296. Editorial Note

On August 26, 1967, the Embassy in Saigon completed a study entitled “Blueprint for Vietnam.” It was an extensive analysis that contained a comprehensive statement of policy and recommendations for success in Vietnam. Deputy Ambassador Locke initiated and directed it; Ambassador Bunker and the Mission Council approved the idea. Although copies went to S/S and EA, the report was sent exclusively to President Johnson, Secretary of State Rusk, and Secretary of Defense McNamara.

The “Blueprint” set forth a list of policies for the Embassy in Saigon to follow in order to encourage progress in the newly-elected Vietnamese Government after the September 3 elections. The authors’ general assessment, comprising the first chapter, reads:

“Progress in the war has been steady on all fronts. We can defeat the enemy by patient, continued, and concerted effort. The way to do this is for the GVN and its allies (a) to reinforce and accelerate the progress already made; (b) to markedly improve the interdiction of infiltration of North Vietnamese troops and supplies; (c) to upgrade, accelerate, and coordinate the pacification program in the countryside; and (d) to maintain political and economic stability and support the development of the constitutional process.

“There is no magic way to insure quick victory short of an unacceptable degree of risk of war with Communist China or the Soviet Union. One cannot predict when the increased pressure and the increased cost to North Viet-Nam will result in either the quiet withdrawal of their military forces from the South or their decision to enter into negotiations. However, one can say that the greater the pressure and cost to the enemy, the more likely and the sooner will one of these events transpire.

“The military, pacification, political and economic programs are interrelated. The greater the progress in pacification the less will be the popular support for the VC/NVA, the less their prospects for a combined military-political victory, and therefore the less their capacity to justify their actions in their own Marxist terms. The greater the military progress, the more rapid and successful will be the progress in pacification. As the main force war progresses and additional territory and people are returned to GVN control, both military/paramilitary forces and civilian representatives of the governmental agencies must move into the newly pacified regions to insure their integration into the national community and to prevent a return of Viet Cong control through the infrastructure remnants or application of force by Viet Cong guerrillas. Revival of the economy will make the people in the countryside, as well as in the cities, less responsive to the VC.

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“We still have a long way to go. Much of the country is still in VC hands, the enemy can still shell our bases and commit acts of terrorism in the securest areas, VC units can still mount large scale attacks, most of the populace has not actively committed itself to the Government, and the VC infrastructure still exists throughout the country. Nevertheless, the situation has steadily improved since the spring of 1965. The following favorable circumstances may create a climate where increased pressure could cause the enemy to reassess his position:

  • “1) South Viet-Nam now has a constitution, freely elected village and hamlet officials, and the beginnings of local self government. It is on the threshold of having an elected President, Vice President, Senate and Assembly. If these elections are free and fair, and result in a combined military-civilian government, including broad elements of the national, social and political structure, they should (a) increase political stability; (b) facilitate adoption of a program of modernization and reform of the GVN and the armed forces, aimed at greatest efficiency and social justice; and (c) bring into office a government which has a more widely accepted mandate and is thus in a stronger position in any negotiations with Hanoi and the NLFVC. On the negative side, the existence of a strong Assembly may make it more difficult to get U.S. policy suggestions accepted and implemented promptly, particularly where legislation is required.
  • “2) This is becoming more and more a North Vietnamese war. Recruiting by the VC in the South is increasingly difficult and has fallen off by about half. Our military operations have made activities of VC main force and local force units, guerrillas, and the civilian infrastructure more difficult, and in many areas have resulted in scarcity of supplies and lowering of VC morale. Population movement to more secure GVN areas is further reducing VC logistical support. Higher VC taxes, conscription by the VC, and indiscriminate acts of terror have eroded their popular appeal. Although the VC still have a strong infrastructure, built up over the years, it has been seriously weakened in important areas and its support is increasingly based on fear and personal advantage and less on idealism and popular support. Thus, the climate for pacification is better than in the past.
  • “3) Infiltration by sea has been slowed to a trickle. Infiltration through the DMZ should be hampered by the strong point obstacle system now under construction. Interdiction both in Laos and in North Viet-Nam and our entire bombing program in North Viet-Nam are becoming increasingly effective although substantial infiltration is continuing.
  • “4) Although basic economic problems remain unsolved, and basic reforms in taxation, banking, and the economic structure are essential, [Page 730]the economy in South Viet-Nam is moving forward. The real income of the laboring classes in the city has increased and that of the farmer is now beginning to increase; inflation—while still present—is not the threat of a year ago; the Port of Saigon is operating well; other ports have been developed and road and waterway security has been improved, resulting in a significant increase in traffic.

“Now that the initiative is ours and the enemy is beginning to hurt, maximum pressure must be maintained on him by (a) intensifying military activity in the South; (b) developing new methods of interdicting infiltration; (c) bombing all targets in the North connected with the enemy’s war effort that do not result in unacceptable risk of uncontrolled escalation; (d) accelerating the program of pacification (including better security, more effective attacks on the infrastructure, stepped up National Reconciliation and Chieu Hoi programs, a greater involvement of the people in solving their own problems at the village and hamlet level); (e) encouraging reforms in the government structure and continued improvement in the armed forces; (f) attacking the problem of corruption; (g) using influence to effect a strong, freely elected government with political stability; and (h) taking actions necessary to the continued growth and stability of the economy.

“Our detailed recommendations will be given with respect to each subject in the following chapters.”

The recommendations of the “Blueprint” basically amounted to a continuance of existing civil, political, and military programs designed to achieve victory over the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam. In specific terms, the “Blueprint” endorsed the troop augmentation requested by General Westmoreland, the reduction of restrictions on the bombing campaign against North Vietnam, the possible but necessary extension of the war into Laos and Cambodia, and using U.S. influence to reform and reinvigorate the new Vietnamese Government into prosecuting the war more effectively and broadening its political base. Copies of the “Blueprint” are in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8B(1) 6/67–11/67, Bunker’s Weekly Report to the President; National Archives Records Administration, RG 59, S/S–S Files: Lot 70 D 48, Misc. VN Rpts. & Briefing Books, Blueprint for Vietnam; and ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S.

In telegram 31484 to Saigon, September 2, the Department requested that Locke return from Vietnam for a week-long “review” of the “Blueprint.” (Ibid., POL 15 VIET S) During his visit to Washington, Locke briefed the President, Rusk, McNamara, and Walt Rostow on the “Blueprint” during a meeting on September 6 from 10:15 to 11:02 a.m. at the White House. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) No record of the meeting has been found. According to a September 5 memorandum to the President, Rostow advised Johnson to inform [Page 731]Locke that any decision relating to the recommendations of the “Blueprint” would come after review of the document by Rusk and McNamara. (Ibid., National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President, Vol. 4) In a memorandum submitted to Rostow on September 11, Locke described the “Blueprint” as “not a strategy statement or an action plan” but an outline of the means for advancing toward American goals in Vietnam which required “priorities,” “time-phasing,” and “costing.” (Ibid., Vol. 3A, Misc. Memos) Locke discussed the report in depth with the President during a late dinner on September 11. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) Although no record of the meeting has been found, presumably Locke sought approval for the contemplated programs at that time.

In a memorandum to McNamara on September 12, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Warnke advised against endorsement of the report, given its omission of any discussion of the serious weaknesses that plagued the South Vietnamese Government. In any case, Locke needed “only to obtain general approval for the Mission to undertake the courses of action outlined in the report.” (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 71 A 4546, Country Files, Vietnam 1967, 320.4–333) In a memorandum to Rostow, September 12, William J. Jorden of the National Security Council Staff also voiced some concern over Presidential endorsement, noting that “a good deal more work needs to be done on this before the President is asked to sign off. “ (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. 4, Misc. Memos) Like Jorden, Robert N. Ginsburgh of the NSC Staff, in a memorandum of September 7, also noted staffing and priority problems with the paper, but argued that it would be “most useful” for demonstrating U.S. plans and policy in Vietnam and for its overall guidance for the Embassy in Saigon. (Ibid.)

The “Blueprint” was also one of the topics for discussion at the regular Tuesday Luncheon meeting on September 12. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) No record of this meeting nor any record of formal Presidential approval of the “Blueprint” has been found.