179. Telegram From the Embassy in Vietnam to the Department of State1

1195. Deptel 12192 delayed due servicing and just received. Without speculating on actions which might have seemed advisable had message been received promptly, I do not think it would be wise to take any action now on numbered paragraph 1. At this time, we have formal agreement between GVN and Buddhist leadership and outward calm throughout the country, following a relatively minor outburst in Saigon this morning. Moreover, notwithstanding that my misgivings about Ngo family including Diem have greatly increased during last two weeks, I am still not impressed by the competition, nor do I think are any of my colleagues American or foreign.

Our best move at this juncture—and one I propose to make unless otherwise instructed—is to press Diem directly and indirectly to accept Buddhist crisis as blessing in disguise and to use agreement reached as stepping stone to concessions to other groups (before they demand them). The whole operation would be keyed to building up popular [Page 399] support for regime prior to August parliamentary elections and importantly also to making sure that paper undertakings to Buddhists are carried out in full measure.

This scheme will doubtless be regarded as naive by anyone who knows this country (and it is certainly the longest of shots). Moreover, I fear that my own ability to put it across may have been diminished by my actions on Buddhist affair and that GVN confidence in our ability to carry out private diplomacy is gravely undermined by NY Times story. I nevertheless think that we should give this approach a fair try. If we find Diem in a mood to freeze up, rather than move forward, then I think his days are indeed numbered and we must begin to make moves along the lines of para 1, Deptel 1219.

Re para 2, there are no bars whatsoever on contacts and we are receiving just now a surfeit of coup talk and anti-regime comment. It is to be expected in such circumstances that one is never in contact with the people (if any) who really mean business, but we have all the lines out that we know how to put out and have had for some days. However, everyone is as usual under strict instructions not to encourage coup talk and to meet any that arises with firm statement of US support for GVN.

For time being I am not discussing Deptel 1219 with anyone but Manfull.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, SOC 14-1 S VIET Top Secret; Priority; Eyes Only.
  2. Document 175.