to Exploration 3: The Decision to Escalate, 1964-1965
22. Paper Prepared by the Ambassador to Vietnam (Taylor) and the
Deputy Ambassador to Vietnam (Johnson) (1)
Saigon, May 20, 1965.
FUNDAMENTAL FACTORS IN A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT
IN SOUTH VIETNAM
1. As a guide to present and future discussions
of possible ways to settle the Vietnam question, it may be useful
to list a few of the fundamental factors controlling the attitudes
of the principal parties concerned.
The DRV/VC objective is to unite the two Vietnams under a Communist
regime. They will not give up this objective until it becomes
clearly unattainable in the foreseeable future. Even then, they
will defer their efforts, not abandon them.
The DRV/VC strategy is now based on accomplishing their objective
in three stages stretched over a period of years--first a negotiation
between the NLF and some Government in Saigon for a coalition
government; secondly, a take-over of that Government by the
NLF; and lastly, an integration with the Hanoi regime. They
believe they can attain their objective following this track.
They cannot be talked or negotiated out of it until they are
convinced it is a losing game, particularly since they feel
that at Geneva in 1954 they were tricked out of accomplishing
this objective which was then
within their grasp. They are thus especially wary of "negotiating
The DRV/VC expect that war-weariness, government instability,
U.S. sensitivity to domestic and international pressures, and
Vietnamese xenophobia will lead to a situation which will shortly
permit them to accomplish the first stage, i.e., a coalition
No amount of bombing of the North is in itself going to persuade
the DRV/VC to abandon their strategy. They can be persuaded
to abandon it only if they are convinced that the trend of events
in the South is against them and the factors cited above are
not panning out. They are not yet convinced that this is the
The VC will never really disband their armed forces in South
Vietnam until they are fully in control of the government. They
might as a ruse "play dead" without giving up their
arms--but that is all. By the same token no extended cease-fire
To the degree that we or the GVN seem anxious to negotiate from
what the DRV/VC still estimate is a position of weakness on
our side we encourage the DRV/VC to continue their present course.
To the degree that we can impart to the DRV/VC a sense of calm
confidence and willingness indefinitely to pursue our present
course, the DRV/VC will be encouraged to look for ways out.
At such time as the DRV/VC estimate that the tide has turned
against them in South Vietnam it will be important to have a
carefully thought out and agreed program that will further induce
VC defections, facilitate DRV/VC acceptance of their defeat
and "heal the nation's wounds" as promptly as possible.
Neither country will go to war with the U.S. to save the VC.
They will, however, take defensive precautions to see that the
Communist regime in North Vietnam is not endangered. They will
vie with each other vocally in condemning the U.S.
The present government or its predictable successors will not
tolerate recognition of NLF or the inclusion of VC in the government.
No solution is acceptable which does not assure the end of infiltration
from DRV and the break-up of the VC military apparatus in South
There will be no agreement to a withdrawal of U.S. forces until
the conditions of paragraph 2 above are met.
The GVN will resist violently any political solution to which
they are not parties from start to finish.
2. Although the foregoing attitudes are deeply
entrenched, they are not unmovable. They are susceptible to the
leverage of such forces as the universal fear of expanded war,
international opinion, U.S. military power, and U.S. political
and economic support. Our negotiating task is to accommodate those
attitudes which are compatible with U.S. objectives and to apply
effective leverage on those which must be changed.
Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27-14 VIET S.
Top Secret. For background information on this paper, see Document