155. Editorial Note

Significant opposition to the expansion of the war in Vietnam existed within the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense. In a May 1, 1967, memorandum to Secretary of Defense McNamara (discussed with him in a face-to-face meeting that day), Alain Enthoven, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, presented a gloomy forecast for the outcome of the war. He argued that a “dangerously clever” North Vietnamese strategy was coming to fruition: the Communists could sustain their current level of losses indefinitely; in turn, a perceived lack of progress would cause (and indeed was causing) the American public to reject continued support of the war effort. “Hanoi is betting that we’ll lose public support in the United States before we build a nation in South Vietnam…. Our horse must cross the [Page 367]finish line first,” Enthoven warned. The loss of public support had to be slowed; the development of South Vietnam had to be accelerated. However, another large increase in U.S. forces in Vietnam would not contribute to this dual goal, he insisted. In fact, it would intensify antiwar opposition and retard the nation-building effort in South Vietnam. Since U.S. forces in Vietnam exceeded by 28 battalions the minimal number necessary to counter the enemy’s combat threat, according to Enthoven’s estimation, there was no need for additional deployments in light of current analysis of the enemy’s intentions. For text of the memorandum, see U.S. House of Representatives, Armed Services Committee, United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967, Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, Book 5, pages 117–128 of volume II. In a May 4 memorandum to McNamara, Enthoven also statistically analyzed the results of ground engagements. He determined that “the size of the force we deploy has little effect on the rate of attrition of enemy forces.” (Ibid., pages 114–116 of volume II)