Address by William P. Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific A flairs, before the National Executive Committee of the American Legion at Indianapolis, Indiana on May 3, 1967; "Seventeen Years in East Asia," Department of State Bulletin, May 22, 1967, p. 790.


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 668-669.


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"This group hardly needs to be told why we are acting as we are in South Viet-Nam. We are acting to preserve South Viet-Nam's right to work out its own future without external interference, including its right to make a free choice on unification with the North. We are acting to fulfill a commitment that evolved through the actions of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson and that was originally stated in the SEATO treaty, overwhelmingly ratified by the Senate in 1954. And we are acting to demonstrate to the world that the Communist technique of 'people's wars' or 'wars of national liberation'-in essence, imported subversion, armed terror, guerrilla action, and ultimately conventional military action-can be defeated even in a situation where the Communist side had the greatest possible advantages through an unfortunate colonial heritage, political difficulty, and the inherent weaknesses to which so many of the new nations of the world are subject."

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"Our policies have been guided essentially by two propositions rooted deeply in our own national interest:

"First, that the extension of hostile control over other nations or wide areas of Asia, specifically by Communist China, North Korea, and North Viet-Nam, would in a very short time create a situation that would menace all the countries of the area and present a direct and major threat to the most concrete national interests of this country.

"Second, and directly related to the first proposition, is the belief that an East Asian and Pacific region comprised of free and independent states working effectively for the welfare of their people is in the long run essential to preventing the extension of hostile power and also essential to the regional and world peace in which the United States as we know it can survive and prosper."

"But, of course, the situation in Viet-Nam in 1965 stood, alongside the trend in Indonesia, as the major dark spot in the area. And in early 1965 it became clear that unless the United States and other nations introduced major combat forces and took military action against the North, South Viet-Nam would be taken over by Communist force. If that had happened, there can be no doubt whatever that, by the sheer dynamics of aggression, Communist Chinese and North Vietnamese subversive efforts against the rest of Southeast Asia would have been increased and encouraged, and the will and capacity of the remaining nations of Southeast Asia to resist these pressures would have been drastically and probably fatally reduced.

"So our actions in Viet-Nam were not only important in themselves or in fulfillment of our commitment but were vital in the wider context of the fate of the free nations of Asia. The leaders of free Asia are fully aware of the relationship between our stand in Viet-Nam and the continued independence of their nations. The Prime Minister of Malaysia has emphasized that if South Viet-Nam were to fall before the Communists, his nation could not survive. The Prime Minister of Singapore has stated that our presence in Viet-Nam has bought time for the rest of the area. The Japanese Government has made known its conviction that we are contributing to the security of the area.

"Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines, Australia, and Thailand have shown their convictions by sending military units to assist the South Vietnamese. Their efforts, joined with ours and with the South Vietnamese, have ended the threat of a Communist military takeover."

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"In the broad picture what is the role of Viet-Nam? Behind the great and emerging changes I have sketched lies an atmosphere of growing confidence, a sensing by the peoples of free Asia that progress is possible and that security can be maintained. Our action in Viet-Nam has been vital in helping to bring about that confidence. For, as virtually all non-Communist governments in the area realize, their security requires a continuing United States ability to act, not necessarily an American presence, although that, too, may be required in individual cases, but an ability to act for a long time. And that we must--and, I think, shall--provide.

"That increasing confidence also depends deeply on the belief that essential economic assistance will continue to be provided. Without what we have done in Viet-Nam and the assistance we have provided throughout the region, I doubt very much if a considerable number of the favorable developments I have spoken of would have occurred, and certainly they would not have come so rapidly. I think that responsible people in East Asia would agree strongly with this judgment.

"I cannot too strongly stress this 'confidence factor.' It is an intangible, the significance of which is difficult to perceive unless one has visited the countries of Asia recently or, better still, periodically over an interval.

"Today, the increase in confidence among the non-Communist nations of Asia is palpable. Communist Chinese past failures and present difficulties play a part, but our own role in Viet-Nam is a major element even as the war goes on."

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