1964-1968, Volume V, Vietnam 1967|
Released by the Office of the Historian
388. Memorandum by the Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (Clifford)/1/
388. Memorandum by the Chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (Clifford)/1/
Washington, November 7, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam, Conduct of War. No classification marking; the covering note is marked Top Secret; Eyes Only.
I disagree with the recommendations presented in the memorandum of November 1, 1967./2/ I believe that the course of action suggested therein will retard the possibility of concluding the conflict rather than accelerating it.
The question is often asked: Why does North Vietnam continue to prosecute the war when it appears that they have no chance of winning it?
The answer is clear. Hanoi is depending upon a weakening of the will of the United States to carry on the war. Their previous experience with the French has convinced them that the same result will occur again insofar as the United States is concerned.
It is my opinion that Hanoi will never seek a cessation of the conflict if they think our determination is lessening. On the other hand, if our pressure is unremitting and their losses continue to grow, and hope fades for any sign of weakening on our part, then some day they will conclude that the game is not worth the candle.
If one accepts this premise, then the course of action recommended in the memorandum must be subjected to the test of Hanoi's reaction.
It is suggested in the memo that there be "complete cessation of bombing in the North." The argument is made that "it is probable that Hanoi would move to 'talks' perhaps within a few weeks after the bombing stopped."
I am at a loss to understand this logic. Would the unconditional suspension of the bombing, without any effort to extract a quid pro quo persuade Hanoi that we were firm and unyielding in our conviction to force them to desist from their aggressive designs?
The answer is a loud and resounding "no."
It would be interpreted by Hanoi as (a) evidence of our discouragement and frustration, and (b) an admission of the wrongness and immorality of our bombing of the North, and (c) the first step in our ultimate total disengagement from the conflict.
It would give an enormous lift to the spirits and morale of the North, and an equally grave setback to the will and determination of the South Vietnamese and our other allies fighting with us.
It would dramatically confirm the conviction of the North that Premier Pham Van Dong was correct when he said, "Americans do not like long, inconclusive wars; thus we are sure to win in the end."
The cessation of the bombing would be used to great advantage to repair roads and bridges, improve anti-aircraft defenses, and build up the war-making potential of the North. The Chinese and Russians would react enthusiastically to such cessation and would redouble their efforts to drive us out of Asia.
I think it is reckless to talk about resuming the bombing after such a suspension. It would create a storm of protest, which would be compounded by our greater losses of men and planes due to their improved air defenses.
I feel strongly that it is grossly fallacious to contend that we are fighting two wars: the war in the South and a separate war in the North. They are part and parcel of our single effort to convince Hanoi that it must abandon its effort to conquer South Vietnam.
The second recommendation in the memo is that we "stabilize" our military effort in the South.
This would be achieved by stating "publicly" that we would not increase our forces; we would not call up reserves; we would not expand ground action in North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia; we would not attack North Vietnam seaports; we would not hit the dikes or locks; and we would engage in continued efforts to restrict the war.
Can there be any doubt as to the North Vietnamese reaction to such an announcement? The chortles of unholy glee issuing from Hanoi would be audible in every capital of the world.
Is this evidence of our zeal and courage to stay the course? Of course not! It would be interpreted to be exactly what it is. A resigned and discouraged effort to find a way out of a conflict for which we had lost our will and dedication.
And what of our bargaining position? It would have been utterly destroyed. Hanoi would be secure in the comforting thought that we had informed the world that we would refrain from practically all activities that would be damaging to North Vietnam.
It would be tantamount to turning over our hole card and showing Hanoi that it was a deuce.
Can one recall that we ever successfully terminated a war by such a program? In World War I, World War II and the Korean War, the pressure was constantly increased until the enemy found it intolerable and capitulated.
The President and every man around him wants to end the war. But the future of our children and grandchildren require that it be ended by accomplishing our purpose, i.e., the thwarting of the aggression by North Vietnam, aided by China and Russia.
Free peoples everywhere, and Communists everywhere, in fact the entire world, is watching to see if the United States meant what it said when it announced its intention to help defend South Vietnam.
It will affect the plans and intentions and aspirations of many people.
Because of the unique position we occupy in the world of today, we cannot expect other countries and other peoples to love us, but with courage and determination, and the help of God, we can make them respect us.
It is clear to me that the course of action offered in the memorandum does not accomplish this purpose.
389. 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/
Washington, November 7, 1967, 1124Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Secret; Immediate; Nodis, Buttercup; Via CAS Channels; Exclusive. Received at 8:27 a.m.
CAS 526. Refs: A. CAS Washington 49639;/2/ B. CAS Saigon 499 (meeting with President Thieu);/3/ C. CAS Saigon 509 (meeting with General Loan)./4/
/3/In telegram CAS 499, November 6, Bunker reported that a [text not declassified] met with Thieuon November 5 to discuss the details of the Buttercup episode. Thieu emphasized the need for maximum secrecy and designated Loan as his action officer on the matter of prisoner exchanges (although reserving for himself the political aspects of the contact). (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP) In telegram CAS 47716 to Bunker, October 28, Rusk underscored that it was "vitally important" for Bunker to inform Thieu of the NLF overture. (Ibid.)
/4/In telegram CAS 509, November 7, Bunker reported a briefing [text not declassified] of Loan the previous day. Loan remarked that he "does not give a damn" about the release of Sau Ha but did not object to the release of other VC cadre arrested in conjunction with Sau Ha's capture because the NLF was "asking for too much at this point." He thought it more likely that Sau Ha would refuse to return to COSVN as a result of the damage he had caused with his admissions to the GVN. The NLF needed to demonstrate a better "show of faith" other than simply returning an envoy that the GVN had already released. (Ibid.)
For Secretary from Ambassador Bunker.
1. In light of your comments in Ref A and now that the returns are in from our conversations with President Thieu and Loan (refs B and C), we concur with your suggested reply in para 5 with certain additions, for reasons I will describe below.
2. From our conversations with Thieu and Loan it is obvious that they both feel we should give no more to Buttercup/1 than he requested, that they distrust Buttercup/1 but, as Thieu puts it, we must "test" the NLFSVN sincerity although he doubts they are serious. Loan goes even further in suggesting we should force the NLVSVN to show its good faith by releasing two prisoners we name because the GVN has already released Buttercup/2 and would be releasing Sau Ha to comply with Buttercup/1's minimum requirements. (I know you agree that we must respect the opinions and suggestions of the GVN now and in the future developments in this matter. They are, in every respect, co-equals in this negotiation.) I, therefore, suggest that we be prepared in para 5 ref A ingoing message to request Buttercup/1 to release two American POWs (to be named at your discretion) to show his (their) good faith. If Buttercup/1 responds favorably, we will have telescoped the time element I foresee between now and the initial release of POWs./5/
/5/Locke later proposed that the message should request a reciprocal number of prisoner releases from the NLF. (Telegram CAS 576, November 10; ibid.)
3. Both in the ingoing message and in the oral briefing we plan to give to Buttercup/2 we will stress the need for safe and rapid means of future communications and urge Buttercup/1 to open the radio link. I am not sanguine, however, that Buttercup/1 et al will use the radio communications channel at all, and if they do, then only at a much later date. We are, therefore, faced with the probability that even if we can arrange to have Buttercup/1 airlifted to a point closer than Tay Ninh City, subsequent dialogue and arrangements will at best be cumbersome, tedious and time consuming. In short, quick reaction by our side and the other will not be possible in this context.
4. Re subject of responding to broader political questions raised by Buttercup/1: as you know President Thieu reserves to himself a key role in deciding on what will be said in our joint response. His position in this matter promises to be one of great restraining, distrust, and cynicism; therefore, I plan on getting his concurrence in a response to Buttercup/1 that will be brief, avoid giving the other side too much opportunity for their famous affinity towards polemics while reiterating our objectives and aims in Vietnam and encouraging the possibility of further exchanges of viewpoints either in the established [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] channel or in personal meetings at a locale agreeable to all concerned. I will separately forward a suggested response, on these political aspects, that may be acceptable to President Thieu and subject to your prior concurrence.
390. Summary of Notes of the 578th Meeting of the National Security Council/1/
Washington, November 8, 1967, 10:05-10:55 a.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings, Vol. 4, Tab 60, 11/8/67. Secret; Sensitive; For the President Only. Drafted by Bromley Smith.
(The list of attendees is attached including members of the Cabinet and the legislative leaders who had been invited for this special meeting.)/2/
/2/The attached list is not printed. The attendees included the President, the Vice President, Rostow, Rusk, Tom Johnson, Christian, Smith, McNamara, Wheeler, Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Prince Daniel, USIA Director Leonard Marks, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Fowler, Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Postmaster General Lawrence O'Brien, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Secretary of Commerce Alexander Trowbridge, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John Gardner, Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert Weaver, Secretary of Transportation Alan Boyd, Senators Mansfield, Russell, Fulbright, Margaret Chase Smith, and Carl Hayden, Speaker of the House John McCormack, and Representatives William Bates (R-Massachusetts) and George Mahon (D-Texas).
The President: Opened the meeting by speaking of the difficult situation we face in Vietnam. We need all the help we can get in dealing with a problem which affects our national prestige. Council members, along with the Cabinet Secretaries and the Legislative leaders, had been called in to hear a report by the Vice President on his recent trip to Asia. Following his report, the Vice President would answer questions from any of those present.
The Vice President: He had visited Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia./3/ His report, of necessity, would consist of his personal observations. Comparisons would be made on what has happened in Vietnam in the last 20 months, when he was last there in February of 1966.
/3/Humphrey traveled to East Asia October 26-November 6. During the period October 29 through November 1, he visited South Vietnam in order to attend the inauguration ceremonies of Thieu and Ky and to inspect U.S. forces. Telegrams reporting on his trip are in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 US/HUMPHREY; Johnson Library, National Security File, International Meetings and Travel File, V.P. Asia Trip, 10-11/67, Briefing Book-Background; and ibid., White House Central Files, Confidential File, CO 312 Vietnam (1967). Achronology of his trip, briefings, and telegrams and memoranda of conversation reporting his discussions with Thieu and Ky are in Department of State, International Conference Files: Lot 68 D 453, Vice President Humphrey's Asian Trips, Vols. 1-10. Humphrey submitted to the President a 38-page report dated November 7, which listed his recommendations for assistance to Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, I E(1), Post Inaugural Political Activity) From 9:42 a.m. to 10:03 a.m. earlier the morning of November 8, Humphrey met with the President and Rostow to brief them personally on his mission. (Ibid., Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings)
1. The United States team in Saigon has the confidence of the Vietnamese and of the representatives of the allied states taking part in the Vietnam war.
2. During conversations with both Thieu and Ky, he emphasized the importance of the relationship of these two leaders to each other and to the legislature.
3. The inaugural speech of Thieu was his own, not ghost written. Thieu is a serious man who appears to be fully aware of the importance of providing a stable government in South Vietnam.
4. Thieu was told flatly that progress towards the goals mentioned in his inaugural speech was most important to the continued support, not only of the governments, but also of the people--of the allied countries supporting South Vietnam.
1. The spirit and morale of United States forces in Vietnam are high.
2. The United States-South Vietnamese Riverine Operation in the IV Corps is tremendously impressive.
3. The ARVN is improving, according to General Abrams, who is devoting his full time to this problem.
4. The ARVN fights well in some areas and not well in others, depending on its leaders.
5. The Vietnamese are fighting corruption among the military and promotions are now being made on the basis of merit.
6. Field promotions following successful operations have recently been inaugurated.
7. The Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces needed additional training.
1. We should stop using the word "pacification" since it connotes a peaceful operation--exactly the opposite of what is really involved. Obtaining security in rural areas is the toughest kind of a job which claims numerous lives.
2. Revolutionary Development is beginning to move. Cadre training is now very well done. Nine thousand trainees attend the Revolutionary Development school for twelve weeks. Thirty thousand cadres are already in the field. Sixty thousand will be at work in rural areas by 1968. The head of the RD training program said that the major problems in order of importance were corruption and the Viet Cong.
3. The current campaign against corruption would move forward.
In summary: He was encouraged by his trip. The successful election process had produced a very good effect in Vietnam. U.S. logistics had vastly improved since his last visit. With respect to contribution of other nations, the new Thai troops are doing very well, the Koreans are extraordinary, and the Australian units' morale is very high.
Two problems which need attention:
1. The Communists are trying to win over the youth of South Vietnam. In Saigon, the youth problem needs immediate attention.
2. The South Vietnam Information Service is very poor. Correspondents attached to the South Vietnamese troops are not well provided for. In general, the South Vietnamese performance is not well reported because of the inadequacy of their treatment of U.S. correspondents. As for the U.S. press corps in South Vietnam, most responsible correspondents support our goals, even though they may be critical of certain actions which we have taken.
Turning to the other two countries visited, he said the acting head of Indonesia, General Suharto, and the Malaysian Prime Minister both told him that if the United States fails in Vietnam, all hope for a free Southeast Asia would be lost.
In Malaysia the Prime Minister said that the enemy in Southeast Asia is militant Asian Communism with headquarters in Peking.
Throughout his trip, he encountered no act of hostility or protest in either Malaysia or Indonesia.
[Here follows a brief discussion of Indonesia.]
Referring again to the progress being made in Vietnam, he said Thieu is neither arrogant nor abrasive, but he will not be a puppet. He appears willing to probe for peace. He may have trouble with the legislature which will soon be causing problems for him and for us--the price of encouraging Vietnam to start down the democratic road.
In conclusion: Not all is well in South Vietnam but it is better than it was 20 months ago. We are making progress and we shall continue to progress.
The President: Asked Secretary Rusk if he wished to comment.
Secretary Rusk: Merely wished to point out that Thieu would be shortly announcing the new South Vietnamese Cabinet. As to Indonesia, he called attention to the help being given to Indonesia by many nations through multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the Indonesian Consortium.
The President: Informed the group that Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland would soon be coming to Washington for consultation. Both would be available to appropriate committees should they desire to hear them.
Secretary McNamara: Delighted to hear the Vice President's report of progress in the military area. The military team in Saigon, Westmoreland, Abrams and Palmer, comprised our greatest military leaders.
General Wheeler: Seconded the comment made by Secretary McNamara.
The President: Continued around the table offering the participants the opportunity to ask questions.
Senator Hayden: No questions.
Senator Margaret Chase Smith: No questions.
Senator Fulbright: (To the Vice President) What is our objective in Vietnam?
The Vice President: The Malaysian Prime Minister adequately described our objective when he said the Malaysian defeat of the communists consisted of defeating the insurgency and building a nation. Malaysia had the help of the United Kingdom; Vietnam was being helped to build its nation by the United States.
Senator Fulbright: (To the Vice President) Did you say Peking was our enemy?
The Vice President: What he said was that the Asians believed their enemy was Peking.
Senator Fulbright: Who is the enemy--Peking or Ho Chi Minh?
The Vice President: The Vietnamese know their enemy is the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. Wounded South Vietnamese soldiers know who the enemy is.
Senator Mansfield: Pleased to hear the mildly encouraging report of the Vice President. What is the monthly infiltration rate of North Vietnamese?
The Vice President: He had not asked this question in Saigon. Our team in South Vietnam supports the bombing. Our military leaders have no doubt that they can handle anything the Viet Cong or North Vietnamese could put against them. The very young Viet Cong prisoners we have captured are proof that the Viet Cong are having manpower and recruitment problems.
In a heart-to-heart talk, Ambassador Bunker said what is bothering him is why some people think he would be trying to deceive his fellow citizens. Bunker said his record of public service in many countries as well as his private life made clear the kind of a person he was and is. Bunker could not understand why some should now say that he is a different person than he had been in earlier years. Bunker said that all he is interested in doing at his age in life is working constantly to advance U.S. interests in Vietnam.
Senator Mansfield: Last September he had asked General Westmoreland about the monthly infiltration rate: the answer was approximately 6,500 to 7,000 per month. How does North Vietnam and Viet Cong strength compare with a year ago?
The Vice President: The strength is about the same as a year ago.
Senator Russell: The Vice President has made a fine statement which possibly could be boiled down a bit. When the laughter died down he commented that the bombing had not prevented a manpower buildup nor the movement of large amounts of ammunition. What is the view with respect to a proposal to close the Port of Haiphong?
The Vice President: Recent bombing had been effective in sealing off the harbor of Haiphong from the interior. The Haiphong to Hanoi corridor had been hit effectively. Restrikes are continually necessary in order to keep the destroyed bridges from being repaired. All military commanders realize that air power is only one part of our overall military strategy in Vietnam.
Senator Russell: How can the Viet Cong move the thousands of tons of ammunition used against our forces in South Vietnam?
The Vice President: Viet Cong supplies are moved at night and some move through Laos and Cambodia. He had heard no complaint from the military about military decisions taken in Washington. Military officers indicated that they are pleased by the recent addition of certain targets which give them greater flexibility to conduct the air war.
Congressman Bates: Referred to a recent article in Look by General Bradley and asked how long our military leaders in Saigon thought the war would last./4/
/4/Reference is to retired General of the Army Omar Bradley's article, "My Visit to Vietnam," Look, November 14, 1967, pp. 29-35.
The Vice President: He had encountered no prophets. Military officers agreed that the military effort of the Vietnamese is improving. We are making progress in the war. Ky was told of the severe criticism of the ARVN by U.S. citizens. Ky had instructed the ARVN to go on a 7-day week basis and additional efforts are being made to improve the training of the ARVN.
Representative Mahon: Has our stand in Vietnam affected the situation in Indonesia?
The Vice President: Our stand in Vietnam has had a collateral effect on developments in Indonesia. He had said in Djakarta that the change in Indonesia had been brought about by Indonesians and that it came about as a result not of our actions but theirs. However, it is thought that our presence in Southeast Asia gave confidence to the Indonesians to destroy the Communist Party in Indonesia./5/
/5/Humphrey discussed his trip in a speech in New York City on November 13. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1022-1026.
(Note: Tom Johnson also has notes on this meeting.)/6/
/6/Tom Johnson's notes of the meeting, November 8, 10:05-10:55 a.m., are in the Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. From 1 to 2:15 p.m. later that day, the President met with Rusk, McNamara, Rostow, and Christian. (Ibid., President's Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting have not been found. Presumably it was at this meeting that the President authorized 17 new targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area.
391. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, November 8, 1967, 1255Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Received at 9:48 a.m. and passed to the White House. A notation on Rostow's note transmitting the telegram to the President, November 8, reads: "7:05 p, ps 11/18/67," indicating that the President saw it at that time. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1)[B]) This telegram is printed in full in Pike, The Bunker Papers, pp. 234-241.
10641. For the President from Bunker. Herewith my twenty-eighth weekly telegram:
1. In the aftermath of the elections, the inauguration, and national day, a rather general feeling prevails that hopefully a new era is beginning in South Viet-Nam. This has been reflected in comments in the press that a new historic period is opening and in urging all the people "from the battlefield to the rear" to join together in renewed effort. Pride has been expressed that a popularly elected government with a constitution guaranteeing democratic freedoms for the entire people has come into being; and confidence has been expressed that the second republic would be able to instill enthusiasm in the whole people for their nation building work and for the struggle against Communist aggression.
2. Among the voters there was a feeling of pride tinged with some skepticism; they had turned out in large numbers and had done their job, now it was time to see whether the newly elected candidates could do theirs.
3. The intense activity that preceded the inauguration of the President and Vice President and the installation of the lower house of the Assembly last week has been followed by a noticeable slowing of the pace of political activity this week. This has been chiefly concentrated in the efforts of the new Prime Minister to form his government and in the organization of the Senate, and in efforts by Thieu and Ky to marshal support for the government among members of both houses of the Assembly. Loc told me yesterday that he had completed his Cabinet list and that announcement would be made November 9, which apparently is an auspicious day. I hope to be informed of the identities of the new Cabinet members when I see President Thieu later today./2/
/2/On November 9 the 27-member Cabinet of the new Government of South Vietnam was sworn in. Retained from the previous Cabinet under former Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Revolutionary Development, Chieu Hoi, Economy, Health, and Veterans Affairs. In Intelligence Note No. 907 from Hughes to Rusk, November 13, INR noted that most of the Ministries transferred from military to civilian directors were minor ones. In addition, Northern-born individuals held the most senior positions. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 VIET S) According to telegram 11004 from Saigon, November 13, in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution, at the time of its promulgation Thieu and Ky took a leave of absence without pay from the military. (Ibid.)
4. The Assembly is continuing its work on organization and has completed Part I governing the organization of the upper house and is continuing its work on regulations and procedures. It is hoped that the entire rules which may include as many as 200 articles can be completed in another two weeks.
5. In the meantime there are a number of forward steps that have been taken by the government, some of which I have previously reported:
A. The decree covering partial mobilization;
B. The decree transferring collection of land taxes to the local governments;
C. Stepping up of the moves against corruption;
D. The process of selection and screening of new personnel for the positions of province and deputy province chiefs who would be responsible to the central government instead of to the corps commanders. Ky informed me yesterday that great care has been taken in the process of selection and screening, that he expected to have this completed by the end of this month and that he hoped to have the new personnel trained and installed by 1 February.
6. The transfer of power to collect land taxes to the local communities is a long step forward toward the revitalization of local government. I have urged on both Thieu and Ky that having done this, the next logical step would be to transfer the control of land reform to the village councils, and believe that this could be done through the issuance of an ordinance and I have given them a draft of an ordinance which we had prepared. Both expressed interest in the proposal and I shall be following up with them.
7. Another matter which I have discussed with them and shall be continuing to talk with them about with considerable urgency is the question of the forthcoming budget and economic stabilization. I have reported that Ky had informed me that a ceiling of 95 billion piasters had been established for next year's budget. Since then however an increase in military and police pay to take effect January 1, 1968 has been announced and yesterday Nguyen Huu Hanh, Governor of the National Bank, expressed to me doubt that the budget could be held below 100 billion piasters. In this connection I have expressed to both Thieu and Ky our view that it is absolutely essential that taxes be increased. I have left with them a memorandum proposing an increase in poll taxes which in our view would be the easiest and quickest way to raise additional revenue. Yesterday, however, Hanh expressed to me the view that other taxes especially import tariffs should be increased, and the tax collection system must be further improved. If these things were done he felt that the gap between revenue and expenditures could be held to 15 billion piasters.
8. In a talk with Ky yesterday/3/ I found him in a good mood and was encouraged to see that he has now focussed on moving ahead with vital government programs which hopefully will bring early and constructive results. I also have the impression both from his comments and from sources near Thieu that they are both keeping more closely in touch on development of political support for the government.
/3/Also reported in telegram 10563 from Saigon, November 7. (Ibid.)
9. Ky commented at some length on what his major concerns will be in the new government. The anti-corruption program would be one. He noted that in III Corps alone some 75 officials have been removed for corruption this year. Ky also plans to devote a good deal of his time to pacification and coordination in this field among Generals Thang, Vien, and Tri, and he will personally spend a good deal of his time in the provinces, examining the situation. Ky said he was worried about the generally poor conditions under which the RVNAF operate, citing problems of inadequate pay, difficulties in getting food, etc., observing that something needed to be done for them but the GVN simply didn't have the money.
10. I told Ky I had no official instructions yet regarding a possible stand down over the forthcoming holiday periods but would like to know his personal views, since he had been so intimately involved in the matter last year. Ky said he thought we should agree to have a stand down, preferably 24 hours for Christmas, 24 hours for New Year's, and 48 hours for Tet, since these are traditional holidays. He though it important that we take the initiative rather than let Hanoi or the VC get the benefit of it.
[Here follows discussion of military, political, and economic matters.]
392. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, November 9, 1967, 0055Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S/UN. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Gleysteen; cleared by Sisco, Goldberg, and Habib; and approved by Bundy. Repeated to USUN.
66947. Ref: Saigon's 10232./2/
/2/In telegram 10232, November 2, Bunker discussed his meeting with Thieu on the Mansfield Resolution. Thieu suggested that in the event of North Vietnamese rejection of a direct GVN approach to open a dialogue, he would then appeal to the United Nations for consideration of the Vietnam issue. (Ibid.)
1. We plan to review Viet-Nam/UN question with Ambassador Bunker in Washington but if matter raised with you in interim you may draw on following.
2. Although Congress has not yet adopted Mansfield resolution and Security Council members still preoccupied with very active Middle East negotiations, we contemplate that our consultations in New York may lead to actual convening of SC and effort to inscribe Viet-Nam problem on agenda. This does not mean we have assurance we can obtain nine votes necessary for inscription; nor, in light of our experiences in 1966, would inscription necessarily bring any meaningful consideration of issue in SC.
3. In general, we believe prospects of accomplishing inscription as result of GVN initiative would be very poor. Some SC members who might otherwise be persuaded to vote for inscription following US initiative would clearly resist GVN initiative on grounds that it far more certain to stir unhelpful negative response from Communist side.
4. In these circumstances we believe best approach for time being re GVN and UN would be for GVN to react positively to US initiative. If we move formally to convene Council, for example, GVN could welcome SC consideration and perhaps send letter to SC President requesting GVN participation and suggesting principles consistent with but not exact reproduction of those contained in US draft resolution.
5. Ambassador Goldberg would wish to concert closely with GVN UN Rep, and he will be in touch with him prior to SC move.
393. Memorandum From McGeorge Bundy to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 10, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow, Vol. 50 (1 of 2). Secret. In a covering memorandum to the President, November 10, Bundy wrote: "Here at last is the commentary on the November 2 meeting you asked from me. It is much longer than I wish it were, and I apologize. It also moves out to some uncharted ground, but that is less my fault than the fault of Taylor and Lodge for having raised a couple of thought-provoking questions during the meeting." In the November 13 memorandum that transmitted this memorandum to the President, Rostow wrote: "Herewith Mac Bundy summarizes the meeting of November 2 and proposes, in theend, that we search for a pattern of 'some feasible de-escalation based upon success and not failure.' I have tried to mark the critical passages in this interesting piece of paper." (Ibid.) Rostow highlighted sentences in most paragraphs.
I think your instruction to me was to give a brief summary of that discussion, and I also think you were incautious enough to ask for my comments, so the following memo treats each of the five questions you put to the meeting, first by reporting what consensus there was in the answers, and second by offering my own resulting comments. One of the reasons for my delay in reporting in is that I found the discussion enormously interesting and have found my own mind stretched to some new thoughts as a result.
I have somewhat rearranged the order of your initial questions because I think there is a certain logic in taking the most clear-cut answers first.
1. Should we pull out?
The answer to this was a strong and unanimous negative. No one present would quit without a satisfactory settlement. There may well be important latent differences about the kind of settlement that would be acceptable. I suspect that George Ball would be inclined to settle for a deal which might eventually turn sour in the South. I think the rest of us would wish to stay there until there is a viable non-Communist South Vietnam. This difference is not currently critical.
2. What should we do about negotiations?
The general view is that there is no immediate prospect of serious negotiations. Mr. Acheson opened the meeting with a characteristically firm and categorical assertion that there would be no negotiations--that there never had been negotiations in any real sense with Communists, and that certainly there would be nothing of this sort before our next Presidential election. Most of those present agreed. The principal reservations came from Harriman and Rostow. Harriman continues to believe that the best road to peace lies through Communist capitals (and that he is the right man to travel that road). Harriman does not think that European Communists are watching our election date. Rostow believes that the Communist interest in reducing our presence, and the Communist need at some point for protection of their losers in the South, may lead to real negotiations.
My own comment is that while Acheson has much the better of the argument, we can probably have our cake and eat it on this one. I see no harm in careful exploration by Harriman, and we can certainly be ready for the kind of real talks which Rostow envisages when and if the times comes. What I think we should not do is to act as if we ourselves believed there was much chance of real negotiations in the early future. We have been ready for them; we are ready for them; we keep checking to see if they are possible; but the Communists do not want them.
I think there could well be a careful statement about the poor prospect for early negotiations, but I wonder whether it should come from the Government. I think the Secretary of State would not be persuasive with doves and moderates on this matter, because they have chosen to believe that he never wanted the negotiations in the first place. The one person in the Government, oddly enough, who might carry conviction with the academic community on this point is Brzezinski in the Policy and Planning Staff. There would also be some appeal in a careful analysis by Katzenbach. Still another alternative would be to get the point made by wise men outside the Government and then refer to their comments. My brother Bill would know which academic men have the most standing on this point. Whoever does it, the point to be made is not that we don't want negotiations, but that we don't expect them from the Communists now, and that even if talks do become possible, we must expect Communist negotiators to act like Communist negotiators.
3. What should we do about the bombing in North Vietnam?
There was broad agreement that the bombing of the North should be continued unless we get a real quid pro quo on the ground. All of those who spoke except George Ball believe that the bombing is an important part of our whole campaign. All who touched the subject felt that bombing should be restricted to military targets. Several spoke clearly against mining of Haiphong or bombing the irrigation dikes; a few also indicated a desire to reduce the level of the bombing somewhat. Nobody explicitly advocated mining or attack on the dikes--although Mr. Murphy said he would follow the Joint Chiefs of Staff on such matters. Several speakers associated themselves with Secretary McNamara's argument before the Stennis Committee, but several others said that the bombing has important values above and beyond its admittedly limited effect upon what can be moved from North to South.
My estimate of the consensus is that there would be general support for a possibility you outlined at the end of the meeting--namely that when the currently approved targets have been struck, you should clearly rule out any proposal for major widening of the bombing in the North, and should ask the Chiefs to plan a redeployment of air power against targets which would not constitute "escalation"--with due allowance for necessary restrikes.
If you should decide to move in this direction, I believe it would be highly desirable for you and the two Secretaries and the Joint Chiefs to come to a solid internal understanding on this whole question which would apply to the next fifteen months. There is no doubt that the public airing of differences between McNamara and the top brass has created some confusion, especially when followed by air operations which seemed inconsistent with one or another of the McNamara arguments. And on their side, the top brass have given the impression that they could have done things much better if they had been allowed to do them their own way. This pulling and hauling has been natural, and to some degree inevitable, but the discussion of November 2 suggests that we may be reaching a point where you can find a solid position from which to put a stop to it. You have great assets in such an effort, and you have not yet drawn much on your account of straight loyalty from your top military men. My impression is that they still feel cut off from you and somehow think that they really do not get your ear as much as they should. (Naturally it never occurs to them that their real trouble may be simply that they have not got a very good case, and that you may find them as tiresome as any other powerful but narrow-minded pressure group.)
I believe that if you reach a basic command judgment which clearly defines the future of the bombing in the North, you can put a stop to the sort of thing that has happened in the last few months. I share what I think is a majority view of the outsiders that such a clear delimitation would be of real political value with moderates at home and with worried friends abroad. It would help to stop the foolish and false talk about a collision course with China, and it would help to meet the need for a real focusing of the attention of all toward the South, which remains the real battlefield. Such an internal decision would also require--and permit--a gradual reframing of the position of the Secretary of Defense himself. Bob McNamara has tended to focus his attention very sharply upon the single issue of the relation between the bombing in the North and supply and reinforcement in the South. While I tend to agree with him on this emphasis, I do not think it was the emphasis of the majority of those who spoke on November 2, nor do I think it the strongest position for you, all things considered, in the next fifteen months. I therefore believe that Bob should be asked to join in a rationale for the bombing which is a little wider than what he has been using in his wholly understandable argumentation before the Stennis Committee. This is not a matter of a drastic change in his position, but simply a question of reframing it so as to give more emphasis to the element of increased military cost which is a legitimate purpose of bombing.
If I may add one individual comment which does not come out of the discussion of November 2, I would also be inclined to press the Chiefs hard on the question of civilian casualties (both North and South). No matter how often they are pressed on the point, airmen just do not give the kind of attention to this issue that any civilian would wish if he were watching the matter himself. (I first learned this lesson from Colonel Stimson when he was telling me how he was hornswoggled by Hap Arnold on just this point.)
One question which was only briefly argued is whether there should or should not be a pause. Nobody proposed an unconditional pause, but there were several who did urge one form or another of bombing suspension aimed at a possible response by action, and not words alone, from the North. Mr. Acheson thought it would be good if we could trade the bombing for the end of attacks across the DMZ, and one or two others agreed. General Taylor thought this a bad swap and would prefer to trade the bombing of the North against incidents in the South. Still others appeared not to believe that any pause would be productive.
This subject is an obvious candidate for further study. My own belief is that problems of weather and timing make it very difficult to give clear-cut signals that would relate any pauses in the bombing to specific military actions by the enemy. I just don't think we are likely to be that smooth and sophisticated, in the light of the legitimate pressures for continuous use of air power on the lines of communication from the North. I think the case to beat is the case for not having any pause at all (except for short holidays). I think that if such a position is reached within the Government, it should be very carefully expounded, either by the President himself or by Under Secretary Katzenbach. Such a speech should be cleared at the top, whoever gives it, and it might well be an occasion also for such public redefinition of our bombing policy as may become possible after the currently listed targets have been struck.
4. What more can we do in the South?
Few of the speakers were really knowledgeable about events in the South and it is not surprising that most of them refrained from specific suggestions. If there was a general refrain, it was aimed at the need to increase both the reality and the appearance of Vietnamese activity all along the line.
The one area on which I would offer special comment is the one touched on by both Lodge and Taylor. They were the two men with most direct experience in Vietnam, and I found it interesting and troubling that both of them raised important questions about the military tactics now being followed. General Taylor was worried about the fixed positions on the DMZ and in the highlands. Ambassador Lodge questioned the wisdom of large-scale search and destroy operations such as those planned for the Delta. Lodge and I raised the question whether casualties must be expected to continue at their present level and even increase. This specific question was related to the general comment of several others that the prospect of endless inconclusive fighting is the most serious single cause of domestic disquiet about the war.
The discussion permits no conclusion on these questions but it does suggest the importance of a careful review at the highest military and civilian levels. It is obviously a highly sensitive matter to question the tactical judgment of the commander in the field. But it is equally obvious that you have every reason to satisfy yourself about questions of the importance of those raised by Lodge and Taylor.
If the battles near the borders are not wise, or if search and destroy operations in heavily populated areas are likely to be politically destructive, then the plans of the field commander must be seriously questioned. I see no alternative here but to have a very carefully prepared discussion with General Westmoreland, preferably after a good hard look on the spot by junior officers who might be chosen specifically for their acceptability in Saigon.
I should emphasize that what I am suggesting here is something that really has not been done in this war so far, to the best of my knowledge. For extremely good reasons the top men in Washington have kept their hands off the tactical conduct of the war, and most discussions have been directed rather to questions of force levels in the South and bombing limits in the North. (Even in Saigon the successive Ambassadors have been careful to keep out of military matters.) But now that the principal battleground is in domestic opinion, I believe the Commander-in-Chief has both the right and the duty to go further. I don't think anyone can predict the result of such an inquiry, but neither do I see how you can be asked to deal with the home front until you are satisfied that the plan of action in Vietnam--North and South--is the one you want.
One obvious difficulty which stands in the way of this kind of policy-making is the risk that there will be leaks of one sort or another which would lead to charges that the whole thing is politically inspired, and governed by election-year thinking. Certainly there would be such leaks and such criticism, but strong answers are available. In the first place, it is entirely legitimate to seek to define and then to explain the policy in terms that will be persuasive at home. But even more persuasive is the fact that clarity of definition is at least as much needed for success in Vietnam as for strengthening public opinion at home. If our present tactics are right from this point of view, all they need is persuasive exposition (which they have not had: how many of us could explain what Westy's strategy really is?). If they need adjustment, to avoid the costs of escalation in the North, and to minimize the danger of political disaffection in the South, then the adjustments are needed on their own merits, and not simply from the point of view of U.S. public opinion.
What I think I am recommending is simply that the Commander-in-Chief should visibly take command of a contest that is more political in its character than any in our history except the Civil War (where Lincoln interfered much more than you have). I think the visible exercise of his authority is not only best for the war but also best for public opinion--and also best for the internal confidence of the Government. Briefings which cite the latest statistics have lost their power to persuade. So have spectacular summits. These things are not worth one-quarter of what would be gained by the gradual emergence of the fact that the President himself--in his capacity as political leader and Commander-in-Chief--is shaping a campaign which is gradually increasing in its success and gradually decreasing in its cost in American lives and money.
Obviously it would be wrong to prejudge the policy which would emerge from the kind of review I am recommending. But my own hunch is that there may be a really good chance of reaching an agreed program, among civilians and military men alike, which would have these general characteristics:
(1) It could be less expensive in lives by involving fewer exposures to ambush and also by adopting the best tactics of the most successful local commanders.
(2) It could be much less expensive in money. (There just has to be an end of the cost of build-up at some point, and we ought not to let anyone believe that the dollar in Vietnam doesn't matter. It matters like Hell to our ability to stay the course.)
(3) It could be more effective politically in South Vietnam: all evidence of care and control and patient endurance will help on this front.
(4) It could enlarge the real and visible role of the South Vietnamese. There is a good deal of reason for driving home our insistence on their help even by just not doing things they won't join in.
(5) It could still keep plenty of pressure on the Communists.
(6) It could make it plain that we are over the hump. (In a funny, reverse-English way, it occurs to me that such a change of gears could have the same effect in Vietnam as the shift from Walker to Ridgway had in Korea.)
(7) It could establish a pattern of gradually decreasing cost that would be endurable for the five or ten years that I think are predicted by most of the wisest officials in Vietnam. If one thing is more clear than another, it is that we simply are not going to go on at the present rate for that length of time, and since I think the Communists have proved more stubborn than we expected at every stage, I think that sooner or later we are going to have to find a way of doing this job that is endurable in cost for a long pull.
I do have to admit that I can't prove that the time has come to make this shift. But the sooner that time comes--the less we engage in overkill--the better for all concerned. And the sooner it is possible to develop this kind of program, the better it will be, in straight foreign policy terms. It would also, quite obviously, be helpful on the hardest question of all:
5. What can be done to pull the home front together?
On this point the advice of last week's group was very mixed. Some seemed to feel that the best course was to march straight ahead without fretting over criticism. While others shared the view that the Administration should not seem to be worried about its critics, they did not seem to feel that nothing ought to be done. A variety of proposals were put forward--to develop friendly television programs, to organize committees of speech-makers, to bring in the responsible top educators, to reach past the Congress to the people, to promote visits by Bunker or Thieu, and to publicize such favorable assessments as George Carver's (my own reading of Carver's report was somewhat less optimistic, given the necessary discount for a staff officer reporting to superiors who want to hear good news).
My own view of all this is that the advice to keep calm is excellent and that most of the rest is of marginal value--although I do believe in the value of visible support by those of us not in the Administration. I think we have tried too hard to convert public opinion by statistics and by spectacular visits of all sorts. I do have to say also that I think public discontent with the war is now wide and deep. One of the few things that helps us right now is public distaste for the violent doves--but I think people really are getting fed up with the endlessness of the fighting.
What really hurts, then, is not the arguments of the doves but the cost of the war in lives and money, coupled with the lack of light at the end of the tunnel. So I think changes in what actually happens in Vietnam are the only effective way of changing public attitudes at home, and I would come back to the notions put forward in the previous section of this memorandum as being the best I can offer on the home front as well. I can add only that if such a redirection of strategy and emphasis should occur, then I also think it would be highly important for us to explain--really for the first time--that this war has had a number of phases which are sharply different from each other (our tendency in the past has been to downplay the significance of moves from one phase to the next, but if we can get to a turndown of overall costs, I think we should candidly review the whole set of major decisions which have moved us up the hill and over the crest).
I apologize deeply for the length of this memo and for the degree to which it really goes beyond the actual discussion of last week. I still hold with all the things I said then and in earlier memoranda about not pausing, not negotiating, and not escalating. I now go on to say that I think some visible de-escalation, based on success and not failure, is the most promising path I can see. I can't prove this path exists, but I think we should search for it.
394. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency/1/
/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, Aug-Dec 1967. Top Secret; Sensitive. In a November 11 covering note to the President, Helms wrote: "1. Attached hereto is our analysis of the message received from the NLF via the emissary who returned it to Saigon. 2. Nothing has occurred since October 27, when we received this message, to cause us to believe that the operation, to this point, is other than valid."
/2/Tong returned to Saigon on October 26 with a letter of reply from Dang that had approval from COSVN. This letter included a request for the release of 10 prisoners held by the GVN and a restatement of the NLF platform. The letter is attached to the memorandum from Helms to Rostow, October 30. (Ibid., Executive Registry Subject Files, Job 80-R01580R, Vietnam)
1. Is the message genuine? Our reading of the evidence leads us to conclude that the message is what it purports to be--a communication from the Communist leadership of the National Liberation Front sent with Hanoi's approval. The case history of this episode, from Dang's dispatch of Sau Ha in July through Sau Ha's arrest with the initial letter to the Ambassador and the subsequent developments involving Tong (the intermediary), is plausible and holds together very well. Details obtained from debriefings of Tong following his abortive trip in September and his more recent successful mission, as well as our reading of his character, also bear up under intense scrutiny and cross-checking. The substance of the message is not inconsistent with previous reflections of the attitude of both Hanoi and the National Liberation Front (NLF) toward the war and the problem of negotiations. Finally, an initiative of this sort can be construed as a logical extension of the stated policies of both the Front and Hanoi as they have evolved over the years, and particularly over recent months.
2. What does the message say? Because the message is cast in the somewhat imprecise, dogmatic, and often contradictory language common to Communist correspondence, its substance is not clear. Our best interpretation, however, can be summarized as follows:
a. The NLF is prepared to discuss an exchange of prisoners if the Americans first demonstrate good faith by releasing Sau Ha and others associated with his case, and improving the treatment of other prisoners;
b. Discussions could later proceed to "larger political matters";
c. A political solution to the war is possible, but only if the U.S. recognizes that it cannot defeat the Viet Cong militarily and cannot develop a strong GVN; time is on the side of the Viet Cong;
d. A political solution requires that the U.S. accept "in principle" four points (Vietnamese independence, U.S. troop withdrawal, establishment of a democratic and neutralist South Vietnam, and non-interference in internal Vietnamese affairs) as the basis for talks;
e. Talks to end the war based on these points can take place only between the U.S. and the NLF; the Front will not deal with Thieu and Ky, although GVN representatives could be included in the U.S. delegation;
f. The war in the North must be resolved separately between the U.S. and Hanoi;
g. Discussions on post-war political arrangements in South Vietnam can only involve the NLF and internal political forces outside the Front--not the GVN.
3. What does the message mean? The message represents an effort by the Communists--in the name of the NLF--to explore the willingness of the U.S. to resolve the war in the South by dealing directly with the Front. Beyond this, the Communists may hope to establish a dialogue through which the two sides can unofficially--but directly--come to an understanding of their respective views and positions on both the modalities and substance of a negotiated settlement. The prisoner exchange, in this event, would be primarily a device through which the two sides could demonstrate their good faith and thus create an environment favoring serious discussion of the broader issues.
4. This tactical gambit--almost certainly sanctioned by Hanoi--would be a logical outgrowth of Hanoi's policy on negotiations as it has evolved since 1960. Since late last year, the Communists seem to have embarked on a campaign to improve the Front's image both internally and internationally, a campaign that may reflect decisions embodied in the 13th Resolution of the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party. In any event, beginning with the establishment of an NLF delegation in Hanoi, the Communists have increasingly emphasized the independence of the Front, its legitimacy as broadly representative of the South Vietnamese people, and the reasonableness of its policy regarding post-war developments. They have also sought to underscore their basic proposition that the war in the South can only be resolved by dealing directly with the NLF.
5. These nuances have reflected new emphasis on certain longstanding basic principles, rather than a real softening of Hanoi's fundamental position. They have been accompanied by tactical shifts in the Communist negotiating posture, the first being the Trinh interview in January 1967 on the question of the bombing halt. The latest such shift--one leading to Dang's message--is the proposition that the war in the South can be dealt with separately from the war in the North. This emphasis emerged in late June, and has been underscored in various diplomatic contacts since the conference of DRV Ambassadors in early July. It is possible that the original Dang message of late July relates to matters discussed at that conference, i.e., that Hanoi had refined its political offensive to include an effort to establish direct contact between the Front and the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The four points listed by Dang as providing the basis for talks are consistent with Hanoi's four points, and the differences in Dang's formulation do not necessarily represent any softening in that regard.
6. If, by broaching the question of a prisoner exchange, the Communists were seeking to establish an avenue for political discussions with the U.S., their choice of this channel was probably influenced by several considerations. First, this is the most direct channel available--secure communications could be readily established. Because the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam represents U.S. policy there, and is charged with supervising our conduct of the war, he can speak on substantive matters more readily than U.S. Ambassadors in other countries. The contact is placed directly in a quasi-diplomatic context, implying acceptance--if not formal recognition--of the Front as a political entity. Finally, the Communists may feel--as other Vietnamese did--that Ambassador Bunker's reputation as a negotiator was directly relevant to his appointment to the Saigon post.
7. Why was the message sent? One Communist objective in sending the message probably was to exacerbate GVN-U.S. relations by drawing us into direct contacts with the NLF. We believe, however, it is also a serious probe arising from their genuine willingness to explore the possibility of achieving a negotiated settlement on their quite rigid terms. We are inclined to doubt that it stems from any recognition by the Communists that their position is fundamentally weak. The strident professions of confidence in this message echo the dogmatic--and obstinate--faith in the validity of their People's War doctrine reflected elsewhere in Communist statements. The Communists seem still to believe that they can outlast us in the war because of their assumption that public opposition to the war in the U.S. will ultimately erode our will to persist. They evidently believe our increasing presence in the South reinforces the validity of their increasingly nationalist propaganda appeal. They may also see the democratization of the GVN as affording them new opportunities to coalesce support among non-Communist opposition groups, and thus to broaden their political effectiveness.
8. On the other hand, their protestations may mask genuine concern that their own position in the South could weaken over time. They may find the cost of the war increasingly intolerable. They may also be apprehensive lest the strengthening of the GVN's political posture gain real momentum over the long-term.
9. On balance, we feel that the initiative reflects a complex set of factors at work on their position. They probably now assume that the war will end ultimately in negotiations of some sort. They know they cannot win militarily, but they also believe that the U.S. cannot do so either. Thus neither side would be in a position to obtain its maximum objectives. While they believe they can more easily endure a "stalemate" than the U.S. can, they almost certainly recognize that their position could be weaker a year hence. In these circumstances, we believe that the message probably reflects a real interest in probing the U.S. position on key issues./3/
/3/Difficulties in obtaining GVN concurrence in the release of the prisoners held up an immediate response. A message that called for the release of American and South Vietnamese prisoners as a demonstration of the NLF's goodwill was sent back with both Sau Ha and Tong, who were also equipped with equipment necessary to make radio contact with the Americans. No discussions on political matters ever materialized, although continuing contacts resulted in the release of two American and several South Vietnamese prisoners. In turn, U.S. Government representatives arranged the release of six interned Viet Cong; among these was Dang's wife, who was released on December 15. (Memorandum from Helms to Secretary of State William P. Rogers, January 27, 1969; ibid., DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, Jan-Jun 1969)
395. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 13, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1 C(2), Revolutionary Development Cadre. Top Secret.
Our group/2/ (Paul Nitze, Bus Wheeler, Walt Rostow, Dick Helms, Averell Harriman, Paul Warnke, Phil Habib, Bill Bundy and myself) addressed the question of what areas should receive the maximum attention and effort by the US in the next year in Viet-Nam.
/2/Reference is to the so-called "Non-group," which met periodically to discuss issues on an informal basis.
The list we came up with, without dissent, concentrated on six main themes. They are chosen as themes with a potential short-term payoff, either here or in Viet-Nam. While we make an extra push on them, we should continue our normal efforts, although I have a growing suspicion that we could make some cutbacks in some of our programs without damaging our over-all effort; this can only be done, however, with Ellsworth's full backing and participation.
Our list is quite similar to the present Mission priorities, so I think you will find Ellsworth in basic agreement with us./3/
/3/Bunker returned to Washington on November 10 and met with the President on November 13 from 11:32 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) No notes of the meeting have been found, although an agenda prepared by Rostow indicates that four subjects were to be raised: the recent election, accelerated progress in various programs, the Buttercup initiative, and Bunker's schedule of public appearances. (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, November 11; ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Post Inaugural Political Activity, 1 E(1))
These are the items:
1. Anti-corruption effort--There was unanimous agreement that a visible and credible anti-corruption effort would help a great deal in improving the Administration's position, and in building a more effective GVN. (Bus Wheeler was particularly strong on this point.) Current efforts are still highly ambiguous; the quick trial and death sentence of one unfortunate ARVN officer is not the kind of sustained, serious campaign that is essential.
2. ARVN performance--Everything that can be done must be done to make the Vietnamese Army assume a greater portion of the war burden--visibly. While I do not think that we will be able to reduce the US troop role in the next year, we should be able to get more out of the ARVN, and we should have a better press policy to show that this is happening.
3. Anti-infrastructure efforts--This is probably the quickest payoff item around; while the CIA is going all out now on this effort, I think we can and should demand more from the GVN.
4. Building Political Institutions--We all agree that that is important, but unlike Walt Rostow, I tend to doubt that we can anticipate a really dramatic breakthrough on this one in the next year. The Vietnamese are feeling their way slowly in a world that is quite new to them, and while they learn--and write--the new rule book, they are not going to build great national parties. Any effort that Thieu made in that direction, as Ellsworth quoted Thieu as saying, would turn out to be a new version of the old secret parties which were so hated in Viet-Nam.
5. Economic Stability--I wish we didn't have to put this item on our list, but after analyzing the economic situation we are anticipating a probable inflation of about 40%. At the very best we could reduce it to about 25%, but if things get out of hand there could be as much as a 75% increase.
The projected inflation of 40%--which is about what we are experiencing in 1967--would not only wipe out the effects of any GVN wage increase that is granted, but it would also get the new government off on the wrong foot, and would make any serious anti-corruption campaign that much tougher. Incidentally, if there is a 50% inflation next year, plus a GVN wage increase, the real income of GVN officials and soldiers will be about half of the 1964 level--which itself was inadequate.
6. Efforts to get the GVN into contact with the VC--On this point, only Ellsworth can really make a dent. We can't push the GVN too hard, or they will think we are asking them to commit suicide. But we can definitely push them harder than they have been pushed in the past. There is no reason why representatives of the GVN, or of the legislature, could not meet with representatives of the Front. I do not think that such meetings would leave the GVN divided and on the verge of collapse, as some people do. Furthermore, if the GVN made its willingness to entertain such contacts clear its position and image would be far stronger than at present. Finally, it would be a major GVN response to the growing desire of the South Vietnamese people for some end to the war./4/
/4/On November 11 Johnson included in his Veteran's Day remarks an offer to meet with a North Vietnamese delegation: "The United States follows the dream of peace; so we include even the seasin our search," the President asserted. "For us, the wardroom could easily be a conference room. A neutral ship on a neutral sea would be as good a meeting place as any." The full text of the speech is in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pp. 1017-1019.
The Mission's list is quite similar to our six items. It covered:
1. Mobilization measures.
2. Reorganization of RVNAF.
3. Reorganization of Civilian Administration.
4. Vital Pacification Measures in addition to above.
a. Attack on VC infrastructure.
5. Attack on Corruption at all levels.
6. Economic stabilization measures.
7. Peace to include willingness to seek peaceful settlement, seek out members of NLF and move towards reintegration through national reconciliation.
Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
396. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, November 13, 1967.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 VIET. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Heyward Isham of the Vietnam Working Group on November 10 and cleared by Habib. Sent through Katzenbach. A notation by Read on the memorandum reads: "(Mr. Katzenbach concurs in the EA recommendation, but favors withholding decision concerning Tet until a later date.) EA points out that this would discriminate in favor of Christian holidays and notes that Thieu has already spoken publicly about all three holidays. BHR"
1. Question at Issue. Leaving aside the separate issue of a more prolonged bombing suspension designed to achieve different objectives, we should consider the degree to which we will this year have holiday truces at Christmas, New Year's and Tet (January 28-February 3). We can anticipate that by Thanksgiving there is likely to be increasing public pressure to make our position clear on this question.
2. US Position. The Mission in Saigon has already sent its recommendations together with proposed rules of engagement (at clip)./2/ The Mission proposes a 24-hour Christmas pause, no New Year's pause (although the Mission would accept one of 24-hour duration), and a 48-hour Tet ceasefire, with a maximum fallback position of 72 hours. We understand the JCS has recommended against any holiday ceasefire on military grounds. However, OSD at the working level appears to have no strong objection to the general nature of the Mission's recommendations.
/2/Not printed. The attached telegram 8432 from Saigon, October 13, warned of the "critical sensitivity" of deciding upon a cease-fire schedule as soon as possible so that the administration would not be "pre-empted" by the other side. This was a position echoed by the South Vietnamese. During Bunker's conversation with Ky, reported in telegram 10641 from Saigon, November 8, Ky urged that "we take the initiative rather than let Hanoi or the VC get the benefit of it." (Ibid., POL 27 VIET S)
3. GVN Position. As to the GVN position, Ky thinks we should agree to have a standdown, preferably 24 hours for Christmas, 24 hours for New Year's and 48 hours for Tet, since these are traditional holidays. Thieu has commented along very similar lines, specifying the same number of hours. Thieu added that if there were intimations of other developments, we could explore them and decide what to do at the time. Press despatches November 11 quote Thieu as predicting that holiday pauses of the lengths specified above would be likely.
4. Major Alternatives. The principal alternatives, therefore, are:
(a) (JCS proposal)--Have no bombing suspension or ceasefire during these holiday periods, based on military considerations and the fraudulent manner in which the enemy has treated past ceasefires;
(b) Have the traditional holiday ceasefires and bombing suspension for 24 hours at Christmas, 24 hours at New Year's and 48 hours at Tet;
(c) Have the same ceasefire periods as paragraph 4(b) with the additional offer by the GVN to negotiate a supervised extension with NVN.
5. For political and psychological reasons we do not think that the JCS recommendation can be sustained and would therefore recommend against alternative 4(a).
6. In the light of the entirely negative response from Hanoi to last year's GVN offers to extend the holiday ceasefires, we see no point in repeating this offer, and recommend against 4(c).
7. Therefore, the best alternative in our view is alternative 4(b). The rules of engagement recommended by the Mission seem to us workable and acceptable, although we need clarification of the Embassy's suggestion on imposing a total freeze on logistics and force re-positioning on both sides.
8. If, as is likely, the VC should declare either before or after our announcement that they plan to observe longer ceasefire periods, we will have to be prepared with suitable contingency statement. We should make clear that there are always means for conveying to the GVN the other side's interest in taking any mutual steps to scale down the level of hostilities, and that given past experience of enemy's violations of ceasefire and their efforts to exploit these periods to gain military advantage, we had concluded that any more protracted ceasefire periods would cause unacceptable risks to our forces.
9. Timing of Announcement. Judging from their past behavior, the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong will make every effort to impose a cease-fire in a manner which will buttress their own claim to command the military initiative and to exercise superior authority over US/GVN forces. It is therefore important that we pre-empt any such announcement in good time. Instead of making individual announcements on each of the three holiday ceasefires, we should consider this year whether to announce all three at the same time and to do so as early as possible and no later than the end of November.
/3/There is no indication whether these recommendations were approved, but a note by Rusk on the first page reads: "Overtaken. DR"
10. That you seek the President's approval for the issuance of instructions authorizing holiday ceasefire and bombing suspensions over Christmas, New Year's and Tet of 24, 24, and 48 hours respectively, without any explicit offer of extension, and governed by the ground rules worked out by the Mission.
11. That you further seek the President's approval for the timing of a single announcement for all three holiday periods, to be made as soon as possible after consultation with the GVN and the other Manila allies. The announcement should be made by the GVN with simultaneous supporting statements in all allied capitals.
12. That you approve the guidance as given in paragraph 8 above if the contingency outlined therein arises.
397. Special National Intelligence Estimate/1/
Washington, November 13, 1967.
/1/Source: Department of State, INR/REA Files: Lot 90 D 99, National Intelligence Estimates; Special Intelligence Estimates. Top Secret. Submitted by the DCI and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board. In a covering memorandum to the President, November 14, Helms cautioned that this SNIE was "sensitive and potentially controversial" because of the "variance" of its figures with past estimates. Because of this issue, Helms confided that he considered withholding the issuance of this SNIE. However, he had reconsidered since, in light of public knowledge of the discussions over the enemy order of battle, "the charge of bad faith or unwillingness to face the facts would be more generally damaging than the issuance of this document which can stand on its own feet." (Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (Helms) Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI (Helms) Chrono, Aug-Dec 1967, 01 Aug-31 Dec 67)
CAPABILITIES OF THE VIETNAMESE COMMUNISTS FOR FIGHTING
/2/This estimate supersedes NIE 14.3-66, "North Vietnamese Military Potential for Fighting in South Vietnam," dated 7 July 1966, Top Secret. [Footnote in the source text.]
To estimate the capabilities of the Vietnamese Communists to conduct military operations in South Vietnam over the next year or so./3/
/3/The figures in this estimate are current as of 1 October 1967. [Footnote in the source text.]
Our earlier understanding of overall Communist capabilities in Vietnam had, of necessity, to rely heavily on data provided by the GVN. Much of this turned out to be unreliable, and in many instances our numerical estimates of Communist forces, other than for the Regular units, were too low. Our information has improved substantially in the past year or two, but the unconventional nature of the war poses difficult intelligence problems, the more so in a social environment where basic data is incomplete and often untrustworthy.
Manpower, for example, is a key element for the Communists but we lack precise basic data on population size, rates of growth, and age distribution for both North and South Vietnam. Assessing Communist capabilities also involves an understanding of the organization and effectiveness of the various components in the Communist military and political apparatus in South Vietnam. Much of the evidence on these components is obtained from a variety of sources, including captured documents, of varying reliability and timeliness. The analysis of this data, as well as that concerning North Vietnamese support to the South and all manpower questions requires complex methodological approaches which cannot rise above the uncertain data inputs.
Our data and conclusions are therefore subject to continuing review and revision, especially since capabilities do not remain static. In this estimate we have concentrated on reaching the best judgments of the current strength of the Communist forces and, because of incomplete and unreliable basic data, we have not attempted to reconstruct Communist strength retrospectively.
Reservations with respect to evidence are explained where appropriate in the individual sections of the estimate. The main conclusions which follow, however, allow for such uncertainties in the supporting intelligence, represent our best appreciation of the overall situation as it now stands, and are based on the assumption that there is no radical change in the scale and nature of the war.
A. During the past year, Hanoi's direct control and share of the burden of the war in South Vietnam has grown substantially. This trend will continue.
B. Manpower is a major problem confronting the Communists. Losses have been increasing and recruitment in South Vietnam is becoming more difficult. Despite heavy infiltration from North Vietnam, the strength of the Communist military forces and political organizations in South Vietnam declined in the last year.
C. The major portion of this decline has probably been felt at the lower levels, reflecting a deliberate policy of sacrificing these levels to maintain the structure of political cadres and the strength of the Regular military forces. In particular the guerrillas, now estimated to total some 70,000-90,000, have suffered a substantial reduction since the estimated peak of about early 1966. Regular force strength, now estimated at 118,000, has declined only slightly, but Viet Cong (VC) units are increasingly dependent upon North Vietnamese replacements./4/
/4/In comparison, the forces arrayed against the Vietnamese Communists included: VNAF--730,000 (of which 327,000 were regulars), U.S.--470,000 (soon to be augmented by 45,000 personnel), ROK--45,000, Australia--6,300, Thailand--2,500 (also to be supplemented by 10,000 personnel), Philippines--2,000, and New Zealand--400.
D. Given current Communist strategy, and levels of operations, a major effort will be necessary if the Regular forces and the guerrillas are to be maintained at or near present levels. To do so will require both a level of infiltration much higher than that observed in 1967 and intensive VC recruitment as well. Considering all the relevant factors, however, we believe there is a fairly good chance that the overall strength and effectiveness of the military forces and the political infrastructure will continue to decline.
E. The Communist leadership is already having problems in maintaining morale and quality. These problems have not yet impaired overall military effectiveness, but they are likely to become more difficult.
F. Difficulties in internal distribution will continue to cause local shortages and interfere with Communist operations from time to time. But we believe that the Communists will be able to continue to meet at least their essential supply requirement for the level of forces and activities in South Vietnam described in this estimate.
G. Communist strategy is to sustain a protracted war of attrition and to persuade the US that it must pull out or settle on Hanoi's terms. Our judgment is that the Communists still retain adequate capabilities to support this strategy for at least another year. Whether or not Hanoi does in fact persist with this strategy depends not only on its capabilities to do so, but on a number of political and international considerations not treated in this estimate.
[Here follow additional estimates of enemy manpower. In addition to the enemy strength of 118,000 personnel for regular units (NVA/VC main and local forces) and an estimated 70,000-90,000 guerrillas cited in the conclusion above, the report added 35,000-40,000 in support elements (a maximum of 248,000 personnel). Outside of this total, the authors of the SNIE did not factor in militia-type units, such as the self-defense force, the secret self-defense forces, and the youth combat organization, all of which were too difficult, they believed, to estimate accurately, and the non-combatant political cadres, which numbered in the range of 75,000-85,000. They did admit previous underestimation of the non-regular military forces, and thus implied that the enemy did have a much larger overall organization than the SNIE's maximum military figure suggested. The estimate concludes by asserting that Communist infrastructure in Vietnam had been in decline since early 1966 and would continue to decline. However, it contained an admission that the enemy could persist at the current level of struggle for at least a year.]/5/
/5/In a speech before the National Press Club, November 21, Westmoreland listed the elements of progress made by the allied side in South Vietnam and the myriad of problems faced by the enemy. For full text of the speech, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1034-1038. The specific figures as listed in the SNIE were mentioned in a November 22 press briefing by Westmoreland in which he insisted that the enemy's ability to carry on the struggle had deteriorated. He suggested that the estimated 40,000 Communist troops that were lost during the summer of 1967 could not be replaced. He also acknowledged that the new estimate had not included Viet Cong political infrastructure in South Vietnam. The full revised estimate was made public on November 24. See The New York Times, November 23 and 25, 1967.
398. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State/1/
Saigon, November 14, 1967, 0615Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, AID (US) VIET S. Secret; Nodis. Received at 2:23 a.m.
11066. Department literally eyes only for Ambassador Bunker. Ref: Saigon 10987./2/
/2/Telegram 10987 from Saigon, November 13, reported separately on the aspect of the discussion between Calhoun and Nguyen Van Kieu, Thieu's brother, on November 11, specifically concerning appointments in the office of the Vietnamese President. (Ibid., POL 15 VIET S)
1. In conversation with Calhoun November 11, Kieu made a direct request for U.S. financial assistance to support development of a pro-government political party. As noted in reftel, Kieu seemed to be thinking also of government financial support for a "loyal opposition" party. Although his presentation was rather imprecise and confused he gave the impression that the financial aid they would like from us would be used for the development of political parties in general, thus presumably including any assistance they might give to an opposition grouping. He stressed that the problems of initial organization and facilities were particularly difficult and posed requirements for financial resources which were not available to either a pro-government or a loyal opposition grouping.
2. In terms of loyal opposition, he seemed to be thinking of relatively tame supporters of Tran Van Huong and the Lien Truong and perhaps some Dai Viets, and not the more vocally critical elements, such as the militant Buddhists, represented to some degree in the lower house. As indicated, Calhoun cautioned against trying to create what may be largely artificial groupings which seem to fit their conception of what should be encouraged, rather than permitting natural political forces and trends to shape the structure to some degree. Kieu seemed to have in mind setting up two favored groups which could in effect take turns being the party in power.
3. Calhoun was of course non-committal about possibilities of furnishing any financial assistance, pointing out the difficulties posed and saying simply that he would look into the matter.
4. Comment: It is our assumption that Kieu was speaking on behalf of President Thieu since the latter had designated him as liaison for such matters with us. This approach tends to support the conclusion you reached during your meeting with Calhoun and Lapham last week, namely, that it would be useful to obtain authorization for certain funds to be used selectively in accordance with your own judgments on the spot. We recommend that you pursue this idea in Washington and we can then discuss the answer to be made to Kieu after you return. We will certainly need to know more about their thinking and the form we think it should take before reaching a conclusion on Kieu's request.
399. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 15, 1967, 12:15 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 3E(1)a, Future Military Operations in VN. Top Secret. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. According to a November 20 memorandum from Bundy to the President, Rostow recommended that a briefing on the estimate "be held up until Westmoreland gives an over-all picture of the military side of the war in all its aspects." Rostow argued that the fact that guerrilla strength was underestimated in the past and that some groups were removed from the aggregate total would cause "cynical reactions" unless a wider picture of the war was presented. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, Top Secret WPB Chron, Nov/Dec 1967)
Herewith Dick Helms' memo to you on a new National Intelligence Estimate entitled "Capabilities of the Vietnamese Communists for Fighting in South Vietnam."/2/ I have marked its main conclusions, summarized on the last two pages.
/2 Document 397.
It comes to this:
--manpower is the major problem confronting the Communists;
--there has been a substantial reduction in guerrillas since an estimated peak in early 1966;
--there has been a slight reduction in main force units in the past year, but this has been possible only by using more North Vietnamese replacements in Viet Cong units;
--there is a "fairly good chance" that the Communist military strength and political infrastructure will continue to decline;
--Communist strategy is to sustain a protracted war of attrition and to persuade the United States that it must pull out or settle on Hanoi's terms. Their judgment is that the "Communists still retain adequate capabilities to support this strategy for at least another year."
The memo to you and the introductory note reflect a considerable debate in the intelligence community. The debate centers on the fact that they now know more from captured documents than they did about guerrillas, village defense forces, etc. What they know indicates that guerrilla strength was probably underestimated last year, but has declined substantially since.
I had urged that they do a retroactive estimate showing that decline; but they say they cannot do it, and confine themselves to the simple statement that the guerrillas "have suffered a substantial reduction."
The estimate does not deal with an important fact as estimated by Westmoreland and the JCS: namely, that there has been a very substantial decline in the past year in enemy main force battalions rated as "combat effective." (Buzz Wheeler told the group the other day, and confirmed to me on the telephone this morning that in October 1965 the enemy had 123 maneuver battalions, all rated combat effective. In October 1967 the enemy had 162 maneuver battalions, of which only 87 were rated combat effective.)
In general, this is a conservative estimate; but it is not a bad thing to build our plans on conservative estimates.
The one danger, of which Dick Helms is aware, is that the underestimate of guerrillas in 1966 be taken out of context and distorted, if leaked. They have tried hard to avoid that possibility.
I told Dick that the one sentence I would challenge is the marked sentence on page 1. I agree that the guerrilla figure was underestimated in 1966; but we have suffered in other areas from overestimation as well as underestimation in dealing with Communist capabilities. But that is not important.
400. Notes of Meeting/1/
Washington, November 15, 1967, 2:16-3:20 p.m.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The date and time of the meeting do not appear on the notes but are taken from an attached November 16 covering memorandum from Tom Johnson to the President.
NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH SECRETARY RUSK, SECRETARY McNAMARA, GENERAL WHEELER, CIA DIRECTOR HELMS, WALT ROSTOW, AND GEORGE CHRISTIAN
Prior to the President joining the meeting the group discussed the possibility of Secretary Rusk and Secretary McNamara appearing on the December 19 CBS program for a "year-end wrapup".
Secretary McNamara said he did not like the idea of spending a whole hour on Vietnam alone.
Secretary Rusk said Vietnam was the one area that he is completely clear on. George Christian said he was sure it would cover other areas, including NPT, ABM and relations with other countries.
George Christian said that Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland would appear on Meet the Press Sunday.
Ambassador Bunker reported on his morning meetings with Congressional committees and his appearance before the Overseas Press Club./2/
/2/For text of Bunker's remarks at the Overseas Press Club in New York on November 17, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 1028-1032.
The ambassador reported a good turnout and a receptive attitude in the meetings.
The ambassador said he reported "steady progress on the political, military, and economic front in South Vietnam."
Bunker: "I tried to point out that nation-building and rural reconstruction is as important as the military aspects. We are making progress on all fronts.
"The House Foreign Affairs Committee asked if South Vietnam would negotiate with the NLF. I said they were anxious to get into dialogue. I spent two hours with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There was very little criticism.
"Most of the questions were in the center. I repeated the San Antonio formula. This seemed to calm them down.
"One congressman had a question about the charge that we never come forth with anything on negotiations which would not make it look like a defeat for Hanoi.
"I said that was correct if defeat meant that they must stop their aggression.
"Young Tunney's/3/ son did a lot of talking. My schedule for the remainder of the day is to meet at 4 p.m. with the Vice President and at 5 with the Peace with Freedom Committee."
/3/Representative John V. Tunney (D-California).
General Wheeler then reported on the recent series of contacts around Dak To./4/ The first contacts were on November 3. Another heavy engagement was on November 6. Other contacts were on November 8, 10, 11 and 13.
/4/The heavy fighting around Dak To in Kontum Province, II CTZ, was part of the enemy's winter offensive, which began with the start of the dry season in November.
General Wheeler said there have been 102 U.S. KIA vs. 636 enemy KIA. In support of this operation have been 102 B-52 sorties, 81 of which have been in "close support". There also have been 1,116 tactical air sorties.
General Wheeler said the VC are attempting to achieve a dramatic victory and/or draw forces away from pacification. Ambassador Bunker agreed with this assessment.
The President asked if the quality of the South Vietnamese army has improved?
Ambassador Bunker said there has been substantial improvement in the South Vietnamese army. "The Vietnamese soldier is very good when he is well led. The press underrates the Vietnamese force. Out of 40 battles recently, they have had 35 successes. They are fighting in night actions now too.
"The press does not believe our head counts and KIA."
The President asked Director Helms to get what information the U.S. government has on head counts of enemy KIA and determine the accuracy of the head counts--see where we have made any errors, if indeed we have.
In addition, show them the enemy documents and correlate them with the body counts to see if there is a relationship. (Rostow said that enemy documents show about the same as the head counts which have been reported.)
The President then asked Ambassador Bunker what more he would do to bring the war to a conclusion if he were President.
Ambassador Bunker said that if you take any time frame--six months, a year, two years--and compare it with the present there is evidence of a great deal of progress.
"I would do exactly what we are doing. The ratio of combat troops to support troops has reversed. There are now 39% support troops to 61% combat troops. We are going to get more troops from the Koreans and the Thais."
President: What about pushing up the arrival time of more units?
General Wheeler: Two major elements already have been moved ahead--the 101st Airborne and the 11th Infantry. They will be in Vietnam before Christmas.
President: I want you men to do two things. First, get the number of targets down to the absolute minimum. Second, get the troops out there as rapidly as possible. I want to get these two things behind me.
President: While all of you are here this week, I want you to get together with General Westmoreland and think about what more--if anything--we should be doing./5/
/5/The President met with Westmoreland at 12:07 p.m. the next day in the White House. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary) Notes of the meeting have not been found, but an agenda prepared by Rostow for Johnson indicates that they were to discuss military policy and progress in Vietnam as well as specific issues such as the impact of an expansion of operations in the delta region and the reliability of the body count as an indicator. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 1E(1), 10/66-12/67, Post Inaugural Political Activity)
Ambassador Bunker: We are in a position now--with the ratio change of support to combat troops--to step it up steadily. We have good logistics now and there has been considerable ARVN improvement.
I believe the new government is committed to their program. We ought not try to shove more at them than they can handle.
We may have too many AID people over there now trying to do too much. There are some priorities for them, including the reorganizing of the army, the refugee problem, and land reform.
President: Have you seen any substantial changes in the six months you have been over there?
Ambassador Bunker: Yes, indeed. There is a significant change in the government--most improved. There has been a change in the political situation for the better. There now are local people getting involved in local government at village level. We are urging Ky and Thieu to put land control in the hands of the local people.
Secretary Rusk then reported on Ambassador Goldberg's discussions at the U.N. on the Middle East question. The proposed trip to England by the Vice President also was discussed.
The President then said he wanted from Ambassador Bunker, Ambassador Komer, and General Westmoreland "an accurate assessment of things as they stand now."
"I want to see what else we can do."
"We need to get a better story to the American people."
The group then discussed the possibility of Jim Hagerty, former press Secretary to President Eisenhower, going to Vietnam for a short while to replace Barry Zorthian, joint Information Officer.
It was agreed he would be a good man for the job--but it was unlikely that Hagerty would leave ABC to take the post.
401. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 16, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memo to the President. Top Secret; Sensitive. In his November 16 covering memorandum to the President, Katzenbach wrote: "The enclosed memorandum on Viet-Nam represents my personal views which may not be shared by you or by my colleagues in the Administration. For this reason I am sending it directly to you for your consideration. Only Secretary Rusk, with whom I have not discussed this memorandum, has a copy." Rostow's memorandum transmitting Katzenbach's memorandum to the President, November 17, reads: "Herewith Nick Katzenbach sets down his personal view on an appropriate strategy for Vietnam." (Ibid.) The notation "ps" on the covering memorandum indicates that the President saw Katzenbach's memorandum.
[Here follow the first three parts of the memorandum (13 pages), in which Katzenbach described the nature of the fighting in Vietnam as exacerbating domestic opposition. He argued that the President could strengthen the political center in the United States by stemming the escalation in Vietnam.]
Time is the crucial element at this stage of our involvement in Viet-Nam. Can the tortoise of progress in Viet-Nam stay ahead of the hare of dissent at home? All our present evidence points to the fact that progress in Viet-Nam will be steady but undramatic over next year. Yet slow and steady progress may not be enough if, as I suspect, the rate of US disenchantment with the war is growing rapidly. We must, it seems, find a way to change the pace at which events move on the two fronts--Viet-Nam and the United States.
The hope that this change can be accomplished by a rapid acceleration of our progress in Viet-Nam is a slim one. Even if we progressively remove the limits we have imposed on how and where we fight, there is little reason to believe that the end of the road would be significantly nearer. But it is certain that taking such action would greatly increase the volume of dissent at home and thus further encourage North Vietnamese hopes for an early US withdrawal.
Winston Churchill, speaking of traditional frontal conflicts, once said that in war "nothing succeeds like excess." Hanoi is relying on our following that strategy in the very different context of Viet-Nam--a war which has as a principal battleground the minds of the American and Vietnamese people and in which the enemy has the power to deny us the opportunity to show to the public an end to the struggle. In this situation, excessive expenditures of men and money--which will not measurably shorten the war--are the surest route to failure, not to success.
If we can't speed up the tortoise of demonstrable success in the field we must concentrate on slowing down the hare of dissent at home. At pages 7-11 above I have set forth in some detail the five general ways in which we could move in this direction. By way of conclusion I want only to suggest five specific measures.
1. We should clarify our objective in South Viet-Nam by updating NSAM 288 of March, 1964./2/ This NSAM, which is still used by our military commanders, states our objective in the following general terms: "We seek an independent non-Communist South Viet-Nam." From this general statement the JCS and CINCPAC have derived the following specific mission and tasks for MACV:
/2/For text of NSAM No. 288, March 17, 1964, see Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, vol. I, Document 87.
a. "To make it as difficult and costly as possible for NVN to continue effective support of the Viet Cong and to cause NVN to cease direction of the Viet Cong insurgency."
b. "To defeat decisively the Viet Cong and NVN in South Viet-Nam and force the withdrawal of NVN forces."
c. "To extend GVN dominion, direction and control over South Viet-Nam." (underlining added)/3/
/3/Printed here in italics.
If I were given this mission I would follow the same strategy as General Westmoreland. But this mission overshoots our real objectives in SEA: to provide the military cover and non-military assistance needed to enable the GVN to grow in capacity and popular support to the point where it can survive and, over a period of years, deal with what will remain a continuing and serious Communist problem.
Unless we help General Westmoreland off the hook by writing a statement of objectives from which a more realistic and attainable mission can be derived, we will continually be faced by "thin edge of the wedge" requests from the military for expansion of the war.
2. Instruct our field commanders, including Ambassador Bunker, to adjust their strategy and tactics to the revised objective.
No one in Washington can second-guess the field on the details of strategy, at least not successfully. Therefore, in the first instance, I think we should ask Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland for their proposals, which we could then review in Washington to make sure they meet our requirements.
In rough outline, I would anticipate that such a change in objective and mission should mean that MACV would deploy its forces so as to minimize their involvement with the population, and to reduce substantially American involvement in those measures which should be the GVN's responsibility. It would probably mean:
--a rigorous review of free bombing zones,
--a policy on refugees which would sharply reduce our vulnerabilities at home and around the world on this festering sore point,
--dramatic new efforts to reduce civilian casualties,
--and an end to the continual military requests for incremental expansions of the war into Laos, Cambodia and North Viet-Nam.
These steps, while controversial with the military, are not radical departures, and would not prevent General Westmoreland from achieving the mission and objective which we have set forth.
3. Demand more of the GVN--not only in the traditional ways, but also in seeking contact and accommodation with the NLF.
I am, of course, wholeheartedly in favor of the current drive to get the ARVN to assume a larger part of the war, the anti-corruption drive, and our other efforts to improve the GVN across the board. I would go further than we have yet gone and tell Thieu and Ky frankly that there are time limits on our commitment at its present level and that they had better face up to that fact and plan accordingly.
At the same time, I would like to see Ellsworth intensify his efforts to get the GVN into contact with the NLF. The risks are obvious, and only Ellsworth can determine the exact pace at which to move. But I feel strongly that we should look toward an accommodation and that Ellsworth can prod the GVN harder in this direction. Both these actions with regard to the GVN are implicit in the restatement of our objective which is discussed above.
4. Stop bombing targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. While, in the main body of this paper, I have advocated a qualified but indefinite halt in the bombing, I recognize that this is a special problem and not necessarily derivable from a restatement of objectives. I do feel, however, that we must at a minimum bring our target system into line with our objectives. Therefore, we should avoid targets which raise doubts as to our often stated position that we are not seeking to destroy the DRV.
5. To tie all these themes together, develop over a period of weeks a public posture which rebuilds the confidence of the American center in our objectives and methods in Viet-Nam.
Such a public policy would entail
--major but not dramatic statements by you and your principal deputies, including General Westmoreland, taking advantage of reports on recent progress;
--public statements by Thieu and Ky re-emphasizing their hope to see peace and the eventual control of South Viet-Nam by Southvietnamese without large numbers of Americans;
--and acts visible to the world showing that our rhetoric is matched by our deeds. The visible acts would be derived from points 2, 3 and 4 above.
Nicholas deB. Katzenbach
402. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam/1/
Washington, November 19, 1967, 0220Z.
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 VIET S. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Isham; cleared by Miller, Habib, Bundy, and Harriman; and approved by Rusk.
71813. 1. Following consultations with Ambassador Bunker, we have agreed upon the following proposed text of message from Thieu to Ho Chi Minh./2/ The Ambassador will take this up with Thieu upon his return.
/2/In a November 16 memorandum to Rusk, Bundy confirmed the consensus view that the letter should be "general rather than over-specific" and "not too eager." Bundy stated that delivery of the message through the Japanese Government would be the best route, although Japanese support of the U.S. position in Vietnam had caused "irritation" among the leadership in Hanoi. (Ibid., POL 15-1 VIET S)
2. As to the means of delivery, two principal alternatives are via Japanese, and via one of the ICC representatives. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages.
A) The Japanese would be a secure and willing channel and would know how to handle an outright NVN refusal to accept the message. On the other hand, Sato's/3/ recent visits to South Viet-Nam and the US have added to Hanoi's irritation over general Japanese support for US objectives in SEA, and no Japanese overture at this juncture is apt to go down well in Hanoi./4/
/3/Eisaku Sato, Japanese Prime Minister.
/4/On November 18 Thieu asked the Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam to take the request to Sato, despite the Japanese Ambassador's concerns that the letter would be rejected by the North Vietnamese. By this time, press reports came out in Saigon purporting Japanese acceptance of an intermediary role. (Telegram 73250 to Rawalpindi/Togov 2, which repeated telegram 11668 from Saigon, November 22; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S-AH Files: Lot 84 D 161, Govto Messages, Governor Harriman's Trip, November 1967)
B) As to ICC powers, each would have means of direct access to Hanoi and would probably be willing to undertake this task. Hanoi might be marginally more receptive to a GVN message delivered through this channel. The Poles are still charging us with bad faith over the abortive December initiative and their interest in sabotaging GVN initiative would probably be greater than any other ICC member. The Canadians, although no doubt willing enough, have been coldly received in Hanoi since the Martin proposal of last April. The Indians, despite their general anti-GVN bias, have had fairly regular contacts in Hanoi, and would probably act with reasonable discretion.
3. Begin Text. Your Excellency: Our people, from Lang Son to Ca Mau, have now undergone much suffering over a long period of time. Differences among Vietnamese on the basic questions affecting the future of our people cannot be resolved by force alone. Can those of us with differences that now appear irreconcilable discuss them in quiet, preliminary and wholly secret discussions? I think discussions could even begin without awaiting the outcome of military operations. We believe that the conditions for useful contacts among Vietnamese themselves are ripening so as to permit, in the near future, a preliminary exploration of views without prejudice to the interests of either side.
4. We stand ready to undertake this type of discussion at any time and in any place which you consider appropriate. We would designate our most trusted advisors to meet with such representatives as you may propose.
5. We would be prepared to receive any counter-suggestions from the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam and to give them most serious consideration. End Text.
403. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 20, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam, Conduct of War. Top Secret; Sensitive. Another copy is ibid., Country File, Vietnam, March 19, 1970 Memo to the President.
Here is a digest of my personal reactions to Secretary McNamara's memorandum to you of November 1 on Vietnam./2/ I have not discussed his memorandum with anyone in the Department of State and have not attempted, in this digest, a full argumentation. The organization of my comments follows the topical headings of Secretary McNamara's memorandum.
I. Outlook if Present Course of Action is Continued
1. Expansion of Forces
I accept, as realistic, the prospect that U.S. forces will reach 525,000, other free world forces will reach 59-75,000, and that South Vietnamese forces can be increased by 60,000.
I do not agree that these increased forces cannot bring "the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces visibly closer to collapse during the next 15 months." The indicators point in the other direction. Ambassador Bunker is convinced that progress "will accelerate."
2. U.S. Ground Operations in South
I have no real disagreement on this point. For reasons expressed later, I strongly oppose U.S. ground operations against North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I would favor increased operations against infiltration routes through Laos, but not with U.S. combat units of significant size.
3. Bombing Operations in the North
I believe we must resist pressures to take direct action against foreign shipping entering Haiphong or to bomb irrigation dikes.
I strongly support intensive bombardment of infiltration routes in North Vietnam and Laos and sectors of the battlefield such as the DMZ and areas north of the DMZ.
As for bombing in the Hanoi-Haiphong area, I believe that we should be guided by the following:
(a) we should bomb sufficiently to hold in place the AA defenses of the area;
(b) we should bomb sufficiently to require substantial diversions of manpower to repairs and to maintaining communications;
(c) we should not permit a complete sanctuary in the northern part of North Vietnam and thereby eliminate this incentive for peace.
But, I believe that we should hit only major targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area and not sustain losses in men and planes for targets of marginal utility from a military point of view.
I would reject the political judgment that a continuous escalation of the bombing will break the will of Hanoi.
In sum, I would be more selective about the targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area--limiting them to targets which have a significant military value and which are worth the losses incurred.
I generally concur.
5. Political Evolution
Ambassador Bunker and I are somewhat more optimistic about political developments. There seems to be little threat of a coup; groups like the extreme Buddhists are not catching on. High priority tasks for the next six months are agreed and promising. Hanoi is being deprived of the possibility of a political collapse in the South.
6. Probable Results of Present Course of Action
I am more optimistic than Secretary McNamara about whether progress will be "visible to the general public in the months ahead." General Westmoreland's estimate that only 60% of enemy battalions are combat effective is significant. Success is cumulative--and so is failure. The enemy has problems which are growing. Ambassador Bunker and General Westmoreland should be closely questioned on this point.
II. Possible Alternative Courses of Action
I agree strongly with Secretary McNamara that we should not extend ground operations into North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and should not go after foreign shipping, irrigation dikes or civilian centers.
There are large forces in North Vietnam which have not been committed to South Vietnam. If we cannot deal satisfactorily with forces now in South Vietnam, I do not see how we could improve the position by taking on more than 300,000 additional forces in North Vietnam.
No one knows just where the "flash point" is which would change the present rules insofar as Peking and Moscow are concerned. There is a very high risk that ground action against North Vietnam would cross the "flash point."
(a) Complete Cessation of Bombing in the North
Purely from a political point of view in relation to Hanoi, we have two major cards to play: (i) growing success in the South and (ii) the bombing of the North. It seems to me that a cessation of the bombing of the North should be related to what will happen next. The Kissinger exercise did not even produce a discussion as to what your San Antonio formula means. They have never said that cessation will lead to talks. They resolutely resist any discussion of reciprocal military action or what we mean by "taking no military advantage." I do not believe that we should cease the bombing before further probing on what the result would be. If Hanoi has any serious interest in peace, private contacts could move much further and much faster than has occurred to date.
I am sceptical of an extended pause in the bombing because I don't know who would be persuaded. Hanoi would call any pause (i.e., not permanent) an ultimatum. We know of their "fight and negotiate" strategy discussions. For those in the outside world pressing for a halt in the bombing, no pause would be long enough. No one has said to me that his view would be changed if we had a prolonged pause in the bombing and there were no response from Hanoi.
I do think we should take the drama out of our bombing of the North by cutting back on our operations in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. Politically, we should avoid the impression of continuous escalation; militarily we should weigh military advantage against military losses.
(b) Stabilization of Our Military Effort
I generally agree with the concept of stabilization--but I would not announce it. To do so would give the enemy a firm base upon which to plan and redispose his manpower and other assets. Over time, stabilization would become apparent to our own people, without giving guarantees to the other side.
1. I would stabilize, but not announce it. This is on the assumption that actual results in the South will continue to accelerate.
2. I would use the bombing of the North as a central card to play in connection with some interest on the part of Hanoi in a peaceful settlement. I would take some of the drama, and the losses, out of our present bombing effort in the Hanoi-Haiphong area. I would be prepared to build upon cease fires at Christmas, New Year's and Tet if the enemy shows any interest.
3. I agree with Secretary McNamara's recommendation.
404. Information Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, November 20, 1967.
/1/Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Walt Rostow, Vietnam, Conduct of War. Secret. The notation "ps" on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it. Another copy is ibid., McNamara, Robert S.--Southeast Asia.
I could not get Westmoreland and Bunker together because of Bunker's schedule today, but I had a good lunch in my office with Westy and put to him the key propositions in Bob McNamara's memorandum./2/
/2/Document 375. According to a November 22 record of the meeting by Westmoreland, the General told Rostow that the new troop level should not be announced "because more may be needed and we cannot pass judgment until we assess the situation after receiving the 525,000." (U.S. Army Military History Institute, William C. Westmoreland Papers, History File 25--Nov. 13 to 28, 1967) The President dined with Westmoreland that evening. (Johnson Library, President's Daily Diary)
1. A bombing stand down in North Viet Nam except in the tactical area across the DMZ if they continue to press at the DMZ. He was against such a policy./3/ Effective bombing operations against the logistical system requires pressure throughout that system, from the Chinese Communist border all the way south. He wants to keep the northeast railway lines cut or harassed; he wants to continue complicated shipments out of Haiphong to Hanoi and south. He wants to keep destroying the temporary bridges which they put in.
/3/According to a memorandum from Army Vice Chief of Staff General Ralph Haines to Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson, dated November 20, the JCS opposed any stand-down but would accept Christmas, New Year's, and Tet truces for 24, 24, and 48 hours respectively at a maximum. (U.S. Army Military History Institute, Army Chiefs of Staff Collection, TS 0027-82 thru TS 0031-78) The impetus for the truces arose from the NLF's proclamation on November 18 that it would enact 3-day truces during Christmas and New Year's and a 7-day truce during Tet 1968. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, p. 1032.
When I pressed him on the question of Hanoi-Haiphong area, he said: bombing south of the 20th parallel is "absolutely essential." He would prefer to see bombing continued all the way to the Chinese Communist border.
2. Announce that our present U.S. troop ceilings are the limit of our commitment. He said that in one sense the issue is academic because they will not all be there for a year; although he is satisfied that the present troop shipment schedule is as tight as it can be. On television he said he would pass judgment on the adequacy of the troop level at the time when the 525,000 are in place. He believes it would be "foolish" to announce now that 525,000 is our limit, although obviously we hope that it will prove to be the maximum requirement.
3. Forego ground operations in North Vietnam; Laos; and Cambodia. With respect to North Vietnam, he would like for us to have the capability to raid North Vietnam in force above the DMZ in May-June of next year--the earliest time that might be technically possible. He is not now recommending such an operation; but he thinks it important that we have such an option if our DMZ position requires it at that time.
With respect to Laos, he has been discussing with Bob McNamara some very limited operations by South Vietnamese forces, which would get at certain critical base areas now being used in Laos to support operations against us in the highlands. In addition, there is an area in southeast Laos which is used as a rocket storage base which he would like to get at come next March, again with South Vietnamese troops. These would be raid operations designed to make the enemy uncertain of his sanctuary. Therefore, although a formal recommendation has not yet come to us from him, he would not like us flatly to rule out the possibility of some limited raiding operations in Laos.
With respect to Cambodia, he is sensitive, of course, to the political problem. He believes there are "dozens, even hundreds" of VC bases of the kind just discovered by the press inside Cambodia. Again, he is not now recommending any Cambodian operations but he does not wish to see them flatly ruled out.
4. No mining of Haiphong. He thinks we ought to make a maximum effort to throttle the flow of supplies from Haiphong into the country, but believes our present efforts to harass and isolate Haiphong are quite effective; and he understands well that they involve less risk than mining or attacking Soviet ships. Therefore, he is not recommending an attack on Haiphong harbor.
5. No attack on dikes. He is not at all sure the Air Force has a realistic capability for destroying the dikes; and the effort to destroy them would raise tremendous political problems. He does not recommend, therefore, an attack on the dikes.
6. Maintain progress with lesser U.S. casualties and destruction inside South Vietnam. Westy's reply to this point was, simply, that is his "constant endeavor." Every operation is undertaken with a view to minimizing our own and South Vietnamese civil casualties. On the other hand, he cannot permit his tactical operations to be controlled by these criteria. In this context, he noted that certain technical devices now coming into use would tend to make our bombing attacks in South Vietnam more accurate and otherwise help to limit casualties.
7. Transfer functions to the ARVN. Over the next two years this is Westy's central purpose. Elements in a program have been studied; but a mature operational program to transfer functions does not yet exist. One reason for his statements in the U.S. about the ARVN and the U.S. phase down within two years is to give him leverage, when he goes back, to both elevate the South Vietnamese--by recalling the confidence he showed in them in the U.S.--and to pressure them in the direction of better performance and more responsibility. He is extremely conscious that one of our tasks is not merely to achieve our immediate purpose in Vietnam but to leave behind a military establishment capable of looking after itself increasingly.
With respect to Bob McNamara's two central propositions, then:
--Westy is against a new announced program of stabilization, although he does not now envisage more U.S. troops and actively wishes to see the ARVN take over more functions;
--He is flatly against a bombing stand down for reasons set out in paragraph 1, above.
405. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-7 VIET S/BUTTERCUP. Top Secret; Buttercup. In an attached note to Rusk, November 20, Bundy wrote: "We have reviewed the attached memorandum with Ambassador Bunker, who feels that itwould be much better for him to take the next move on his return. Mr. Habib and I agree with this judgment. Nick concurs. The Ambassador generally concurs with the line of argument shown in the attached Presidential letter, so that it may still be useful for you to discuss this line of argument briefly with the President in any event. If the President approves having Ambassador Bunker handle this, the immediate action would be a short message for Locke to convey to Thieu that the Ambassador will wish to discuss this on his return and after having discussed it with the President."
You have seen the cables that Thieu and Loan are both resisting the release of the original courier (Sau Ha) and the small fry captured around him. They are taking the position that we should send the messenger back saying that we would release them only if the NLF actually released two Americans. They also wish to state that any prisoners released by the GVN should be free to determine whether they go back to the NLF.
We believe Thieu can hardly be budged short of a Presidential message, and that this now requires serious consideration. We attach a draft which sticks wholly to the prisoner issue, with only an added oral assurance that we do not propose to pursue the broader political aspects until we see much more about the channel./2/ As the messages read, the GVN leaders are arguing that a hard reply need only involve two weeks of delay. This suggests that they might be willing to yield in the end. But equally it would be our judgment that a hard reply runs a very substantial chance of breaking off the whole channel, and all that might flow from it.
/2/The draft letter from Johnson to Thieu, not printed, was to be used by Locke if approved. It cautioned Thieu that "failure on our part to release the man Sau Ha and those arrested with him would very likely mean a breaking off of a channel that could have major importance in the exchange of prisoners." The President also expressed concern about the NLF making the contact public and about the fact that others in the NLF would be "less disposed" to make similar moves in the future. Locke was to add orally that although the President recognized that Thieu would deal with the broader political aspects of the contact, there remained a necessity to move on the immediate prisoner exchange. A shorter draft letter echoing the same line was also attached to the memorandum.
The alternative to a letter might be to have Ambassador Bunker handle the matter when he gets back. This would mean a delay of roughly a week, but has the advantage that it could be done in lower key, with a less total commitment of US prestige than a Presidential letter would involve, and with the Ambassador's capacity for gentle persuasion. The substance of the arguments would be the same in either case.
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