90. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara1

JCSM-107–67

SUBJECT

  • A Settlement of the Conflict in Vietnam (U)
1.
(S) Reference is made to a report to the President by General Maxwell D. Taylor, dated 30 January 1967,2 in which he sets forth five key questions bearing on the subject of a settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.
2.
(S) Appendix A3 contains responses to General Taylor’s questions. It is recommended that the positions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summarized in Annex A to Appendix A, be considered in the formulation of a comprehensive US policy on the settlement of the conflict in Vietnam.
3.
(C) Since these questions involve matters of interdepartmental interest, you may wish to forward a copy of the paper to the Secretary of State. A suggested memorandum for that purpose is attached as Appendix B.4
4.
(C) The Joint Chiefs of Staff request that, in the future formulation of US policy concerning a settlement of the conflict in Vietnam, they be afforded an opportunity to provide you their views based upon the situation which exists at the time.
5.
(U) Without attachments, this memorandum is downgraded to Secret.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Earle G. Wheeler5
Chairman
Joint Chiefs of Staff
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Annex A to Appendix A

RECAPITULATION

Question

1: What price should we exact for the cessation of bombing in the north? (Annex B)

Conclusions

a.
The minimum price we should exact for a cessation of our bombing in the North is a cessation by North Vietnam of its infiltration of personnel and materiel into South Vietnam and Laos, with effective inspection and verification thereof.
b.
The Government of Vietnam has the sovereign right of circulation throughout all of South Vietnam and the obligation to protect its citizens and to maintain law and order. In no instance should this right be restricted, jeopardized, or negotiated.
c.
Since a cessation of our bombing in the North is one of our most important negotiating assets, we should endeavor to exact additional concessions. In terms of immediacy, these concessions include:
(1)
A cessation of support and direction by North Vietnam of the Viet Cong and conclusive demonstration that withdrawal to North Vietnam has begun of North Vietnamese military forces and equipment and cadres from South Vietnam and the demilitarized zone, and from the Laotian Panhandle.
(2)
A cessation of North Vietnamese military operations in South Vietnam.
(3)
A significant reduction of North Vietnamese/Viet Cong acts of terrorism in South Vietnam.
d.
Additional concessions, in terms of what is needed for the restoration of peace in South Vietnam, are listed below. While these concessions are not now of the immediacy of those in paragraph b, above, they could become so with the passage of time and changes in the military situation.
(1)
The withdrawal by North Vietnam of all its military forces and equipment and cadres from South Vietnam and the demilitarized zone, and from the areas of Laos not occupied by the communists prior to the signing of the Geneva Accords on Laos on 1962, with effective inspection and verification. During this withdrawal, all radio transmissions would be in the clear. Withdrawal would include the dismantling of the communications net.
(2)
A cessation of all North Vietnamese/Viet Cong acts of terrorism in South Vietnam.
(3)
Agreement by North Vietnam and the Viet Cong to exchange prisoners with the allies.
e.
A firm agenda for reaching agreement on specific issues should be established, and progress on this agenda should be insisted upon. Drawn-out negotiations caused by communist intransigence or stalling or communist violation of any of the conditions which led to a cessation of the bombing in North Vietnam should constitute a basis for resumption of the bombing.

Question

2: What forms of verification are essential to protect ourselves against unfulfilled communist promises or the traps of a phony de-escalation? (Annex C)

Conclusions

a.
There is no case since World War II where an international peacekeeping organization has been fully effective in maintaining the peace. Moreover, in view of past patterns of communist intransigence, subversion and obstructionist tactics, there is serious doubt that any form of an international control commission can be effective in Vietnam.
b.
If the United States is to accept an international control commission in Vietnam, a new organization must be developed which is free of the serious deficiencies of the present commission.
c.
The preferred alternative to a new international control commission, and the best way of assuring effective verification, is unilateral inspection and policing of the truce by the belligerents themselves, particularly during the period of negotiations and prior to assumption of this responsibility by an international control commission. Such activities would include: patrolling and unlimited access by US/Government of Vietnam/Free World Military Assistance Forces to all parts of South Vietnam, including the southern portion of the demilitarized zone; air reconnaissance and surveillance over North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and Laos, as well as other forms of intelligence collection, to include coastal surveillance of North Vietnam, South Vietnam and Cambodia, and covert operations in Laos and Cambodia to detect any attempts by North Vietnam/Viet Cong to infiltrate personnel and materiel into those countries and from them into South Vietnam./
d.
Under a formal agreement requiring withdrawal of US forces, inspection and verification should be placed in the hands of an international organization only if it is in-being, in-place, and effective. It should be recognized, however, that the organization probably would have neither the responsibility for nor the capability of enforcing the peace.
e.
DIA and other intelligence resources should continue surveillance and analysis of areas, points, and routes on land, sea, and in the [Page 205]air to include North Vietnam and South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other possible areas of interest in Southeast Asia; further, data derived therefrom should be kept current for ready reference.

Question

3: What role in negotiations will we concede to the Government of Vietnam and to our allies who are contributing military forces? (Annex D)

Conclusions

a.
The Seven Nations6 should develop their negotiating positions and strategy well in advance of any peace negotiations. Their pronouncements in the Manila Communique can provide a suitable framework for the objectives to be sought. The negotiating strategy should prescribe the role of each allied nation, to include who will be negotiators and who will be observers. The negotiators should be South Vietnam and the United States (ostensibly the United States would be an observer with the understanding that, behind the scene, it would have a primary role). The remainder would be observers.
b.
Since the main antagonists are South Vietnam and North Vietnam, and in order not to create the impression of impinging upon South Vietnamese sensibilities concerning their sovereign status, the Government of Vietnam should desirably be the principal visible spokes-man on the allied side, contingent upon the Government of Vietnam adopting positions acceptable to the United States and the other allies. During the negotiations, it will be necessary that the Seven Nations act in close consultation and coordination on all substantive issues.
c.
Prenegotiation arrangements might begin with military representation from the Government of Vietnam and North Vietnam, and US observers, meeting in the demilitarized zone (or other suitable location) in order to establish the ground rules for the negotiations. At that time, based upon guidance from higher authority, conference representation would be decided upon. Such representation would be consistent with the nature, scope, and objectives of the conference.
d.
Negotiators dealing with military matters should be military personnel. An advisory committee of military representatives of the Government of Vietnam, the United States, and our Third Country Allies contributing military forces should be formed in order to enable the attainment of a unison of military views on matters of a military nature.
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Question

4: How will we avoid a stalemate in negotiations on the pattern of Panmunjom? (Annex E)

Conclusions

a.
A cessation of our military operations against the enemy prior to and/or during the negotiations would enhance the communist position, would provide North Vietnam with an opportunity to sustain and increase its support of the Viet Cong, and would enable it to string out the negotiations in the hope of wearing down the allied negotiators and, thus, of obtaining a settlement more favorable to the communists.
b.
Despite pressures to suspend US/Government of Vietnam/Free World Military Assistance Forces military operations in order to provide ostensibly a more favorable climate for negotiations, such operations, including air and naval actions against North Vietnam, should be continued during the negotiations, except insofar as North Vietnam has met our conditions for halting the bombing. In any event, a cessation of our bombing in the North should not restrict allied military operations in the South or in Laos, which should be continued during the negotiations.
c.
If a decision is made to suspend the bombing in North Vietnam, in connection with their meeting our conditions for such a halt preliminary to negotiations, the bombing should be resumed if communist intransigence or stalling precludes satisfactory progress during the negotiations.
d.
Therefore, military operations should be continued and should be pressed vigorously during negotiations. They should be suspended only to the extent agreed upon in the negotiations. It should be made clear that any failure on the part of North Vietnam to comply with the terms of any agreement will be met by a resumption of hostilities (if they have been suspended or reduced) in an appropriate degree.
e.
The Government of Vietnam has the sovereign right of circulation throughout all of South Vietnam and the obligation to protect its citizens and to maintain law and order. In no instance should this right be restricted, jeopardized, or negotiated.

Question

5: How can we prepare US and international public opinion for the tough positions which the United States must take in any settlement which will achieve our basic objective of an independent Vietnam free from aggression? (Annex F)

[Page 207]

Conclusions

a.
We should be doing everything possible now to gain the support of US and international public opinion for our position on Vietnam. Our approach must emphasize the reasonableness of this position.
b.
The United States needs to assert the following points in order to gain understanding and acceptance by US and international public opinion:
(1)
That the United States will stop bombing in the North when presented with clear evidence of a commensurate reciprocal de-escalation of hostilities by the other side. Further, that the United States will not discontinue bombing, or curtail other military efforts which contribute to the protection of the people of South Vietnam and the armed forces of our allies in South Vietnam as a price for participation in negotiations. Moreover, we would expect that the communists would enter negotiations with a sincere desire to achieve a satisfactory peace settlement within a reasonable period of time.
(2)
That our bombing in the North has been against highly selective and, in many instances, heavily defended military targets; that great destruction at undefended points could have been accomplished with enormous effect and with far less loss to US forces if it were not for the humanitarian restraint exercised by the United States.
(3)
That our side reserves the right, in the absence of an effective system of controls, to decide whether agreements have been violated and to take appropriate action.
(4)
That, in the light of the Korean experience, the allies will not participate in a prolonged Panmunjom-type negotiation in which devious communist negotiating techniques were employed. That the United States, in the absence of steady progress, reserves the right to take selective military actions.
(5)
That the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong continue to be encouraged to take advantage of Government of Vietnam amnesty programs during negotiations, offering them the opportunity to reintegrate as peaceful and useful citizens in South Vietnam.
(6)
That the United States wants to get on with the important business of helping to build a nation in an atmosphere of peace and security.
(7)
That, with honest fulfillment by the communists of the provisions applicable to them under the Manila Communique, US/FWMAF will withdraw based upon their commitments in that Communique.
(8)
That the United States, as a further demonstration of its peaceful intentions and humanitarianism, reaffirms its willingness to assist in the economic development of Southeast Asia and otherwise to promote regional cooperation.
c.
The Secretary of State should be requested to form an interdepartmental study group to determine the scope, responsibility, timing, and content of the public statements necessary to establish our position on the above points. Such statements would include those to be made by key government and civil leaders of both the United States and South Vietnam, as well as those of other allied countries and of other countries whose support we are seeking.
  1. Source: Department of Defense, Official Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 911/080 (30 Jan 67), IR #557. Top Secret; Sensitive.
  2. Document 30.
  3. Appendix A, not printed, is a table of contents for Annexes A–F, of which only Annex A is printed below.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Printed from a copy that indicates that General Wheeler signed the original.
  6. Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Vietnam, Thailand, and the United States. [Footnote in the source text.]