86. Letter From the Ambassador to Vietnam (Lodge) to President Johnson1

Dear Mr. President:

Herewith I submit my resignation as Ambassador to Viet-Nam—which I do entirely for personal and private reasons.

Indeed, I wish specifically to thank you for the privilege of carrying out a policy which I believe to be profoundly right and which has already achieved great things.

One way to measure these achievements is to note the things which once worried us and which worry us no more. For example, we used to worry that the enemy would cut Viet-Nam in two along highway 19; or that the aggressor would establish an enemy capital in some provincial city from which we could not extricate him; or that a Viet Cong coup would take over the Government by subversion; or that inflation would cause famine; or that there would never be even a breathing spell in an unending wave of governmental instability. In particular, we worried that the loss of Viet-Nam would so encourage the aggressor that he would move against other nations of East Asia—in which case the immediate threat of World War III would be staring us in the face.

Today, the large enemy units are so split up and off balance that they cannot divide the country or occupy any one point both day and night. Viet-Nam moves towards constitutional government. Economic and social programs continue. Runaway inflation has been staved off. Still to be accomplished, however, is the destruction of the terrorist organization which continues to assassinate, kidnap, torture and sabotage—and to impress young males into the Viet Cong. While thus a satisfactory outcome has not yet been achieved, it is clear that even terrorism cannot hold out forever and that persistence will ward off aggression. They cannot win and we cannot be pushed out.

Outside of Viet-Nam that whole great area of islands and peninsulas constituting the edge of East Asia, going from Korea south, then west to Burma, and southeast to New Zealand (and containing 370 million people) is denied to the expansionism of Peking. To be sure, the [Page 193]current situation is dangerous because the world is dangerous, but if we had been pushed out of Viet-Nam or if we had abandoned Viet-Nam, the tide would have turned towards Peking and a catastrophe of global dimension would have ensued. This would have involved us in a far more acute danger. Thus your policies, looked at in their most fundamental sense, actually tend away from escalation and towards peace, even though the other side is not yet ready for negotiations.

All these solid achievements would not have occurred without your farsighted and brave decision, in the summer of 1965, to make limited use of our military power, in addition to our civilian aid, to help the all-out Vietnamese effort to ward off the aggression and protect the independence of their revolution. In so doing, we also fight directly for our own vital national interest.

As I finish three and a half years of complete involvement in United States policy toward Viet-Nam, both as Ambassador and as consultant, I wish to thank you for your unfailing support and for the honor conferred on me by your trust.2

With respectful regard

Faithfully yours

Henry Cabot Lodge
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Office of the President File, Henry Cabot Lodge. Top Secret; Eyes Only. The first two and the last paragraphs, along with the salutation and complimentary close, are handwritten by Lodge. He sent this letter along with a handwritten letter of resignation to Rusk. He informed Rusk that he would leave on April 3, after the promulgation of the South Vietnamese Constitution on March 27, and that he was letting him know now in order to provide sufficient time to name a successor. (Ibid.)
  2. On March 1 Komer wrote to Lodge: “The President mentioned your latest letter. As you know, ever since you gave me your confidence and confided your own preferences many months ago, I’ve been keeping an eye out for them. The great problem has been finding someone who could even come close to filling your shoes. But you will bequeath any successor a legacy of accelerating success. More and more I sense that 1966 was the decisive year.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Komer Files: Lot 69 D 303, Vietnam/Turkey)