422. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson 1

CAP 67907. Eyes Only for the President from Secretary Rusk.

Coming separately, is a draft of a statement2 which Goldberg might make to the Senate Committee on Wednesday or Thursday3 of this week.
I am sending you my comments as background for a telephone call before you return to Washington.
Our judgment is that the Mansfield resolution4 will pass with a substantial vote in the Senate. Those who will vote for it will have widely divergent reasons for doing so but the votes are there. I believe, and Goldberg strongly concurs, that we ought not to be in the position of opposing a resolution which seems to be consistent with everything which you and I and Ambassador Goldberg have been saying publicly for the last two years. My own judgment is that it is tactically far better for us to take the view that the Senate resolution crawls upon your own coattails rather than that you are being pressed by the Senate to do something which you are reluctant to do.
There may be ways in which we can delay action in the Senate, both in the Committee and on the floor, to take account of the private contacts now in process. There will be some advantage in delay but I do not look upon this as an overriding consideration. What is fundamental in my judgment is that we ourselves not appear to be fearful of the UN approach to Viet-Nam.
Looking ahead to possible action in the Security Council, Ambassador Goldberg and I see the situation as follows:
There is almost no chance that there would be nine votes for inscription of the item on the agenda at this time. The present prospect [Page 914]is that negative votes will be expected from: Bulgaria, France, India, Mali, Nigeria and USSR; abstentions probably from Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, and the UK (though Canada, Denmark, and UK might shift to affirmative under pressure); affirmative votes: Argentina, Brazil, Japan, China and the US. In other words, there are just not nine votes today to inscribe the item. This resolves the problem of whether the Security Council would take some hostile action, but, in all honesty, it raises the possibility that the absence of nine votes for inscription would mean a UN repudiation of the US position. Goldberg would develop the point before the Senate Committee that the absence of votes has to do with the forum and the timing and not with the merits of the question. This is, in fact, the true situation. Further, I challenged Mansfield directly on this point and asked him whether the absence of votes in the UN would be then used by Senate doves to claim that we had been repudiated by the UN. Mansfield replied that this would not be the case, but that the burden would be carried by the UN rather than by the US. Frankly, I took his statement on this with a grain of salt because Morse, Young, Hartke and others may well take the other view.
If by some chance the item is inscribed, the overwhelming prospect is that the Security Council would do what it did in January and February 1966, namely, to recess the debate for consultation among members. Such consultation would produce nothing and we would not hear the matter again for months.
The remaining issue is whether there is any possibility that there would be a resolution tabled in the Security Council calling upon the US for a unilateral cessation of the bombing without any corresponding action by Hanoi. For such a resolution to have any prospect whatever would require a major change of view by the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, France and a number of others about the jurisdiction of the UN to deal with this question. But if, through some wholly surprising development, even this should occur, Goldberg and I agree that such a unilateral resolution could not get the necessary votes. Goldberg and I cannot imagine any resolution which would get nine votes for inscription.
On balance, therefore, I believe we should not object to the Mansfield resolution and that we are on safe ground in letting the Security Council demonstrate that it is unwilling to take up the question or to take any action on Viet-Nam.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 8. Secret; Eyes Only; Nodis. An annotation on the telegram indicates President Johnson saw it.
  2. Not found.
  3. November 1 or 2. Goldberg’s November 2 testimony is in U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Submission of the Vietnam Conflict to the United Nations: Hearings, 90th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, 1967).
  4. Reference is to S. Res. 180, introduced by Mansfield on October 25 with the co-sponsorship of 59 other Senators declaring the “sense of the Senate” that the United States should seek the involvement of the United Nations in the solution of the Vietnam conflict. The Senate adopted the resolution on November 30 by a vote of 82–0. For more information, see William C. Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 915–922.