305. Memorandum From Chester L. Cooper of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1
- Philippine Aid to Vietnam
This is in response to your request to assess the problems in obtaining a substantial (“3–4 division”) Philippine force for Vietnam—particularly as these problems relate to the President’s role.
Until two weeks ago, two basic difficulties held up any additional manpower contribution: financial arrangements and political considerations. After several months of negotiations, we have arrived at financial arrangements satisfactory to both the Philippine Government and ourselves. Although these arrangements apply specifically to the 34-man civic action team, both State and our Embassy are confident that the precedent will hold for the proposed 2,000-man military Task Force and for any larger force that might be sent.
The political problems pose a more serious obstacle. They relate to Macapagal’s election prospects and his need to obtain congressional approval for sending troops abroad. Macapagal’s interest in sending troops and his leverage on Congress have been weakened by the deteriorating situation in South Vietnam and by pressures for negotiations both in the US and abroad. There has also been concern that the US will concentrate on fighting from the air and leave the ground war to others—specifically, to Asians. However, our air strikes and the landing of the Marines have had some salutary effects.
In the circumstances, there are no specific US actions which would guarantee the sending of a 2,000-man Task Force, to say nothing of a much larger element. There are two channels of approach, however, which might be helpful:
Vietnam Policy: Actions that convince
particular and the Filipinos in general of our determination to
stay with the fight in Vietnam would allay fears that the
Philippine forces might be left out on a limb. For example:
- A Presidential letter to Macapagal detailing our present thinking on Vietnam, our resolve, and the role to be played by Filipino troops;
- More US ground forces in South Vietnam, thereby removing grounds for the contention that we are relying largely on airpower and are not exposing our own troops.
Philippine Domestic Affairs: US actions which directly or indirectly have the effect of strengthening Macapagal’s bid for re-election would increase his willingness to risk the loss of some votes by pressing the proposal to commit troops to Vietnam. While such US actions would broaden his appeal in the provinces, they would tend to set up severe counter-pressures in the Manila area, in the press, and among opposition politicians whose support will be needed to gain approval of the Vietnam venture.
The following possible steps are listed in ascending order of their effectiveness in gaining the Philippine contribution (and in ascending order of identification with Macapagal):
- Early resolution of outstanding PL 480 negotiations (rice and meat) on terms favorable to the GOP. (We are now moving on the rice.)
- Resolution of sources of friction that derive from our military bases. We are presently making progress on the criminal jurisdiction article. Conciliation of other issues would be translated into political gains for Macapagal.
- US agreement to underwrite the costs of improving Philippine defenses in the southern islands.
- Increased military assistance of a type specifically desired by GOP.
- Announcement of a dramatic program committing the US to share in underwriting a joint US-Philippine land reform and rural development program in the Philippines (essential to future healthy development of the country).2
- Announcement of the President’s agreement to make a visit to the Philippines prior to the November 1965 election. (This could probably be tied to an undertaking by Macapagal to go forward on the Task Force, might improve its chances of approval in the Philippine Congress, but would deeply interject us into Philippine politics. In the long run, such action would be greatly resented.)
See attached FBIS item reporting Macapagal favoring “military intervention … subject to approval of Congress.”3