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Rusk MMM, William Bundy, February 1985

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:24 - Rusk's relationship with presidents / Rusk and McNamara's departmental leadership

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Partial Transcript: Well, this is February of 1985.

Segment Synopsis: Bundy talks about Secretary of State Dean Rusk's influence on presidents Kennedy and Johnson, stating that President Johnson was especially deferent to Dean Rusk's suggestions. Bundy contrasts Dean Rusk's lone-wolf leadership of the State Department with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's collaborative approach.

Keywords: Department of State; Pentagon; policy development

00:09:15 - Rusk's presidential advising

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Partial Transcript: Incidentally, my dad gave me a comment on you that you might be interested in.

Segment Synopsis: Bundy ponders Rusk's position on the partial bombing halt in Vietnam and considers whether Rusk's secrecy regarding his recommendations to the president impeded other State Department officials' progress. Bundy attributes Rusk's secrecy to Rusk's humility and tendency to avoid conflict.

Keywords: Clark Clifford; Hanoi; Johnson; LBJ; influence

00:16:25 - Rusk's effectiveness as an administrator

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Partial Transcript: Next, do I recall moments when he showed real emotion?

Segment Synopsis: Bundy describes Rusk as a good administrator, noting his integrity, choice of staff, and support of his subordinates. Bundy and Richard Rusk discuss Roger Hilsman's exit from the State Department.

Keywords: emotion; firing; hiring; professionalism; staffing

00:24:06 - Bundy and Rusk's work in East Asian and Pacific Affairs

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Partial Transcript: Your area of the world was under intense scrutiny with the war in Vietnam and a lot of Presidential interest in that one.

Segment Synopsis: Bundy discusses working as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the Vietnam War. He explains that Rusk avoided addressing past actions in Vietnam when developing new policy. Bundy mentions that Rusk preferred to advise presidents in private and before other Cabinet officials.

Keywords: Southeast Asia; policy advising

00:31:49 - Objectivity in command decision-making

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Partial Transcript: My question is on the psychology of command decision-making and how it affects people like my dad when casualties begin to mount.

Segment Synopsis: Bundy ponders the effects of combat deaths on policymakers including himself, Dean Rusk, and George Marshall. Bundy emphasizes that war calculations must focus on future projections, rather than emotional considerations of accrued casualties.

Keywords: George Marshall; Vietnam; foreign policy; just war; morality; responsibility

00:40:16 - Rusk's perspectives on duty and policy development

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Partial Transcript: Next question has to do with whether Dean Rusk may have worked too hard at the job.

Segment Synopsis: Bundy describes Rusk's strong sense of duty and detailed maintenance of his post, which eventually wore Rusk down. Bundy states that Rusk did not tend to engage in long-term policy planning because it often became too vague and theoretical.

Keywords: State Department; command; foreign policy; staffing

00:45:46 - Influence of domestic politics and intelligence in the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: You ask whether tactical use of nuclear weapons--

Segment Synopsis: Bundy discusses the role domestic politics played in Lyndon Johnson's considerations of the Vietnam War. Bundy evaluates the quality of U.S. intelligence and the extent to which intelligence intercepts were utilized against Hanoi. He discusses Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Under Secretary of State George Ball's opinions on Vietnam policies and progress.

Keywords: John McCone; Johnson; NIE; National Intelligence Estimates; Pentagon Papers; White Paper; ambassadors; diplomacy; foreign policy; foreign relations

00:57:40 - Johnson's advisers on U.S.-Vietnam policy

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Partial Transcript: Next question was the role of Richard Holbrooke.

Segment Synopsis: Bundy claims that there were too few people and platforms tasked with reviewing policy toward Vietnam. He shares that National Security Meetings were haphazard, and that he felt unable to consult with his State Department subordinates on NSC issues. Bundy considers the extent to which Dean Rusk showed ideology, expressed doubts about Vietnam, and contributed to a credibility gap.

Keywords: NSC; Tuesday luncheons; credibility; gradualism; meetings