13. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

Herewith talking points for your discussion with Cabot Lodge tomorrow, January 11, at 11:30 a.m.2

The next two months are critical and will set the pattern for a year we hope will prove decisive. You are counting on him.3
In particular, it is essential he use all the wisdom and skill of a lifetime in politics to help the South Vietnamese:
  • —find military-civilian agreement on the constitution and on the candidates for the national election;
  • consolidate the moderate non-Communist majority into a national political alliance—or party—so that:

    Ky—or whoever—has a political base and national program when he runs: a truly new look.
    We have the beginnings of a party that can defeat the VC if they give up the war and enter politics.

    None of us knows when the South Vietnamese may have to face that test. We must help them prepare now.

Keep close to Westy. No matter how it is organized, pacification requires intense military-civil cooperation. There is too much talk already of civil versus military attitudes and policies. Pacification is a two-fisted, military-civil job. Westy and Cabot should live in each other’s pockets.
Moreover, Westy’s influence over the Vietnamese military may be valuable to Cabot in finding a new political base in South Viet Nam. For these purposes, Cabot should regard Westy as a valuable political aide.
Encourage Ky, from his situation of strength, to reach out, communicate with, and be prepared to negotiate with the NLF. Tell him we are not going to sell out to the Communists and to operate from confidence, not fear.
You might indicate we shall be formulating a NSAM to crystallize our 1967 policy, after Bus Wheeler returns. You understand he has read it in draft.4 You hope he left behind his suggestions. (FYI: He’s abroad; but we want him to feel you want him aboard.)
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIII, Memos. Secret. The notation “L” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge was in the United States during early January for high-level consultations. The President actually saw Lodge from 12:06 to 12:50 p.m. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) No other record of this meeting has been found.
  3. Lodge had already expressed his desire to leave his post as Ambassador to South Vietnam in March. (Memorandum from Rostow to Johnson, January 4; ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (B)) During his January 11 meeting with the President, Lodge presumably discussed his departure and replacement. In a January 11 letter to the President, Lodge suggested McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, or Clark Clifford as possible nominees for the Saigon post. (Ibid., Files of Walt Rostow, Viet Nam—W.W. Rostow (1 of 2)) In a January 19 memorandum to the President, Komer also recommended McGeorge Bundy and advised that McNamara be the one to “feel Bundy out” on taking the job. (Ibid., Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, January–May 1967) In a separate memorandum to Johnson sent the same day, Komer added four other names for consideration: Ellsworth Bunker, Westmoreland, William Porter, and himself. (Ibid.)
  4. Not further identified.