Address by William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Before the Faculty Forum of the University of California at Berkeley on May 27, 1965, "A Perspective on U.S. Policy in Viet-Nam,"


Source: Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 741-743


Address by William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary for Far Eastern Affairs, Before the Faculty Forum of the University of California at Berkeley on May 27, 1965, "A Perspective on U.S. Policy in Viet-Nam," Department of State Bulletin, June 21, 1965, p. 1001.

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For the underlying fact is that there cannot be a balance of power in Asia without us. Under the control of a Communist regime still at the peak of its ideological fervor, a unified mainland China today does threaten the outnumbered newly independent nations of Asia, not merely in the sense of influence but in the sense of domination and the denial of national self-determination and independence-not necessarily drastically or at once, for the Chinese Communist leaders are patient; not necessarily, or even in their eyes preferably, by conventional armed attack, but surely and inexorably, as they see it, through the technique of spurious national movements deriving their real impetus and support from external and Communist sources.

And in this central Communist effort, the other Communist nations of Asia, North Viet-Nam and North Korea, are willing partners. They have their national character, they are not true satellites-indeed, deep down, they too fear Chinese domination. Yet, so long as the spoils are fairly divided, they are working together with Communist China toward a goal the opposite of the one we seek, subjugation of the true national independence of smaller countries, an Asia of spheres of domination."

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For South Viet-Nam is the outcome of a very particular slice of recent Asian history. Only in Viet-Nam was a genuine nationalist movement taken over by Communist leaders and transmuted into the Communist state of North VietNam. And so the French, instead of yielding gradually or with the fullest possible preparation for self-government, as the British wisely did in India, Pakistan, and Malaysia, were effectively driven out in 1954 and Viet-Nam was divided.

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By 1956, to paraphrase the same eminent scholar, Communist China and North Viet-Nam, all propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, simply were not willing to risk the loss of South Viet-Nam in elections, and, perhaps most crucial, the conditions for free elections did not prevail in either North or South Viet-Nam. So the date passed, and the dividing line between the two Viet-Nams became a political division as in Germany and Korea, with reunification left to the future. And in the course of time another 30-odd nations recognized South Viet-Nam, and recognize it today.

(By the way, the eminent scholar I have just been citing was Professor Hans J. Morgenthau, writing in a pamphlet entitled "America's Stake in Viet-Nam," published in 1956. One of the other participants in that conference was the then junior Senator from Massachusetts. He was a bit more downright than the professor, saying that "neither the United States nor Free Viet-Nam is ever going to be a party to an election obviously stacked and subverted in advance.")

Since 1956 two different strands have dominated developments in South VietNam. One is a genuine nationalist internal political ferment, in which the South Vietnamese themselves are seeking a lasting political base for their country--in the face of the same problems other new nations have faced, but compounded by the colonial heritage of lack of training and divide-and-rule tactics. That ferment should not surprise us; almost every new nation has gone through it--for example, Korea and Pakistan. Under Diem it drove many distinguished South Vietnamese to exile or prison, from 1962 until early this year it seriously weakened the defense of the nation, and it now has brought into power a regime led by men who were the real opponents of Diem and are something close to the true voice of South Vietnamese nationalism--men, too, who are already widening the base of support and holding local elections.

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The other, and entirely different, strand has been Hanoi's effort to take over the South by subversive aggression. On this the facts are plain and have been fully set out, though still in summary form, in the white papers published in December of 1961 and February 1965. If these do not convince you, read Hanoi's own pronouncements over the years, the eyewitness accounts of the tons of weapons found just in recent months, the personal interrogation of a typical infiltrated Viet Cong by Seymour Topping in Sunday's New York Times, or the recent accounts by the Frenchman, George Chaffard, who concluded that the so-called National Liberation Front was a classic example of the type of Communist organization used to take over another country.

In short, North Viet-Nam has been from the start, quite proudly and unashamedly, what President Johnson has called the heartbeat of the Viet Cong. As in Greece, the Viet Cong have won control of major areas of the country, playing in part on propaganda and the undoubted weaknesses of Diem and, his successors, but relying basically on massive intimidation of civilians. Over the years, the rate of civilian casualties--deliberate action casualties, killed, wounded and kidnapped--has been about 40 a day in South Viet-Nam; civilian officials have been particular targets, with the obvious aim of crippling the government structure.

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I come now to the choice of methods. Till 1961 President Eisenhower and President Kennedy limited our help to a massive economic effort and to the supply of military equipment under the terms of the Geneva accords. When, after 2 years of intensified effort from the North, the situation had become serious in late 1961, President Kennedy made the decision to send thousands of our military men for advisory and other roles short of the commitment of combat units. President Johnson intensified this effort in every possible way and only in February of this year took the further decision, urged by the South Vietnamese themselves, to do what would have been justified all along--and had never been excluded--engage in highly selective and measured military bombing of the North itself, still coupled with every possible effort to assist in the South in the struggle which only the South Vietnamese can win there.

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