Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Roger W. Hilsman, Address Made at 1963 Conference on Cold War Education, Tampa, Florida, June 14, 1963, "The Challenge to Freedom in Asia"


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 2, pp. 821-824


Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Roger W. Hilsman, Address Made at 1963 Conference on Cold War Education, Tampa, Florida, June 14, 1963, "The Challenge to Freedom in Asia," Department of State Bulletin, July 8, 1963, p. 44:

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"As to the nature of the danger, the ideology of communism is a threat to the United States today mainly because it is joined with the population, resources, and military strength of the countries of the Soviet Union and Communist China, because it is joined with two bases of power.

"But the fact that ideology has been joined to these two bases of power should not be misinterpreted: the threat is not just military; it is also political. And of the two, the political threat is probably the more pervasive. This is true because this nation and its allies have made sure that their military defenses are adequate and up to date.

"The political threat is also serious because of the Communists' skill in manipulating all the elements of power-political, economic, and psychological as well as military. They use these instruments with considerable sophistication, playing first one then another according to the opportunities open to them in any given situation. Mao Tse-tung has described this alternation of tactics and instruments as 'talk/fight; talk/fight,' and it describes the technique very well. This sudden alternation between talking and fighting is designed also to induce a maximum amount of confusion, instability, and trouble in the free world. One of the latest examples of their use of this tactic occurred last October in the Chinese Communist attack along the Indian border, followed by their withdrawal beginning a month later.

"The immediate goal of the Communists is, of course, to capture the in-between nations, those smaller and weaker nations which today are struggling against odds to remain independent. If the Communists can capture such free nations, turning them against the United States and making them feel that it is the U.S. which poses the danger or forms an obstacle to their goals, then the Communists could win without using military power. Moreover, the Communists have waged an unremitting attack on the foundations of our way of life, just as they are a threat to freedom elsewhere in the world. Although they argue over differences in emphasis as to how the Communist world should carry out its attacks on free men, their common goal is plain enough: to further the destruction of the values all free men cherish.

"In Asia the greatest danger to independent nations comes from Communist China, with its 700 million people forced into the service of an aggressive Communist Party. We can't ignore that problem, and we don't ignore it. Communist China lies in direct contact with, or very close to, a whole series of free nations ranged in an arc from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Nepal in South Asia; through Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Viet-Nam in Southeast Asia; and on up through the Republic of China, on its island base of Taiwan, to Japan and Korea. Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand are also alive to the threat posed by the Communist Chinese.

"All these free nations must deal with the facts of Communist China and its ambitions. No matter what response each has made, be it nonalignment or alliance with friendly nations, they all are aware that the aim of the Chinese Communists is to gain predominant control in Asia and eventually to secure the establishment of Communist regimes throughout the world. The reaction of each nation is determined by its own material circumstances and, sometimes more importantly, by its own national psychology.

"The United States is determined that communism shall not take over Asia.

"For this reason we do not recognize Communist China and seek in all possible ways to limit the ability of Communist China to implement its threat to obtain hegemony in the Far East. We recognize the Republic of China as the legal government of China and support its position in the United Nations. We are aware that the economic and social progress on Taiwan, carried out by free Chinese, stands in stark contrast to the failures of the mainland Communist government. Also the existence on Taiwan of a well-trained and -equipped force of 600,000 men, dedicated to the fight against communism, must have a restraining effect on any expansionist ambitions of the Communist Chinese. Furthermore the spirit of the people of the Republic of China, and of their leader, President Chiang Kai-shek, who have conducted a 40-year struggle against Communist imperialism, is an inspiration to free peoples everywhere.

"We stand ready to help peoples who want to help themselves to maintain their independence. Sometimes this involves outright alliance, as with the Republic of China, Japan, South Korea, and, through the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, with the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan. If any of these nations is attacked the United States is committed to help defend it. Our contribution to security in the Far East also takes other forms, forms designed to meet threats of varying nature.

"These threats are never simple ones; some are extremely subtle and sophisticated. If we are to meet these threats successfully, certain qualities of mind
must be stressed and certain dangers avoided. Governor Bryant, in a recent address, referred to the danger that the 'timid American' poses for our democracy. I think he is quite right. I have often had a similar thought, which I would like to emphasize in what I have to say today.

"What has often occurred to me is that, if the United States is not only going to meet the Communist threat but carry off the difficult task of helping to create a new and stable world in the process, then Americans are going to need very steady nerves.

"By this phrase 'steady nerves,' I mean not only not being timid but two additional qualities: first, the capacity for cold, deliberate analysis in order to know when to act and when to bide one's time; second, the unemotional self-discipline and self-control that enables one to act effectively as a result of that analysis. I mean the kind of self-control that enabled President Kennedy to use United States power with such coolness and skill as he did during the Cuban crisis. In negotiations, also, extraordinary qualities of mind and will are demanded, among which the element of cold calm in dealing with complex situations is increasingly important. President Kennedy was speaking of this in his inaugural address when he said: 'Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.'

"The quality of 'steady nerves' is needed in both of the fundamental tasks before us. For there are two separate tasks.

"One is the meeting of crises; the other is the slower, but more positive, task of nation building, of helping to build a system of stable, strong, and independent states which have solved the problem of both political and economic development."

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"By 1960 the situation had so deteriorated that it seemed possible the Viet Cong would be able to establish a territorial base in South Viet-Nam, the next step in the Mao formula for a successful 'national liberation movement.' At this point, President Kennedy sent General Maxwell Taylor to South Viet-Nam to confer with the Vietnamese Government and to observe the situation for himself. General Taylor reported that the Vietnamese people retained the will to fight communism and that, given more extensive support, had a chance to defeat the Viet Cong.

"While this support has come predominantly from the United States, a number of other countries have provided significant support, moral and material.

"The first requirement of the struggle today is to pull the teeth of the Viet Cong terrorist campaign. This can best be done not so much by killing the terrorists but by depriving them of the opportunity to coerce the farmers into providing supplies and recruits. This can only be done by providing practical protection to the farming population. The technique which has been adopted to achieve this protection is the construction of fortified villages, called strategic hamlets. This technique was used successfully in Malaya against the Communist movement there. The same concept had been applied successfully in the late 1790's by the Manchu dynasty of China against the White Lotus sect, a fanatical group whose use of terror resembled closely the methods of the present-day Viet Cong."

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"The struggle in Viet-Nam gains the headlines in today's newspapers. But throughout Asia, new nations, in varying degrees, are facing the challenge of creating progressive, yet stable, societies in a world of uncertainty. American policy aims to provide our experience, our enthusiasm, and, insofar as our resources permit, our material aid to this great enterprise of nation building."

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"Thirdly, while we are combating Communist imperialism in all its forms, we must remember that it is not enough to be against something and that in the last analysis success depends upon our ability to build, to construct, to contribute to man's spiritual and material welfare. We are cooperating with many free peoples in great efforts at nation building, while the Communists try to tear down, in order to impose their hold and their system on the world.

"Fourthly, there is a larger need for tolerance in international life. Happily there is a growing understanding among us of the diverse ways by which different peoples seek to obtain happiness and security in a troubled world. In passing I also wish to observe that, remembering our own unfinished business in fulfilling the ideals of the American Constitution, we must be tolerant of the shortcomings we may see in other societies. While we are justifiably proud of our institutions and our freedoms and stand as leaders in the democratic world, our prestige and influence in the world suffer whenever we fall short of our own ideals."

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