Project Outline for Working Group on "Courses of Action in Southeast Asia," 3 November 1964

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 588-590

November 3, 1964


Working Group on Courses of Action in Southeast Asia

(The following is an outline of inputs now being prepared. It will probably correspond closely to the outline of a final paper for high-level review, but the order and emphasis might vary. The main purpose of the outline is so that Working Group members will have a common index and be able to keep track of what is being prepared.)

I. Situation in South Viet-Nam.

A. Prospects for political stability and effectiveness.
B. Security situation and prospects.
C. The DRV role and DRV policy. State of infiltration and probably VC tactics and actions.
D. Chicom policy and present relevant actions.
E. Soviet policy.
F. Evaluation of prospects assuming present policies pursued (i.e., maximum US assistance and limited external actions in Laos and covertly against North Viet-Nam).
G. Close analysis of the DRY role, directed to the question of what the prospects would be if that role were removed (1) wholly; (2) by superficial gestures of compliance that removed the more visible evidences of DRV participation.

Status: This paper will be prepared by an intelligence community special working group, for review by the major USIB members concerned. It will presumably be combined with a second section dealing with Communist and other reactions to the courses of action described in Option B below.

II. US Objectives and Stakes in South Viet-Nam and Southeast Asia.

A. US objectives and the present basis of US action.
B. Possible alternative objectives.
C. Consequences of Communist control of South Yiet-Nam in a worldwide sense.
D. Consequences in Southeast Asia and Asia generally of Communist control in South Yiet-Nam.

(Both C and D, in this paper, would deal with a generalized case of Communist control, noting the variations that would generally arise with different circumstances of loss, but aiming to put more precise evaluation into the concluding section on Conclusions and Recommendations.)

E. The attitudes of major US allies and the general impact of various courses of action on the US leadership role with these countries.
F. Attitudes in other relevant nations and the general impact of possible US courses of action on US capacity to affect their behavior in ways consistent
with our worldwide objectives (i.e., not the US "image" but the reality of US relations and of the conduct of these countries).

Status: Mr. Bundy will prepare this section on the basis of the earlier draft already circulated to members of the Working Group. CIA also has an analysis, and various JCS papers cover highly important points. The CIA and JCS papers will be made available to Mr. Bundy and to the Working Group as soon as possible.

III. The Broad Options.

A. Continue on present lines.
B. Present policies plus a systematic program of military pressures against the north, meshing at some point with negotiation, but with pressure actions to be continued until we achieve our central present objectives.
C. Present policies plus additional forceful measures and military moves, followed by negotiations in which we would seek to maintain a believable threat of still further military pressures but would not actually carry out such pressures to any marked degree during the negotiations.

Status: This would be a brief paper amplifying the above definitions only silghtly.

IV. Alternative Forms of Negotiation.

This paper would be an analysis of all the possible avenues of negotiation, including the UN, Geneva conferences, bilateral communications, use of intermediaries, etc. The analysis would be designed to be relevant to the negotiations that might ensue under any of the three options stated in Section III, but with greatest emphasis on the negotiating avenues relevant to Options B and C.

Status: First draft being prepared by State, S/P, in conjunction with 10 and others in State.

V. Analysis of Option A.

This paper would virtually write itself in the light of Section I and the negotiating discussions in Section IV. It can be left to one side for the moment.

VI. Analysis of Option B.

A. Initial military actions.
B. Probably Communist response to such actions.
C. Further actions in the event of Communist reaction of a strong character, to include the full possible gamut of DRY and Chicom reactions and how we would deal with each from a military standpoint.
D. Political scenario to accompany all the above.

Status: The major initial input for this paper will come from JCS in consultation with DOD. The proposed line of action should then be subjected to an intelligence estimate of the likelihood of different types of Communist reactions-this being the second part of the intelligence initial input. The political scenario is being drafted in State to be meshed with the initial actions in a comprehensive scenario with dates fixed as exactly as possible in relation to a hypothetical date of decision.

VII. Analysis of Option C.

A more exact definition of this option will be derived from the paper on negotiating avenues (Section IV) and the analysis of military actions (Section VI). The preparation of this paper will follow the preparation of drafts of those two sections.

VIII. Immediate Actions in the Period Prior to Decision.

This is being urgently reviewed in State/FE. It will probably come up for decision before the project is completed, and it will then drop out of the final paper. In general, the Working Group has agreed that our aim should be to maintain present signal strength, showing no signs of determination but equally avoiding actions that would tend to pre-judge the basic decision.

IX. Conclusion and Recommendations.

This speaks for itself and might come at the end as a short paper synthesizing the whole project for the President.

FE :WPBundy : mk

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