7. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Leonhart) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1

Herewith rough cuts at:
  • Stabilizing GVN/RVNAF
  • Political/Psychological Actions Against the VC
My main search has been for measures which will (a) increase GVN willingness to move in phase with us and (b) minimize our dependence on their assumption of new administrative burdens. Locke’s talk with Thieu yesterday abundantly illustrates the point.2
On scenario reflections, the problem of the number of governments with which we may wish to be in early touch will deserve very careful treatment. “Effective international guarantors”, a revised supervisory commission, or new international inspection force may all be involved. And in addition to whatever claims the 1954 Geneva Nine or the 1962 Geneva Fourteen may have—there are at least the special situations of Japan and Indonesia.
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Political. The prime question is agreement on the nature and composition of the political system we seek in Vietnam. This issue cuts across the negotiations process, SVN cooperation, the requirements of US public opinion. We must be clear about the design we have in mind and get it right. From it, we can work back to initial negotiating positions—fallbacks—irreducibles—troop dispositions—interim security arrangements—aid strategy—regional development plans.
The non-negotiable negatives: No coalition in advance of elections; no partition of SVN; no freeze-in-place during negotiations.
The basics: constitutional order; one-man/one-vote elections; GVN freedom of movement in SVN; “open skies” over NVN; undiminished GVN control of the armed forces and security establishment.
Maneuver areas: (1) present GVN Constitution with representatives in an expanded Assembly elected from where balloting has not yet taken place—(2) new National Elections under the present Constitution and a revised election law (primaries and a runoff)—(3) revised Constitution by a new Constituent Assembly followed by new national elections. Each has advantages—the third would provide the longest stretch out for strengthening the GVN and deferring US troop withdrawals.
Bilateral Arrangements. Once agreement is reached with the GVN “inner group” on the political framework, we will need general understandings on post-settlement bilateral arrangements. These should include:
  • —post-settlement MAP and military support costs
  • —US adviser forces (engineers, technical service elements, instructors, etc.)
  • —transfer and stand-by maintenance of military installations
  • —national and regional economic development plans.
“Effective International Guarantees”—as stipulated at Manila.3 We will need to define at an early stage with the GVN who will be the guarantors and what the case of intervention.
Negotiating Process. Invite and assure GVN participation from the beginning. Consider Military Advisers Group (in Saigon) from Troop Contributor Countries.
Specific Actions
Intensify Pacification—deploying a substantial share of US forces against provincial guerrillas; expanding combined operations; moving at least one US division to the Delta; increasing air reconnaissance and Market Time operations.
Accelerate Anti-Infrastructure Campaign—expanding detention programs and facilities, and emphasizing PRU operations (increased pressure against the infrastructure is probably indispensable to greater effectiveness of Chieu Hoi and National Reconciliation appeals).
Shift AID Program Emphasis to support of elected village institutions—accelerating movement of civilian supplies to the countryside, expediting indemnity payments for war damage, energizing land reform, improved rice cultivation, local education and health programs.
Grant Wage and Pay Increases—for GVN and RVNAF, justified in any event (real wages having declined in the government sector 50 percent since 1964).
Organize Civil Constabulary—activate program for combining elements of RF/PF/CIDG/PRU/PFF into a single rural constabulary under civil auspices and not subject to demobilization arrangements.
Assist GVN Information Services—expanding radio and TV operations and rural programs.
Increase Support to National Political Building Blocks—labor unions, veterans, farmers associations, sectarian groups.
Accelerate and Publicize Post-war Economic Plans—based on Lilienthal-Thuc reports,4 and including regional cooperation programs.
Contingency Plans
(US/GVN) Reach general understanding on military consequences of a failure of negotiations.
(US Only) Develop a series of leverage actions and contingency measures for any GVN attempt to thwart or sabotage negotiations—once they appear reasonably productive. These measures should be scaled from reduced US support through coup frustration to regime succession.
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High-level Defector Program could have the greatest pay-off. It should be re-examined at highest levels and pressed to the maximum.
Chieu Hoi—Seek further program improvements in security of camps, living conditions, employment opportunities, exploitation of individual returnees in VC areas, and information on good treatment by GVN.
National Reconciliation—try to persuade GVN to reactivate, offering full amnesties, job opportunities, and political rights.
Designate “No Fire” Areas in each district in SVN where individuals can turn in—with bounties for arms—and supervised by US civil affairs teams.
Establish Substantial Reward System for province or district chiefs who arrange unit defections.
Expand Use of Hoi Chanh in Military Operations—increase use of Kit Carson scouts; experiment with Chieu Hoi Battalions; publicize in VC areas their successes against the VC.
Psy Ops Appeals—Convene psyops working groups in Washington and Saigon to review both procedures and content. Possible new themes:
  • “Join Winning Side—While You Can”
  • “Hanoi is Sacrificing the South for Immunity in the North”
  • “Hanoi is Conspiring with the Chinese to Weaken the VC for an NVN Takeover”
  • “New GVN Constitution Guarantees Free Elections—It’s Better to Vote than to Die”
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, 6G(1)a 12/67–1/68, Talks with Hanoi. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Rostow saw it.
  2. As reported in telegram 15140 from Saigon, January 5. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL US–VIET S) A follow-up conversation with Thieu was reported by Locke in telegram 15269 from Saigon, January 7. (Ibid.)
  3. Regarding the discussion of Vietnam at the Manila conference of October 1966, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IV, Document 284.
  4. See ibid., vol. V, Document 430.