Copyright © 1972 by David G. Marr.
The Rise and Fall of “Counterinsurgency”: 1961-1964 by David G. Man
John F. Kennedy came to the White House in early 1961 on only the slimmest of pluralities. Yet he had taken the measure of the public, beyond party affiliations, and judged it to be deeply troubled by the Sputnik diplomacy of the Soviet Union and painfully eager for reassertion of the American Dream throughout the world. The myth of a monolithic international Communist conspiracy directed against a pristine Free World continued to energize millions.
Ngo Dinh Diem was Vietnamese anticommunism incarnate. He had helped repress the Indochinese Communist party in the 1930s. His elder brother had been killed by the Viet-Minh in 1945. With American assistance he had mounted a massive propaganda campaign in 1954 to persuade the Catholic minority of north and north-central Vietnam that the Holy Virgin Mary was leaving for Saigon, and that those who failed to follow her would be ruthlessly exterminated by the victorious Viet-Minh. Then, from 1956 onward, he had himself proceeded to kill or incarcerate tens of thousands of South Vietnamese as suspected Communists.
Three confrontations preoccupied President Kennedy during his first year in office: Cuba, Berlin and Laos. In Cuba, the Bay of Pigs fiasco gave the entire Kennedy Administration a touchy inferiority complex, which often led it to be more combative elsewhere. Berlin, however, could not be settled on American terms without risk of nuclear holocaust. And Laos was a tormented, confusing mudhole. The United States, it was said by mid-1961, would be lucky to stave off complete Communist victory in Laos with some sort of internationally sanctioned neutralist coalition, no matter how shaky.
This sort of thinking led the Kennedy Administration to fix its eyes more and more on South Vietnam. There, despite massive increments of U.S. military and economic assistance, Ngo Dinh Diem was again facing millions of South Vietnamese who openly denied the legitimacy of his regime. Whatever the reali-ties of the situation. Diem clearly regarded the new National Liberation Front, founded in December 1960, as a mere appendage thrust at him by his real Communist enemies—Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh. He was very upset by evident U.S. unwillingness to attack forcefully in Laos, and he badgered every American he met with quotations from Khrushchev’s January 1961 speech on Soviet support for wars of national liberation.
Diem need not have bothered. Cold War warriors like Rostow, Rusk, Taylor, Lansdale and McNamara were all on the same wavelength. As the Laos negotia-tions dragged on through the summer and fall of 1961, the Kennedy Administration made deadly serious plans to “draw the line” in South Vietnam. Similarly to China in the late 1940s, the United States would try to do the impossible —”save” a country from its own people. (1) Inevitably this was phrased in terms of preventing a Communist sweep of not only South Vietnam, but of all mainland Southeast Asia and perhaps the entire western Pacific. (2)
The great hope of the Kennedy Administration in Vietnam was counterinsurgency. As with most theories, this quickly came to mean different things to different people. Nevertheless, as counterinsurgency was in fact applied in South Vietnam, it bore striking resemblances to nineteenth-century French techniques going by the title of “pacification,” or for that matter, earlier tactics used by Vietnamese monarchs to suppress peasant rebellions. (3)
From the very beginning, counterinsurgency in Vietnam emphasized military considerations over political ones, enforcement of “physical security” over more subtle questions of social change or psychological loyalties. In short, it was blatant counterrevolution over revolution, although few Americans involved at the time seemed prepared to acknowledge this.
As a young U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer learned these things slowly, more or less from the ground floor working upward. Sent to the Monterey Army Language School in 1961 to study Vietnamese, for example, soon discovered that almost all of the vocabulary was military and, worse yet, Vietnamese instructors were being forced to coin entirely new words to conform with a set of technical English terms prescribed for all thirty-four languages taught at the school. Not surprisingly, when tried out in Vietnam such words received nothing but blank stares, and were promptly forgotten.
More seriously, as the only Vietnamese-speaking American among 550 marines making up the first marine helicopter squadron sent to Vietnam by President Kennedy, I was surprised to discover that my immediate superiors were only interested in classical combat intelligence, not the “new” counterinsurgency variables taught by Thompson, Trager, Lansdale, Fall or Valeriano. My colonel simply wanted to know if “the enemy” was located in village “A” or village “B,” whether he had weapons larger than 30 caliber that would force us to fly above 1,500 feet, (4) and what the weather was going to be like tomorrow. The colonel cared not a wink about the political “infrastructure,” the relationship of the “insurgents” to the local population, or the social program and essential motivations of the NLF.
In August 1962 we had a key role in one of the first division-size search-anddestroy operations conducted by the Saigon army. Code-named “Binh Tay” (Pacify the West), the objective was to break up several elite NLF battalions and to scare the local populace into submission with a massive display of helicopters, fighter-bombers, armored personnel carriers and gunboats. As might have been predicted, however, the NLF saw what was happening several days in advance and quickly moved into inaccessible mangrove forests or broke into small teams, hid their weapons, and blended with the villagers for the duration of the operation. Once the aircraft, armored vehicles and trucks left the area — leaving behind smoking villages, plowed-up rice fields, and several hundred dead citizens—the NLF battalions resumed their operations with more success and public support than before. A report that filed up the U.S. Marine chain-ofcommand, strongly critical of this approach to counterinsurgency, received no attention whatsoever. (5)
While my superior officers on the one hand thus showed no interest in the political subtleties of the conflict, on the other hand they did many things of a political nature that played right into the hands of the NLF. For example, helicopters were sent almost every day to several fortified Catholic communities in the area, laden with a shopping list ranging from barbed wire to beer. These were militantly anti-Communist refugees from the North, in a surrounding sea of antagonized Buddhists, Hoa Hao and ethnic Cambodians, and their only reliable means of supply were our U.S. helicopters. In another incident, taking place after our squadron had been switched with a U.S. Army squadron and sent to Da-Nang, reckless marine drivers ran over several innocent Vietnamese pedestrians. The marine colonel in command alienated not only the local townspeople, but also the Vietnamese police investigators by deciding unilaterally to spirit the offenders out of the country, on the grounds that a court case would “damage their military careers.” Another colonel flew in a piano and a stereo set for his favorite Vietnamese girl friend, and provided her family with the lucrative fresh vegetable and garbage contracts for the marine base. Yet when the mayor of Da-Nang proposed that rampant prostitution be handled by concentrating it in one large, inspected whorehouse for Americans, the colonels all protested that the merest whiff in U.S. Capitol corridors of such an arrangement would cost f them their careers. While in retrospect each of these incidents may appear minor, particularly when compared with American-perpetrated outrages after 1965, it is important to see how things really got started, and why many ordinary Viet-namese had reason to hate the United States long before the first combat battalj ions set foot on their soil.
Reassigned to the U.S. Pacific command headquarters in Hawaii in mid-1963, it was a revelation for me to discover that not only the colonels, but also the generals and admirals were fundamentally bored by the political complexities . of Vietnam. After the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem, in November 1963, I thought it particularly important to try to brief them on all the changes taking r place, on each of the new faces showing up. Soon my feelings were hurt, however, when they cut my regular political analysis in half, a mere five minutes out of a one-hour briefing. Whenever they had no choice but to mention the name : of a Vietnamese personality, they would resort to nicknames such as “Big” and “Little” Minh, the “Dragon Lady” (Madame Nhu), and “Colonel Yankee.” (6)
Later, in a major marine training exercise on Molokai Island, I tried to in-corporate some rudimentary political elements into a rather standard intelligence scenario. But the commander of the attacking blue forces, the “good guys” of the operation, simply ignored those aspects and marched his forces from one ridgeline to the next in classic Korean War fashion. Back at headquarters in Honolulu, I got into an intense argument with my intelligence contemporaries over which had to come first in counterinsurgency, physical security of the populace against “guerrilla terrorism,” or fundamental political and social changes that would make the government legitimate and security a more manageable problem.
When I left the Marine Corps in June 1964 it was already obvious that enforcement of physical security—convenient rhetoric for violent repression—had become the overwhelming theme in counterinsurgency. At the time it seemed to me a clear case of stupidity, due to our lack of knowledge of the particular historical situation in Vietnam, and perhaps too our more general insensitivity toward the problems of nonwhite peoples in the world. Since then I have come to the realization that neither more knowledge nor more sensitivity would have changed U.S. policy much, assuming that our overall strategic objective of de-feating communism in Vietnam remained the same.
Grim anticommunism, aimed at combating a supposedly grim, monolithic . communism, made any serious, high-level consideration of the history, culture and political dynamics of Vietnam essentially irrelevant. If the real enemies were in Moscow and Peking, and the local people were mere pawns in a giant power play, then what did it matter that local Communists had led the mass victorious anticolonial struggle in Vietnam, or that the NLF was more popular than the Saigon regime? To a certain extent, American policymakers knew, or at least sensed, that they were working from a position of real political weakness in South Vietnam. Yet they went ahead anyway, and developed all sorts of financial, military and technocratic gimmicks to try to compensate. When it was perceived, in late 1964 or early 1965, that all these measures had failed, it became necessary to take more drastic steps that had been implicit all along: bombing the North and throwing in U.S. combat troops. Meanwhile, many of the practices developed in the 1961-1964 period continued, but with a ruthlessness that made a mockery of any political program put forth by either the U.S. or Saigon. The original Eisenhower phrase, “winning hearts and minds,” had been reduced in the field to an acronym—WHAM—and ironically this brought out the true content of counterinsurgency.
The complete ascendancy of repressive military tactics and thinking during the counterinsurgency phase had many other implications. First of all, it almost always led to sublime overconfidence. General Lansdale, who had helped establish Diem and might have known how frail the system really was, wrote policy papers for President Kennedy in early 1961 that exuded optimism and recommended simply a little more muscle for the Saigon army (ARVN) and some minor bureaucratic reshuffling (Gravel edition, II:23-27, 52-53). Since NLF strength was usually viewed in terms of a certain number of soldiers and weapons, not as a mass revolutionary movement, it is hardly surprising that U.S. military contingency planners consistently underestimated the number of troops and amounts of money needed to defeat the enemy.” (7)
Paradoxically, each new increment of American military technology in Vietnam represented an unwitting admission of counterinsurgency failure, and indeed further served to nail the lid on the coffin. Our glistening helicopter squadrons, such sources of pride and expectation among the generals, were a prime example. “The sky is a highway without roadblocks,” rhapsodized Senator Henry Jackson in 1963 after careful briefings from his Pentagon cronies. “The helicopter,” he continued, “frees the government forces from dependence on the poor road 1 system and the canals which are the usual arteries of communication.” (8) However, such mobility bore a very serious, if hidden pricetag. Since about 80 percent of the people of Vietnam happened to live along those “usual arteries,” and since the helicopter could never hope to tie in all or most of the villages on a day-to-day basis, increased air travel tended inevitably to draw the Saigon regime ever further away from the humdrum realities of creating political and social credibility at the local level. As the American crews and ARVN soldiers floated blithely across the monsoon clouds, swooping down occasionally to wreak destruction or supply an isolated blockhouse, the NLF went ahead patiently to expand its organization along the roads and canals, gradually surrounding the district and provincial towns. When it finally became evident to U.S. military planners that helicopters were not stopping the enemy, it was natural they would miss or ignore the real reasons and choose instead to escalate the technology with fighter-bombers, gunships, and—eventually—B-52s, that penultimate weapon of mass, indiscriminate terror.
But generals were not the only ones subject to grave miscalculation. Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara thought that a combination of Vietnamese draft reform, stepped up mobilization and streamlining of the ARVN command structure would be enough to turn the tide. (9) Sir Robert Thompson proposed to combine “clear and hold” operations with the most stringent police measures, out of which grew the ambitious and abortive strategic hamlet program (Gravel ed., III:139-140). (10) Even Roger Hilsman, who perhaps spoke up more often than most on the NLF as a political rather than military threat, still accepted the argument that physical security was an essential prerequisite to his pet “civic action” programs (Gravel ed., II:142).
Behind such security fixations lay several a priori judgments on the Vietnamese people and Vietnamese society. It was usually assumed, for example, that the Vietnamese peasants worried only about where their next bowl of rice was coming from. They had little interest in affairs beyond their home village. Their ideal was to be “left alone.” Unlike more advanced Westerners, it was said, Vietnamese peasants found little meaning or value in political ideology, except perhaps some archaic Confucian maxims. Those accepting Communist ideology had been duped or coerced, or perhaps attracted by promises of bigger rice : bowls. In short, with neither the desire nor capability for profound national identifications, the peasants were mere “reeds in the wind,” and would lean whichever way the guns were pointed. It thus followed that the outside elite with the best techniques of organized violence would inevitably triumph. From physical security all else flowed.
Needless to say, the French colonials had harbored such patronizing, racist ideas about the Vietnamese peasantry long before American counterinsurgency specialists picked them up. At Dien Bien Phu and scores of lesser-known battlefields, the French paid with their lives for their prejudices, simply refusing to) believe that hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese peasants would fight and die, willingly, for a cause beyond themselves. American specialists like Lansdale, Trager and Pike never got this message, or if they did, they blanked it out in favor of a neater, less disturbing Communist/anti-Communist dynamic. (11)
In somewhat similar fashion, all Vietnamese, including the educated elites, were expected by American policymakers to respond in fairly obvious fashion to U.S. applications of pleasure or pain. From Walt Rostow in Washington, with his programs of graduated terror against Hanoi, to U.S. privates in the field, tossing chewing gum to scurrying Vietnamese children, Pavlovian carrot-and-stick reasoning held complete sway. (12) Once in a while even the canine aspect of Pavlov’s model peeked through, as when Rostow recommended that we tell Moscow to “use its influence with Ho Chi Minh to call his dogs off, mind his business, and feed his people.” (13)
When Vietnamese failed to salivate on schedule, the inevitable U.S. reaction was to escalate the increments of pleasure and pain. Sometimes our own Saigon clients were the least predictable, as in August 1963 when Diem and his brother Nhu ignored intense American pressures and proceeded to raid the Buddhist pagodas. (14) In the end, Diem and Nhu became so angry and cynical about American attitudes and activities that they put out vague feelers to Ho Chi Minh and the NLF. This was a deadly mistake on their part, however, since we only valued them for their militant antipathy to the Communists. The United States ended up having the old dogs killed and picking some new ones to work on.
The entire relationship between U.S. master and Vietnamese client deserves some exploration here, since it was an integral part of each counterinsurgency scheme in the period 1961-1964, and since the basic arrangement existing today really solidified by no later than June 1965. American military and government personnel, particularly those with extensive field experience in Vietnam, have often vehemently denied the whole master-client relationship, citing numerous factual examples where South Vietnamese “counterparts” ignored or even rejected their “advice.” On the other hand, most critics of U.S. involvement have developed an image whereby an all-powerful American puppeteer simply pulled the strings on an otherwise inert Saigon puppet. And certain events can be cited to buttress this position too—for example, the overthrow of Diem, the dumping of General Duong Van Minh three months later, and the strong anticoup protection given Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu after mid-1965.
However, neither position is completely accurate. First of all, the U.S.-Saigon relationship changed perceptively over time. In 1954-1956 the U.S. was very deeply involved in selecting Diem, pushing him ahead of all French candidates, and then giving him the necessary money, guns and political protection to crush each opposition element, one by one. During the next four years, nevertheless, the United States stepped back from day-to-day management and allowed Diem to handle matters in more or less his own way, confident of course that his staunch anticommunism was the best servant of our interests.
But by late 1961 Diem’s position, and that of the entire Saigon regime, was clearly eroding away. President Kennedy reacted by sending in not only the armed U.S. helicopter squadrons, mentioned previously, but also modem propjet transports, logistical support groups, and numerous overt and covert intelligence teams. Equally significant was the shift in missions for U.S. advisory elements already in place. From late 1961 onward, there was to be “U.S. participation in the direction and control of GVN military operations,” and on the civilian side U.S. personnel were briefed for “insertion into the Governmental machinery of South Viet-Nam.” (15) Although it was to be several years before such arrangements were put in writing with the Saigon regime, in fact a parallel U.S. hierarchy had been established and came to assume progressively more power as the political and military situation continued to deteriorate inside South Vietnam.
An interesting case of how the system developed and operated is in intelligence and counterintelligence. By 1961 American officials could see that the South Vietnamese regime was not getting reliable information at village and district levels. And since there was a jumble of separate intelligence agencies, sometimes conflicting with each other, what little information the regime did acquire was not being handled properly. In Quang Tri province, for example, I found that while the seven district chiefs passed their data and captured NLF suspects to the Secret Police (Cong An), the latter refused to let the military Sector Commander’s S-2 (intelligence officer) see any of it or interrogate the prisoners. The Secret Police also kept a tight hold over their personality files, which were heavy on former Viet-Minh activists. However—and this is the important part—the Secret Police did grudgingly allow the American provincial adviser the access that they denied to the Sector Commander, so that the American served increasingly as an informed intermediary.
Meanwhile, the regular ARVN units in Quang Tri were out of both of these channels entirely, sending their scant information back to First Division headquarters in Hue. This problem was “solved” by having the U.S. advisers assigned to these regular army echelons exchange data with the U.S. provincial adviser. Not surprisingly, the latter individual became increasingly powerful in Quang Tri, especially since he also had a special “slush-fund” to pay off his own agents, and to parcel out to his “counterpart” on an achievement basis.
Beyond the three networks mentioned above, there was also a Vietnamese “DMZ Security” group, which sent intelligence directly to the Presidential Palace in Saigon. And there was an apparatus called SMIAT (Special Military Intelligence Advisory Team), completely controlled by Americans, which was trying to build a major clandestine agent net across the border into Laos and North Vietnam. All five elements, however, relied heavily on a relatively small number of paid informants, often the same people who had lived well off the French in a similar capacity.
The admittedly cursory analysis I made of the intelligence situation in all of central Vietnam in 1962-1963 led me to some unsettling conclusions about the various Vietnamese involved, and, beyond that, their apparent alienation from the bulk of the populace. (16) From the Pentagon Papers it is evident that Americans at much higher levels in both Saigon and Washington saw essentially the same things, in other bureaus and ministries as well as intelligence. Yet their responses were always technocratic, half-baked, as if they were trying to avoid il probing too far for fear the whole house of cards might come tumbling down. In intelligence, for example again, they moved on the one hand to pressure Diem to reorganize and consolidate the Vietnamese “intelligence community,” although he still saw solid anticoup benefits in keeping it divided. On the other hand, the United States steadily expanded its own autonomous network in Vietnam, as a bypass mechanism and a powerful means of manipulation. After the army’s overthrow of Diem, U.S. knowledge of the thoughts and activities of Saigon’s top leadership increased considerably, since the military was the one group we had infiltrated early, had plenty of files on, and could easily surround with “advisers” on a day-to-day basis. As might be expected, nevertheless, such 5 developments tended to startle, to antagonize, many Vietnamese officers (usually under the rank of colonel) who had been shielded from the true master-client relationship during the Diem period. Some of them withdrew from the army in disgust. Others stayed on, but showed their displeasure at American manipulation t so much that they were given “bad marks” and confined to paper-pushing jobs in supply, transportation, engineering and the like. (17) There were always other officers to take their places, however, men who knew they were servants of the Americans and, for one reason or another, were ready to make a good thing of it.
Thus it was that, not only in intelligence, but in all other sensitive fields, a crew of sycophants, money-grubbers and psychopaths moved to the fore. Essentially serving as power-brokers, they found endless ways both to oppress their fellow countrymen and to delude their American masters. General Nguyen Khanh was the epitome of this new “leadership.” For twelve months after derailing General Minh in January 1964, he held center stage in Saigon, posturing, shifting ground, bluffing Ambassador Taylor, trying to neutralize his yotunger rivals, preaching militant anticolonialism for public consumption while working feverishly behind the scenes for ever-deeper U.S. involvement. By early 1965 the United States was “in” as never before, but General Khanh had incurred the wrath of Ambassador Taylor to such a degree that he must have known his days were numbered. (18) Unlike the Diem/Lodge situation, however. General Khanh had taken the necessary personal precautions. Today he lives a comfortable emigre existence in Paris.
General Khanh also demonstrates in many ways why these cynical, corrupt people were clients or servants of the United States, but not really “puppets.” For example, Khanh played upon deep American fears of a “neutralist solution” to discredit the Duong Van Minh leadership group and gain support for his coup. (19) Once in power, Khanh kept stalling on his commitments to the United States to mobilize the army and populace against the “Viet Cong threat,” perhaps knowing it was futile. Instead, he pushed constantly for U.S. bombing of the North, U.S. ground troops in the South, and a commitment to him as the dictatorpresident of the country. Ironically, the more the United States committed itself to Vietnam, the less reason there was for Khanh or any of his successors to think about “internal reform,” much less social revolution. (20)
Without question, it was the very weakness of the combined U.S.-Saigon position that gave Khanh, Ky, Thieu, Khiem, and all the others a significant degree of leverage with their masters. Once these men were convinced that U.S. power and prestige was irrevocably committed, they could let the energetic, grim-faced Americans worry about holding off the Communists, while they spent most of their time trying to consolidate personal and clique power and privilege. Whenever the Americans protested about the Vietnamese not “carrying their share of the burden,” they could make some more promises and reshuffle a few commanders or ministers. If this wasn’t enough, they might strike a pained, anticolonialist posture and hint at negotiations with the enemy (both Khanh and Ky did this)— although this was always a risky last resort.
The United States could and did respond to these tactics several times by dumping one man or one clique. But the overall situation was always so tenuous that we could never risk throwing out the entire crew. Since our clients understood this fully as well as we did, they eventually made tacit arrangements among themselves to slow down the political attrition, “divide up the territory,” and share the spoils. Being highly ambitious men, this has not always worked. (21) Nevertheless, the continuity since June 1965, when General Ky took over as premier, has been striking. And it is likely to continue for as long as the United States remains committed to killing Vietnamese in order to save them. But not a day longer.
1. The “saving” metaphor crops up repeatedly in documents of the period. In the Pentagon Papers, Gravel ed., see for example: Gen. Lansdale, II:38; Vice-President Johnson, 11:59; and Rusk/McNamara, II:111.
2. Vice-President Johnson presents perhaps the most fearful picture. Gravel ed., II:57.
3. The fact that even today American policymakers adhere to the term “pacification,” and that their Saigon counterparts still employ the old feudal Vietnamese equivalent, binh-dinh, is testimony to how little they know, or care, about Vietnamese history and popular historical memories.
4. Back in these “good old days” of U.S. intervention, the NLF had very few 50 caliber machine guns, seized from ARVN. 20 millimeter antiaircraft guns were nonexistent, not to mention larger-caliber weapons and missiles.
5. A glowing if brief account of Operation Binh Tay is contained in Time magazine, August 31, 1962.
6. The latter refers to Colonel Nguyen Van Y, head of Saigon’s “Central Intelligence Organization”—an apparatus originally forced on Diem by the United States to try to unify intelligence processing and interpretation. Surprisingly, the “Yankee” nickname even crops up in a 1961 cable from Ambassador Durbrow. Gravel ed., II:28.
7. See for example the 1961 JCS estimates whereby 40,000 U.S. troops would be sufficient to “clean up” the Viet-Cong, or 205,000 to handle the situation if both the DRV and China entered the conflict too. Gravel ed., II:108-109.
8. Senator Henry Jackson, “A Key to Victory in Vietnam,” Army, March 1963, p. 62.
9. “Memorandum for the President,” November 11, 1961.
10. Gravel ed., II:115. II:139-140. Thompson’s subordinate, Denis Duncanson, has written the most comprehensive defense of these repressive tactics, in Government and Revolution in Vietnam (Oxford, 1968).
11. Douglas Pike, Viet-Cong, the Organization and Techniques of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (MIT Press, 1966). Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars (Harper and Row, 1972).
12. In the period 1961-1964, see especially the famous Staley Report, where the overall objective is to “surpass the critical threshold of the enemy resistance” (Gravel ed., II:63). The authors of the Pentagon Papers are no less guilty of such reasoning, as when on the basis of 1961-1967 experiences they conclude that there is a need for more “stick” and less “carrot” with the Saigon regime (Gravel ed., II:415). In late 1962 I traveled from village to village with U.S. Special Forces “civic action” teams and watched them gain public attention by passing out thousands of pieces of hard candy to children. The candy had been donated in big tins by an American manufacturer.
13. See also the authors of the Pentagon Papers using such images, as when they state that the United States forced General Nguyen Chanh Thi to get “back on his leash before it was too late” (Gravel ed., II:99).
14. The authors of the Pentagon Papers label this an “impudent” slap in the face to the United States. Gravel ed., II:203.
15. “Memorandum for the President,” November 11, 1961. Gravel ed., II:114.
16. In all fairness I should state here that I had not yet come to question the right of the United States to be in Vietnam, only the seemingly shoddy way we were doing things. It wasn’t until early 1966 that I concluded we had no business there at all.
17. During this period American “advisers” regularly sent in evaluations of their counterparts. These were combined with meticulous reports from supervisory personnel at bases in the United States where almost all South Vietnamese officers underwent training, and with gossip from paid agents, to make up an ever-expanding U.S. intelligence personality file. If a Vietnamese officer was listed as “friendly,” “cooperative,” “eager to learn,” “competent in English,” he had a bright future. However, if he was “reserved,” “suspicious,” “reluctant to accept advice,” he was in for trouble.
18. A serious student of this whole master-client symbiosis could begin with the relationship between Taylor and Khanh over time. Taylor was outfoxed so often that it became something of a joke in top Saigon circles. But when Taylor came to realize this, of course he had the last word.
19. There is far more evidence than is presented in the Pentagon Papers to indicate that the United States was very worried about President de Gaulle’s neutralization proposals and the effects they might be having on the Saigon regime. David Marr, “Background on Coup in South Vietnam, 30 Jan. 1964,” unpublished manuscript. David Marr, “The Political Crisis in Viet-Nam: 1963-1964,” also unpublished. General Khanh, in a recent interview, has claimed that his American adviser. Colonel Jasper Wilson, helped him take over. Pacific News Service press release, February 1972.
20. The Pentagon Papers demonstrate that whereas U.S. policymakers occasionally perceived this dilemma, they had no real answers to it. Gravel ed., II:96, 202-203, 280-281, 309, 330-332, 336, 345.
21. One of the best examples is the continuing cutthroat competition at the highest levels for control of the illicit drug traffic. See Albert McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, Harper and Row, 1972.