12. Letter From the President’s Special Representative and Adviser on Africa, Asia, and Latin America (Bowles) to the Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson)0

Dear Adlai : I would like to have you see the memorandum which I wrote to the Secretary on Southeast Asia.1 In my opinion, the situation in Vietnam is deteriorating very rapidly, and with a wobbly political structure, I do not see how we can readily stiffen it.

As Vietnam becomes weaker, the tendency will grow in Thailand for a quick switch to neutralism, and we will suffer a severe setback in an area where we have already made mistakes which have resulted in our present overcommitment.

It seems to me that whatever hope we may have for coming out of this dilemma intact would be to work not only for an “independent and neutral Laos” but also for an “independent and neutral Southeast Asia”, guaranteed not only by the Soviet Union and the United States and other directly interested parties but also by the United Nations.

We could then go on to propose the development of the Mekong River Valley with the participation not only of the United States and the USSR but also Japan and India which would provide a unifying force for the entire area, as well as broadening the basis for our commitment to the independence of the area.

I do not suggest that this is easy. Indeed, it may be impossible but at the moment it seems we are headed full blast up a dead end street.

The general response to my proposal, as might be assumed, was a negative one, although George Ball and Averell were in agreement with me. In any event, I did want you to know the effort I have made and perhaps we can talk about it when I return from Latin America on the 21st of October.

With my warmest regards,


Chester Bowles 2
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790.00/10–761. Secret.
  2. Dated October 5, attached but not printed.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.