Draft Memorandum by J.T. McNaughton, "Observations About South Vietnam After Khanh's 'Re-Coup'," 27 January 1965

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 686-687

DRAFT: 27 January 1965 by J. T. McNaughton--Observations Re South Vietnam After Khanh's "Re-Coup"

1) Khanh has given the U.S. a pretext to "dump" South Vietnam. This option should not be exercised.
2) The new Khanh government could be a "good" one but history is against it.
3) Max Taylor's effectiveness, with Khanh government, is doubtful.
4) The situation in South Vietnam in general continues to deteriorate.
5) Steady efforts inside South Vietnam can, probably, only slow that deterioration.
6) U.S. objective in South Vietnam is not to "help friend" but to contain China.
7) Loss in South Vietnam would merely move the conflict to Malaysia or Thailand (marginal comment by McNamara--These will go fast). U.S. won't repeat South Vietnam there! Continue with side effects of accommodation elsewhere in Asia.
8) The three options:

(a) Strike the DRV;
(b) "Negotiate"; or
(c) Keep plugging.

RSM comment: "Drifting."

9) Negotiation, with so few counters, is no way to improve the actual situation; it might serve to diffuse and confuse to some extent the psychological impact of loss.

McNamara comment: "This is better than drifting."

10) (The Fulbright-Mansfield Church School, for example, has written off South Vietnam; they are seeking solely to cut the damage to our prestige as South Vietnam goes down the drain.)

11) Striking DRV might, but probably won't. RSM comment: Dissent. Help the actual situation. The most serious RSM comment: Dissent. Risk is that the U.S. public will not support a squeeze unless results show soon.

12) Strikes against DRV should be done anyway, first as reprisals. RSM comment to reprisals: "Too narrow. Can use 34A, Desoto, infiltration data, etc. Feel way from there.

13) It is essential that we keep plugging in South Vietnam in any event. Immediate action: (a) Ride along with the new government, make no adverse comments; (b) continue vigorous advisory effort, but add no more U.S. men. RSM comment: "They are in for 6500 more.!"; (c) get dependents out; (d) authorize Westmoreland to use jets. RSM comment: Yes, in emergencies in South Vietnam;

(e) React promptly and firmly to next reprisal opportunity; (f) start re-educating U.S. public that Southeast Asia confrontation will last years.

(Note: I handed this to RSM 0745, on January 27, 1965, and discussed it for twenty-five minutes. He commented as indicated.)

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