Address by Secretary Rusk Before the Council on Foreign Relations at New York, New York on May 24, 1966, "Organizing the Peace for Man's Survival"; Department of State Bulletin, June 13, 1966, p. 926.


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 651-653


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"And significant changes have occurred within the Communist world. It has ceased to be monolithic, and evolutionary influences are visible in most of the Communist states. But the leaders of both the principal Communist nations are committed to the promotion of the Communist world revolution, even while they disagree--perhaps bitterly--on questions of tactics.

"If mankind is to achieve a peaceful world order safe for free institutions, it is of course essential that aggression be eliminated-if possible by deterring it or, if it occurs, by repelling it. The clearest lesson of the 1930's and -40's is that aggression feeds on aggression. I'm aware that Mao and Ho Chi Minh are not Hitler and Mussolini, but we should not forget what we have learned about the anatomy and physiology of aggression. We ought to know better than to ignore the aggressor's openly proclaimed intentions or to fall victim to the notion that he will stop if you let him have just one more bite or speak to him a little more gently."

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". . . . But what the Communists, in their familiar upside down language, call 'wars of liberation' are advocated and supported by Moscow as well as by Peiping. And the assault on the Republic of Viet-Nam is a critical test of that technique of aggression.

"It is as important to deter this type of aggression in Southeast Asia now as it was to defeat it in Greece 19 years ago. The aggression against Greece produced the Truman Doctrine, a declaration of a general policy of assisting other free nations who were defending themselves against external attacks or threats. .

THE 'WHY' OF OUR COMMITMENT

"In the discussion of our commitment in Southeast Asia, three different aspects are sometimes confused--why we made it, how we made it, and the means of fulfilling it.

"The 'why' was a determination that the peace and security of that area are extremely important to the security of the United States. That determination was made first before the Korean war by President Truman on the basis of protracted analysis in the highest councils of the Government. The problem was reexamined at least twice during his administration and at intervals thereafter. And the main conclusion was always the same. It was based on the natural resources and the strategic importance of the area, on the number of nations and peoples involved, more than 200 million, as well as on the relationship of Southeast Asia to the world situation as a whole and to the prospects for a durable peace. . . .

THE 'HOW' OF OUR COMMITMENT

"The 'how' of the commitment consists of various acts and utterances by successive Presidents and Congresses, of which the most solemn is the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed in 1954 and approved by the Senate in early 1955 with only one dissenting vote. I do not find it easy to understand how anyone could have voted for that treaty--or even read it--without realizing that it was a genuine collective defense treaty.

"It says in article IV that each party recognizes that 'aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area'--which by protocol included the nations which came out of French Indochina--'would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.' And, in his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Dulles said specifically that this clause covered an armed attack 'by the regime of Ho Chi Minh.' There was never any doubt about it when this treaty was signed. Article IV binds each party individually; it does not require a formal collective finding. And that too was made plain when the treaty was under consideration and has been reiterated on various occasions since then.

"Now the assertion that we have only recently discovered the SEATO Treaty is just untrue. I have referred to it frequently myself, beginning with a public statement in Bangkok in March 1961 that the United States would live up to its obligations under that treaty and would 'continue to assist free nations of this area who are struggling for their survival against armed minorities directed, supplied, and supported from without,' just as we would assist those under attack by naked aggression. President Kennedy referred to our obligations under SEATO on a number of occasions, including his last public utterance, and President Johnson has done so frequently.

"In April 1964 the SEATO Council of Ministers declared that the attack on the Republic of Viet-Nam was an aggression 'directed, supplied and supported by the Communist regime in North Vietnam, in flagrant violation of the Geneva accords of 1954 and 1962.' They declared also that the defeat of that 'Communist campaign is essential' and that the members of SEATO should remain prepared to take further steps in fulfillment of their obligations under the treaty. Only France did not join in these declarations.

"A few days later, in this city, President Johnson said that:

'The statement of the SEATO allies that Communist defeat is "essential" is a reality. To fail to respond . . . would reflect on our honor as a nation, would undermine worldwide confidence in our courage, would convince every nation in South Asia that it must now bow to Communist terms to survive. . . . So let no one doubt (he said) that we are in this battle as long as South VietNam wants our support and needs our assistance to protect its freedom.'

"The resolution of August 1964, which the House of Representatives adopted unanimously and the Senate with only two negative votes, said that 'the United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia.' It also said that 'the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.'

FULFILLING OUR COMMITMENT

"Now the third aspect is the means of fulfilling our commitment. These have changed with the nature of the problem and as the dimensions of the aggression have grown. The decision to commit American forces into combat was made by the President with understandable sobriety and reluctance and only because it became necessary to cope with the escalation of the aggression by the other side.

"I have no doubt that a large majority of the governments of the free world are sympathetic to our efforts in Southeast Asia and would be deeply concerned were they to fail . . . . "

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