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

417. CINCPAC POLAD exclusive for Admiral Felt. Eyes only for the Secretary. Your 324.2

Agree your paragraph 1 on great desirability of “change in GVN policies.” There may be an off-chance I might in time get in a position to give them advice, some of which they would take. But this is clearly impossible in the present atmosphere.
Re your paragraph 2 as to “what I can or cannot achieve”, the main leverage I have is the build-up given me by the President’s personal letter3 which has inspired some hope in GVN that I will [Page 110] some day speak well of them to U.S. public. They, therefore, may be willing to do something to impel me to do so. I am using this leverage to the utmost as well as President’s expressions of disapproval.
But I do not believe their word is good; Nhu’s resignation surely would mean very little; Madame Nhu’s departure is obviously intended to be a triumphant lecture tour; the broadening of the membership of the government will realistically change nothing; and the placating of the Buddhists, as far as GVN is concerned, is largely done. If these things have no usefulness in the U.S. as gestures, they are probably not worth doing. It would be better to keep them worried than to agree to some gestures which we regard as essentially meaningless but which would give them the feeling that they are forgiven.
Rather than go myself, I intend to get [less than 1 1ine not declassified] to tell Nhu that we are really not interested in his package; that is, his resignation, Madame Nhu’s lecture tour, etc., and see if they can get something better. If they get something better, I can then go back.
If [less than 1 1ine not declassified] produce nothing substantial, I would then see Diem and request the departure of both Nhus, the broadening of the composition of the government, the placating of the Buddhists, etc. Believe this will be for the record only but, of course, will try.
As to “political support at home and abroad” in your paragraph 4, I do not believe the GVN really understands this at all. They are essentially a medieval, Oriental despotism of the classic family type, who understand few, if any, of the arts of popular government. They cannot talk to the people; they cannot cultivate the press; they cannot delegate authority or inspire trust; they cannot comprehend the idea of government as the servant of the people. They are interested in physical security and survival against any threat whatsoever—Communist or non-Communist.
Of course, I will always keep trying, hoping this estimate may be wrong and that there may be changes of one kind or another.
We are also studying possibilities of selective cutbacks or controls on aid components. Separate telegram will follow on this.4
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET. Secret; Immediate. Received at 5:05 a.m. Repeated to CINCPAC. Passed to the White House, CIA, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
  2. Supra.
  3. See vol. III, p. 644, footnote 2.
  4. Not found.

    In telegram 337 to Saigon, September 5—9:10 p.m., addressed to Lodge, Hilsman with clearances in substance from Rusk and Bundy, replied as follows:

    “Approve your tactics, but reiterate our feeling here of importance seeing Diem as soon as possible in order to try to assess real situation and what can now be best done.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 S VIET)