First Draft of "Aims and Options in Southeast Asia," by McNaughton, 13 October 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 580-583

1st Draft (McNaughton) 10/13/64


1. US aims in SEA are:

a) To help SVN and Laos to develop as independent countries.
b) To get DRV to leave its neighbors alone.
c) To protect US power and prestige (see para 13 below).

2. In Laos, intermediate aims are:

a) To preserve Souvanna's position (no coup)
b) To prevent significant PL land grabs.

3. In SVN, intermediate aims are:

a) To create and maintain a viable govt.
b) To make progress in pacification (see no progress).

4. New efforts in SVN.

a) Firmly based provisional government.
b) Increased pay for civil servants.
c) RAND initiatives in cities.
d) Some responsibility dispersed to Corps.
e) Large-scale Filipino participation.

5. To change DRV behavior (change can be tacit), US should "negotiate" by an optimum combination of words and deeds. Words across any conference table should be orchestrated with continuing military pressures. (In particular, there should be no one-way, Korea-type, cease fires.)

6. Likely word negotiations:

a) UN Security Council debates (ending?).
b) Paris talks re Laos (buying time).
c) 14-Nation conference (Soviet threat to quit).
d) US/DRV dialogue of some kind (slow and hard).

7. Actions for deed negotiations:

a) 34A (MAROPS, black bomber?).
b) DeSoto missions in Gulf of Tonkin.
c) Recce

high over Laos, DRV, China.
medium over Laos, DRV.
low (return-fire) over Laos, DRV.
low (suppressive) over Laos, DRV

d) GVN ground attacks in Corridor (US advisers).
e) MAAG, White Star teams in Laos.
f) Air attacks

T-28 in PDJ and Corridor.
US "June 9" in PDJ and Corridor.
VNAF in Corridor.
VNAF (US?) in DRV.
US on VC targets in SVN.

g) Aerial mining of DRV harbors.
h) Destroy DRV naval craft in international waters.
i) Further US force deployments.

8. DRV must

a) stop training and sending personnel to wage war in SVN and Laos.
b) stop sending arms and supplies to SVN and Laos.
c) stop directing and controlling military actions in SVN and Laos.
d) order the VC and PL to stop their insurgencies and military actions.
e) remove VM forces and cadres from SVN and Laos.
g) see that VC and PL cease resistance to government forces.
h) see that VC and PL turn in weapons and relinquish bases.
i) see that VC and PL surrender for amnesty or expatriation.

9. It is important that USSR and China understand the limited nature of our deeds--i.e., not for colony or base and not to destroy DRV, but only para 1 above.

10. Likely Communist deeds:

a) More jets to NVN with NVN or Chicom pilots.
b) AAA and radar gear to NVN.
c) Increased air and ground forces in South China.
d) Increased VC activities (kill top leaders, Americans?).
e) Major infiltrated VC unit activities (take a city?).
f) Cause major military or civilian defections in SVN.
g) PL land grabs in Laos.
h) "DRV" jet attacks on US DD's (and on Saigon?).
i) Other "defensive" DRV retaliation (shoot down U-2?).
j) Political drive for "neutralization" of Indo-china.
k) PL declaration of new government in Laos.
1) NOT invade South Vietnam.

11. Misc. problems:

a) Excuses for military actions in the future.
b) Get the deployed forces back out of SEA.
c) Watch for Saigon and Vientiane hanky panky with Reds.
d) Withdrawal of US dependents from Saigon.
e) More third-country participation in SEA effort.
f) Carrot and "golden bridge" for Hanoi.

12. Misc. ideas:

a) That we welcome a SEA conference with a two-way ceasefire (i.e., with a VC and PL stand-down).
b) That future pressures on DRV be overt.
c) That the theory of actions against DRV be "provocations of opportunity"-either (1) in response to such things as Aug 2 PT attacks on US DDs or (2) in response to fresh incidents and outrages in SVN and Laos.
d) That we start laying public-opinion base for reprisal against North justified, in particular, by VC outrages in South.

13. It is essential--however badly SEA may go over the next 2-4 years--that US emerge as a "good doctor." We must have kept promises, been tough, taken risks, gotten bloodied, and hurt the enemy very badly. We must avoid appearances which will affect judgments by, and provide pretexts to, other nations regarding US power, resolve and competence, and regarding how the US will behave in future cases of particular interest to those nations. The questions will be:

a. Has US policy of containment against overt and covert aggression changed, at least as to SEA? How will we behave in new confrontations a la South Vietnam, Korea (1950), Italy (1948) Berlin? (We want to be particularly careful that any loss in SVN is not generalized to overt aggression.)
b. Is US power to contain insufficient, at least at the fringes?
c. Is the US hobbled by restraints which might be relevant in future cases (fear of illegality, of UN or neutral reaction, of domestic pressures, of US losses, of deploying US ground forces in Asia, of war with China or Russia, of use of nuclear weapons, etc.)?

It follows that care should be taken to attribute any set-backs to factors:

a. Which cannot be generalized beyond South Vietnam (i.e., weak government, religious dissention, uncontrollable borders, mess left by French, unfavorable terrain, distance from US, etc.).
b. Which are not US mis- or non-feasance (e.g., overexposure of "white faces" or unwise actions, or failure to take risks or provide sufficient aid of the right kind).

14. Recommended Military Scenario:

Phase One (November-December). Limited pressures not involving major risks of escalation, that would maintain GVN morale and initiative against the

Continue leaflet drops over DRV, and T-28 and recce over Laos.
Joint US-GVN planning proceeds covering all actions described below.
34A MAROPS (cutting sea infiltration) and leaflet drops (countering DRV radio-propaganda). These operations should be acknowledged.
Cross-border operations (air and ground) along the corridor.
Resume occasional desoto patrols (not within 12 miles of NVN).
Specify "opportunities" (responding to mining, POL sabotage, terrorism).

Phase Two (January et seq). More serious pressures--inside DRV:

Mine DRV harbors.
Strike infiltration routes, working in from border.
Strike other military targets.
Strike industrial targets.

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