178. Telegram From the Embassy in Laos to the Department of State1

1712. For Bundy. During SEACOORD meeting participants were briefed by MACV on JCS proposals for extensive new U.S. troop deployments Southeast Asia. Since I believe execution of these proposals would have widespread reactions in all countries this region, you may find it of some use to have my judgment re probable Lao reactions to these deployments.

  • First, as I have reported, Lao believe our methodical bombardment of North Vietnam is correct and will produce results. They are perhaps more optimistic than we that in reasonable period of time DRV and Viet Cong morale will collapse and they will sue for peace on terms acceptable to us. They have taken great heart from our actions and have gained a new confidence in their own future.

    If we, by proposed deployments, indicate we, on other hand, have lost confidence in prospect that bombardment will produce results, Lao will rethink their own estimates. They will probably interpret our deployments as evidence of panic and this atmosphere can be very infectious.

  • Second, despite many earlier misgivings and in the face of Communist and French propaganda to contrary, Lao accept idea that we have no colonial or neo-colonial ambitions here. A massive occupation of South Vietnam by U.S. forces except in extremis would also cause this assumption to be re-examined.

Net result of these two factors would, in my judgment, be considerable diminution in Lao confidence re U.S. objectives and capabilities. Practical consequences would probably include much less active cooperation with us in our current military operations and a rather headlong rush to embrace French policy of “negotiated neutrality” for Southeast Asia.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 1 ASIA SE. Top Secret; Priority; Exdis; No Distribution Outside Department. Repeated to Bangkok and Saigon. The substantive portion of this telegram was retyped in the White House, but there was no indication on the retyped copy whether or not it was submitted to the President.