The Pentagon Papers
Document 38, Telegram from Secretary of State Dulles on Conversation with Eden about Indochina, 27 April 1954, p 480-81
TO: Secretary of State
NO: DULTE 13, April 27, midnight
SENT DEPARTMENT DULTE 13 REPEATED INFORMATION LONDON 77 PARIS 127.
EYES ONLY ACTING SECRETARY.
EYES ONLY AMBASSADORS.
I saw Eden and his immediate advisors for a few minutes before his luncheon April 27. I opened by saying that I wanted to speak frankly concerning our own immediate affairs. I said I considered it great mistake to push French in direction cease-fire which I believed would be a disaster. I said I considered it of utmost importance that we both keep French in mood to fight on in Indochina. If that mood is lost surely disaster would follow with little chance of limiting its scope and indeed little chance of French extricating themselves.
Eden replied with some heat that he was not advocating a cease-fire though he admitted that he had told Bidault that he was less sure today than a month ago that a cease-fire was out of the question. He insisted that all he had been thinking of had been a cease-fire with adequate safeguards and controls. His purpose he said had been to concentrate French thinking on latter points.
I interjected that I did not think three of us were presenting a very impressive or cohesive position. I reminded him that I wanted immediate ad hoc plans covering Southeast Asia including Indochina if Geneva failed but that British were against this. French I said had in effect no government and were at a loss as to what to do. They were drifting toward disaster. I was concerned that we were not doing all possible between us to shore up French resolution. I said there was a basic difference between us in that British seemed to think that plans for a joint defense were more apt to spread conflict than absence of any plans.
Eden said that what worried them in London apart from political aspects was that they felt military intervention would be "terrific business," a bigger affair than Korea, which could get us nowhere. They just did not believe that it was a realizable military exercise considering the military means available. Moreover Eden said it would be most unpopular in Asia let alone with British home opinion.
Eden then asked if our tripartite position was really as bad as I had pointed it. He said he felt that other side was properly worried.
I agreed but said in all frankness they were more worried about United States than British.
Eden did not deny this, and said that we must see how things go here in next few days and do what we can to buck French up particularly if Dien Bien Phu falls.
I said I was deeply worried over French situation not alone in its relation with Indochina. NATO was directly affected. The fall of Laniel might result in a left-of-center government coming to power which would exist by Communist sufferance, thereby increasing Communist influence domestically in France and by contagion in Italy which country was also a source of serious concern. I said EDC would be affected, and our entire defense structure in Europe. At this point Bidault arrived and we broke off our conversation.
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