27. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Presidentʼs Military Representative (Taylor)1
Dear Max: Thank you very much for sending me a copy of the letter you received from Thompson,2 in Saigon. I have read it with much interest and trust that you will pardon a few personal reflections.
While I defer to those who know more about Viet-Nam than I, I am impressed with what seems to me to be the reasonableness of Thompsonʼs emphasis on the importance of cutting the link between the villages and the guerrillas at the first stage rather than expecting to seek decisive military victories against the Viet Cong regulars. This is, as he points out, a slow, methodical process which will require much emphasis on the Self Defense Corps, with the Civil Guard and the [Page 51]armed forces in a supporting role. However, I am encouraged by his independent assessment that the villages are in the main basically anti-Communist. While there is, of course, nothing new in the thought of strengthening village defenses, I am struck by his thesis that only when the population is protected and a steady flow of good intelligence obtained will it be possible to undertake the elimination of the Viet Cong regular units, and that thus, initially, the role of the Army should be to keep the Viet Cong regular units occupied and off balance. It is my understanding that the French attempted to pursue the opposite course.
Such a strategy will, of course, not produce any immediate spectacular results, but my own feeling is that we will have to restrain our natural impulse to expect such results. I known this is also Fritz Noltingʼs feeling, and I think he is right.