58. Memorandum From the Presidentʼs Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Southeast Asia Economic Development Planning

I wonʼt bore you with the long papers that have been worked up in staff sessions this week. Their essence is as follows:

There is great advantage in continuing US leadership to get a regional Southeast Asia development operation going.
For this purpose, we can well blow a second and somewhat louder blast enlarging the general proposition you set forth in your statement on Vietnam at the Cabinet meeting last week.2
We should not at this stage give a precise description of the form of the development organization or a commitment in dollar terms. There are two disadvantages in such a course now:
A long forward pass would probably be incomplete, if we do not line up some receivers down-field. This could make us look silly.
Quite soon we will want to separate Southeast Asia development planning from the Vietnamese crisis, in operating terms. We want the real political effect of an effort for regional economic development, but we can get that effect better if we do not tie the two issues too tightly together. We do not want it thought that we are interested in economic development only because we are trying somehow to get out of our mess in Vietnam. The Marshall Plan was helpful in dealing with Soviet pressure on Europe, but it was not designed or presented to the Europeans in those terms.

These considerations lead us to suggest that we should use language like Goodwinʼs in your next statement on Vietnam. But right after that, we should separate the regional economic problem from the Vietnamese problem in day-to-day operations.

We think we should try to get U Thant to pick up the ball and organize some Asian responses. We also think the project should be given to Harriman to work on, both with U Thant and in relevant Asian capitals. This will give it visibility and standing because of his history as a Marshall Plan leader, his international prestige and his position as a liberal.

After we get some Asian responses and perhaps the skeleton of a new Southeast Asia development organization, we should expect to consider [Page 150] a contingent US commitment like our Alliance for Progress commitments of four years ago. A scenario of this kind will allow plenty of time for Congressional consultation in advance of any such US pledge.

These are the essential elements of a quite complex and difficult enterprise. This plan has been reviewed with Tex Goldschmidt, as well as the bureaucrats, and it has his warm support.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. IX. Secret.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 57.