428. Notes of Meeting1

NOTES OF THE PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH
THE VICE PRESIDENT
SECRETARY McNAMARA
SECRETARY RUSK
CYRUS VANCE
CIA DIRECTOR HELMS
WALT ROSTOW
GEORGE CHRISTIAN
TOM JOHNSON

[Here follows discussion of the Cyprus crisis.]

The President then discussed with Secretary Rusk Mr. George Brown's current attitudes, particularly related to a resolution before the United Nations.2

The President said this might get you where I had feared we would get. I have feared that we would be asked to stop the bombing with nothing in return. We must anticipate the worst and prepare for it.

Secretary Rusk said that no decision had been made whether to do anything at all.

The President said he thought that it was possible to get nine votes in the Security Council.

Secretary Rusk said that Ethiopia agreed to put the matter on the agenda if the United States wished.3

[Page 1097]

Secretary Rusk said that he doubts that much will happen on NPT. He said the question of safeguards is a sticky one and that the Germans have political problems on it.

Secretary McNamara said two cables came in from General Westmoreland concerning possible campaigns in Laos and Cambodia.4

General Wheeler said that there are 5,000 troops and supplies in the Tri-Border area. There are three regiments and bridges which are important to the resupply of the enemy operating out of Cambodia. The first North Vietnamese division withdrew. Its headquarters is a mile from the border and 15 miles from Dakto.

General Wheeler said the enemy is not to go in. They are refitting and replenishing their manpower.

We propose the use of B–52s and tactical aircraft for 72 hours. The B–52s could operate at night.

General Wheeler said that General Westmoreland discussed this operation with Ambassador Bunker. Ambassador Bunker concurs.

General Wheeler pointed out that there is no question that all of this is in Cambodia.

“We have known for two years that these people have been there.”

Secretary McNamara said this action raises very serious political problems which outweigh the military gains. Secretary Rusk said he would draw a distinction between operations in Laos and operations in Cambodia. He said he would also draw a distinction between full-scale operations and a raid.

Secretary Rusk said that if we hit the enemy in Cambodia and possibly kill Cambodian personnel, this may give them reason to commit their forces against us.

Secretary McNamara said that the President could veto a “stop the bombing” resolution in the United Nations because of world and domestic reaction. The Secretary said the action against Cambodia would destroy us in the U.N.

In addition, the Secretary said that the U.S. cannot run B–52s around the clock without public knowledge of that.

Dick Helms said he would like to look at this before making a recommendation. Secretary Rusk asked if U.S. forces were going on with night and day raids against infiltration routes used by the regiment which is being brought into South Vietnam.

General Wheeler said yes, to the best of our ability. General Wheeler said the proposal was to use a South Vietnamese Airborne [Page 1098]Brigade in area 607 to destroy troops and ammunition. He said it is occupied by supply centers and troops. He said the raid would take three days and would involve 1,500 to 1,600 South Vietnamese troops along with about 30 U.S. advisors.

Secretary McNamara said the Laos situation is different. He said the border is ill-defined. He said the chances of getting caught are much different.

Secretary Rusk said there is not a fraction of as much a problem in Laos as there is in Cambodia.

Secretary McNamara said he recommended going ahead with the Laos operation. Secretary Rusk agreed.

The President approved.5

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the White House.
  2. See Document 427.
  3. In telegram 2925 from USUN, December 9, Goldberg informed the Department that there were a “sure eight votes” in support of putting the resolution on the agenda (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States), but that “the ninth vote, Ethiopia, is still doubtful, although the Permanent Representative tells me he personally would favor re-inscription of the question.” At the time, the Ethiopian Representative still had no instructions from his government on the issue. Goldberg believed that the Representative would not get such instructions “until we take a move which would force the Ethiopian Government to take a stand.” Goldberg added that the Republic of China was the only member of the Security Council “strongly opposed to inviting representatives of the NLF.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S) In a December 9 discussion with Senator Gale McGee (D–Wyoming) regarding his possibly replacing Goldberg, the President commented on the UN consideration of the Vietnam situation: “If they get a resolution and make us stop the bombing, we're in one hell of a shit.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and McGee, December 9, 1967, 11 a.m., Tape F67.15, Side A, PNO 1 and 2)
  4. Not found.
  5. The President and his advisers continued the discussions on the proposed actions in Cambodia in the evening of December 5. After Rusk, McNamara, and Clifford expressed concern and opposition, the President decided to require Westmoreland to justify his proposed offensive operations in Cambodia and to have Bunker discuss why he supported this action. (Notes of Meeting in Cabinet Room, December 5, 6:02–7:15 p.m.; Johnson Library, Tom Johnson's Notes of Meetings) For an account of the meeting, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXVII, Document 216.