us are pretty well convinced that our current policy can lead
only to a disastrous defeat. What we are doing now, essentially,
is to wait and hope for a stable government. Our December directives
make it very plain that a wider action against the Communists
will not take place unless we can get such a government. In the
last six weeks that effort has been unsuccessful, and Bob and
I are persuaded that there is no real hope of success in this
area unless and until our own policy and priorities change.
difficulties in Saigon arise from the spreading conviction there
that the future is without hope for anti-Communists. More and
more the good men are covering their flanks and avoiding executive
responsibility for firm anti-Communist policy. Our best friends
have been somewhat discouraged by our own inactivity in the face
of major attacks on our own installations. The Vietnamese know
just as well as we do that the Viet Cong are gaining in the countryside.
Meanwhile, they see the enormous power of the United States withheld,
and they get little sense of firm and active U.S. policy. They
feel that we are unwilling to take serious risks. In one sense,
all of this is outrageous, in the light of all that we have done
and all that we are ready to do if they will only pull up their
socks. But it is a fact - or so McNamara and I now think.
I believe that the worst course of action is to continue in this
essentially passive role which can only lead to eventual defeat
and an invitation to get out in humiliating circumstances.
We see two
alternatives. The first is to use our military power in the Far
East and force a change in Communist policy. The second is to
deploy all our resources along a track of negotiation, aimed at
salvaging what little can be preserved with no major addition
to our present military risks. Bon and I tend to favor the first
course, but we believe that both should be carefully studied and
that alternative programs should be argued out before you.
Both of us
understand the very grave questions presented by any decision
of this sort. We both recognize that the ultimate responsibility
is not ours. Both of us have fully supported your unwillingness,
in earlier months, to move out of the middle course. We both agree
that every effort should be made to improve our operations on
the ground and to prop up the authorities in South Vietnam as
best we can. But we are both convinced that none of this is enough,
and that the time has come for harder choices.
know that Dean Rusk does not agree with us. he does not quarrel
with our assertion that things are going very badly and that the
situation is unraveling. he does not assert that this deterioration
can be stopped. What he does say is that the consequences of escalation
and withdrawal are so bad that we must simply find a way of making
our present policy work. This would be good if it was possible.
Bob and I do not think it is.