215. Memorandum Prepared for a Meeting at the Department of State1
- Elements of a Southeast Asian Policy that does not include a Congressional Resolution
The following outline is a sketch of the actions that would remain open to us in varying combinations in the event that we do not now decide on major military operations against North Vietnam and do not now decide to seek a Congressional Resolution. No effort has been made to design a precise scenario. Indeed, if a decision is made not to seek a resolution, what we should have instead is reasonably broad planning authority within which operating officers would be encouraged to work with a relatively free sense that specific recommendations which did not violate general guidelines could expect a sympathetic hearing over the next months.
1. Possible military actions.
- Reconnaissance, reconnaissance-strike, and T–28 operations in all parts of Laos.
- Small-scale reconnaissance strike operations, after appropriate provocation, in North Vietnam (initially VNAF?).
- VNAF strike operations in Laotian corridors.
- Limited air and sea deployments toward Southeast Asia, and still more limited ground troop movements. (Major ground force deployments seem more questionable, without a decision “to go north” in some form.)
The most interesting of these operations are those involving reconnaissance-strikes and VNAF attacks in the corridors. It is suggested that a detailed and precise roster of such attacks should be prepared, together with estimates of the situations to which they would be a good response, and the ways in which their tactical conduct could reinforce their political purpose
2. Political actions.
- Internationally—a continued and increased effort to maximize support for our diplomatic track in Laos and our political effort in South Vietnam. Higher authority particularly desires a maximum effort with our allies to increase their real and visible presence in support of Saigon.
- Laos—an intensive effort to sustain Souvanna and to restrain the right wing from any rash act against the French. Possible increase of direct support and assistance to Kong Le in appropriate ways.
- South Vietnam—rapid development of the critical province program and the information program, strengthening of country team, and shift of U.S. role from advice toward direction; emphatic and continued discouragement of all coup plots; energetic public support for Khanh Government.
- In the U.S.—continued reaffirmation and expanded explanation of the above lines of action, with opposition to both aggressive adventure and withdrawal, and a clear open door to selected action of the sort included in paragraph 1.
This outline does not preclude a shift to a higher level of action if actions of the other side should justify or require it. It does assume that in the absence of such drastic action, defense of U.S. interests is possible, within these limits, over the next six months.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Southeast Asia, Vol. 111, Memos (B). Top Secret. No drafter is indicated on the source text, but according to the William P. Bundy manuscript, Chapter 13, p. 25, McGeorge Bundy drafted this memorandum. (Department of State, Bundy Files, William P. Bundy Manuscript) This is the paper prepared for the meeting described in footnote 2, Document 214.↩