As background for your talk with Ambassador Lodge the current situation in Viet-Nam is as
Summary Assessment. The outlook is hopeful. There
is better assurance than under Diem that the war can be won. We are pulling out 1,000
American troops by the end of 1963. The main concern is whether the
generals can hold together until victory has been achieved. An immediate
problem is an estimated budgetary deficit of roughly $100 million after
aid for 1964.
Political. The new “provisional” government
consists of a Military Revolutionary Council, with an Executive
Committee of 12 generals headed by General “Big” Minh as President; a Cabinet headed by
former Vice President Tho as Premier; and a political advisory body
called the “Council of Sages”.
Minh and Tho, who are old
friends, are working well together. Thus far no important signs of
friction have developed among the generals. The uncertain element is the
ambitious, emotional General Dinh, who is Minister of Public Security and retains
command of the III Corps around Saigon.
The new government has the enthusiastic support of the urban population.
The peasants remain apathetic as under the Diem regime, but the government recognizes the
importance of moving to win their support.
Military. The Viet Cong incident rate shot up to
a new high of about 1,000 per week immediately after the coup, but
subsequently resumed to its “normal” level (300-500 per week). The most
critical area is the Mekong Delta south and west of Saigon, and it is
there that the new government is expected to concentrate its
The previously low troop ratio in the Delta is being improved. Officers
and NCO's are being chosen on merit rather than political loyalty. The
dual chain of command which plagued efficiency under Diem has given way to a single chain
which will improve coordination of civil and military operations.
The government is expected to correct defects in the implementation of
the strategic hamlet program, first by establishing a proper system of
priorities for hamlet development from more secure toward less secure areas. Some delay is
expected because the government is just establishing a new central
organization for the strategic hamlet program, and the new
administration will have to shake down at the local level because of
changes in province and district chiefs.
Early action is needed to push forward with a fresh, realistic amnesty
program to attract Viet Cong to surrender. The new government has not
yet had a chance to focus on this problem.
We are pulling out by the end of 1963 about 1,000 of the 16,500 American
military forces in Viet-Nam. This was announced on the conclusion of the
McNamara-Taylor visit in October.
Economic. The major operational problem we face
immediately is how to deal with an estimated 7 billion plaster (roughly
$100 million) deficit in the GVN 1964
budget after a United States aid contribution at the 1963 level ($95
million in CIP and $30 million in PL
480). Unless handled properly, this could prevent the generals from
consolidating the new government politically.
Secretary McNamara was so
concerned at Honolulu that he offered, if necessary, to switch some
MAP funds to AID despite a shortage of $12 million in MAP availabilities to meet field
requirements. It still remains necessary to conduct a difficult
negotiation with the Vietnamese Government to get it to do all it can to
meet this budgetary deficit problem.
Relations with Foreign Countries. Our own relations with the new
government are excellent at all levels. Ambassador Lodge would like to avoid putting
heavy pressure on the new government over the next few months.
Cambodian-Vietnamese relations remain poor. Sihanouk of Cambodia is upset about the activities of
Cambodian dissidents in Viet-Nam and Thailand. Viet-Nam is concerned
about Viet Cong use of Cambodian territory.
The new Vietnamese Government will work well with Phoumi in Laos. We are
pressing it to work with Souvanna,
De Gaulle's relations with the
new government are strained because he considers the coup a set-back to
his hopes for neutralizing Viet-Nam.
1 Source: Johnson Library, National Security
Files, Vietnam Country File, Memos and Misc. Confidential.
Transmitted to the President under cover of an undated memorandum