Letter from Secretary Rusk to 100 Student Leaders, January 4, 1967; "Secretary Rusk Redefines United States Policy on Viet-Nam for Student Leaders," Department of State Bulletin, January 23, 1967, p. 133.

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 660-661.

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"There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that our vital interests are deeply involved in Viet-Nam and in Southeast Asia.

"We are involved because the nation's word has been given that we would be involved. On February 1, 1955, by a vote of 82 to 1 the United States Senate passed the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty. That Treaty stated that aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area would endanger our own peace and safety and, in that event, 'we would act to meet the common danger.' There is no question that an expanding armed attack by North Viet-Nam on South Viet-Nam has been under way in recent years; and six nations, with vital interests in the peace and security of the region, have joined South Viet-Nam in defense against that armed attack.

"Behind the words and the commitment of the Treaty lies the lesson learned in the tragic half century since the First World War. After that war our country withdrew from effective world responsibility. When aggressors challenged the peace in Manchuria, Ethiopia, and then Central Europe during the 1930's, the world community did not act to prevent their success. The result was a Second World War--which could have been prevented."

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"In short, we are involved in Viet-Nam because we know from painful experience that the minimum condition for order on our planet is that aggression must not be permitted to succeed. For when it does succeed, the consequence is not peace, it is the further expansion of aggression.

"And those who have borne responsibility in our country since 1945 have not for one moment forgotten that a third world war would be a nuclear war."

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