337. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1

6625. For Bundy. Ref: A. State 259 Aug 1965;2 B. State 88130.3

I suppose I should be grateful we are not ducking the issue this year until the last possible moment. But I must confess to a feeling of profound discouragement that again it is felt necessary to start off consider [Page 746] ation of the FY 68 Table 36 level and future year planning with a compromise position which at the beginning negates a position the Secretary has already taken—that only the uncertainty of future appropriations restrained him from endorsing my recommendation for Presidential approval of a $60 million level for three years. I still think this level for the next two years is essential to achievement of U.S. policy objectives. I therefore must insist that we maintain this position.
As you well know, I have never advocated intervention of U.S. armed helicopters in combatting Thai insurgency, have been adamantly opposed to other troop participation, and have overruled attempts of DOD in-country personnel to get American “advisors” involved in combat situation; nevertheless, I did not complain that no one in the Department bothered to correct these recent leaked distortions. I am human enough to wince a bit at the clippings which have flowed in from all over the world about McNamaraʼs defeat of the “bloodthirsty Ambassador.” I have exerted what I had thought to be a strict discipline (until AP story today based on military leak) on all elements of a loyal mission to prevent their telling the truth to some perceptive and persistent American reporters and legislators. I have done so on the theory that any further widening of the “credibility gap” regarding senior officials of DOD is a disservice to the President and to the nation. I had, therefore, resisted the temptation to set the record straight, which could so easily be done with devastating effect, in the hope that, with honor sufficiently assuaged in the Pentagon, we might be able to approach consideration of FY 68 MAP level strictly on the merits of the case, which are compelling if anyone will only take the trouble to examine them. I really think this time I am entitled to your full backing all the way through. If you cannot do this, then at the very least, I think I am most certainly entitled to not have our position compromised at this stage of the year.
My comments on your four points in your first para will have more relevance perhaps if they follow comments on your para 2. If the heart of the matter is, as you say, “the question of the optimum size of the RTA, taking account of the implications for future Thai budgets as well as future MAP levels,” I can only say, “welcome aboard, my friend. This was where I came in three years ago.” There is, I think, no need to recall to you the reception of my attempts to get recognition of the necessity to retool the entire structure for the inevitably growing insurgency.
Daweeʼs visit to Secretary McNamara in May 19654 received almost total emphasis on manning levels. To quote from a DOD summary of official record: “Low manning levels. Secretary/Defense told Dawee to bring Thai forces up to 80 percent manning level. He stated also that he (Dawee) should either go out and recruit or else fire useless ones. Dawee [Page 747] said it wasnʼt as easy as that—that it was somewhat akin to the railroad fireman problem in the U.S. Secretary/Defense snapped back that the U.S. had solved the ʼfiremanʼ problem and suggested Thais solve the problem of low manning levels, and ineffective personnel. At this point Ambassador Martin said that Dawee had made a commitment to bring Project 22 forces up to 80 percent strength. Dawee confirmed that this was so.” And Dawee faithfully began to push for these goals when he returned to Thailand.
Then in August joint State/Defense message (Dept 259 to Bangkok, Aug 6) asked that we put all possible pressure on Thai to do many specific things. On manning levels, in para 3, after asking that Thai units which do not make sense be reduced or disbanded, we were told: “The balance of forces which make a real military contribution—not just Project 22 forces (although they may be given first priority) and not just MAP supported forces—must be brought up to 80 percent of table of organization manning level.” We have consistently kept Thai under pressure to do this and are well on way to reach this goal.
In same message, we were required to put on pressure to increase in-commission rates, press for increased intensive field training; and finally in para 3d to press for increase in Thai military budget, stating that double the $15 million increase would be needed in Thai FY67 military budget. Actual increase in FY66 Thai military budget was $13.6 million. In Thai FY67 military budget further increase over FY66 will be $14.5 million, not including a forthcoming supplemental which exceeds joint State/Defense request. I have now, most reluctantly, advised senior Thai that FY 68 Thai military budget must be increased by additional $50 million (see para 10 below).
I do not know precisely what you mean by “expansion of RTA foreseen in MACTHAIʼs plans.” Some of the so-called “expansion” is conversion of old units, not creation of new ones, although if Thai are to accomplish “in-utilization” rates, appropriate maintenance units now lacking must be activated. Increase of Psy-Ops unit is in response to 2C, re A. Increased engineer and medical units are in direct response to 2D of same message. Almost all will be within present authorized personnel ceiling for RTA and total personnel strength will not exceed this numerical level in any realistic projection. Certainly the additional rotary airlift is essential. I would be glad to re-examine any particular unit about which you may have questions.
I find your statement that “everyone is appalled by the projection of $37 million in operating costs by 1972” somewhat appalling in itself since I had assumed you had available when ref A was drafted last year, the calculation of increased operating costs automatically required to carry out the increases demanded of the Thai in the joint State/Defense message of Aug 1965. Our calculations projected at that time were [Page 748] closer to $42 million by 1972. I must confess I did not give it too much thought because I hoped by 1972 our MILADI program would be fading away.
And this brings me back to your first paragraph.
On your point A, unless we wish to close our eyes to what is happening in Laos, I would give equal billing to Project 22 forces along with internal security problem.
I completely and wholeheartedly agree with the restatement of the principle of avoiding U.S. involvement in combat operations. This is why I so desperately want to accelerate in every way possible Thai capability to do internal job and, if possible, to quietly carry initial brunt of any assistance within Laos. It will be very great tragedy, in my opinion, if we ever have to respond to Thai request to invoke Plan 8, or we decide it necessary to invoke COMUSTAF OPLAN 1–65 (Project 22). And a wholly unnecessary tragedy in case of Plan 8.5
On your Point C, if I follow you, I would never begin there. Using your 45–50 million range as “normal” over five-year projection would total $225–250 million. I would be perfectly happy to settle for that total spread this way: $60 million for FY68; $60 million for FY69; $45 million for FY70; $35 million for FY71; and $25 million for FY72. This is total of $225 million—the lower part of your range.
If your D would be acceptable, I see no reason why sequence I have outlined above would not be equally acceptable. To get it fixed now would save literally thousands of dollars in unnecessary rejuggling of program.
I make this recommendation on the spread in 9 (C) above because, although the stories about my defeat were wrong, they were wrong only about the issue. I have previously informed you Thai were going to have very small modernized conventional force structure with or without our help. You may care to take a look at Bangkok 282 (Aug 65),6 which was response to Deptel 259. In para 5, I told Praphat I very much hoped that Thai would not change priorities in the use of their resources, which accord first priority to economic and social infrastructure. I have changed that recommendation, because we have too much at stake here to risk basing policy on the incredible vagaries and vanities which are substituted for judgment in determining Thai MAP level. I could not be sure my arguments sent directly to the President before he left Washington would supplement yours sufficiently to get a favorable decision. I had to anticipate an unfavorable one. Therefore, I have been pushing Thai hard to recognize inevitability of their having to stand on [Page 749] their own feet, and have pushed hard to add another $50 million to Thai FY68 military budget. The NSC has now recommended this increase to Cabinet. With the additional $50 million coming into Thai military budget in FY68 from their own resources (partly from reserves), I think we can keep the momentum accelerating—as it must—and at the same time conditioning them to necessity of progressively bearing more of the load themselves. I hope I can discover way to minimize any damage from this diversion from economic and social infrastructure investment.
But we do need the $60 million for FY68 and FY69.
A final word. These comments are rushed to meet your deadline. If the plain language is abrasive, please attribute it partly to frustration or fatigue—but not to anger. I think I lost the capacity for anger in Chu Lai a year ago this week.7 But not the capacity for persistence in insisting on decisions which can hasten an end to this war.
Good luck, and may you be at the peak of your persuasiveness.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 THAI–US. Secret; Exdis; No Distribution Outside Department.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 302.
  3. In telegram 88130, November 19, the Department informed Martin of its thinking on future military assistance for Thailand. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19 THAI–US) Martin answered the points raised in that telegram in the text below.
  4. See Document 293.
  5. For information on O PLAN 1–65 (Project 22), see footnote 2, Document 291. Plan 8 is an apparent reference to SEATO Plan 8, not further identified.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 302.
  7. A reference to Martinʼs son, a U.S. soldier in South Vietnam, who was killed a year earlier.