73. Memorandum From Chester L. Cooper of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

The President invited alternatives to the McNamara proposal.2 What follows, however, is not an alternative but rather an ancillary approach.

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This morning's discussion3 noted two possible military outcomes resulting from a substantial increase in US forces:

The VC main forces will be forced by US forces into reverting to guerrilla warfare.
The VC main forces will choose not to confront our units head-on and voluntarily revert to guerrilla actions.

Either way, it would appear that we and the GVN will be faced with the problem of guerrilla rather than positional warfare. The fact that this may mean that the VC cannot achieve a military victory offers small comfort; neither we nor the GVN have as yet demonstrated that we can win this kind of war. The idea of leaving “pacification” duties to the ARVN (while we defend our bases and come to the relief of besieged ARVN units) will not, in itself, do the trick. In effect, the VC will be doing what it is best at. What is needed, if we are successfully to cope with the VC under the circumstances of widespread guerrilla warfare, is a political-economic-psychwar program as carefully developed and as massive in its way as the military effort envisaged in the McNamara proposal. In fact, it may well be that many of the US forces would be redundant under these circumstances and our hopes for “a favorable outcome” will be dependent on the success of our non-military efforts.

In brief, I would recommend that if the McNamara proposals are accepted, there be developed simultaneously a major non-military program to deal with the guerrilla phase of the war. In fact, I do not see how the McNamara approach can succeed without such accompanying non-military planning.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. XXXVII. No classification marking.
  2. Document 67.
  3. See Documents 71 and 72.