Based on extracts
from The Color of Truth, by Kai Bird, Simon & Schuster,
had a long and distinguished service in the government in the
CIA and in the Defense Department. He was appointed Assistant
Secretary of State for the Far East in March 1964.
We will focus
on a single memo written in mid-October 1964. It should be read
in conjunction with the memo written earlier in October by George
Ball. These were the two highest officials to articulate a clear
alternative to escalation. This was the only occasion Bundy expressed
views like this. On other occasions, he adopted a more hawkish
"The Choices We Face in Vietnam," rejected the expectations
of the domino theory about the consequences of a Communist victory
for Southeast Asia. And he rejected much of the political basis
for U.S policy. "A bad colonial heritage of long standing,
totally inadequate preparation for self-government by the colonial
power, a colonialist war fought in a half-baked fashion and lost,
a nationalist movement taken over by Communism ruling in the other
half of an ethnically and historically united country, the Communist
side inheriting much the better military force and far more than
its share of the talent - these are the facts that dog us today."
based his proposed policy on the conclusion that the use of military
force by the U.S. to coerce Hanoi to withdraw its support from
the war in the South could not succeed without taking extremely
dangerous risks. Hanoi posessed the military capability to force
the U.S. into a massive commitment of ground troops and exen to
the brink of using nuclear weapons.
The real question
for Bundy was how to find a politically acceptable negotiated
settlement. He saw three possible negotiation strategies:
Present Programs but Wink at Intra-Viet-Nam Negotiations"
2) " Continue Present Programs but Take a Negotiating Initiative
3) " Continus Present Programs but Add Actions to Convey
a Believable Threat of Force, then Negotiate."
option three: "Swing wildly at the first one [pitch], then
bunt." By this he meant the U.S. should initiate a substantial
bombing of North Vietnam for a few days, generate "overwhelming
pressures" from the international community for negotiations,
and accept a proposal to reconvene the Geneva Conference. The
likely result would be a neutralist, coalition government in the
South, and a likely Communist takeover. But the U.S. would "gain
time to shore up the next line of defense in Thailand."
the memo among Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, George Ball, McGeorge
Bundy, John Macnaughton, and Michael Forrestal. On November 23,
he discussed his ideas with McNamara and Rusk, who rejected them.