80. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Intelligence (Cline) to the Director of Central Intelligence (McCone)1

SUBJECT

  • Recommended Actions for South Vietnam
1.
In my memorandum to the DCI, 30 October 1963,2 just before the “Big” Minh coup in Saigon, I argued against U.S. support for coup plotting on the grounds that: “If a coup succeeds it will result in the kind of dislocation and confusion characteristic of post-coup South Korea and the Dominican Republic.” This phenomenon is exactly what we have been witnessing in South Vietnam in the last four months. My arguments, which went for naught, in favor of bolstering [Page 147]the shaky Diem regime are even more compelling toward support of the Khanh regime. It is probably our last chance to halt the spiral of confusion of purpose and defeatism that may destroy our position in Southeast Asia.
2.
The simple question raised in the McNamara report3 is whether, with ample U.S. support of counterinsurgency efforts in South Vietnam, the recent trend toward Viet Cong victory can be reversed, and substantial, sustained progress made toward stabilization. I believe the odds are 6 to 5 against this favorable trend setting in within the next 3 to 4 months, as concluded by McNamara, so long as North Vietnamese political, military and logistic support are freely available to the Viet Cong. Furthermore, I think the loss of virtually all U.S. prestige and influence in Southeast Asia is likely if a favorable trend does not set in in South Vietnam soon. Consequently, it seems to me too great a gamble for the United States to rely solely on the measures recommended for South Vietnam during the next 3 to 4 months. Instead, I recommend that the measures recommended by McNamara be supplemented as soon as operationally feasible by adopting steps 1 through 3 of “Possible Later Actions” plus all four actions suggested in your footnote to the conclusion (p. 14) of the report. Personally, I would also recommend the “rejected” course of action of furnishing a U.S. combat unit (perhaps a battalion landing team) to insure the security of U.S. personnel and-implicitly-the Khanh regime’s control of the Saigon area.
Ray S. Cline4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Vietnam Country File, Vol. XXX, CIA. Secret.
  2. Not found.
  3. Document 84.
  4. At the bottom of the source text, Cline added a postscript on Cambodia, but acknowledged that it went “beyond the scope of the measures intended to save South Vietnam.”