10. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to Secretary of State Rusk1

Mr. Secretary:

My concern is this: we are, in diplomatic parlance, “following up” every lead we get back through the channel which generates or communicates the lead.

The net effect in Hanoi must be to convey an image of confusion and uncertainty similar to the image of confusion and uncertainty that we have about their position.

We have many indications from the Soviet Union and others that a direct bilateral clandestine approach is what is required.

Moreover, they must regard us—the greatest power in the world—as the critical factor in whether a deal livable for them can be brought off.

As I said this morning, in a curious way they are looking for some kind of guidance and leadership from us in this murky, delicately balanced situation. It is for that reason that I still recommend the letter, a draft of which I sent over yesterday.2 It offers the best opportunity I can perceive for crystallizing the decision in Hanoi.

W.W. Rostow3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower, Vol. II. Top Secret; Personal; Eyes Only.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 5.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.