"Let me turn now to the problem of Southeast Asia. In that great peninsula and the islands to the south live nearly 200 million people in 7 states--Burma; the three states of Indochina--Laos, Cambodia, and Viet-Nam; Thailand; Malaya; and Indonesia. Communist conquest of this area would seriously imperil the free world position in the Western Pacific. It would, among other things, endanger the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, with all of which the United States has mutual-security treaties. It would deprive Japan of important foreign markets and sources of food and raw materials.
"In Viet-Nam, one of the three Indochinese states, war has been going on since 1946. When it began, Indochina was a French colony just liberated from Japanese occupation. The war started primarily as a war for independence. What started as a civil war has now been taken over by international communism for its own purposes. Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader in Viet-Nam, was trained in Moscow and got his first revolutionary experience in China."
* * *
"In Indochina, the situation is far more complex. The present conditions there do not provide a suitable basis for the United States to participate with its armed forces.
"The situation may perhaps be clarified as a result of the Geneva Conference.
The French have stated their desire for an armistice on honorable terms and
under proper safeguards. If they can conclude a settlement on terms which do not endanger the freedom of the peoples of Viet-Nam, this would be a real contribution to the cause of peace in Southeast Asia. But we would be gravely concerned if an armistic or cease-fire were reached at Geneva which would provide a road to a Communist takeover and further aggression. If this occurs, or if hostilities continue, then the need will be even more urgent to create the conditions for united action in defense of the area.
"In making commitments which might involve the use of armed force, the Congress is a full partner. Only the Congress can declare war. President Eisenhower has repeatedly emphasized that he would not take military action in Indochina without the support of Congress. Furthermore, he has made clear that he would not seek that unless, in his opinion, there would be an adequate collective effort based on genuine mutuality of purpose in defending vital interests.
"A great effort is being made by Communist propaganda to portray it as something evil if Asia joins with the nations of the Americas and Europe to get assistance which will help the peoples of Asia to secure their liberty. These Communist nations have, in this connection, adopted the slogan 'Asia for the Asians.'
"The Japanese war lords adopted a similar slogan when they sought to subject Asia to their despotic rule. The similar theme of 'Europe for the Europeans' was adopted by Mr. Molotov at the Berlin Conference when he proposed that the Europeans should seek security by arrangements which would send the United States back home.
"Great despotic powers have always known that they could impose their will and gain their conquests if the free nations stand apart and none helps the other.
"It should be observed that the Soviet Communist aggression in Europe took place only against countries which had no collective security arrangements. Since the organization of the North Atlantic Treaty, there has been no successful aggression in Europe.
"Of course, it is of the utmost importance that the United States participation in creating collective security in Asia should be on a basis which recognizes fully the aspirations and cultures of the Asian peoples. We have a material and industrial strength which they lack and which is an essential ingredient of security. Also they have cultural and spiritual values of their own which make them our equals by every moral standard.
"The United States, as the first colony of modern history to win independence for itself, instinctively shares the aspirations for liberty of all dependent and colonial peoples. We want to help, not hinder the spread of liberty.
"We do not seek to perpetuate Western colonialism and we find even more intolerable the new imperialist colonialism of communism.
"That is the spirit that animates us. If we remain true to that spirit, we can face the future with confidence that we shall be in harmony with those moral forces which ultimately prevail."
Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Vol. 1 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), p. 600-01
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