18. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Senator Morse, Vietnam, and the UN
The Morse memorandum2 makes the tightest case I have seen for taking Vietnam to the UN. He recognizes that the Soviet Union might block action in the Security Council, and in that event he would press on into the General Assembly. He would “abide by” a majority vote in the General Assembly.
What he does not say is what kind of resolution he would press for either in the Security Council or in the General Assembly. It is on this point that I think he should be pressed. Does he want the UN to vote ways and means of getting the North Vietnamese out of South Vietnam? Or does he want the General Assembly to validate a Communist takeover? Or does he simply want it to “observe”, as it is doing in the Dominican Republic? The last is about all we could really hope to get, and while it might be worth it, it would certainly not bring peace, in and of itself.
As you know, I myself think that we can and should take further initiatives to see what the UN can do about Vietnam. I think this is primarily a tactical matter, designed to show that the Soviet Union is not prepared to desert other “socialist” countries on this issue. The trouble with this tactical approach, of course, is that a man who holds Morse's basic view is likely to denounce it as a fraud unless we take it all the way through and actively work for a resolution which would get us out of there. And if we are going to get out of Vietnam, I do not think it serves any good purpose to blacken the reputation of the UN by trying unsuccessfully to unload this responsibility on it. No one would be fooled, and both the UN and the US would be damaged.
So I think the underlying difference between us and Morse is not whether we should take the case to the UN, but what we take it there for. I would take it there to pin the rose of aggression on the Communists. I think Senator Morse would take it there in order to cover a withdrawal [Page 45]and a Communist takeover. But I am not sure, and this is what a talk with him may uncover.3
McG. B.4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. XI. Confidential.
  2. See Document 10.
  3. At 12:20 p.m. on June 24, McGeorge Bundy telephoned Secretary Rusk and said that President Johnson wanted a draft paragraph prepared for the speech he was going to deliver in San Francisco the following day that would indicate the President intended to instruct Adlai Stevenson to take up the question of Vietnam in the U.N. Security Council. Bundy said the President asked him to find out more of what Rusk and Stevenson thought of raising the issue in the Security Council. Rusk said that he would try to contact Stevenson. He added that it might be possible to raise the issue in the context of a general report on the problem “without ginning up too much expectation that the Security Council will be able to act.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation; Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.