82. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1
Attached is our translation of Ho’s flat no, plus the comments made in transmittal.2 They are breaking off the Moscow contact.
We cannot know what is running through their minds, but we must assume that “no bombing for the possibility of talk” was as much of a consensus as Ho could get out of his split government; it may have shaken and, even, frightened them that Moscow would consider a formula involving the end of infiltration; and we must assume that they have decided to sweat us out to the 1968 election and, if they lose, withdraw silently rather than to negotiate—although the latter judgment is clearly premature.
Therefore, I recommend a stock-taking of Viet Nam policy designed to:
- —decide what we do in the North (electric power; steel; cement; mining of ports; naval gunfire to shore; or what?).
- —how to accelerate all aspects of military and political action in the South.
- —and, in particular, how to shift the peace effort to the South via amnesty, contacts, Saigon-NLF dialogue, etc.
In any case, Nick, Cy, and I will be putting our heads together; and next week—perhaps Tuesday lunch, when I believe Sect. Rusk will be back—we can go into it and move.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Sunflower & Sunflower Plus. Top Secret; Sunflower Plus; Literally Eyes Only for the President.↩
- The comments are printed as Document 81.↩
- The Department apprised Rusk, who was at the Punta del Este Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States, of Ho’s letter in telegram 137496 to Buenos Aires, Tosec 35, February 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 VIET/SUNFLOWER)↩
- The attachment, which is marked “Informal Translation,” is a retyped copy of telegram 3502 from Moscow, February 15. (Ibid.)↩
- See Document 40.↩