The Secretary of State to the United States Delegation1
Tedul 180. Eyes only for the Under Secretary from the Secretary.
In relation to Dulte 1622 you should explain that in our opinion the French confusion is due to the fact that they have allowed themselves to be confused by other than official statements of the U.S. Government position. This position was clearly set out, notably in Deptel 4023 to Paris, repeated Geneva Tedul 54,3 and we have since clearly adhered to it subject to our clarification expressed in Deptel 4117 to Paris, repeated Geneva Tedul 784 to the effect that we could not allow the French to have a continuing option on the situation, and we have to take into account that with the passage of time and the increasing deterioration of the situation, what was possible at the time of our original proposal could become impossible.
As far as military talks are concerned, these do not involve political decisions which will be taken by the President. There could be military divergencies about the part which the different elements of the armed forces would play in the event that there was intervention. This sort of thing is normal among allies. Of course, if on the basis of collective action, we should get into the war, we would be in it all the way, and would do whatever seemed necessary to win the war. The question of what disposition of various forces would best serve this purpose is something that could only be determined at the time and in light of the situation as it developed, including the reaction if any, of the Chinese [Page 1104]Communists who may themselves have a determining influence in this matter. On high authority we have told the French that if we participate we would expect our participation to be principally in the form of air and sea power but that this would not exclude the possibility of some land (marines) participation within the framework of agreed over-all military strategy. We cannot do more than that at this time and so indicated to Bonnet (Tedul 1785).
There is another important problem about which we must be thinking. This is how we shall avoid commitment to a settlement which would be quite contrary to our principles. Assume that the Soviet will want the eventual settlement to be “guaranteed” in some way by the principal powers, including the United States. This guarantee would presumably be designed to preclude any efforts on the part of the U.S. at the liberation of the peoples who were subject to captivity. This, on a small scale, would be what we have refused on many occasions to do in relation to Europe, where we have said we would never make a statement which would give the stamp of approval to the captivity of Eastern European peoples. We believe that a “guarantee” which committed the United States to sustain Communist domination of the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, or at least many of them would be unacceptable as cutting across our basic principles for dealing with the Communist world. We believe also it would be deeply resented by the American people and the Congress.
It occurs to us that one step to attenuate what might seem to be an abrupt position which could be interpreted as designed to sabotage the conference would be for you to show our basic instructions to you to Eden and Bidault so that they cannot claim to be taken by surprise if we subsequently adopt a program of disengagement from the result.6 There might similarly be utility in showing them to Molotov. Before you show them to anyone (if you have not already done so), we would wish consider advisability modifications in light developments. Would appreciate your comments on this.
One thing we fear is that the Soviets might put up a proposal which would salvage a little something for the French, at least in form and [Page 1105]make this contingent upon a guarantee by the U.S. If this guarantee was refused then our refusal would be cited by the Communists as an excuse for denying the French even the minimum of face-saving otherwise provided. If we fall into this trap, which is not easy to avoid, then that could be used to create strong anti-American feeling in France with very serious repercussions on our NATO alliance and EDC.
We are giving these matters our careful consideration and suggest that you do the same and let us know if you have any inspiration. I would particularly like your comments on the various possibilities you may see for disengaging ourselves from any unsatisfactory settlement.
Drafted by the Secretary of State. Repeated to Paris eyes only for the Ambassador as telegram 4487.
In telegram Tedul 188, June 11, Acting Secretary of State Murphy informed Smith that Tedul 180 had been “personally dictated by Secretary and sent just before his departure. He had in mind our posture if we had to disengage.” (110.11 DU/6–1154)
The Secretary of State was absent from the Department from June 9–12 to deliver speeches in several western U.S. cities.↩
- Dated June 9, p. 1086.↩
- Dated May 11; for text,
- Dated May 17; for text, see
- Dated June 9, p. 1100.↩
- In telegram Tedul 177, June 9, Secretary Dulles asked Under Secretary Smith if he had “shown or read your formal instructions (Tosec 138) to any of your colleagues?” (110.11 DU/6–954) Smith replied in Dulte 168, June 10, that “formal instructions (Tosec 138) communicated to British and French colleagues.” (110.11 DU/6–1054) In an additional reply, Dulte 177, June 13, Smith reported that his instructions “were discussed with Eden and Bidault in general terms which would not preclude their modification if desired. From my position they seem satisfactory and I have no changes to suggest.” (110.11 DU/6–1354) For telegram Tosec 138, May 12, see p. 778.↩