442. Memorandum From the Secretary of Defense’s Special Assistant for Special Operations (Lansdale) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs(Irwin)1


  • State Outgoing Cable 4662 and Vientiane’s 8613

The subject cables point up the need for firmness on our part so that the policy of establishing a pro-US government in Laos is not denigrated. State’s 466 is a start in the right direction but Brown’s [Page 939] reply is lengthy repeat of his consistent feeling that Souvanna Phouma is the man we should support. In the gratuitous initial comments of his 861, Brown seems to characterize Phouma as the wave of the future—as the emerging personality on the Laotian scene.

If we support Phouma, as Brown suggests, we will in effect be supporting the establishment of a neutralist government in Laos. A neutralist government is a dangerous political vehicle for furthering US interests in the area. Furthermore, Laos is too weak to remain neutral long, especially in the hands of a vacillating leader like Phouma.

An understandable policy for Laos would be to support elements friendly to the US and seek to establish them in power. What the Ambassador seems to propose is that we support an unfriendly element on the ground that that element is more popular in the country. [sic] Incidentally, I am not convinced that Phouma is the most popular man on the scene in Laos.

Since State’s 466 is an effort to put a known, friendly element in power in Laos, I hope we will be able to hold State to it and not let a good policy be watered down.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 64 B 2170, 092 Asia. Top Secret.
  2. Document 440.
  3. In telegram 861, November 2, Brown stated that before responding to the plan set forth in telegram 466 to Vientiane, he thought it useful to stress the gradual emergence of a neutralist anti-Communist faction in Laos which was pro-Souvanna and anti-Pathet Lao. Brown thought that telegram 466 “overstated U.S. ability accomplish desired results” in Laos and recommended that the United States continue to press Phoumi and Souvanna to reach an accommodation. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/11–160; included in the microfiche supplement)