207. Memorandum From the Ambassador in Vietnam (Lodge) to the Secretary of State1


  • U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam
The problem here is clearly essentially political, with the military as an utterly indispensable aid, but as an aid nonetheless. Under these circumstances, Washington would look to the Ambassador for inventive and creative proposals such as could only come from the man on the spot. For this reason, the Ambassador should be an inventive and creative thinker in the political-governmental-diplomatic field.
He would also have to meet other issues. One is the creation of a proper political atmosphere here which, as the late General Bedell Smith indicated in 1954, is the indispensable pre-requisite to military victory. This means educating the Vietnamese in political ways at least as intensively as we have done militarily.
This in turn means leading and coordinating all American activities here. First and foremost is the military effort to achieve security. Then he must lead and coordinate the economic and social effort of USOM, the psychological programs of USIS and the work of CIA.
He should synthesize the American views in Saigon so that they focus on the same question at the same time and thus present Washington with clearcut suggestions. Washington will thus not be drowned in uncoordinated papers coming at different times on different topics, and in which the issue is never joined. This would deprive no one in Saigon of his own channel to his own agency in Washington. President Kennedy required this synthesis of me in the month before the coup. The time may come when President Johnson may need the same service.
We may be sure that our Communist antagonist handles his political-military-economic-social-propaganda and subversive activities as one program, and that for one country—if not for one region—there is one Communist boss.
In addition to having a head for all of this it is most useful for the Ambassador to speak French. If this is not possible, there should be a first class interpreter—who understands the issues.
The Ambassador should also consider himself expendable. He should not consider his “next post” and should not have one.
Also it helps to be a “personage” who has already made somewhat of a name for himself.
Undoubtedly it is impossible to meet all these requirements.
  1. Source: Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Correspondence—L. No classification marking. Lodge sent this memorandum to Rusk under a cover of a brief letter, June 8, which explained that the memorandum represented “some of the thoughts which I said I would send you regarding the job of the U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam.”