30. Letter From the President’s Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson1
Dear Mr. President:
I have just returned from a ten day trip to Southeast Asia for the purpose of updating my acquaintance with the area after an absence of a year and a half and of doing work related to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.2 In the five days spent in South Viet-Nam, I talked to our principal officials and visited our major headquarters.
As a general observation, I would say that, since I left Viet-Nam, there has been dramatic progress in resolving many of the serious problems which I knew, particularly those which, in the past, arose from lack of sufficient military resources to cope with the main Viet Cong threat or derived from the chronic political instability which marked the period from the fall of Diem to the advent of the present Ky Government. In the enclosure, I have endeavored to tabulate briefly some of the most notable forms of progress which came to my attention.
Inevitably, in attacking tough problems, we either solve some incompletely or create new ones. Thus, any observer of the Viet-Nam [Page 65]scene, impressed though he is with the visible advances made, to give a balanced report must take note of the many residual problems. This I have tried to do in the second part of the enclosure.
No report is complete without a recommendation. Mine is that your responsible officials be set to work at once to produce plans to deal with these residual problems with a view to obtaining maximum results in 1967. Rather than depend on ad hoc task forces or individual initiatives, I would suggest assigning this task to the Senior Interdepartmental Group (with the membership adjusted as required) which was set up last year by NSAM-3413 to do precisely this kind of work in directing and coordinating complex governmental activities overseas. In attacking these problems, we should try to create the atmosphere of a “victory drive” to dispel any tendency to apathy at home and to exploit the growing confidence which one senses in Viet-Nam.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Gen. Taylor (2 of 2). Secret. A handwritten “L” on the letter indicates that the President saw it. A covering note from Rostow to Secretary Rusk indicates that the Taylor report was to be a topic of discussion at the next day’s luncheon of senior foreign policy advisers. Taylor returned from an 11-day trip to Vietnam on January 28. For his statement to the press regarding his visit, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 844–846.↩
- In a January 9 note to the President, Taylor described his forthcoming official visit to Vietnam as a “refresher course in the realities of the local situation.” According to a marginal notation on Taylor’s note by the President’s secretary, Johnson talked with Taylor at 1:19 p.m. and “heartily agreed” with the trip. The President encouraged Taylor to “take any imaginative people you want who might come up with new ideas.” (Message from Taylor to the President, January 9; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Gen. Taylor (2of 2))↩
- Dated March 2, 1966; scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXXIII.↩
- OCO was awaiting the arrival of 150–200 personnel. (Memorandum from Leonhart to Komer, January 24; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXIV, Memos (A))↩
- In a January 12memorandum, Komer warned against a “hands off” attitude and called for a program of action to limit “the risks of setback.” Although the United States should avoid any overt “interference,” he suggested that the Embassy warn the ARVN leadership not to attempt any coups, encourage a broad coalition, and discourage politicians from antagonizing the military. Direct political action was also an option to be explored. (Ibid.) In a January 27 memorandum to the President, Komer continued to call for a strong decision at the highest level for political action in Vietnam. “At the moment the drift is favorable, but there are plenty of storm signals. In the Santo Domingo case, as I understand it, we decided we couldn’t afford to ’lose’ the election, and saw that we didn’t. Unless we make the same kind of decision now, and follow it up closely, we’re running great risks.” (Ibid., Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, Jan-May, 1967)↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 258.↩
- The October 25 Manila communiqué, issued by the Seven-Nation Conference, established as a fundamental part of a future peace settlement the mutual withdrawal from Vietnam of all belligerents. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1966, pp. 867–871.↩
- The troops were temporarily deployed to support an experiment in unified pacification management with the ARVN.↩
- A February 6 memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Sharp contained his answers to these questions. (National Defense University, Maxwell Taylor Papers, Amb. Unger Correspondence) Westmoreland sent his responses to Sharp in telegram 89063, February 7. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Vol. LXV, Cables) For the responses of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to these questions, see Document 90.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩