, although no consensus was reached, nor was a consensus requested. Rusk said the views ranged widely. Rusk said it was a good evening. Rusk declined to speak for the group because there was no consensus.
The President said "I have met with the Leadership of the Republican Party in Congress and all the Democratic Members of Congress. I have met with the Democratic Senators twice. I point this out to say that we have received no alternatives from Congress on the course we are taking. One of the things that divides us is that a great number of the hawks want us to do more, but the other side is more vociferous." The President then called on Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson.
Acheson addressed himself to each of the five questions posed by the President. "In the South, I was very impressed by George Carver's restatement of what we are doing there. This is the heart of the matter. I agree that this should be pressed just as fast as possible, and as fast as South Vietnam will permit. I am encouraged by the ground fighting in the South and that we are taking the initiative. I got the impression this is a matter we can and will win. So on the first question, I think this is going well," Acheson said.
On the second question concerning the North, Acheson said his view is different from some of the others. He agrees with the view of the Secretary of Defense and would not stop the bombing. Acheson regards this however, as purely a marginal operation as far as the fighting in the South is concerned. He said the bombing in the North is not the essential point.
On negotiations, Acheson said "we must understand that we are not going to have negotiations. The bombing has no effect on negotiations. When these fellows decide they can't defeat the South, then they will give up. This is the way it was in Korea. This is the way the Communists operate," Acheson said.
"The importance of the bombing in the North is not that it is important militarily," Acheson said. "It could be used as a signal, however, not that it is a solution to the stopping of the fighting across the demilitarized zone."
Acheson said it is possible that they will not reduce the fighting until the 1968 election is resolved. "Until that is resolved they may say let's see it out," Acheson added. "I would not talk about negotiations any more. You have made it clear where you stand. This isn't the Communist method. If they can't win they just quit after a while." Acheson suggested that we put the bombing in a position where it could be stopped and/or started. In other words play it down. The targets must become less dramatic.
The President replied that we don't play it either up or down. However, it is front page news. The President pointed out that the dramatic impact of the bombing traces to Secretary McNamara's testimony before Senator Stuart Symington's Committee. That generated both the hawks and the doves talking about bombing.
The President said "I am like the steering wheel of a car without any control. The Senate won't let us play down the bombing issue."
Acheson replied "The cross you have to bear is a lousy Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You have a dilettante fool at the head of the Committee."
About reaching the people, Acheson said, "if you agree to the policy I have outlined, then get everyone in the government to agree on it and talk along these policy lines."
Acheson added "we certainly should not get out of Vietnam." He noted that General Bradley remembers after General MacArthur took his licking at the Yalu in the Korean War there was a great outcry to get out./4/ On December 4, however, Acheson had Dean Rusk and George Kennan into his office and told them to see Secretary George Marshall. "We want less Goddamn analysis and more fighting spirit." Acheson said that the President had a good commander who takes orders in General Westmoreland. Acheson said that he spoke to about 21 Supreme Court law clerks and they were all amazed that I thought we should not get out of Vietnam. Acheson suggested a program be adopted similar to the Citizens Committee on the Marshall Plan/5/ and he said perhaps the Paul Douglas group would be the proper vehicle. He noted that the Citizens Committee on the Marshall Plan organized a group in every city over 150,000 population; got the money mostly from private groups and got up several readable pamphlets that were used as speech material. Acheson said that the President, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense have taken the whole burden of the Vietnam issue. The people know what these three stand for. What is needed now is several thousand new speakers to support our policy in every city in the nation. Acheson pointed out the main thing is that the President should not worry about this. He said he was pleased to read in Scotty Reston's column that the President gave up whiskey and took up golf.
/4/General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers and Commander of the United Nations forces in Korea, was attacked on November 26, 1950, by 200,000 Chinese "volunteers" who crossed the Yalu River, the border between Korea and China.
/5/The U.S. Government's post-World War II economic recovery program for Western Europe.
The President interjected that "he was wrong on both counts. When Mac Bundy walked out of Washington, so did Scotty Reston and he doesn't know what is going on."
In summary on the bombing, Acheson believes we should play down its importance. When the communists ease the pressure off the DMZ, we can reduce the bombing in the North. However, we should not give advance notice of these bombing pauses.
McGeorge Bundy said he agreed with nearly everything that Acheson said. He said the bombing in the North is out of proportion to its importance. Bundy said to go after the dikes or Haiphong would not be a net gain and would unnecessarily worry the moderate to dovish population.
Bundy said that the South is the focus. He thinks that it is right that the President continues to have the Medal of Honor winners presented in the Rose Garden. He thinks a great deal has been done in the provinces and these people should be honored and publicized. Bundy said "we have done a remarkable job in the last two years in getting the work in the provinces organized. We have a wonderful first team in there. Vietnam will have to do more. Anything that shows that Vietnam is doing more will be helpful over here."
Bundy said he shares Acheson's opinion that there will not be negotiations. "I suppose we cannot say that publicly because the judges of public opinion in the nation won't believe it. But I think it is logical to say that we in the Administration do not expect negotiations in the next year," Bundy said.
Bundy said, "getting out of Vietnam is as impossible and [as?] it is undesirable." He pointed out that there is an enormous difference in Asia as it is now and what it might have been because of what the President did in 1965. He said this point should be emphasized.
As to how to pull the nation together--Bundy said the communication people who are centered in New York cannot be won over, but they should not be allowed to set the tone of the debate. "Your (the President) sense of where you are going is very important here."
"One must also ask," Bundy added, "that what is eroding public support are the battles and deaths and dangers to the sons of mothers and fathers with no picture of a result in sight. If we can permeate to the public that we are seeing the results and the end of the road, this will be helpful.
Former Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon said he "agrees with a great deal of what has been said. There is nothing additional in the South that we can do that is not being done now." He pointed out however that the South Vietnamese must be expected to do more.
"In the North, it is just about right and we should continue as we are doing. I would not think of going further and bombing the dikes and harbors. This is different than the way I thought two years ago," Dillon said.
On negotiations Dillon agreed entirely with Acheson. The trade suggested by Acheson is excellent.
Dillon said we must not get out of Vietnam.
On how to better communicate--Dillon said "our major emphasis should be shifted to the position that we are in rather than why or how we got there. We should clarify what we are doing. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what we are doing. The subject that McGeorge Bundy discussed is most important. That is the feeling on both sides, including both the doves and hawks, that the situation over there is hopeless. We must show some progress. To talk of 15 years seems like forever. I was surprised that last night, things were better than I had expected," Dillon said.
"The revolutionary development program should be emphasized. Perhaps Bunker could come back and make a report to the nation. But we must give some hope that there is a possibility in the next two or three years of seeing light at the end of the tunnel. If the people thought that this could end at some time, we would gain a lot more support," Dillon said.
Dillon suggested one group to talk to are the top educators, and the heads of colleges and the deans. He noted that much of the trouble is coming largely from the younger professors and students. Those college presidents whom Dillon knows, sympathize with the students' dovish views. Dillon believes that a good briefing to these top educators who are responsible people would be very helpful.
Arthur Dean said the country as a whole is confused. "Very few people have read the Geneva Accords of 1954./6/ It calls for a single election in the North and the South. Then we have said that we will not let the people of South Vietnam down and not let them be incorporated into the North. This is inconsistent with our profession of belief in the Geneva Accords of '54."
/6/For this agreement ending the Franco-Viet Minh war, reached on July 21, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, vol. XIII, Part 2, pp. 1859-1861.
Dean said there is also a feeling that Ambassador Arthur Goldberg is willing to negotiate on less honorous terms than Washington. If South Vietnam is as important, then why are we willing to say that we will abide by the majority vote. This means all our sacrifice will have been in vain.
Dean said there is a strong feeling among the hawks especially that the President and Secretary McNamara are vetoing the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs. Dean suggested that someone pull together everything there is on why we are in Vietnam. If the majority of the people are satisfied based on the national interest, they would support us. Dean said the people are puzzled. They are puzzled about the value of the bombing. He said he agrees generally with Secretary Acheson. Rusk worried that if we get them to the conference table, they will do the same thing they did in the Korean War by demanding that we get out before any other points of negotiation are taken up.
Henry Cabot Lodge said he had three suggestions for the South: "1.) There should be an independent audit of how the revamping of the ARVN is going; of those training the ARVN; and how the local police technique is improving. Do the trainees understand the significance of the ARVN thing itself? 2.) Public opinion is more concerned with U.S. casualties than with our bombing program. If the casualties go down, nothing else matters so much. An exclusive military victory is not conceivable to me."
Lodge suggested a "split up and keep off balance" military policy rather than a "seek out and destroy" policy. "I would take a look at this policy because it utilizes the smaller units and means less casualties. This also diminishes the number of refugees." 3.) Lodge pointed out that when he went to Saigon in 1965 he talked about a true revolution to win over the people. "In Vietnam, this means non-government activity. However, the government must give the green light, and the U.S. must help, but it must be way in the background." Lodge recommended the use of the Tenant Farmers Union etc., to develop farm credit, rice milling, and marketing programs. He pointed out that six months ago, fertilizers were piped in through the Tenant Farmers Union, and now the Union has tripled. "But you must stimulate and agitate them. This will be visual proof of a true revolution to win over the people. This may take the French and Chinese to the wall, but it will point out a true revolution to the Vietnamese. As this program succeeds, you can cut down on U.S. involvement, and thereby cut down on U.S. casualties." Lodge said it is better to work through the unions, and organizations such as this as opposed to the local governments because you do not have competent local governments as such in Vietnam yet.
Lodge agreed with Acheson about the bombing, and about negotiations. Lodge also added it would be unthinkable about getting out of Vietnam. "In this war we are trying to divert a change in the balance of power."
Lodge said he is working with the Citizens Committee. "They are planning a series of brochures to discuss why we are in Vietnam, what we have accomplished, what needs to be done, a history of the people and the trouble there."
Lodge suggested that Bunker should be given lots of publicity when he gets back to report.
At this point, the President invited all of the group to lunch. Everyone accepted except Douglas Dillon who had a previous commitment and would have to leave.
Robert Murphy said it is best to focus on what might be done. We don't know whether there will be negotiations or not. Murphy pointed out that he works with Norstad and Norstad has had strange illusions on negotiations. Murphy suggested that the bombing be left in the hands of the Joint Chiefs as much as possible. He said it is effective. Murphy noted that there is no hate complex like there was against Hitler. He said that Ho Chi Minh is not regarded as evil in many places in the United States and in Europe he is regarded as a kindly hero. There should also be a better fixation on the small group of men who are responsible in the North. This should be a priority of the 303 Committee. The President should not personally be involved. He said he has been told that this is not possible, but an intensive study should be given to the elimination of the group of men responsible in the North.
Governor Averell Harriman said he wished Dean Acheson would say publicly what he said about the character of the Foreign Relations Committee Chairman. Harriman added that he "had tremendous respect for Senator Gale McGee and they threw him off the committee." Harriman said the difference between Senator Vandenberg/7/ and his Committee and the present committee is as great as black and white.
/7/Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-Michigan), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1947-1949.
The President pointed out that even then, Vandenberg and the Foreign Relations Committee made it miserable for the Secretary of State.
General Omar Bradley said in general he agrees with the comments that have been made. "The military services, both ours and the Vietnamese are improving, and we are making progress. It is difficult for the American people to understand why we cannot draw a line and push this line up and back. There is confusion among the people because they cannot view Vietnam in the same way they did in World War II. The enemy may be 10 or 15 feet away from you and you cannot see him. The improvement in the local forces are beginning to be played up in the last few days. Some of the units are very good. They are training them well, Bradley said.
"On the bombing, we should stick to military targets. They do affect the North Vietnamese ability to fight in the South. We must keep up the bombing." Bradley said military targets are sometimes questionable. "Whether the dikes will become military targets, I do not know."
"On negotiations there should not be so much talk. The more
we talk about negotiations, this is a sign of weakness to them. If we stop the bombing, we don't need to tell them in advance," Bradley said.
The President noted that when we had told them in advance about our bombing pauses, it has not worked in the past.
Concerning the troubles at home, Bradley said our means of communications are largely responsible. "For example, the Washington Post used three pages to describe the 35,000 or so peace marchers who converged on the Pentagon recently. However, there were 180,000 in New York and New Jersey who demonstrated in support of our men in Vietnam, and this was played on page 17 of the Post."
Bradley said "we've got to arouse patriotism somehow. We've never had a war without patriotic slogans. Perhaps the slogan in this would be "Patience," 100 years means nothing to a Chinaman, but we do not have their same patience. The Korean troops in Vietnam have more patience. They'll sit in front of a tunnel until the North Vietnamese come out." Bradley said he believes if it wasn't for all the protesters, the North Vietnamese would give up. He said that captured prisoners have told him they (North Vietnam) would win the war, not in Vietnam but back in the States, as they did with the French. We are winning, but we must have patience," Bradley concluded.
The President asked General Bradley to tell the group about the competence of the South Vietnamese, the Korean, and the United States men in Vietnam.
Bradley said "I have never seen better morale or better fed troops. They get ice cream about three times a week. Only two out of the thousand that I and my wife visited disliked being there or did not understand why they were there. These were two colored soldiers from Detroit who were more interested in the riots in Detroit than in Vietnam. As for the Vietnamese, all are enthusiastic, they still have some leaders that should not be there, but they are trying to get them out. I was impressed with the popular forces in the villages. We must do something to get the hearts of the Vietnamese people. They want to be let alone and grow their rice more than anything else. They probably feel a little more secure with the government of South Vietnam than the Viet Cong. Two captured Viet Cong were about 12 or 13 years old and they said they had to go fight for the Viet Cong or their families would be killed," Bradley said.
General Maxwell Taylor said that in the South, things are going well. He made two points. 1.) He questions the close defense of the frontier on the DMZ and in the highland area, and 2.) He believes that we have never decided on what we are going to offer the Viet Cong and this is a problem.
Taylor said the bombing is an essential part of our strategy, and to give it up without clearly getting something in return would be wrong.
The President asked him if he was talking about quid pro quo or the Acheson program.
Taylor said he prefers the first but would go along with the latter.
On negotiations, Taylor agrees that a subsiding solution is more likely than negotiations. He pointed out that if he were Ho Chi Minh, he would stay with what the North Vietnamese are doing, at least through the elections in 1968.
On the homefront, Taylor said that he has made more speeches than anyone, having completed his 126th last night. "The people still are asking why they are not being told all the facts on Vietnam. We should organize a nationwide campaign that will be continuous. Television is our best weapon as it is with the opposition. Every week we should have a program either sponsored by public or private in which the people can ask their government questions. We can also bring personalities--returning veterans, diplomats, etc., to discuss Vietnam."
George Ball said that no one in the group thinks we should get out of Vietnam, and no one gives propriety to the Gavin or Galbraith enclave theory./8/
/8/James Gavin, a former General and Ambassador, advocated the enclave theory of withdrawing to fortified areas, most notably during hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 1966. Former Ambassador John K. Galbraith's similar plan was made public in late June 1967.
"In the South, the report we received was very reassuring. The war of attrition and civil action is in competent hands and we are doing very well there. We should focus on the conditions that will lead the other side to stopping the fighting. We must look and see how the war looks to them. There are two wars in the eyes of Hanoi. First the war in the South. This one they can afford to lose or to withdraw from. Second is the war in the North which is viewed as a war by the greatest imperialist force against a sister socialist state. Can they afford to lose that one, we must ask," Ball said.
"In light of that then, is the bombing useful in the North. Bombing in the North won't limit the flow of supplies into the South significantly. On the other hand, it will make it almost impossible for them to stop the war." Ball recommended a change of tactics, that is, shifting of the bombing away from the harbor and dikes to the bombing of the DMZ as an interdiction of men and supplies. "This would clearly show the other side that we are creating the conditions to let them stop the fighting," Ball said.
As far as persuading the U.S. to support our efforts there, Ball pointed out that a double standard is implicit in our presence in Vietnam. He said there is a great disparity in size and strength between the United States and the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. He also pointed out that many students can't understand why we are using our air power against a primitive people that has no air power.
Ball said very few Americans really see a political solution as another Munich. We don't talk about getting out. He said he has had a bad reaction to Goldberg's statement that six months after the war, we'll get out. People don't really believe this, because they look at Korea and see we've been there for 17 years. Furthermore, if they do believe we are telling the truth, they think we should have our heads examined because we would be throwing away everything we fought for. Ball said we should consider all these in terms of the American national interest. We are in a position now instead of arguing how we got there as to what we do about it now that we're there.
Following Ball's statement the group adjourned to wash up before lunch./9/
/9/The group went to the President's quarters at 12:45 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)
Lunch convened at 1:03 p.m.
The President called on Justice Fortas.
Fortas said there was a remarkable presentation by George Carver of the CIA last night. Fortas said the country should hear the presentation made by Carver. He said the nation is totally unaware of this side of the Vietnam conflict. He said Carver told the story with complete conviction and great sophistication. Fortas suggested that the press might be told that Carver briefed the Cabinet and he would be available to brief the press in a low-key way. Following this, Fortas recommended a repeat performance by Carver for Members of Congress and later for other opinion makers. He said these briefings would be contrary to the opinion of the country that there are no improvements. Fortas then suggested that later on Ambassador Bunker return and report.
Fortas expressed his gratitude to the Paul Douglas Committee participants./10/ He said at last some of the leaders and people of the country are beginning to speak out. "I believe there is a good deal of over-reaction to what appears to be the public attitude of the United States. This opposition exists in only a small group of the community, primarily the intellectuals or so-called intellectuals and the press. The opposition is not as widespread as we think. Public opinion is a fickle thing and a changeable thing. The American people are committed to a few propositions that are contrary to the rash of opposition. The public would be outraged if we withdrew. We are not now prepared for a 'Fortress America,' nor are we for the foreseeable future. It is very important to separate the superficialities of expression from the fundamentals of American belief."
/10/Former Senator Paul H. Douglas (D-Illinois) was co-chairman of the Citizens Committee for Peace with Freedom in Vietnam, a group that strongly supported the administration's Vietnam policy.
Negotiations are symbolic rather than a real thing, Fortas said. This could be an ingenious trap to trap us into negotiations on terms or at a time when they can be corrosive to us. "We've been fortunate so far that North Vietnam has rejected our offer. When the time comes what will happen will be a cessation of hostilities, not negotiations. The American people are not interested in negotiations. That is merely a symbol. That is why the people don't understand you when you say you're willing to negotiate, because the American people really don't believe in negotiations. It would serve no purpose to continue to emphasize our willingness to negotiate. You have already stated your position. Don't repudiate what you have done but tone down on it in the future. To continue to talk about negotiations only signals to the Communists that they are succeeding in winning over American public opinion," Fortas said.
On the bombing, Fortas said in reference to George Ball's comments, that he admires the ingenuity in the proposal but rejects the logic for stopping the bombing in the North: "I don't believe North Vietnam thinks we are out to overthrow their government, and I don't believe it would have any effect if we shifted our bombing. The bombing of the North is not the way to end the war but a way to make cessation of the hostilities on a basis acceptable to us a possibility."
The President asked Dick Helms what the minimum and maximum figures of people who are being tied up in the North to repair the damage done by U.S. bombing.
Helms replied about 500,000.
Fortas continued saying he was interested in Lodge's proposal. "I wonder if all questions have been asked about the nature of our military action in the South. I think we should explore a greater use of the small military units in the South."
The President said he has asked the Secretary how we could speed up winning the war. "The Joint Chiefs came up with 10 proposals, all of which involve the North. I sent it back to them to focus on the South and they reported that we can't do anything more than we are doing in the South now," the President said.
Dean Acheson commented on Fortas' idea of having Carver brief the press, saying "neither George (Christian) nor the CIA should brief the press."
Fortas said he was very impressed both by what he (Carver) said and how he said it. He realizes, of course, that anything anyone in Government says will be denounced by the Fulbrights.
The President asked the group to give any suggestion on Vietnam or any danger signals they see in any other part of the world. He said he did not want this group to confine itself totally to Vietnam. He asked them to want to and to feel obligated to tell him personally for his eyes only about any of these subjects, even his own competence or that of the Secretary of State or Defense in handling matters of world affairs. He then introduced Clark Clifford as one of his most valued advisors who is most generous with his time.
Clifford said that the President was aware of his stand on the questions posed, and thus he would confine his comments to one subject--the attitude of American people. "An effort must be made to explain and to educate the American people. There is another area which we have not discussed today--namely that American people will react to hearing from those individuals who live in Southeast Asia who can give a better color of the conditions there. For example, President Thieu should visit the United States if the protocol can be worked out. He could address a Joint Session of the Congress, he could be invited to the Press Club and I am certain he could get prime time on television some evening where he could explain the nature of the problem there. He is an intelligent and a reasonable fellow, and more balanced than Ky. He could go through the background of the conflict, the importance of the conflict, and I think this would be very helpful. Colonel Robin Olds, who is our only air ace, could be assigned to speak to large audiences. Selected officials from other Southeast Asian nations and Ambassadors from Southeast Asian nations could visit the United States to make appearances," Clifford suggested.
"The thing to keep in mind however is that no matter what this accomplishes, this will not be a popular war. No wars have been popular. In the Revolutionary War there was an enormous body who felt this was a tragic mistake. The same was true in the Civil War where President Lincoln was beleaguered day after day with people who thought he should get out. The First World War was enormously unpopular with many of the American people. In the Korean War, it was popular in 1950, and in 1951 more than 60% thought we were wrong," Clifford said.
The President interjected at this time to point out that the Korean War at the time of our entering was favored 83-7% and 6 months later the balance had shifted to 66-24 against.
Clifford continued saying that he remembers well Senator Taft calling the Korean Conflict "Truman's War". One possible exception is World War II. "But wars will be unpopular and we won't be able to sell it to everyone. But we must go on because what we are doing is right. But recognizing this fact, I hope we won't get frustrated."
"Last night was an enormously interesting experience. Secretary McNamara said that perhaps he and Rusk's efforts since 1961 have been a failure. But this is not true. Their efforts have constituted an enormous success. One of the measures of the success that history will look very favorably upon is that both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson didn't wait for public opinion to catch up with them. They went ahead with what was right, and because of that the war is a success today. You can look around and find that the other nations say we have provided them with a shield. They cannot depend upon the British or the French. This has been an enormous success but we won't be able to convince the American people of that as long as it is going on. So we should go right on doing what we're going to do. It is important that we do so," Clifford continued.
"Any cessation in the South or the North will be interpreted as a sign of weakness of the American people. If we keep up the pressure on them, gradually the will of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese will wear down," Clifford concluded.
At 1:45 p.m. Lynda Bird brought Patrick Lyndon Nugent/11/ in to the President. Lyn stayed in the President's arms for most of the remainder of the luncheon.
/11/The President's grandson.
The President then briefly summarized the consensus of opinions given today. Generally everyone agrees with our present course in the South. The Lodge proposal is generally agreed upon. In the North, there is the general agreement that we should not extend the bombing any further. There is some sentiment for moderating the bombing. We have moved far along on the bombing. We've hit all but 24 out of the 9,000 targets or the 5,000 military targets. The President then called on McGeorge Bundy to summarize the feelings of the group and asked Bundy to put on paper his summary.
Bundy suggested two things. First, he said no one has said anything about China because no one really believes that the President will do anything that will start trouble with China. Most people understand that. Although there are many in Bundy's circle of moderate to dovish people who do not understand that and he will go about to make this clear. Also, there is a sense of clarity and calmness among the group with a heavy majority agreed about what we should or should not do. Bundy pointed out that this unity of agreement is not reported in the Press and is a popular misconception. He said an endless many hours have been spent pointing out how we got to where we are now. Instead, the emphasis should be what do we do now. He said there is agreement that the bombing is important but is overemphasized. He pointed out that the group has not given detailed attention to a pause or refusal of a pause, but there is some agreement that it is not a critical point.
The President asked that all of the group try to give their views to the public, and he asked that when they make speeches that they provide him a copy of what they said so he will know.
Walt Rostow addressed himself to Hanoi's mind which must concern itself with the rate of erosion of their manpower base against the erosion of the American political base. He pointed out that at least half of the job must be done by the South Vietnamese government. They must show improved administration. They must make a bold, bloody attack on corruption and the ARVN must be more aggressive in pacification.
Rostow agrees that this will not be a popular war but he points out that the progress taking place will help win support. He said that there are ways of guiding the press to show light at the end of the tunnel.
On negotiations, Rostow said the normal way for the Communists is to pack up and cease aggression rather than negotiate. He pointed out however that Vietnam may be different in that Hanoi will not want the NLF destroyed as it was in Indonesia and they may want to negotiate on this point. Secondly, Hanoi may want to negotiate about bases in South Vietnam. So negotiations are not out of the realm of possibility.
The President called on Under Secretary Nicholas Katzenbach who chided that if President Thieu and Ambassador Bunker are brought back to the United States, "that leaves Vietnam under Locke and Ky!"
Secretary McNamara expressed his personal appreciation to the group.
The President said that no nation has been more enlightenly served than under Secretaries Rusk and McNamara. He pointed out that these two are the highest type of manhood that this nation can produce. Their working relationship is good and they have had no petty jealousies or quarrels. "Their only test is what is good for their country," the President said.
Secretary Rusk said that the deliberations in the past two days have been thoughtful, imaginative and responsible. He expressed his personal appreciation. He agreed that this was not a popular war but one of the problems in polling of public opinion on the popularity of the war is the way the questions are phrased. He said that he is sure that if the President were asked by a pollster, "are you happy about Vietnam," the President would reply "hell no."
On negotiations, Rusk said we don't expect Hanoi to come to the negotiating table very soon.
In bombing, he pointed out what it does for the morale of our men. So when we consider a shifting or a stopping of the bombing on a geography basis, we must consider the morale of the men.
The President said that we are studying what essential targets remain. There will have to be some restrikes and we are studying when and where. The President then called on Secretary McNamara to discuss the so-called barrier.
McNamara said first of all it is not a barrier. For five or six years we have been studying how to interdict men and materials. We've considered many things from the use of divisions to an actual Maginot Line, but none merited being put into play. About a year and a half ago, we got our scientists and engineers to analyze the situation, and they improved the effectiveness of our air campaign in Laos, including laying seismic sensors on the ground and acoustical sensors in the trees to detect equipment and men. The principle is that once these sensors detect movement they transmit to a base in Thailand and from there planes are dispatched. We start the operation against vehicles on December 1 and against men on January 1. We don't know how effective it's going to be, but we are hopeful. There are also obstacle defenses in which we have a cleared area with mines and other obstacles and fixed fire positions in the north of South Vietnam.
McNamara revealed that captured documents showed about 20% of those who leave the North do not reach the South. About 2% of these are because of air casualties. Our scientists and engineers hope this new system will increase the air casualties by 15 fold, in other words, up to 30%. They think the destruction of the trucks by air casualties will increase 200-300%. McNamara points out that we haven't discussed this program because it is so complex that with some ingenuity by the enemy it can be detected and destroyed. Therefore, I have put a flat barrier that there will be no discussions. McNamara said he does not want to overstate its effectiveness, but if it improves the casualty ratio by even a few percent it will have been worth the effort.
Secretary Rusk addressed himself briefly to the Goldberg-Mansfield Resolution on bringing the Vietnam issue to the United Nations./12/ He pointed out that several efforts in the past to do this have not worked. It is both an illusion and a sophistication. In the Security Council we do not have the nine votes necessary. The Soviet Union does not want it brought up. They do not want to heat up any issue between them and the United States at this time. Other nations oppose it for different reasons. Denmark doesn't want it brought up because to vote with us would probably mean the downfall of their government. Paul Martin of Canada is against it because he wants to be Prime Minister more than anything else, and his statements are for pure domestic consumption. Hanoi and Peking say that it does not belong in the United Nations. If we don't get the nine votes or if we get an adverse vote, it's going to be interpreted as a repudiation of our policy. In the General Assembly the situation is much the same way. The difference between the public view and the private statements of these world leaders is enormous. For example, there is no more of a hawk than Ne Win of Burma, yet if it were brought before the UN, he would probably vote against it. We have tried to make clear to these Senators that they are not on a realistic path. We have a resolution pending now which no one wants to vote on.
/12/See footnote 2, Document 373. On November 2 Goldberg testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his efforts to obtain UN involvement with the Vietnam issue. For text of his testimony, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1015-1021.
The President pointed out that the United States presence in Southeast Asia has had its effect. It has hampered China's policy and caused reversals against China in Indonesia and other parts of the world. Practically all the leaders in Asia are in deep sympathy with us. Prime Minister Lee of Singapore said he came to the United States to find out if the American people would hold out. He knew that the President, Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara would, but he didn't know about the resoluteness of the American people. The President pointed out that General Taylor and Clark Clifford did a marvelous job on their trip to Southeast Asia. As a result, the Thais have brought up their troop strength to 10,000. The Koreans, Australians, New Zealanders are all going to send more troops. The South Vietnamese are increasing their troop strength by 60 or 65,000.
The President adjourned the group at 2:15 p.m.
378. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 2, 1967, 4:40 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Meeting with President, Vietnam-Conduct of War (Sensitive). Top Secret; Literally Eyes Only. Another copy is ibid., March 19, 1970 Memo to the President.
Herewith my comments on Secretary McNamara's draft paper of November 1, 1967./2/
1. I would summarize Secretary McNamara's argument as follows: In the next 15 months we shall make progress in South Vietnam but not enough progress either to: lead to peace or convince our people that major progress has been made and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Under these circumstances, he believes two conflicting tendencies will grow in U.S. public opinion: on the one hand, to escalate the war in the North and expand it on the ground in the South; on the other hand, to pull out.
To avoid this believed polarization of U.S. public opinion around the extremes, he believes we should take a series of measures that would stabilize the war and push the North Vietnamese into a negotiation, even on a "fight and talk" basis. At the maximum, he believes this process could lead to a successful negotiation; at the minimum, it would avoid the pressures to expand the war in the air and on the ground, which he greatly fears.
2. My observations on the political, military and diplomatic aspects of this argument follow.
a. Political. If his proposed strategy did not lead to a successful negotiation, you would be pushed off the middle ground you now hold at home. To test Bob's strategy would require a long bombing cessation, plus a Panmunjom phase, until we found out whether they were serious about negotiations. If we then had to resume full-scale bombing, the Republicans could accuse us of vacillation and adopt a hard line which might then appeal to our people. If we got caught in a Panmunjom phase, the case for their advocating a stronger policy would be even more clear. In a recent Gallup poll, some 67% of the American people want us to continue bombing the North (as I remember it). Acknowledging my limitations as a judge of domestic politics, I am extremely skeptical of any change in strategy that would take you away from your present middle position; that is, using rationally all the power available, but avoiding actions likely to engage the Soviet Union and Communist China. If we shift unilaterally towards de-escalation, the Republicans will move in and crystallize a majority around a stronger policy.
If I felt Bob's strategy would measurably increase the chances of a true settlement, I believe the risk might be worth taking. But both a unilateral bombing cessation and an announced policy of "stabilization" would, in my view, be judged in Hanoi a mark of weakness rather than evidence of increased U.S. capacity to sweat out the war.
b. Military. Although I certainly will not predict for you an early end to the war, I believe that, with a little luck and reasonable performance by the South Vietnamese under the new government, the evidence of solid progress will become increasingly clear to one and all. It is no accident that Republican politicians are beginning to smell this. If progress in fact continues, we will get more and more of the kind of testimony that Alsop, Walter Judd, General Bradley, etc., are now generating. Moreover, as an old intelligence officer, I know that one should take very seriously events that one did not predict. I have been looking for a long time, as you know, for a negotiation within South Vietnam. But I did not expect so soon after the failure in Paris as substantive a message as we got by the Buttercup channel./3/ That channel may develop only slowly. It may not yield anything. But the simple fact is this: it emerged while we were bombing the North full scale. Before changing our strategy in the direction suggested by Bob McNamara, I would certainly play this string out to the full. Incidentally, if it works well, I am sure we will come back to the bombing question--if and when the National Liberation Front suggests that we talk to Hanoi about the issues directly at stake between the U.S. and the DRV. (That is foreshadowed in their description of the three negotiations required for peace.) Until proved otherwise, then, I would stay with Buttercup and see where it leads us, while holding steady on our present program.
/3/See Document 369.
c. Diplomacy. As indicated above, I would play out the Buttercup string before probing or initiating in any other direction. I detect in the full flow of intelligence a shift of the following kind:
--an increase in Soviet influence in Hanoi, partially caused by our bombing and a consequent requirement for very large increases in Soviet aid;
--a shift in Hanoi to the view that they cannot directly take over the South now and, therefore, they have to accept the 17th parallel for a considerable time period;
--within this framework, a probing for what the status of the Communists would be within South Vietnam in a time of peace.
If this is right, we are already in a kind of Panmunjom stage; that is, their military operations are designed not to produce victory but to improve their position in a negotiation which is, in a sense, already under way. It is quite clear from Buttercup that they are trying to bargain the highest possible status for the National Liberation Front in the South against our clear desire to get the war off our necks. If and when we come into contact and begin to exchange views, it may well turn out that their minimum price for National Liberation Front status is higher than we and the government of South Vietnam are prepared to pay. In that case, we shall have to prove that their bargaining power diminishes with the passage of time--not increases. That, in turn, means high costs in the North; maximum pressure in the South on their manpower base. I believe Bob's strategy would ease their problem and permit them rationally to protract the negotiation--unless Bob is correct on domestic politics and I am wrong. That is, if the country settled down for the long pull comfortably with Bob's program, he could be right. If his policy opened up a debate between united Republicans claiming we had gone soft and a Democratic Administration, with the JCS in disagreement if not open revolt, then my view is correct.
3. Some Specifics. Having taken this negative stance in general, I would agree at the moment with his points 1-5, and 9 (page 6); but I would not announce them as a new policy--in part, because I don't think we need a new announced policy; in part, because changing circumstances might make it wise to reopen some of the issues in those paragraphs.
379. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, November 2, 1967, 1230Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Rostow transmitted a retyped copy of the telegram to the President. The notation "ps 11-3" on Rostow's covering memorandum transmitting the copy to thePresident, November 2, indicated that the President saw the telegram on November 3. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[B]) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 224-233.
10206. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my twenty-seventh weekly telegram:
1. I believe that no one could have been an observer of the events of the last few days without feeling that he had been witnessing the rebirth of a nation. One sensed everywhere a new feeling of confidence, of pride in the fact that the Vietnamese people had had the maturity to carry out five elections in the last fourteen months in the midst of war and had been able to establish institutions of representative democracy, a new determination to play a greater part in their own destiny. This came out in a good many ways--in the dignity, in the simplicity, in the good taste of the inaugural ceremonies, appropriate to war-time conditions, and in the effectiveness and precision with which they were carried out; in the restrained pageantry of the National Day celebration, the parade shorter this year because of the war but splendidly executed, to the obvious pleasure and approval of the crowds who were watching. It is interesting that Chieu Hoi contingent received a good deal of applause from the crowds and suffered no critical or derogatory comments. And President Thieu's fine inaugural address was a call to greatness, for further sacrifices, for greater determination, for a continual search for peace./2/ In it he referred to the difficulties of the past four years as having been useful in helping to determine the path to follow and opening up a great new era full of promise; in his own words "the greatness and the promise of the glories and the difficulties awaiting us." He stated that his administration would have three guiding principles in carrying out his national program: to build democracy, to restore peace, to reform society.
/2/Thieu's speech is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1010-1015.
2. In the pursuit of peace he would propose directly to the North Vietnamese Government that it meet with the Government of South Vietnam to seek a way to end the war, that he would open the door to peace and leave the door always open. The Liberation Front would not be an obstacle to peace talks. As in 1954, the Front elements today have the right of choice: "Whoever believes in Marxism is free to go North. Whoever believes, as we do, in freedom and democracy may remain and work with us."
3. At the same time he made clear the "iron determination" of South Vietnam to defend the ideal of freedom and democracy. While paying tribute to the government and people of the United States and other friendly countries who had rendered assistance, he reminded his people "that the present war is still our war and the entire force of the population must be marshaled in support of the overall war effort in order to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the country, that all, civilians and soldiers alike must understand the necessity for sacrifice for the common struggle. A united effort must be made to grasp the initiative and shorten the road to peace. He pointed out that this increased effort and determination was not aimed at destroying their compatriots above the parallel. On the contrary it was designed to check the expansion of Communist aggression, to preserve stability of Southeast Asia, and to build a lasting peace for Asia and the whole world.
4. He asked the people for a stronger war effort because all weapons must be employed to achieve victory, not military weapons alone but political, economic, cultural and social as well. A genuine appropriate democratic regime must be built in order to restore participation in national affairs to the people, and to reform society in order to liberate and advance the people. To this end all the people would have to endure many more sacrifices and make many more efforts. To achieve unity and solidarity many things would have to be done:
(A) the army must be constantly improved and strengthened but it must also have the backing of moral support and strong popular organization on the home front; (B) a strong home guard must be organized to defend the towns in order to reduce the burdens on the fighting troops; (C) those living in the capital and other cities will have to strive and sacrifice more to reduce the appalling contrast between cities and the countryside which had long borne the greater part of the war burden; (D) and the government must win the confidence of the people so that they will voluntarily accept the efforts and the sacrifices necessary to the war effort. It must carry forward its task of building democracy and reforming society, of raising people's living standards and education, of accelerating the national rural development policy and industrial development.
5. Among the short term measures the President included a number of urgent preliminary things which he felt should be undertaken immediately: (A) to publicize more widely Vietnam's position and to win world support for its cause; (B) in the social field defense of morals must be promoted, public order and measures vital to the daily life of the city people guarded and increased; (C) economic stability must be promoted and the price spiral halted; (D) national order and discipline and respect for law must be strengthened; (E) opportunities for students and civil servants to serve the nation and to employ their ability and enthusiasm must be opened up; (F) an austerity movement to eliminate the excessive disparity between the sufferings and hardships of the rural front lines and high living in the urban areas must be launched; (G) finally and most importantly corruption must be stamped out and administrative organization, procedure and personnel improved in order to serve the people better.
6. In concluding the President appealed for the help of all the people in the common task of this beginning of a new era.
[Here follows discussion of other political, military, and economic matters.]
380. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, November 3, 1967.
/1/Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Chronological File, November 1967. Secret; Nodis.
There were several statements made by members of the Senior Group during the discussions of Wednesday evening and Thursday,/2/ regarding which I should like to comment:
/2/Reference is to the Wise Men's meetings on November 1 and 2; see Documents 376 and 377.
(1) A number of participants expressed the opinion that proposals for negotiation for peace by the United States Government only encourage Hanoi to hold out. There is no evidence whatever supporting this contention. On the other hand, it seems clear that the President's position has been materially strengthened both at home and abroad by the statements and efforts he has made or authorized to bring about talks. I strongly recommend that this policy be continued.
(2) Some participants indicated their belief that there was no chance of the other side's agreeing to talks until after our election and that, therefore, it was useless for us to attempt to bring about talks before then. I agree that serious talks are unlikely until after our election (or at least until after the Republican Convention) but I believe there is a significant chance that should not be overlooked that talks may be possible before then. The clearest evidence of this is "Buttercup" in which the NLF approach appears to be a bona fide attempt to begin talks./3/ Furthermore we have indications of differences of opinion within the Hanoi leadership on the issue of negotiations. Prime Minister Maurer of Rumania, who recently visited Hanoi, has told us of this./4/ I think it important that we not exclude the possibility that talks with either Hanoi or the NLF may be held before our elections and that our actions could increase the likelihood of talks.
/3/See Document 369.
/4/See footnote 5, Document 357.
(3) Certain participants expressed the belief that there will never be talks but that at some point the enemy forces will merely fade away. I agree with what Walt Rostow stated, namely, that when Hanoi decides to consider abandoning its attack on the South, it will in all likelihood wish negotiations to attempt to reach agreement on certain important issues, either directly or through the NLF, though probably not on the Geneva model. It is also possible that some matters can be settled between the GVN and the NLF.
Therefore, unless otherwise instructed, I plan to continue my activities without regard to these particular comments made at the recent meetings.
I also recommend that Ambassador Bunker continue to urge the new GVN not only to pursue vigorously their National Reconciliation Program, but also to develop any leads for talks with the NLF or with its members.
W. Averell Harriman/5/
/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature. Below the signature is the following typed postscript: "Otherwise, I felt the meetings were extremely interesting & constructive."
381. Memorandum From the President's Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 3, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memos to the President. Secret. In an attached covering memorandum to the President, November 3, Rostow wrote: "Herewith General Taylor's arguments in response to those I gave him from the unidentified paper. He will be filing a paper of his own in a few days." A notation at the bottom of this note in the President's handwriting reads: "Walt call me. L."
Walt Rostow has asked my comments on the following possible course of action:
The U.S. will stabilize its military strength in Vietnam at presently approved levels and, with its allies, will continue to conduct the war in South Vietnam essentially as at present, making every effort to hold down U.S. casualties and battle damage and to pass the burden of the fighting to the South Vietnamese.
There will be no extension of the air target system in North Vietnam beyond the present one and no blockade or mining of the ports. At some point, we will stop the bombing of North Vietnam except for the use of air strikes in the Demilitarized Zone to suppress shelling or to interdict enemy troop movements.
The purpose of the foregoing course of action would be to allay apprehensions at home and abroad of a further expansion of the conflict and to increase the pressure on Hanoi to reduce its military activities or to enter upon negotiations. It is my understanding that all or most of our intentions under this alternative would be announced publicly.
Of the alternatives/2/ open to the U.S., this is one form of the Pull-back Alternative. While this course of action might tend to allay the fears of those who are concerned over an expansion of the conflict, it would provide fresh ammunition for the numerically larger number of critics who say that we are embarked on an endless and hopeless struggle or that we are really not trying to win. The decrease in our efforts implicit in this proposal would tend to nullify by a form of self-stagnation the progress which we properly contend that we are now making and would give renewed stimulus to our impatient fellow citizens who are even now crying for a quick solution or get out. Like other variations of the Pull-back Alternative, it would probably degenerate into an eventual pull-out.
/2/There are four in all: Pull-out, Pull-back, All-out, Stick-it-out. [Footnote in the source text.]
The curtailment of the bombing under this proposal has all the liabilities which we have noted in previous discussions of this issue. The South Vietnamese would be deeply discouraged by this lifting of the penalty which the bombing imposes on the North. I would suspect that our other allies contributing troops would object strongly to this course of action--they are convinced of the essentiality of the bombing. Our own forces would regard this action as a deliberate decrease in the protection which, they feel, is afforded them by the bombing. The large majority of our citizens who believe in the bombing but who thus far have been silent could be expected to raise violent objections on the home front, probably surpassing in volume the present criticisms of the anti-bombers.
Probably the most serious objection of all to this Pull-back Alternative would be the effect upon the enemy. Any such retreat will be interpreted as weakness and will add to the difficulty of getting any kind of eventual solution compatible with our overall objective of an independent South Vietnam free from the threat of subversive aggression.
I would recommend strongly against adopting any such course of action./3/
/3 /On November 6 Taylor submitted an additional memorandum to the President outlining his personal analysis of the policy options available to both sides. For the U.S. Government (labeled "Blue") these options included "stick it out," "all out," "pull-back," negotiations under favorable conditions. For the North Vietnamese (termed "Red") the options were "hang on," "escalate," "pull-back," and negotiations. Taylor concluded that "Blue" should "stick it out" but be prepared to undertake an expansion of the war effort only if "Red" chose to do so first. He believed that "Red" would maintain its present level of fighting until it could feign a "pull-back" and await altered conditions in South Vietnam. (Ibid., Gen. Taylor (1 of 2)) The President requested that members of Katzenbach's so-called Non-group consider the choices in Taylor's memorandum. (Memorandum from Rostow to Katzenbach, November 20; ibid., 2C(1)a-General Military Activity) A November 22 memorandum from the CIA asserted "substantial agreement" with Taylor's estimate of the situation in Vietnam and his conclusions. (Ibid., Chron. File on Negotiations-1967) On November 24 Wheeler stated his preference to "stick-it-out" with additional military actions that included limited ground operations in Laos, air strikes on enemy bases in Cambodia, raids north of the DMZ, and a reduction of the sanctuaries around Hanoi and Haiphong. (Memorandum from Wheeler to Katzenbach, November 24, CM-2782-67; ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, July-Dec. 1967)
M. D. T.
382. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 3, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 51 (2 of 2). Secret.
I did not take full notes in yesterday's advisory meeting;/2/ but I did try to list suggestions for action.
/2/See Document 377.
Here is my list.
--organize citizen's committees in all cities over 100,000;
--get fresh faces to defend our Viet Nam policy.
--cool attention to bombing: make it routine;
--reward in White House ceremonies those who have done great work in the provinces, military and civilians;
--assure that military men on advisory duty in pacification are promoted on same basis as those in combat;
--develop publicity that Vietnamese are doing more, and make sure they do;
--shift our stance on negotiations to one of not expecting negotiations until after November 1968;
--dramatize that we have already won a great strategic victory in Asia: lift people's eyes from Viet Nam to the whole scene;
--brief the key editors and communicators just as the group was briefed (Dick Helms has no objection to using Carver when it's off-the-record and no public attribution);
--let good news speak for itself: don't strain publicly to convince people progress is being made.
--spend time not on how we got into Viet Nam, but on position we're in and real choices we face;
--clarify what we are doing on the ground and in bombing;
--develop a sense of progress: sense of stalemate is what invites extreme doves and hawks; let events speak for themselves, but there are ways of getting good news out;
--have Bunker--a fresh and trusted voice--report to the nation;
--the President should brief top college presidents and deans as Advisory Group was briefed.
--clarify our "get out of Viet Nam" position: if we're really going to get out, why spend all this blood and treasure?
--explain critical importance of Viet Nam to our Asia and Pacific positions: people don't understand implications for U.S. national interest of loss of Viet Nam;
--avoid another Panmunjom.
--an independent audit of the pace and success of the revamping and reorientation of the ARVN;
--limit U.S. casualties by diminishing "search and destroy" operations, substituting a doctrine of "split up and keep off balance";
--encourage a "true resolution" in South Viet Nam by throwing our weight behind private cooperative institutions such as farmers' unions, marketing organizations, which would stimulate, agitate, and engage the people themselves and begin to push the French and Chinese middlemen to the wall. (WWR comment: the French and Chinese businessmen ought to be moving into light industry at this stage of Vietnamese development.)
--agreed with Acheson on a no-bombing versus DMZ deal;
--urged that Bunker and his views be given maximum exposure.
--sharpen focus and action against small group of Hanoi villains: we have no target for hate in this, as opposed to other wars.
General Omar Bradley:
--talk less about negotiations: Hanoi takes it as a sign of weakness;
--use "Patience" as a slogan.
General Maxwell Taylor:
--questions close-in defense of DMZ;
--decide what we are prepared to offer the VC; that is a major gap in our policy and ought to be filled;
--bombing should not be traded against DMZ pressure but against level of VC incidents in the South; bombing is our equivalent of guerrilla warfare;
--organize nationwide, continuous campaign of speeches in support of policy;
--organize an hour TV program regularly: government replies to its citizens on Viet Nam, answering questions.
--stop bombing, except across the DMZ, to create climate for negotiation.
--get George Carver to briefing on television. (Dean Acheson, Dick Helms, and others objected to using Carver in public.)
--bring Thieu to the United States (Nick Katzenbach implied we should make sure his political base in Saigon would be safe during such a tour).
/3/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.
383. Telegram From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Bunker) to the President's Special Assistant (Rostow), Secretary of State Rusk, Secretary of Defense McNamara, and Director of Central Intelligence Helms/1/
Saigon, November 4, 1967, 0522Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Nodis; Buttercup; Via CAS Channels; Exclusive. As reported in telegram CAS 421, November 2, Bunker initially informed Thieu only "that there had been some very interesting developments as a result of these efforts" during a brief meeting that day. (Ibid.)
CAS 456. In my meeting with President Thieu this morning, I described the developments of the Buttercup case since 18 August when General Loan advised us of Sau Ha's arrest and provided a CAS officer with a copy of Sau Ha's letter. The President was told of the arrangements worked out for the release of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and for his return to the VC zone to meet with Buttercup/1 in order to transmit a reply which had been approved in Saigon and Washington and had been reviewed by General Loan, and which expressed American willingness to cooperate in a prisoner exchange. In showing the President a copy in the original Vietnamese of the response just received via [less than 1 line of source text not declassified],/2/ I summarized its contents and apparent significance.
/2/See Document 369.
I explained that our principal concern at this time is to develop through this channel a reciprocal release of American and Vietnamese prisoners, that we wish to consider with President Thieu or his designee the release of NLF prisoners as requested by Buttercup/1, and that careful consideration should be given to our action regarding the NLF prisoners for whom Buttercup/1 requested better treatment. I noted further that the letter from Buttercup/1 was not limited to the treatment of the prisoner matter alone but expanded on political matters. While we do not conclude that there is immediate potential in this channel for influencing NLF positions, we regard it as a definite advantage both to ourselves and the GVN to give the sponsors of the message the impression that their move is welcome and that they will find us receptive to discreet communications they may send in the future. We may therefore wish to consider in our reply to Buttercup/1 a restrained forthright statement of U.S. objectives and aims.
I emphasized that we wished to proceed in fullest consultation with the GVN and that in order to accomplish this, a CAS officer known to President Thieu will contact him shortly to provide additional background and information, and to ascertain from the President how he wishes to proceed with the arrangements which will be necessary in order to make a positive response to Buttercup/1.
Comment: The President listened attentively to my exposition, read the original letter from Sau Ha and scanned the lengthy letter which we have just received from Buttercup/1. He was in agreement with my proposal that the matter be further developed through CAS channels and this will be undertaken immediately.
384. Telephone Conversation Between President Johnson and Former President Eisenhower/1/
Washington, November 4, 1967, 10:05 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Eisenhower, November 4, 1967, 10:05 a.m., Tape F67.14, Side B, PNO 3 and 4. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared in the Office of the Historian specifically for this volume.
Eisenhower: Well, how've you been, Mr. President?
President: I'm doing fine under the circumstances. We're getting this government off reasonably good. I don't want them to bother you, but I sure do want to keep you informed, and I told McNamara to see you because I thought it would be good for McNamara. I think that he and General Goodpaster--Goodpaster is just wonderful--but I thought maybe a little touch of you, given your views and philosophizing with this fellow, would be a little helpful.
We've got a project we call Buttercup that shows that the South Vietnamese are kind of playing a little bit with the NLF and talking to them about exchanging prisoners and we got some exchanged yesterday for the first time. And then they are talking about how they might talk and this fellow Thieu, most of the people think, I'm not very good at evaluating him, but most of the folks think, Westmoreland and Bunker and them--and incidentally, Mr. President, I think we've got the best team we could have, so I just have confidence in them and try to support them--but they think that Thieu is going to be better than Ky. He's a little more reserved and a little more judicious and a little tougher and maybe not quite so gay and showmanship, you know. And so we are working on that a good deal and I am having a meeting, I just called it now for 11:30, to talk to Rusk and McNamara and them again about releasing some more prisoners. They want some more exchanges. So that is rather encouraging.
Eisenhower: That is.
President: General Bradley just came back. He says . . .
Eisenhower: From where?
President: From Vietnam. He says they have 12 and 13 year old kids, and the report from Bunker this week shows that one province out of Saigon in the III Corps that's made up of about 500,000 people, and the Viet Cong have just picked up and evacuated. They just can't live. They are running out of food and their battalions are splitting up. So all of these little things, and we are afraid to say it because they hit our credibility and if it doesn't come true why this happens. Bunker is coming in here. If you could sit down with Bunker--do you know Bunker?
Eisenhower: Oh, very well. He was Ambassador when I was President--in India./2/
/2/Bunker was Ambassador to India during the years 1956-1961.
President: Well, he was a Republican businessman in Vermont that made a good deal of money, somebody said, and decided to retire and retired. They started to pull him into the government for every tough assignment and in the Dominican Republic it was impossible, but he went down there with all of those Commies--there were three groups of them: Chinese, Castro, and Soviet--and he whipped them all. And he says that he is bringing this thing through. I'd like for you to see him when he comes back. He's going to be here in about 10 days.
Eisenhower: Well, I'm going out to California the first of December.
President: I am jealous of you. I want to quit and come out there and play golf myself.
Eisenhower: Well, I'll tell you, I will be here through November, though.
President: Wonderful, wonderful. Well, if you are and if you can, I'd like to send him over and spend 30 minutes with you.
Eisenhower: Well, I'll tell you, I get my briefings that I've had, I am very much encouraged on the military side of this, and particularly what has pleased me is the increasing percentage of those people that have the courage to go and vote. That shows that they're getting greater confidence.
President: General, we took us from 1776 to 1789 to get a Constitution in this country, and we had all that Anglo-Saxon heritage and background and freedom. Now these people in 13 months have had 5 elections and we have shoved them and Bunker has shoved them, maybe a little too fast, Westmoreland. But the fact is that they had a higher percentage of their total people voting than we have and they've had five elections and they have ratified a Constitution and they've elected a House and a Senate and a President and Vice President and I think that is pretty encouraging.
Eisenhower: I do too./3/
/3/In a briefing for Eisenhower on November 9, Goodpaster told him: "He [Johnson] plans to plead for a 'common sense' approach on the war. He thinks that many of the current charges against it are being made out of ignorance." (Memorandum for the Record, November 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Name File, President Eisenhower (1965-1968) [1 of 2])
[Here follows discussion of personal matters and comments on the political situation in South Asia.]
385. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 4, 1967, 10:15 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, McNamara, Robert S.-Southeast Asia. Top Secret; Sensitive; Literally Eyes Only for the President.
Here are the McNamara and Mac Bundy positions you asked me to compare.
Mac Bundy did not address himself explicitly to the following list of points made by Secretary McNamara. Presumably he would agree with the following list, within the general framework of existing policy rather than a new announced policy of "stabilization."
--There will be no call up of reserves.
--No expansion of ground action will be undertaken in North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.
--No attempt will be made to deny sea imports into North Vietnam.
--No effort will be made to break the will of the North by an air campaign on the dikes, locks or populated targets--efforts will be made to hold down civilian casualties in the North.
--We will engage in continued efforts to restrict the war.
--We will endeavor to maintain our current rates of progress but with lesser US casualties and lesser destruction in South Vietnam.
--We will be willing to accept slow but steady progress for whatever period is required to move the North Vietnamese to abandon their attempt to gain political control in South Vietnam by military means.
--In light of the political progress of the GVN, we will gradually transfer the major burden of the fighting to the South Vietnamese forces.
386. Memorandum From the President's Assistant (Jones) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 4, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Meeting Notes File, Folder #5. No classification marking.
Meeting convened at 2:20 p.m., Saturday, November 4, 1967
Meeting adjourned at 3:55 p.m.
[Here follows discussion of the Middle East, consideration of Deputy Ambassador Eugene Locke for the post of Ambassador to the Philippines, and crime in the District of Columbia.]
The President asked that Rusk and Wheeler and Helms and McNamara put together a high level task force to make a campaign pamphlet of three pages answering all the questions on Vietnam, such as stopping the bombing and negotiations. The President said to get the ten most asked questions and get them answered so that all a person has to do is make a speech from the pamphlet.
The group adjourned for lunch and the President opened the luncheon conversation by asking about Buttercup response. "Are both Bunker and Westmoreland coming back?" the President asked.
McNamara replied that Bunker would be leaving on November 9 and Westmoreland on November 15.
On Buttercup, Rusk said that Bunker is inclined to release several of the Viet Cong before they agree to release the Americans.
The President said I am inclined to agree, at least let the first five or six go. The President said that he does not like to override his man in the field (Bunker) nor does he like to see McNamara and Rusk override him any more than McNamara or Rusk like to be overridden by the President.
Rusk said "You've got to make arrangements with the other side. Bunker can tell the other people you are ready to release . . ."
The President then read the cable/2/ and reiterated that he does not believe we should overrule Bunker's recommendation.
Rusk said it would be alright if we could add the following "after taking fully into account our observations back here."
The President asked how we are going to do a better job of winning the war in the South. He asked if we could not have a military government put in the provinces and make them city managers like Tom Fletcher is in the District of Columbia. The President said "we've been on dead center for the last year." The President also wondered whether the bombing of the small tire factories, steel mills and airfields are "worth all the hell we are catching here." The President thought perhaps we should get into a position where we could strike and restrike. He pointed out that it's very possible that we could get a no confidence vote any day now.
"Gallup and Harris say anyone could beat us. Gallup takes these polls a month old, jiggles them a little, and makes it look that way and the public believes them," the President said. The President mentioned that Senators Hartke, Fulbright and McCarthy are going to all the colleges and stirring up problems and we are not answering them. He pointed out that Princeton got a resolution just yesterday.
The President turned his attention to the troubles at home and said "I'm not going to let the Communists take this government and they're doing it right now." The President pointed out that he has been protecting civil liberties since he was nine years old, but "I told the Attorney General that I am not going to let 200,000 of these people ruin everything for the 200 million Americans. I've got my belly full of seeing these people put on a Communist plane and shipped all over this country. I want someone to carefully look at who leaves this country, where they go, why they are going, and if they're going to Hanoi, how are we going to keep them from getting back into this country."
Dick Helms said under the laws today you cannot prosecute anybody for anything.
The President said that the Leadership of Congress told him Monday at their weekly meeting/3/ that they would give the President anything he wants. "In fact, they are trying to give me an anti-riot bill which I do not want." The President said he talked to General Eisenhower today./4/ "I think you (Eisenhower) would be good for Secretary McNamara, and McNamara would be good for you. I told him that I would give him anything he wants in the way of a map room, intelligence briefings or whatever to keep him informed. General Goodpastor is doing a reasonably good job with him or he would not be with us," the President said.
/3/The meeting with the Congressional leaders actually took place on Tuesday, October 31, 5:40-6:45 p.m. In attendance were Congressmen Albert, Moss, and McCormack, and Senators Mansfield, Long, and Byrd, as well as Postmaster General O'Brien. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting have not been found.
/4/See Document 384.
The President said we should emphasize that there are no deep divisions among the Joint Chiefs and the other advisers, and he said that's one of the reasons why he has not picked a Marine Commandant yet. "I'm going to take that man's blood pressure and make sure he's loyal. It doesn't do any good to win the fighting over there (Vietnam) and lose it over here. We've got to get our story told," the President said.
The President said he wants to make a tour on November 10 and 11 of military installations throughout the country so that he can salute the men "who keep me free." The President said that Eisenhower told him that we have forgotten what it means to be patriotic. The President said we need to get some of our secondary men like Kohler and Nitze, etc. to go out and speak and get our story across.
Secretary Rusk said concerning Vietnam, that if they are ready to have private talks without stopping the bombing, we should follow through. He said some encouraging signs have been heard this week by the Communists and Kosygin who are beginning to draw the line between Hanoi and the NLF. Rusk admitted however, that he does not think Moscow, nor for that matter Peking, has enough horsepower to deliver Hanoi.
The President asked if someone could talk to Thieu and get the corruption cleaned up. The President also said we are mishandling our information from Vietnam. He said Sigard Larmon has just come back from Vietnam and he is violently upset with the way the press is handling the situation there.
General Wheeler said that he sent Westmoreland a cable/5/ and asked him if he could find some way to preclude the press from flying on these combat missions.
/5/Not further identified.
The President said that all we have to do is to read what we've done in World War I and II and the Korean War concerning the information problem. He pointed out that we have not dealt with censorship at all. "Perhaps we should send three good editors out there to take a look at the situation and make some recommendations on how we can handle this better. Perhaps we could send Bill Stevens of the Chicago Sun-Times and Palmer Hoyt and maybe Hedley Donovan from the east coast," the President said.
[Here follows discussion of U.S.-Japanese relations.]
387. Memorandum From the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (Fortas) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 5, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memo to the President. Top Secret.
1. The analysis and recommendations/2/ are based, almost entirely, upon an assessment of U.S. public opinion and an unspoken assumption as to the effect that should be given to it. I am in total disagreement.
/2/A reference to Document 375.
2. We should not assume that the American public are unwilling to sustain an indefinitely prolonged war. If we should so assume, we should not agree that it is either honorable or sensible for the administration to acquiesce in this and to base military decisions upon that assumption unless and until the people through Congress or the polls make it impossible for this administration to do what it considers to be right in the national interest.
3. Our duty is to do what we consider right--not what we consider (on a highly dubious basis with which I do not agree) the "American people" want. (I repeat that I believe they do not want us to achieve less than our objectives--namely, to prevent North Vietnamese domination of South Vietnam by military force or subversion; and to continue to exert such influence as we reasonably can in Asia to prevent an ultimate Communist take-over.)
4. Our strategy should be to exert increasing and continuing pressure on the North Vietnamese; and to increase our destruction of the Viet Cong by increased and more diversified military effectiveness and civil conversion in the South. Our target should be a cessation of organized military operations against us and the South Vietnamese, coupled as soon as possible with a South Vietnamese program designed, perhaps, to eliminate the NLF as an operating force either by viable coalition or by destroying its structure. "Negotiation" is not an objective or a target. It is a propaganda symbol that we should keep alive. It is a possible (but not probable) stage toward achieving our objective; and it is a probable (but not certain) tactic that the enemy will adopt.
5. I can think of nothing worse than the suggested program--stating that we are going to "stabilize" our level of military effort and halting the bombing. This is an invitation to slaughter. It will, indeed, produce demands in this country to withdraw--and, in fact, it must be appraised for what it is: a step in the process of withdrawal. And, in my opinion, it means not domestic appeasement, but domestic repudiation (which it would deserve); a powerful tonic to Chinese Communist effectiveness in the world; and a profound retreat to the Asian dominoes.
6. Again, I can only repeat that the proposal to halt the bombing makes no sense. Its domestic good-effects would be illusory. It's not what the "doves" really want: the leaders want us to quit seeking our objective in Vietnam and Asia; the ordinary doves--the masses on that side--want us to achieve our objectives, to halt Communism, to defend Asia, but to do it without inflicting or receiving the wounds of battle. If we halt bombing, our armed forces are exposed; our pressure on North Vietnam is at an end; we will have given the Communists victory which they will exploit and escalate.
On the other hand, if Hanoi wishes to talk or to de-escalate, it is preposterous, I submit, to suppose that they are waiting for a signal--and that the only signal acceptable is a halt in bombing!
7. I must frankly state again that I am not convinced that our military program in South Vietnam is as flexible or ingenious as it could be. I know that new proposals have been sought from our military. But perhaps a new and fresh look, including new people--civilians as well as military--might be warranted.
/3/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
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