The Pentagon Papers
Gravel Edition
Volume 1
Document 51, Memorandum from Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President on the JCS Memorandum, 26 May 1954, pp. 515-16.


May 26, 1954

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE

1. I wish to acknowledge the receipt of your memorandum, May 25, 1954, subject: "Defense of Southeast Asia in the Event of Loss of Indochina to the Communists," with an attached memorandum to you from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dated May 21, 1954, same subject.

2. Your memorandum indicates that the paper of the Joint Chiefs of Staff deals with the military defense of the rest of Southeast Asia, if Indochina is lost, "against an overt Chinese Communist attack" (although these specific words are not used in the paper). Given this clarification, the paper takes the position, in the event of overt Chinese Communist attack, that a static-type defense is militarily unsound and that the proper concept is an offensive against Communist China.

3. It is clear in the current policy of the United States towards Southeast Asia that, in the event of "overt Chinese Communist attack" against Burma, Thailand, or Malaya, the United States will "take appropriate military action against Communist China" (Paragraphs 42, 46, and 48, NSC 5405) rather than employ a static-type defense.

4. In view of this existing policy, the Joint Chiefs' paper does not appear to involve a new policy issue necessarily requiring its circulation to the members of the National Security Council at the present time. On the other hand, if you feel that it would be desirable to circulate the paper on a limited basis, with an appropriate explanatory note as above, I shall be very glad to do so.

ROBERT CUTLER
Special Assistant to the President


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