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283. Memorandum From the Under Secretary-Designate for Political Affairs (McGhee) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • Vietnam

I have read Mr. Chayes’ memorandum to you of November 16 on this subject.2

There is one consideration bearing on the introduction of substantial US combat forces into Viet-Nam which is not mentioned in that memorandum and which seems to me worth noting.

Domestic US dissatisfaction with what would surely be the prolonged involvement of American soldiers in these indecisive anti-guerrilla operations would mount and give rise to growing demands that we attack the source of the aggression in North Vietnam.

If we resisted these pressures, they would build up and eventually spill over into across-the-board criticism of our foreign policy, which would make it increasingly difficult to conduct that policy with moderation and good sense. We would be back in the atmosphere of Korea 1950-53-only more so.

If we gave in to these pressures and attacked North Vietnam, we would be propelled into a widening conflict which might be hard to terminate short of all-out struggle with Peiping.

In short, once we committed combat troops to Viet-Nam we would tend to lose control of subsequent events-either in that theater or more generally-by reason of the popular reactions that our continued involvement would likely trigger.

George C. McGhee 3
  1. Source: Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 67 D 548, HO Chron. Secret.
  2. Document 261.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.