132. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staffʼs Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (Krulak) to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric)1

SACSA-M 63-62


  • Civic Action in Vietnam
Responding to your request of yesterday for my comments on Brigadier General Lansdaleʼs memorandum (attached)2 I have three reactions; two associated directly with the paper; one related to the paper indirectly.
As a general proposition, I consider General Lansdaleʼs appraisal of the Vietnamese civic action problem to be exactly on target. He has described the basic need accurately; and his direct action program, embracing the dispatch of a skilled and objective team, will achieve results.
Beyond this, I believe it well to reflect that even the most effective results-and I believe these will be achieved through the program suggested by Lansdale—will be far from dramatic. What we face is an urgent need to reverse a basic oriental conception—that the dignity of the common man is unimportant and that his basic rights are few. Heavy-handed conduct on the part of the soldiery is the normal thing in Asia. A lack of fiscal integrity on the part of officials is wide-spread, and generally accepted. Regrettably, these things are deeply ingrained in the fabric of the very people whom it is so important that we influence—the military, the police, and the minor officialdom. Thus, it is that the best we do will be none too good, inasmuch as it runs counter to the instincts of those with whom we must deal. Nevertheless, this is still the essence of civic action; and the best way to get on with it will be, as Lansdale says, to procure the total services of a few people who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and oriented directly toward the project.
Such a proposal as General Lansdale makes brings to my mind the multitude of similar good ideas which can well up through the Special Group—or could do so, were we properly organized for the task. In this regard, I am mindful of Mr. McNamaraʼs expression of concern as to whether or not we are properly organized for counterinsurgency, Model 1962. I would like to address the problem here.
To begin with, and in the face of speeches to the contrary, the counterinsurgency issue that faces us today is different, is not compatible with existing organizational concepts, does need a fresh look.
This is true because our insurgency misery is a Communist creation, one designed on a pattern that does not fit neatly into the organization geometry of the system which has been so successful, heretofore, in meeting our countryʼs troubles.
The conception that the shooting begins when all else ends was fine for Metternich and safe for Disraeli, but it has no identification whatever with today, when the traditional lines of authority, the traditional compartments of responsibility, and the traditional mechanisms of coordination have been discarded by the aggressor, and he having discarded them, our countervailing arrangements must be correspondingly altered.

Here is where we run into trouble. The State Department says, “Stabilization of our allies, inducing them to our persuasion, is pure diplomatic business—our business. It has been so for years.”

[Page 278]

The military community says, “Insurgents? Guerrillas? Terrorism? That is certainly no mystery to us. We have thousands of skilled fighters to handle it. Just let us at them.”

The MAP or AID people say, “Stability? Yes, it is primarily a product of elevated standards; and dollars, well dispensed, are the real elevator. Whatever else is involved, the provision of financial help is still first, and that, of course, is our affair.”

And the information people; they feel much the same. “Enlightenment is the answer, the real enduring answer, and we have that in hand.”

And on it goes. The fact is, they are all wrong; and they are all right, too. If we are to succeed in beating the Reds at their own game, our problem-solving mechanism somehow has to synthesize the strengths of all of these fine activities, somehow has to blot out the organizational lines and function as a single matrix of power. The time is past when we can hope to meet the Communists with a system in which diplomacy, guns, propaganda, and dollars all seek to function alone, each immured in its own well-defined proprietary area. The Communists are organized for aggression on a homogeneous basis. Regrettably as they are on the offensive, they call much of the tune, and we simply have to organize to meet them.

That brings me to the Special Group (CI). This, to me, forms the beginning of our answer, since it draws together, at a decisive level, the same resources that the Communists employ habitually against us as a unified entity. In other words, this Special Group idea gives us the mechanism to face consolidated aggressive power with consolidated quick-reacting power. I believe the Special Group scheme is the counterinsurgency answer—at the Washington level:

If all of the participants can identify themselves with the executive function and avoid identification as institutional representatives
If they are confronted with only problems of major magnitude (there are certainly enough of these); and
If they are supported adequately and dynamically by a working group which seeks to unite, at a lower level, these same functions which go to make up our counterinsurgency strength.

This latter arrangement, we do not now have, or we have on only the most informal and uncertain basis.

Therefore, it would be my idea that each member of the Special Group (CI) should designate a working deputy; these deputies to meet regularly on matters placed on the CI Group agenda by the Group; that the working deputies should dispose, by accord, of the counterinsurgency matters of lesser concern and present to the Group, staffed and in condition for decision (hard though it sometimes may be), the matters of prime concern.
It may be said that this contemplates more work; probably it does, but it will be worth it in the speed-up of counterinsurgency decisions. It may also be said that this whole CI Group idea is wrong, inasmuch as it transgresses organizational lines; but, as I implied before, this is the view that conveys real comfort to Mr. Khrushchev.
V.H. Krulak
Major General, USMC
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 77-131, Republic of Vietnam, 1961-1963. Secret. At the top of the first page is written: “Check idea of ops. deps. with Lansdale.”
  2. Not attached to the source text; presumably a reference to Document 122. Gilpatricʼs request for Krulakʼs comments has not been found.