326. Notes of Meeting1

He [CMC] reports that late yesterday, 5:30+ he met at Rusk’s with Rusk & Cy Vance2 (home from Paris) “I found it exceedingly interesting conference. As we got into it, I had thought we were agreed that a purpose of the meeting was to explore new avenues. I found that

Harriman & Vance have concluded N VNam had rejected Phase I & Phase II approach;

—I said no, let’s regard it as still open but let’s look for other alternatives too.

“I sat back with increasing wonderment. I began to sense what was going on—” In a quietly assuring manner, Rusk knocked down every single new approach!

“I believe honestly that Rusk assumes there’ll be no settlement & it’s a mistake to … an approach! Every idea he is opposed to—on grounds that any new approach by us would be an indication of weakness!”

If Vance were to come back with new approaches, it would be regarded as weakness. Rusk is on limited & restricted—the operation is so tightly controlled by him. Ha Van Lau says he will not agree to any prior understanding—(before stopping bombing).3 Rusk says—bombing goes on until we get a firm commitment as to what they’ll do. Thus, an absolute Total impasse! “The main concern I have, says Rusk, is lest they get some idea of weakness?”

CMC says he struggled—to get Rusk to accept some new approaches.

CMC says I firmly told him. All we are saying, despite its unsuccessful nature, all that is being suggested we keep on fighting & killing boys. —Rusk’s answer—“You never can tell when ‘they’ll break!’ & give in!”

CMC says Rusk is just following LBJ’s line.

Nitze reports 2 hrs of Vance with the J.C.S. Vance reported thus far it was a failure of Phase I-Phase II—that idea was dead. What killed it was Rusk’s Press conference & his linkage of all actions in Phase II with Ph. I.

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J.C.S. came to conclusion that no pt. in terminating the bombing!

J.C.S. taking strong views of excellent shape we’re in & so good that enemy can’t make an August attack! This leads Nitze to say maybe he agrees with Rusk. If enemy is really as weak as JCS says, they must be on verge of caving in & starting negotiations to moving.

Nitze says they (Vance & J.C.S.) also talked about Domestic Support in U.S. for V.Nam war. Dom. Support—Wheeler agrees we’re in trouble—other chiefs think not—all agree however that to bomb Hanoi wld. bring the roof down from U.S. pub. opinion. It will take 2 yrs. without negotiations to wind up the war.

[Omitted here is discussion of reparations from Israel for its attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in June 1967.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, George Elsey Papers, Van De Mark Transcripts (1 of 2). No classification marking. Prepared by Elsey.
  2. No other record of the meeting has been found. The brackets are in the source text.
  3. See Document 323.