4. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

1386. Ref: Embtel 2032.2 From Secretary for the Ambassador. We view with great concern a head-on confrontation between Huong and generals. From our admittedly limited vantage point the only good card Huong seems to have is evident U.S. support. In the current power equation we do not assess this as being enough to permit Huong to face down the generals with their apparent Buddhist support. If, as seems likely, the generals will immediately and unceremoniously remove Huong and Suu, we would confront, not only a military government which has seized power by force, but one that might have an anti-U.S. bias and, by its victory, lend encouragement to the anti-American manifestations already evident in Buddhist and certain student groups.

Except as an admirable show of courage, we see nothing to be gained by Huong’s proposed action. If there is any hope of resolving the present crisis, it seems to us that continued patient and determined [Page 7]efforts to bring Khanh around or to separate Khanh from the rest of the generals still presents the most advantageous course—as difficult and frustrating as this must be for both the Embassy and Huong. As unpalatable as the present arrangement is, a forceful removal (and possibly the arrest) of Suu and Huong would be even worse.

We are aware that events are moving quickly in Saigon and that you are very much closer and more directly involved than we. However, we felt it might be useful to you to have a consensus of Washington views on this extremely delicate and tricky matter.3

Rusk
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 15 VIET S. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Forrestal, cleared by William and McGeorge Bundy and McNamara (per William Bundy), and approved by Rusk.
  2. In telegram 2032, January 4, Taylor reported the conversation he and U. Alexis Johnson had that afternoon with Huong and Deputy Prime Minister Vien during which they were told that Huong intended to “have it out” with Khanh and his supporters. (Ibid.)
  3. For the views of Assistant Secretary of Defense McNaughton, see his draft memorandum of January 4 entitled “Observations re South Vietnam” in Pentagon Papers: Gravel Edition, vol. III, pp. 683–684.