133. Letter From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Nitze) to President Johnson1

Dear Mr. President:

Yesterday you suggested that I should testify next week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I replied that I thought Clark Clifford should testify. The reason for my reply was that I have not been, and possibly should not be, privy to the reasons for limiting consideration to Option A in the chain from A to Z. As a result, I do not feel myself to be in a position properly to defend the Executive Branch in a debate before the Foreign Relations Committee which would undoubtedly spread from MAP to the major policy issues before the country.

It has been and is my view that other options should be considered before deciding to adopt Program 6. I discussed with Bob McNamara before he left, and subsequently with Clark Clifford, a proposal for an alternate course of action to the one we have been following. Basically it couples a negotiating position similar to that proposed today by Ambassador Goldberg with a strengthening of our strategic reserve. A copy of the proposal is attached.2 Since it was prepared, the gathering financial crisis adds weight to options which could achieve a wider base of Congressional, domestic and international support than Option A.

I fully realize the tremendous burdens which you, as President, are called upon to bear. I send this now only because I believe the issue to be of profound importance.

Sincerely yours,3

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Nitze Papers, Vietnam War-Miscellaneous Materials 1968. No classification marking.
  2. Attached but not printed is Nitze’s February 27 proposal.
  3. Printed from an unsigned copy.