PPS files, lot 65 D 101, “Gullion

Memorandum by Edmund A. Gullion of the Policy Planning Staff to the Director of That Staff ( Bowie )

top secret


  • Minimum Position for Geneva Conference (Comments on Paper by Bonsal)1

I am in complete agreement with what appear to be the principal features of this paper:

That we must set our face against any compromise peace at Geneva that would leave the Viet Minh army intact.
That, as a last resort, we should be ready to use US force to save Indochina. Yet I believe it will be difficult if not impossible to maintain [Page 447] this position. Our paper should, therefore, take account of more detail. I have the following observations to make:

Although I realize that the paper is only a basis of discussion, I believe it falls short of defining the US minimum position at Geneva. The prospects of military victory upon which so much of our policy, as well as this paper is hinged, are not convincing even to most Frenchmen, much less so to the Communist conferees. I do not think that we can hope to convince the French that they are going to win after all (even though M. Bidault and M. Pleven believe it) or that the chances of our victory are so certain as to cause the Communists to accept something like the recent Laniel terms. In other words, the “major trump card in our side’s hand at Geneva” which is characterized as the “recognized military ability and determination” to defeat the enemy’s regular army, cannot be counted on to take tricks.
I am afraid that at Geneva or shortly thereafter we will have to contend with a series of proposals, either from the French or from the Communists, looking to a compromise peace; and, therefore, that our “minimum position paper” must deal more in detail with these possibilities.
As to the paper’s major point—that we be ready if necessary to promise the use of US forces, I fear that we simply cannot make that promise. We have been progressively moving away from it during the period of the “linking” of Korea and Indochina as “two fronts on the same war”; the enunciation of the “New Look” with reliance on atom weapons; the formulation of the “disengagement” policy, and the declaration of a resolve not to become involved in the war, forced upon us by Congressional clamor over the deployment of a few technicians to Indochina.
If US forces were to be employed, I believe consideration should be given to whether it should be in the framework of a UN action or some collective action. Presumably, the PSA memorandum of December 182 does not exclude the collective approach but it appears to be conceived in terms of a Franco–Vietnamese–US action. If US forces were to be engaged, I believe that the prospects of success would be greater, and the chances of Congressional support greater if it were put on the basis of a new deal; i.e., a collective operation. This would also involve a redefinition of the status of the Associated States within the French Union.
As a general observation, I do not see how we can settle on a minimum position until the Administration has definitely determined that the negotiation on Indochina will not be linked with deals to be [Page 448] made in Korea, elsewhere in the Far East or Europe. If this determination is made, it should be included in the minimum position paper.
It seems to me that before a detailed position paper can be settled, we should urgently examine once more within this Government whether a military solution is feasible, what further support from France, the United States and Vietnam is required for it, and what steps should be taken to furnish that support.
  1. Dated Mar. 8. p. 437.
  2. For an extract from the document under reference, see Bonsal’s memorandum of Mar. 8, p. 437.