319. Summary Notes of the 575th Meeting of the National Security Council1
Major Issues of the 22nd General Assembly
The President: In the absence of Secretary Rusk, asked Under Secretary Katzenbach to give his estimate of what is likely to cause us real trouble in the forthcoming General Assembly meeting.
[Here follows brief discussion of issues relating to the United Nations that do not involve Vietnam.]
5. As to Vietnam, we didn’t have much luck on gaining support for an initiative in the UN Security Council. We may not even get enough support to subscribe our draft resolution; but even if we do, [Page 787] we would encounter trouble blocking attempts to vote a resolution calling for unilateral cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam.
Mr. Katzenbach said he would defer to Ambassador Goldberg, who would present a paper summarizing the major issues we expect to face in the General Assembly.
[Here follows brief discussion of the Middle East.]
2. Vietnam—[Ambassador Goldberg] Summarized his soundings in New York on our proposal to take an initiative in the Security Council. The plan would be to sponsor a resolution calling for the reconvening of the Geneva Conference.
Our friends are timid and reluctant to join us in this initiative. They say they don’t know what the end result of such an initiative would be. Amendments could be attached to our resolution which would be difficult to handle. They fear begging a course of action when they cannot estimate where it will end up. If our friends stood with us to the end, there would be little risk of unsatisfactory outcome. However, they do face domestic problems.
The reply to the President’s question is that the Soviets oppose our effort to get the Security Council into the Vietnam problem. Of the 15 Council members, only 3 fully support our initiative. They are two Latin American states (Argentina and Brazil) and Nationalist China.
Disagrees with Secretary Rusk, who had said that if our initiative in the Security Council did not succeed this time we could just as easily try it at a later time. This is not so because as of January 1 the Council membership changes. The new composition of the Council will result in our being unable to gain sufficient votes for our resolution, even though we will still retain sufficient support to block action by the Council to which we are opposed. Pakistan replaces Japan on the Council—a net loss in terms of support of our Vietnam policy.
After January 1 the Russians may propose a resolution condemning our bombing of North Vietnam. We could defeat such a resolution.
The outcome of a U.S. initiative in the Council might well end up in disagreement and inconclusively; but he favored going ahead with the initiative even under these predicted circumstances. Many would say the United States initiative had been rebuffed. We would gain support if we tried, even if we failed.
The President: Will someone state the other side of this argument?
Secretary McNamara: Our initiative would end up as a rebuff. He was not concerned about the reaction to our receiving a rebuff, but felt there was a net loss if our opponents could say that the reason we were rebuffed was because of our current bombing policy. This would put pressure on us to end the bombing.
Under Secretary Katzenbach: We can only lose if we undertake an initiative [Page 788] in the Security Council. We risk facing a situation in which an amendment to our resolution would condemn our bombing policy. Our friends, put in an impossible position, might well choose to abstain. If you knew in advance you could not get a satisfactory resolution, the debate resulting from this effort would not contribute to a peaceful climate.
Ambassador Goldberg: If we took an initiative, the Security Council would flounder in a state of disagreement.
The President: In the event this happened, would we be ahead of where we now are? Senator Mansfield would probably say, yes, we would be; but the Senator does not see clearly all the evils which are predicted. We should wait till Mansfield gets back from Japan to talk to him candidly about the situation as we see it. Those who urged us to take an initiative would say, after the effort failed, they didn’t realize that the situation would develop as it had.
[Here follows discussion on arms control and a number of other issues unrelated to Vietnam.]
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings File, Vol. 4, Tab 57. Secret; Sensitive; For the President Only. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Vice President Humphrey presided over the meeting until the President arrived at 12:31 p.m. Also in attendance were McNamara, Rusk, Katzenbach, Sisco, Goldberg, Helms, Nitze, McConnell, Marks, Rostow, Christian, Davis, Smith, and Neal Peterson. (Ibid.)↩