June 10, 1965.
US Options and Objectives in Vietnam
1. We take
US objectives in Vietnam to be the reduction of Viet Cong insurgency
to manageable levels and, as part of this, forcing the DRV to
cease promoting that insurgency. More specific and limited objectives
are dealt with in the following discussion of the particular options
which appear to be open to the US under present circumstances.
of Action: To continue with essentially our present course and
objectives: that is, to bomb selected targets in the DRV (but
not population centers, economic targets, SAM sites, and jet-capable
airfields in the Hanoi-Haiphong area), and to build up US combat
strength considerably in the South.
To give the GVN/ARVN sufficient stiffening support to permit the
reduction of the VC insurrection to manageable proportions; to
lessen the DRV supporting increment to VC strength; and to cause
DRV/VC leadership to cease or to tamp down the war, at least for
In our view, this will probably not permit us to impose our will
on the enemy. The DRV would continue to reinforce the VC, and
we doubt that US/ARVN forces could soon produce any decisive improvement
in the military situation. The most likely results would be heavy
US casualties, an over-emphasis on the military aspects of the
conflict to the detriment of the political, and bogging-down of
the war at higher levels of commitment and intensity, and, perhaps
ultimately, a petering out of GVN/ARVN determination and intensity.
of Action: To continue to increase US forces to the extent necessary
to defeat the Viet Cong, to increase sharply our weight of attack
on the DRV, bombing virtually all targets; to impose a naval quarantine;
to accept further difficulties with the USSR and the possibility
of major hostilities with Communist China.
Raised from those of a (3) above, to compel the
DRV to cease and desist in the South; to coerce Communist China
into acquiescing in such a DRV decision lest it incur attacks
on its own territory, perhaps including destruction of its nascent
advanced weapons capability.
This would risk convincing the Communists that the US intended
to destroy the DRV regime and thus bring us close to the "flash-point"
of Chinese Communist intervention. If they judged that the Hanoi
regime was losing control of the country, they would probably
enter the DRV unilaterally and might engage US air forces with
of Action: To cease bombing in the North, to hold on in the South,
and to seek to negotiate as good a Vietnam settlement as we can
To settle for a Laos-type "neutralist" solution--guaranteed
by other powers and by a continuing, but markedly lessened, US
presence in South Vietnam--on the grounds that we cannot, at an
acceptable cost, "win" militarily or impose our will
US overtures for negotiation would probably be rejected and, the
enemy, scenting a weakening in US determination, would probably
fight on, while raising his terms. Also, a sudden US turning in
this direction, without punishing the DRV above present levels,
would have a seriously dispiriting effect upon non-Communists
in Southeast Asia.
of Action: To increase our weight of attack on the DRV; to increase
US forces up to the 70,000 man strength already authorized; and,
most importantly, to place major stress on a program of political,
social, and economic action in South Vietnam.
To prevent a collapse in South Vietnamese morale and military
capabilities during the next few months; to accomplish certain
improvements basic to the creation of a viable non-Communist state
in the South, and, meanwhile, to keep open the preceding options.
Though Option D also has its drawbacks, it has the following relative
Heightened US pressure on North Vietnam would increase the difficulty
of supporting the Viet Cong and make Hanoi pay an ever heavier
price for continuing that support. Furthermore, it would demonstrate
our willingness to accept heightened political risks.
It would involve the deployment of substantial US ground forces
in the South--a prime requirement for the immediate future.
Further, it would not convey to the GVN/ARVN the notion that
the US was taking over the war.
It would give the US time and opportunity to increase the civic
action, political, paramilitary, local defense, and administrative
improvements which are needed to create a viable non-Communist
state in the South.
The net effect of the foregoing would have some chance of persuading
the DRV that time was no longer running their way and that they
should move to negotiate.
The US would avoid the negative reactions abroad and at home
which would be produced by all-out bombings of the DRV and ever-increasing
US troop commitments.