82. Memorandum From Justice Arthur J. Goldberg to President Johnson1


  • Viet Nam

In my view, we should take the Viet Nam issue to the UN Security Council concurrently with the announcement about increases in U.S. military efforts there.

I would recommend that we should propose and seek support for a simple Security Council resolution calling for unconditional talks. I would not recommend that the resolution go beyond this into the more controversial areas of cease fire and UN observers.

The virtue of this is that it would emphasize that the President is pursuing a political solution at the same time that he is manifesting his determination that we will not be dislodged by military force.

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The judgment of Harlan Cleveland has been that we have the votes to pass the suggested resolution. This would have to be verified by consultations in New York to confirm the accuracy of Mr. Cleveland’s conclusion in light of present and proposed developments.

The arguments pro and con undoubtedly have already been adequately presented to you by Secretary Rusk. I have four pro arguments to add:

In my experience, I have never found that renewed expressions of the desire to seek a peaceful settlement through unconditional discussions undermine the firm position of the proponent not to settle by force rather than agreement. On the other hand, such expressions reinforce the support of the rank and file and even critical leaders for a firm policy. This was proved by your Baltimore proposal.2 And the other side will judge us by what we do rather than what we say.
Placing the matter before the Security Council may afford the Soviet Union an opportunity to blow off steam rather than to respond more drastically.
It is at least likely as a result of the developments next week that we will be in the dock of the Security Council on this subject as a defendant. There are obvious advantages in being the plaintiff rather than in a defensive role.
The UN desperately needs a concrete expression of renewed faith on your part that it can perform a vital role in keeping the peace.

Draft Resolution on Viet-Nam3

The Security Council

Having considered the question of Viet Nam;

Concerned at the potential threat to world peace involved in a continuation of the present situation;

Believing that every effort should be made to resolve the problem through peaceful means;

Calls on all parties concerned to engage in immediate unconditional discussions looking toward a solution of the problem;
Requests the Secretary-General to use his good offices in facilitating the conduct of such discussions.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Confidential File, ND 19/CO 312. No classification marking. Attached to a note by President Johnson’s secretary, dated August 17, that reads: “Fr. his [Johnson’s] pocket, he has had it since Camp David, the weekend of July 23, 1965.” Goldberg had agreed by the time he wrote this memorandum to become U.S. Representative to the United Nations, a position to which he was appointed on July 26.
  2. Reference is to the President’s speech at Johns Hopkins University on April 7; see vol. II, Document 245.
  3. Drafted by Goldberg in hand on the reverse side of the second page of his memorandum.