71. Note From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1
Am keeping a close eye on likely UK/Malaysian countermoves to Indo para-drop. This affair could easily escalate. Brits, even Sandys, seem calmer but now Malays are all excited. Razak says (KL246)2 that UK has “agreed” to Malay request for a retaliatory strike against an Indo base if Indos make another aggressive move.
Meanwhile pattern of UK naval movements looks like a most provocative show of force. First UK move through Sunda Strait was well before para-drop. Now we hear another carrier and seven destroyers just went through. Now Brits (who have 3 CVAs in FE) say their first squadron will return through Sunda straits on 12 September. The Indos are obviously at sixes and sevens, and we fear a Sukarno-type reaction any time. UNSC session is also likely to produce some Indo fireworks.
M. Green thinks Brits would like to provoke a nice mess, into which we’d necessarily be sucked. I too regard this as likely, though I grant alternative explanation that Brits think a show of force will deter Indos. If they’re operating on latter assumption, however, I think they’re wrong again. The reaction of a Nasser or Sukarno has always been to escalate rather than back down.
Key point is that we don’t really know what Brits have in mind. Since our oil and other assets in Indonesia are inevitably at stake, we ought to buy a seat at this table. More important yet, how many wars do we want in SEA just now. FE is sending alarmed cables to London, but this isn’t good enough. It may even be worth using LBJ to Home circuit, or at least Rusk to Butler. I’ve made this point, but you might reinforce.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Malaysia, Vol. III, Cables and Memos, 7/64–11/64. Secret.↩
- Telegram 246 from Kuala Lumpur, September 4. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDO–MALAYSIA)↩
- Komer added the following handwritten note above his initials: “Note to N.Y. 576 attached on tricky UN angles in which we might get involved this weekend or soon thereafter.” (Telegram 576 to USUN, September 3; ibid.)↩