244. Memorandum From the President’s Special Consultant (Taylor) to President Johnson1
It does not appear to me that we are preparing either Hanoi or our own and the international public for an action which I feel sure we will have to take in Paris in the near future. We are reacting far too little, it seems to me, to actions of Hanoi in raising the level of military action in South Viet-Nam while heckling us to stop the bombing. By our quiescence, we seem to accept as a matter of course the continued high rate of enemy infiltration and repeated acts of accentuated violence—I am thinking particularly of the recent shelling of Saigon for which there has been no reprisal and, indeed, no strong protest to indicate that we take these things seriously. In their fight-talk campaign, the other side is increasing the fighting in the South while trying to talk us out of our freedom to retaliate in the North.
We have three readily available responses to Hanoi’s increasing belligerence and to the intransigence of their negotiators at the conference table. The first is to resume bombing back to the 20th parallel. The second is to bomb throughout all North Viet-Nam as we did prior to March 31. The third is to go beyond former bombing levels and include therein the mining of Haiphong harbor.
The timing of these steps is, of course, of great importance as is the preparation of public acceptance for them. I believe that the first step, bombing to the 20th parallel, should be taken now and the fact acknowledged as soon as the press raises the question. Concurrently, we should communicate privately to the Hanoi representatives what we have already said to Zorin with regard to our inability to continue to limit our bombing to the 20th parallel without prompt evidence of restraints on their side. At the same time, we should make clear to the Hanoi representatives in Paris that they are wasting their breath in calling for a total cessation until they match the restraint which we have already shown.
With the warning on the official record, we should then make repeated public statements explaining and justifying what we may have [Page 704]to do. About a week after the warning, in the absence of a conciliatory move from them, we should resume our pre-March 31 pattern of bombing. A further expansion of the bombing would remain for the time being an ace in the hole.
In my judgment, these tough positions are inevitable and the sooner we take them and establish our firmness with the other side, the sooner we can get on to serious business.
I would not worry too much about a possible walk-out by our adversaries, although we can expect them to threaten it and even go through the motions. In the Panmunjom negotiations, you will recall that there was a prolonged break because of inability to agree on the issue of the involuntary repatriation of prisoners of war, but eventually the other side gave in and came back. In the Paris negotiations, I would anticipate similar gestures but also a similar capitulation if we keep a remorseless military pressure on them throughout.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 8 I, 1/67–12/68, Taylor Memos—General. Secret. According to an attached note, the President requested Clifford’s and Rusk’s comments on the memorandum.↩