212. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to the President 1


  • Our current work on Southeast Asia
We spent the day in two rather indecisive meetings,2 but I think in fact a good deal was learned, and some underbrush cleared away.
Lodge’s answer3 makes it clear that the basic next step in policy toward South Vietnam is the selection of his successor. I continue to believe unrepentantly that this is the most important single job you have to fill before the election, and that there is no one whom you should not take if you think he has the qualifications. You know my list,4 and I promise you there is not a name that I would remove from that list on any theory that the individual is more valuable to you where he is.
Moreover, I have not heard any additional names that strike me as good enough. It is perhaps immodest to speak this way about a list in which I have included myself, but I am trying to be honest.
Until we get a new Ambassador, we cannot really mount a sound program for crash action—political, social, and economic—in South Vietnam. Nevertheless, planning can begin and under your spur we have begun an intensive study of new and additional steps that could be taken on the basic theory that Americans can and should do more. This theory is shared by the men making the study.
On the situation in Laos, we have made a first cut at a diplomatic timetable which would be slower and less explosive than the one we started on three weeks ago. This paper is at Tab A,5 and it is the one which triggered a strong objection from the Secretary of State. He insists that our real objective is to force strict compliance with the ’62 Accords. Most of us think that while we should press for such compliance, we should not expect it and should be ready to settle for less. The Memorandum at Tab A states the survival of Souvanna as the real objective, and I think it is right.
The other subject on which we made progress today was whether or not to go for a Congressional resolution soon. The memo which we used for discussion on this subject is at Tab B,6 and the summary conclusion of the discussion was that we do not now recommend an attempt to get an early resolution. We think the risks outweigh the advantages, unless and until we have a firm decision to take more drastic action than we currently plan.
Finally, it was agreed that we will not be ready for a general meeting with you tomorrow, but that it will be very important to have Dean Rusk, Bob McNamara, and me to meet with you briefly at the 12:45 hour which is now scheduled by Jack Valenti.7
If for any reason this program is not satisfactory, you can reach me anytime tonight or early in the morning.
McG.B. 8
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. 5. Top Secret. An “L” on the source text indicates that the President saw this memorandum, and a handwritten note reads: “returned by Pres. 6/12/64.”
  2. See Document 210. The reference to the second meeting is unclear.
  3. Apparent reference to Document 207.
  4. Document 204.
  5. Not attached, but apparent reference to a draft memorandum from William Bundy to the President, June 8, entitled “Diplomatic Action Concerning Southeast Asia.” Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Southeast Asia, Vol. II, Memos (A).
  6. Document 211.
  7. This off-the-record meeting did not take place until 4:45 p.m. on June 11. It lasted until 5:45, although Rusk left at 5:13 p.m. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Dairy) No record of this meeting has been found.
  8. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.