George Kennan, Memoirs, 1950-1963 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972, pp. 58-60


There remains the question of Southeast Asia. This, too, was on our minds, even in 1950 and 1951 though primarily in connection with the question as to the amount of support, if any, that we should give to the French, who were then fighting much the same sort of fight, and against much the same adversary that we, in the years following 1964, found ourselves fighting.

Here, at least, I agreed wholly and unreservedly with Walter Lippmann. We had, I felt, no business trying to play a role in the affairs of the mainland of Southeast Asia. The same went for the French. They had no prospects. They had better get out.

"In Indo-China," I complained to the Secretary of State in the memo of August 21, 1950,

This judgment with regard to the folly of a possible intervention in Vietnam rested, incidentally, not just on the specific aspects of that situation as we faced it in 1950, but on considerations of principle, as well. In a lecture delivered earlier that year (May 5) in Milwaukee, I had said--this time with reference to the pleas for American intervention in China:

Little did I realize, in penning these passages, that I was defining, fifteen years before the event, my own position with relation to the Vietnam War.


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