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Statement by Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, Before the Subcommittee on Department of Defense Appropriations of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on August 4, 1965, "Buildup of U.S. Forces in VietNam," Department of State Bulletin, August 30, 1965, p. 369.

Statement by Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, Before the Subcommittee on Department of Defense Appropriations of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on August 4, 1965, "Buildup of U.S. Forces in VietNam," Department of State Bulletin, August 30, 1965, p. 369.


Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 633-635


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"The issue in Viet-Nam is essentially the same as it was in 1954 when President Eisenhower said:

'I think it is no longer necessary to enter into a long argument or exposition to show the importance to the United States of Indochina and of the struggle going on there. No matter how the struggle may have started, it has long since become one of the testing places between a free form of government and dictatorship. Its outcome is going to have the greatest significance for us, and possibly for a long time into the future.

'We have here a sort of cork in the bottle, the bottle being the great area that includes Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, all of the surrounding areas of Asia with its hundreds of millions of people. . . .

"What is at stake there is the ability of the free world to block Communist armed aggression and prevent the loss of all of Southeast Asia, a loss which in its ultimate consequences could drastically alter the strategic situation in Asia and the Pacific to the grave detriment of our own security and that of our allies. . . .

"The struggle there has enormous implications for the security of the United States and the free world and, for that matter, the Soviet Union as well. The North Vietnamese and the Chinese Communists have chosen to make South Viet-Nam the test case for their particular version of the so-called 'wars of national liberation.' The extent to which violence should be used in overthrowing non-Communist governments has been one of the most bitterly contested issues between the Chinese and the Soviet Communists. Although the former Chairman, Mr. Khrushchev, fully endorsed 'wars of national liberation' as the preferred means of extending the sway of communism, he cautioned that 'this does not necessarily mean that the transition to Socialism will everywhere and in all cases be linked with armed uprising and civil war. . . . Revolution by peaceful means accords with the interests of the working class and the masses.'

"The Chinese Communists, however, insist that:

'Peaceful co-existence cannot replace the revolutionary struggles of the people. The transition from capitalism to socialism in any country can only be brought about through proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat in that country. . . . The vanguard of the proletariat will remain unconquerable in all circumstances only if it masters all forms of struggle-peaceful and armed, open and secret, legal and illegal, parliamentary struggle and mass struggle, and so forth. (Letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, June 14, 1963.)'

"Their preference for violence was even more emphatically expressed in an article in the Peiping People's Daily of March 31, 1964:

'It is advantageous from the point of view of tactics to refer to the desire for peaceful transition, but it would be inappropriate to emphasize the possibility of peaceful transition . . . the proletarian party must never substitute parliamentary struggle for proletarian revolution or entertain the illusion that the transition to socialism can be achieved through the parliamentary road. . . . Violent revolution is a universal law of proletarian revolution. To realize the transition to socialism, the proletariat must wage armed struggle, smash the old state machine and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.'

"'Political power,' the article quotes Mao Tse-tung as saying, 'grows out of the barrel of a gun.'

"Throughout the world we see the fruits of these policies and in Viet-Nam, particularly, we see the effects of the Chinese Communists' more militant stance and their hatred of the free world. They make no secret of the fact that Viet-Nam is the test case, and neither does the regime in Hanoi. General Giap, head of the North Vietnamese army, recently said that 'South Viet-Nam is the model of the national liberation movement of our time. . . . If the special warfare that the U.S. imperialists are testing in South Viet-Nam is overcome, then it can be defeated everywhere in the world.' And Pham Van Dong, Premier of North VietNam, pointed out that 'The experience of our compatriots in South Viet-Nam attracts the attention of the world, especially the peoples of South America.'

"It is clear, therefore, that a Communist success in South Viet-Nam would be taken as positive proof that the Chinese Communists' position is correct and they will have made a giant step forward in their efforts to seize control of the world Communist movement. Furthermore, such a success would greatly increase the prestige of Communist China among the nonalined nations and strengthen the position of their followers everywhere. In that event we would then have to be prepared to cope with the same kind of aggression in other parts of the world wherever the existing governments are weak and the social structures fragmented. If Communist armed aggression is not stopped in Viet-Nam as it was in Korea, the confidence of small nations in America's pledge of support will be weakened, and many of them, in widely separated areas of the world, will feel unsafe.

"Thus the stakes in South Viet-Nam are far greater than the loss of one small country to communism. Its loss would be a most serious setback to the cause of freedom and would greatly complicate the task of preventing the further spread of militant Asian communism. And, if that spread is not halted, our strategic position in the world will be weakened and our national security directly endangered.

"It was in recognition of this fundamental issue that the United States, under three Presidents, firmly committed itself to help the people of South Viet-Nam
defend their freedom. That is why President Eisenhower warned at the time of the Geneva conference in July 1954 that 'any renewal of Communist aggression would be viewed by us as a matter of grave concern.' That is why President Johnson in his statement last Wednesday made it clear to all the world that we are determined to stand by our commitment and provide whatever help is required to fulfill it."

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". . . We have also identified at least three battalions of the regu'ar North Vietnamese army, and there are probably considerably more. At the same time the Government of South Viet-Nam has found it increasingly difficult to make a commensurate increase in the size of its own forces, which now stand at about 545,000 men, including the regional and local defense forces but excluding the national police."

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