164. Memorandum From the Ambassador at Large (Harriman) to Secretary of State Rusk 1
Yesterday evening you asked whether I had any advice on future policy.2 On thinking it over I suggest that an overall decision be made to direct policy towards getting negotiations started under as favorable circumstances as possible. We could move towards negotiations either through the papal or the Goldberg/U Thant routes and should aim at a full bombing stoppage before the middle of May. A halfway stoppage is unlikely to be effective and could be counter-productive.
I also believe it very important (for the reasons outlined in the attached paper)3 to talk to the Soviet leaders first and to attempt, so far as practical, to enlist their cooperation.
In South Vietnam our first move should be to follow through on Thieu’s suggestion that he state at a press conference that there is no need for more American troops and that the Vietnamese will raise additional forces as required (Saigon 23309).4 (This does not mean that without publicity some additional support troops cannot be sent to balance out current deployments.)
As far as feasible our military forces should adopt a policy emphasizing protection of the populated areas and reduction of U.S. casualties. We might also subject our present operations to cost effectiveness analysis.[Page 486]
I developed some of these ideas in a paper (attached)5 which I prepared for possible use in discussions with the Senior Advisory Group.
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Vietnam—General, Jan.–Mar. 1968. Secret; Nodis.↩
- Harriman met with Rusk between 5:58 and 6:15 p.m. on March 28. (Johnson Library, Dean Rusk Appointment Book, 1968) No other record of their meeting has been found.↩
- In the attached paper, entitled “Objectives of Talks With Soviet Leaders,” March 28, Harriman argued that informing the Soviets of the impending peace move “would have a beneficial effect on their future positions and actions” relating to negotiations. “Considering the suspicions that exist between Hanoi and Washington,” Harriman noted, “we need some outside influence to assist in reaching a settlement, and there is no other that could be as effective as the Soviet Union.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Vietnam—General, Jan.–Mar. 1968) Further elaboration of Harriman’s argument in favor of involving the Soviets and East Europeans in the peace process is in a March 25 memorandum entitled “General Principles,” which Harriman used during the Wise Men’s meetings. (Ibid., Chronological File, March 1968)↩
- Dated March 28. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 VIET S)↩
- In the attached paper, entitled “Proposed Vietnam Policy,” March 25, which Harriman had transmitted previously to Ball and Ridgway and discussed at the Wise Men’s meetings, Harriman outlined measures to strengthen the ARVN and the RF/PF, means to politically unite the South Vietnamese through a broadening of the governmental structures, an altered U.S. policy that emphasized protection of the population centers, and ways to initiate talks. The latter included Harriman’s stated preference for “a neutral initiative which would gain support at home and abroad and ease Saigon’s apprehension.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, Special Files, Public Service, Kennedy-Johnson, Subject File, Vietnam—General, Jan.–Mar. 1968)↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩