178. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Special Assistant (Rostow) to Secretary of State Rusk and Secretary of Defense McNamara 1

The President wishes at an early stage to review with you both our planning for negotiations in Viet Nam. In this connection, it may be helpful if answers were developed with respect to the following questions, among others:2

What are the US/GVN negotiating assets and how should they be played to gain what? In particular, what should we obtain from the other side to warrant a cessation of bombing in North Viet Nam?
How can we verify the cessation of infiltration of supplies and personnel into South Viet Nam, (a) with third party supervision and (b) without such supervision?
If no third party policing of a cessation of hostilities is possible, can we afford to enter into any such agreement?
What is our response if the DRV takes the position that it exercises no control over the VC/NLF and has no authority to represent them?
To get a negotiation started, what might we communicate in advance to the Communist side to make them see that an accommodation with us is preferable to the existing situation? What attractive “golden bridge” or bridges can we offer to them? What carrots?
How would we want the NVA/VC units to behave under the terms of a cessation of hostilities? How do we visualize the dissolution and/or repatriation of VC/NVA units and individuals?
During a cessation of hostilities, how would we prevent the DRV/VC from regaining strength and continuing “non-shooting” activities such as propaganda, recruiting, tax collection and accumulation of supplies?
During a cessation of hostilities, how do we avoid legitimatizing VC occupation and control of areas of the country which government forces can not enter without fighting?
If we are to maintain the right of the GVN to circulate throughout South Viet Nam during a cessation of hostilities to maintain law and order and to protect its citizens, how can these activities be carried on without violating a cease fire?
How do we avoid prolonged negotiations on the model of Panmunjom?
How do we prepare the domestic and international public for the hard nose positions we must maintain, such as:
The U.S. will not stop bombing or pay any other price for the privilege of participation in negotiations with the Communists.
The U.S. will not tolerate another prolonged Panmunjom-type negotiation. The negotiations will have to demonstrate sincerity and obtain tangible results within a reasonable time after their initiation.
If it is impossible to get a system of international supervision of the execution of agreements reached, the U.S. will reserve the right to decide whether violations have occurred and to take appropriate action.
The government of South Viet Nam will have the right of circulation throughout all of South Viet Nam during a cessation of hostilities and will have the obligation to protect its citizens and to maintain law and order.
How and when do we bring our allies into these pre-negotiation discussions?
During or after negotiations, is it feasible to relate the intensity of our bombing to the violence of VC activities in South Viet Nam? If so, we would probably never have to stop bombing completely and would have a flexible means of replying to VC incidents following a cessation of hostilities. Otherwise, when the inevitable violations occur, we would have no alternative other than to denounce the cessation of hostilities or to tolerate the violations.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27–14 VIET. Top Secret. Benjamin Read forwarded the memorandum to Ball, U. Alexis Johnson, and William Bundy on July 14 under cover of a memorandum stating that Rusk “has asked me to get your succinct private views on this matter.” (Ibid.) For background information on Rostowʼs memorandum, see footnote 1, Document 177.
  2. The 13 questions were prepared by Taylor and submitted to Rostow in a July 12 memorandum. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Box 260, Gen. Taylor)
  3. William Bundy responded to this memorandum in a note to Rusk, July 15, stating that “we do not have, at this moment, well organized answers to the questions” and thus Rostow “has precipitated the very need that I had foreseen before our trip.” (Department of State, Bundy Files: Lot 85 D 240, WPB Chron)