182. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Special Assistant (Komer) to President Johnson1

Handling Cambodia. Your comment to the NSC staff that you were not entirely satisfied with our current “hard line” toward Cambodia crystallized some of my thinking too. Requests from our embattled field commanders that we bomb Cambodia or at least drop leaflets leave me cold—they would have far too little effect to outweigh the political uproar they would cause. Hence State is quite right in turning off these “gung ho” suggestions.

On the other hand, there ought to be imaginative ways of putting a quiet squeeze on Sihanouk via economic means and psywar. Intelligence reports suggest economic distress in Cambodia, growing disaffection with Sihanoukʼs policies—including his diversion of rice from Cambodian mouths to those of the VC and Hanoi. Meanwhile much Delta rice from the supposedly best-pacified area of Vietnam is rumored to be flowing to Cambodia.2

I am working on a rice strategy to cut back this flow, as well as eventually reduce the amount of rice we have to ship in. We are also taking a look at preclusive buying of Cambodian rice through third parties, so as to reduce the flow to our enemies. Surely we can outbuy Hanoi and Peking. Iʼm also pressing for quick study of other means of quiet economic warfare against Cambodia, as probably more effective and less politically risky than the warlike gestures proposed from Saigon.

The above will take time but weʼll keep the needle in.3

R.W. Komer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert Komer, Memos to the President, March–June 66. Secret.
  2. Komer wrote the following note next to this paragraph: “oil—WPB[undy] says something might be done.”
  3. Johnson wrote the following note at the end of the memorandum: “Good—get back to me on this. L.”