97. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

Herewith a pessimistic analysis of this morning’s meeting.2 I am not sure it is right, but we ought to consider it.

They ask for three things, any one of which alone could destroy the Saigon government; all three certainly would:

  • —our acceptance of their theological language about an “unconditional” bombing halt;
  • —a long delay before the first “serious” negotiating meeting;
  • —4 powers rather than our-side-your-side.

They may believe that our anxiety for a bombing halt and forward movement for domestic political purposes is so great we would fall into the trap of opening up this kind of gap between Washington and Saigon. Even the Chinese Communists are bringing the election into the bombing halt question.

Communists always think in terms of what they call “inner contradictions” in the camp of their enemies.

It is possible that:

  • —they have no interest in forward progress unless it broke the GVN or greatly strained the U.S.-GVN relation;
  • —they are taking our temperature on the pre-election question, in which case Sect. Rusk might quickly disabuse Dobrynin;
  • —they may be waiting to see if Vice President Humphrey wins, whom they may regard as an easier negotiating partner;
  • —they may accept our terms, if we hold steady.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, Memos to the President/Bombing Halt Decision, Vol. I [1 of 3]. Top Secret; HARVAN Double Plus; Literally Eyes Only for the President. The notation “ps” on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. See Document 95.