Partial Transcript: He [Harry Summers] says that in hindsight, the US strategy was wrong...
Segment Synopsis: Rusk comments on Vietnam War strategy, including whether the US should have held more troops in North Vietnam, declared war, or focused more on public support.
Keywords: Westmoreland; war powers
Partial Transcript: Another point that Colonel Summers makes in his book is, with relation to Vietnam...
Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses US-Chinese relations and the use of limited force during the Vietnam War. He considers what could have happened if China had entered the war.
Keywords: China; Korea; Southeast Asia
Partial Transcript: Colonel Summers also in his book talks about our folly of trying to be involved in counterinsurgency...
Segment Synopsis: Rusk considers how militaries should defend against armed non-state groups, justifying US involvement based on South Vietnam's limited capability. He discusses troop numbers and the line of demarcation.
Keywords: COIN; Korea; counterinsurency; nation-building; statecraft
Partial Transcript: If we had sent three American divisions, would that have done the job...
Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses using a picket line strategy to sweep the territory, noting that the US does not have a good strategy for addressing insurgency. He says that a lack of unified command was a problem in Vietnam, arguing that general Westmoreland should have had greater territorial and functional jurisdiction.
Keywords: CINCPAC; Grenada; bureaucratic politics; guerrilla warfare
Partial Transcript: Another question that colonel Summers raises is about gradualism...
Segment Synopsis: Rusk discusses the philosophies of gradualism and overwhelming force. He considers the feasibility of the Vietnam War and the authority of the armed forces to determine military and political objectives.
Keywords: Clausewitz; Korean War; maximum force
Partial Transcript: We had to give continuing thought to our strategic reserve...
Segment Synopsis: Rusk talks about maintaining troop morale by shortening wars and comments on the lack of Americans' support for sustained engagements. He comments on President Nixon's view of the Vietnam War.
Keywords: Korea; NATO; public opinion; strategic reserves
RICHARD RUSK: We're interviewing Dean Rusk about Harry [S.] Summers'[Jr.]book On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War in context. Tom and Rich are doing the interviewing. This is July 31, 1986.
THOMAS SCHOENBAUM: Colonel Harry Summers has written widely on the Vietnam Warand has criticized U.S. strategy in fighting the war, in particular the military strategy and the civilian military coordination of the war. In his book, On Strategy, on the Vietnam War he summarizes his criticisms. So this is an 00:01:00interview to look at these criticisms and to give Mr. Dean Rusk a chance to respond to the criticisms. The first question that he brings up, which I think is his overall thesis in the book, is a question of strategy in fighting the Vietnam War. He says that, in hindsight, the U.S. strategy was wrong in that we should have used American troops to, as he puts it, "seal off" the north from the south and American troops should have been used to fight external aggression from the north. And instead of doing this, he said, our main failure in Vietnam was wasting our strength by fighting a guerrilla war in the south. He says that 00:02:00this guerrilla war and this pacification should have been left to the Vietnamese from the beginning and the U.S. should have concentrated its efforts on being a barrier to aggression from infiltration from the north and fighting the external enemy. What is your comment on this strategy?
DEAN RUSK: I think that is a fair question and needs to be thought about verycarefully. He had the capability of stretching a line of our own troops across the demarcation line, and indeed across Laos, and sealing that off, as Colonel Summers suggests. But [William Childs] Westmoreland, I think, thought that it 00:03:00was important to try to safeguard the key provincial cities and provincial capitals throughout the country, to prevent the Vietcong and North Vietnamese from taking the countryside away from us behind that line across the north there. But I think he has raised a very good point. Now when we got into the question of whether we should throw a line across Laos, our own military people thought that we had to bring in additional forces for that purpose and not divert our forces from their tasks throughout the countryside in helping to protect these important centers. And so the bill that the military presented on that was about three additional divisions to seal off Laos. 00:04:00
RICHARD RUSK: Roughly how many men would three divisions be, Pop, in theAmerican military?
DEAN RUSK: It would have been about forty-five thousand or fifty thousand. But Ithink he has raised a very good strategic point there that needs to be thought about very carefully.
SCHOENBAUM: Was there a time in the administration councils that this was anactive option? Was there someone pushing for this?
DEAN RUSK: Well, we really didn't make a decision or really think seriouslyabout moving all our forces to establish that barrier in the north, taking them away from other jobs throughout the country. Maybe we should have, I don't know. But [Robert Strange] McNamara did at one time consider building a line, like a Maginot Line, across South Vietnam to the far north to create a zone there that would be a block against infiltration. But for some reason that wasn't picked up 00:05:00and worked out. But Summers has raised a very good point.
RICHARD RUSK: Did the local commanders in the field, including Westmoreland,suggest that this idea really wasn't feasible or the terrain was far too rough in places for that kind of thing?
DEAN RUSK: No, I don't think it was the terrain. I think it was their feelingthat they had to hold on to places like Hue, Da Nang, Saigon, and places like that, and did not want to run the risk that the Vietcong and North Vietnamese, who were already in the south, could take the country away from you behind that shell that we night have established across the north.
SCHOENBAUM: Our military didn't trust the South Vietnamese troops' capability tohandle that job on their own I suppose?
DEAN RUSK: They weren't convinced that they could do it, yeah, without our help.
SCHOENBAUM: Another question gees to something you've brought up many times, and00:06:00that is--This is Colonel Summers' point also--that it was a mistake to go to war without committing the American people, that we were under the delusion in the sixties that--This is a quote front him--"not only that we could disregard ''the formal declaration of war, but also its substance." And we failed to build a moral consensus in favor of the war. The idea there is that we tried to go to war with a "business as usual" attitude, that we didn't try to stimulate the righteous passion of the American people and let them know that we were going to war, and this is our objective should have been to commit the American people. (interruption)
DEAN RUSK: Well, I'm aware that Colonel Summers thinks that we should havedeclared war. But that is more complicated, I think, than he himself realized. A 00:07:00formal declaration of war has almost gone out of existence in this postwar period. There may have been two or three Arab countries that declared war against Israel. We've had a good deal of fighting since World War II but no declaration of war as such. In the specific case of North Vietnam, against whom would you declare war? Just North Vietnam, where there are mutual security arrangements between Hanoi, Peking, and Moscow which would have been triggered by a formal declaration of war? And then also, a formal declaration of war brings about important constitutional changes within the United States in terms of the powers of the President under a declaration of war. Lyndon [Baines] 00:08:00Johnson and John F. [Fitzgerald] Kennedy did not want to move into that kind of stage because, among other things, there might have been considerable resistance from Congress to the exercise of war powers by a President under a formal declaration of war. However, the other part of that question of whether we should have done more to stir up the American people--And that is a fair question. I've said before that we did not have troops parading through cities and pretty movie stars out at factories selling war bonds and things of that sort. And we deliberately decided that we would not try to create a war fever in the United States, thinking that that could get out of hand, in a nuclear world. 00:09:00Now it's a question worth thinking about, because we were trying to do in cold blood at home what we were asking our men and women In uniform to do in hot blood in Vietnam. And that isn't easy. It's tough on the men and women who are carrying the battle in this. It proved to be tough on the home front. But it is true that we did not, although we had strong support at the grass roots throughout most of the Vietnam experience at least until the first half of '68, we did not set about to stir up that war fever in the United States. And it's worth thinking about,
RICHARD RUSK: Did you folks actively consider declaring war, Pop? Was it ever aserious option?
DEAN RUSK: Oh, I think there was some passing discussion, but it was soonrejected. See, a formal declaration of war raises all sorts of questions. I 00:10:00mentioned the possibility of undercover security commitments between North Vietnam and Peking or Moscow. Also, it brings into being a new state of relationships with all the neutrals in the world. And there are just many legal and other complications about a formal declaration of war that we just didn't get into.
SCHOENBAUM: Another point that Colonel Summers makes in his book with relationto Vietnam is, as he puts it, "we were captured by our fear", of China in particular; that let China bluff us. And in particular the Chinese explosion of a nuclear device on the sixteenth of October 1964 was a source of great fear for us. We failed to take risks, the kind of risks necessary that you need to do in 00:11:00war, and we failed to define our objectives sufficiently because of our unwillingness to take risks. Can you comment on that? (interruption) I'm going to follow it up. Along the same lines, I just want to read something where Dean Rusk is mentioned by name. This is [Douglas] MacArthur. Summers quotes MacArthur commenting on a statement by then Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk that--These are Dean Rusk's words: what we are trying to do is maintain peace and security without a general war." And then MacArthur's reaction to that is That policy seems to me to introduce a new concept into military operations: the concept that when you use force you can limit that force. The very terms of resisting aggression seems to me means that you destroy the 00:12:00potentialities of the aggressor to continually hit you," etc. In other words, the idea is that China bluffed us and we were afraid and we used limited force, and thereby failed to attain our own objectives.
DEAN RUSK: Well, one must be careful about using this word "fear" when you'retalking about nuclear weapons. There's a difference between fear in the craven sense and a respect for the destructive power of these weapons. Now, the Chinese had no intercontinental delivery assistance during this period. We had no concern about whether the Chinese might strike the continental United States with nuclear weapons. But what we wanted to do was to achieve our mission In 00:13:00Vietnam, which was to keep the north from overrunning the south without bringing Chinese conventional forces into the war. Our military took the view, and from a military point of view it makes sense, that a war against Chinese forces would necessarily become a nuclear war. Well, it's easy to talk about that in theoretical terms, but when you look at the consequences and the potential consequences it becomes a very different matter for a President of the United States. No, we had a larger war than we wanted anyhow. And we did not want to act in such a way as to guarantee that the Chinese would enter with large numbers of ground forces. We could not have handled that with conventional forces alone.
SCHOENBAUM: Why was that? Why is that? We did handle the Chinese in Korea.00:14:00
DEAN RUSK: Ah, but in Korea you had a relatively narrow peninsula. And there wasnot room in Korea for the maneuver of large Chinese units as there would have been in southeast Asia. The peninsula itself In Korea tended to dose them in and limit their area of combat. But even in Korea--I think I mentioned this somewhere--President [Harry S.] Truman's own military advisers told him that the only targets in China which could affect the fighting in Korea would be the mass destruction of Chinese cities with nuclear weapons. Truman was not prepared to go down that trail.
RICHARD RUSK: I'll never forget my interview with Clark [McAdams] Clifford inwhich he said the Chinese entry into the war would have been comparable to opening a major vein in this country and we would have bled ourselves to death.
DEAN RUSK: That's correct.
RICHARD RUSK: He thought the Chinese would have loved to have had the United00:15:00States involved In a major land war in their own backyard.
DEAN RUSK: Well, I think that's entirely--I doubt that they would have loved it,but I think that concern that he expressed was very much on our minds. We watched very carefully through all sorts of intelligence means to see whether there was the mobilization of Chinese forces in south China that seemed to be preparing to enter Vietnam. Fortunately that didn't develop in any serious way. But if Colonel Summers wants to call that "fear," let him do so. But we simply did not want the much larger war which Chinese entry would have involved.
RICHARD RUSK: Had the threat of China not been there, how would that haveaffected our tactics, our strategy, against North Vietnam?
DEAN RUSK: Oh, I think it's more likely--One can't be sure of this--that we00:16:00would have invaded North Vietnam with ground forces.
SCHOENBAUM: These questions are all related because he, Colonel Summers, has afew basic points. But Colonel Summers also in his book talks about the folly of trying to be involved in counterinsurgencies in nation building. Colonel Summers, being a military man, doesn't see this nation building idea as a military role really. He thinks that defining our mission in terms of nation building and of counterinsurgency pinned us down to a defensive strategy, as he said, "a defensive strategy of negative aim," and what was needed, in 1964 in particular, when the North Vietnamese units started infiltrating was an 00:17:00offensive strategy--we should have gone on the strategic defensive. He is not clear about what he means. It sounds there as if he means invasion of the north. Do you think that it's appropriate for the military to be involved in nation building and counterinsurgency? Did we do wrong tactically in involving our forces in counterinsurgency operations? Is this something for the future that we should try to keep our forces--
DEAN RUSK: Our own military has not yet workedout a satisfactory doctrine of strategy and tactics for handling armed insurgencies. The very nature of the battle is different, than the fixed battles of general conventional war. Here you had guerrilla groups in the countryside 00:18:00who could select their own place and time of attack. In that kind of situation, where the enemy is conducting a hit-and-run kind of operation, it throws a great burden on the defense to maintain the security of your towns and communications between them. I've heard it said that the defense in a situation like that requires at least ten times the number of forces that the insurgent forces have because of the hit-and-run tactics employed by the guerrillas. If you think about five hundred thousand armed insurgents in the United States striking here and there at points of their own choosing, right across the country, knocking 00:19:00out power stations, bridges, and things of that sort, the defense against that is very difficult indeed and would require enormous force to protect everything that needs to be protected. I think it was appropriate for us to try to operate on a counterinsurgency basis because the insurgents were what the problem was. Now nation building is something of a different matter. We thought that the military should provide the degree of security which would give the South Vietnamese a chance to get on with nation building, and they did most of that themselves. But they had only limited capability. They had only limited administrative capability to carry out the many tasks that we thought were involved in nation building. But I think my reaction to Colonel Summers' point 00:20:00was that our own military does not really know how to conduct effective counterinsurgency operations In situations where the problem is insurgency; it's not fixed land battles of division against division.
RICHARD RUSK: Is Summers saying that it's just not a proper role for themilitary? There's just no way they can do it?
DEAN RUSK: Well, remember that Mao Tse-tung and other leaders who have developedinsurgency as a tactic put great store in the attitude of the people in the countryside. And this counterinsurgency and nation building was directly related to an attempt to sustain the morale of the people in the villages. And so I don't think we could have avoided concern about counterinsurgency because that 00:21:00was the problem. Now whether we should have handled it in different ways, it would be a difference of view. Incidentally, I have considerable regard for Colonel Summers' abilities. He's a very able fellow and I think we ought to listen carefully to what he has to say.
RICHARD RUSK: Pop, the Marines made a major effort along the lines ofpacification in the Chu Lai area and Da Nang. Did it have any effect? Did they do any good?
DEAN RUSK: Yes, within geographical limits. Actually, the South Koreans did avery good job in the area that was assigned to them. They were very tough and they earned the respect both of the Vietcong and the pro-government people in the villages in the areas of which they were responsible. I thought, for example, that we should have given the Koreans a larger area to be responsible for, because they were very effective. Now I'm not sure that American forces 00:22:00will be permitted to use some of the tactics tat they used. But they were very tough and very effective in their area.
SCHOENBAUM: What would have happened if we had, for instance, said, "Well, we'renot going to worry about these provincial capitals. What we're going to do in response to these infiltrations, we're going to send an army to capture Hanoi." Would that have been a strategic objective that would have done us any good? That's what he seems to be saying.
DEAN RUSK: Well, again there is the problem. In the first place, our militarywould have asked for much larger forces. But also there was the question as to 00:23:00whether that would bring in China if we had moved conventional forces up to the Hanoi-Haiphong area. Now, no one can answer that question. Neither Colonel Summers nor I can answer that question. It's easy for people to suggest that we might have done this or that and then say later "Well, gee whiz! That's not exactly what I had in mind." At least it's a question that should be thought about. And we did think about it.
SCHOENBAUM: You did at the time?
DEAN RUSK: Yes.
SCHOENBAUM: And rejected it?
DEAN RUSK: Yeah.
SCHOENBAUM: Of course, there's the question in a society like that if you sendan army and they go up and they capture Hanoi and Haiphong and they occupy the place, what good does that do you? It's not like capturing Washington and New York?
RICHARD RUSK: What good did it do for the British to march into Washington and00:24:00burn up the Capitol?
SCHOENBAUM: That's right, in 1812.
RICHARD RUSK: How can Lyndon Johnson say that he never wanted to be the firstPresident to lose a war when the British burned down Washington in 1812?
DEAN RUSK: Our attempt to take Canada was frustrated. (laughter)
RICHARD RUSK: Go ahead, I didn't mean to interrupt.
DEAN RUSK: Another element that you would have run into there: In Korea onething we never had any significant problem with was the hostile population in the countryside behind our lines. The South Koreans were pretty solid in imposing the North Koreans. Now, if we had advanced into the Hanoi-Haiphong area, what would have been the attitude of all of these millions of people in North Vietnam behind our lines? It might have taken an enormous force to pacify and control the area between the demarcation line and Haiphong-Hanoi. So this 00:25:00would have multiplied by perhaps three or four times the number of forces that our military would have demanded of us had we adopted that strategy.
RICHARD RUSK: Getting back to Summers' very first question, Pop. If we had sentthree American divisions, would that have done the job? And really, was it technically possible from a military and technical point of view to seal the border?
DEAN RUSK: I think it would have been possible. For example, I eventhought at one time that what we ought to do is gather American forces and let them form a picket line right across Vietnam, maybe five yards apart, and just move that picket line north looking at every square foot of ground with some 00:26:00battalions and reserve in case it ran across any Vietcong or North Vietnamese elements, and just sweep the country that way. WE had enough men out there--
RICHARD RUSK: It sounds like Pickett's charge to me.
DEAN RUSK: --to form such a picket line. And just--
RICHARD RUSK: What did the military say to that?
DEAN RUSK: They didn't like it.
SCHOENBAUM: Did you talk to anyone specifically?
DEAN RUSK: You see, we don't have an effective military strategy or tactics todeal with insurgency. We haven't developed it.
SCHOENBAUM: We still don't have it.
DEAN RUSK: We still don't have it.
SCHOENBAUM: Well, does that--Unless we get a strategy should we even be involvedin wars like that?
DEAN RUSK: Well, that's a good question. And it could arise if we were to takeaction with our own forces against Nicaragua. It's one of the most difficult 00:27:00forms of warfare to handle because the insurgents have such an advantage over the defense. The defense has to protect your central areas, communications between them, your supply dumps and all the rest of it. Whereas, the guerrillas can pick and choose when they want to strike, strike, and then run away. And it imposes a terrible problem upon the defense.
SCHOENBAUM: Another question: unity of command. And this is again something thatyou have talked about, but I would like to just get it all on one tape here. I would like to read a quote from Westmoreland. Of course, one of Summers' basic points is that there WAS disunity of command in the military itself and between 00:28:00the military and Washington; disunity of command on the battlefield and in Washington. He quotes Westmoreland to prove his point. Westmoreland noted that, "MACV [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] functioned not directly under the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington but through a CINCPAC [Commander-in-Chief Pacific]. The White House seldom dealt directly with me, but through the Joint Chiefs. What many failed to realize was that not I, but Admiral [Ulysses S. Grant] Sharp [Jr.] was the theatre commander in the sense that General [Dwight David] Eisenhower, for example, was the theatre commander in World War II. My responsibilities and prerogatives were basically confined within the borders of South Vietnam." Any comments on this?
DEAN RUSK: Yes, I discussed that matterwith McNamara more than once. Because it's true, the battle in the south was under Westmoreland but he reported to CINCPAK in Hawaii. The bombing in the north was under CINCPAC in Hawaii directly, And the B-52s remained under the 00:29:00operational control of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. So we did not even have unity of command for American forces, let alone a unity of command which embraced the South Vietnamese forces, the South Koreans, the Australians, New Zealanders and others. So I think that is an important point that was raised. And if we ever--God forbid--have to do anything like this again I would hope we would have a unified command for the entire effort being made to achieve our objective.
RICHARD RUSK: Under whose command? What would the set-up be?
DEAN RUSK: Well, I think under those circumstances Westmoreland should have hadcommand of--
END OF SIDE ONE
DEAN RUSK: In retrospect, I think that Westmoreland should have had command ofall of the military strikes against North Vietnam, including the-- 00:30:00
SCHOENBAUM: The bombing?
DEAN RUSK: --the bombing in the far north around the Hanoi-Haiphong area, andthat those resources should have been available to him to coordinate the success of our operations in the south, which was the main object of the entire exercise. And I think also that you could make a case that with such an important operation as we had there, that the theatre commander, in this case Westmoreland, should have reported directly to the Joint Chiefs in Washington. I agree largely with Summers as far as this unity of command bit. But McNamara told me that he had so many questions with the Joint Chiefs that he just didn't want to take that on. This gets involved in inter-service rivalry. Westmoreland was Army; CINCPAC was Navy. And there had been a good deal of difficulty in straightening that out.
SCHOENBAUM: This seems to be a problem today, too. I've heard criticisms of the00:31:00operation in the Dominican Republic. The action there--
RICHARD RUSK: Grenada?
DEAN RUSK: Grenada.
SCHOENBAUM: Grenada. The criticism there was a lack of coordination and allkinds of foul-ups.
DEAN RUSK: And the ground forces in Grenada did not have the technical abilityto communicate effectively with the naval forces offshore. Now, we need to think a lot about that. I've had more than five years of active duty in the military. And I've said to some of my military friends at times that they talk a lot about unity of command but nobody wants to work for anybody else. And that's just something that has to be driven home. Now, In World War II it was somewhat easier to say to Eisenhower and MacArthur, "This is it. You're the boss." Although in the Pacific there were great tensions at times between MacArthur and 00:32:00Admiral [Chester William] Nimitz. So we haven't gotten this straightened out.
SCHOENBAUM: Another question that Colonel Summers raises is about gradualism:the doctrine of starting out your military action with very limited means and gradually increasing it, kind of putting the squeeze on the enemy. He says that this was a mistake in Vietnam and he doesn't agree with the bombing halts because: He quotes [Karl von] Clausewitz, the theorist on war as basically saying that the only way to fight a war is to bring irresistible or as much force as you can muster against the enemy and destroy number one, his forces, and number two, his will to fight. And the doctrine of gradualism and what we 00:33:00did in Vietnam was contrary to this basic maxim of war. Should we, in effect, give up gradualism in the future? Or have we given up gradualism?
DEAN RUSK: I think Colonel Summers raises a very good point there. One can makea strong case that when President Kennedy decided to increase the number of American military in Vietnam he should have put in a stack of blue chips at the very beginning--say, a hundred thousand men--to make it very clear to Hanoi that we were going to take this very seriously. But you see, our gradual response to the steadying escalation by North Vietnam always left it open for the North Vietnamese to say to themselves, "Well, maybe we can do more and the Americans may not." I think that is a point that needs to be looked at very, very carefully, first in the Defense Department, then in the State and the War Colleges, and in civilian institutions. No, I think there is a very serious 00:34:00question about the utility of gradual response. Now if we--again, God forbid--have to get into one of these situations before, and we decide that we are going to start from the very first day with maximum force, then that would bring about some implications of its own in terms of the immediate availability of forces, in terms of what might have to be done in terms of national mobilization, things of that sort. But, nevertheless, it's an excellent point. And I'm glad that Colonel Summers has raised it.
SCHOENBAUM: Another question he raises is in comparison to Korea. He criticizesVietnam in comparison to Korea, saying that in Vietnam we failed to fix what he 00:35:00called a "militarily attainable political objective." The idea there is that in Korea we did fix a militarily attainable political objective, and that was after the Chinese intervened, to get some kind of settlement on the status quo ante. He said that in Vietnam we never did do this, that we had no militarily attainable political objective, and that we frittered away our forces and the American people lost the will to fight because we never articulated an objective that was militarily attainable.
DEAN RUSK: Well, I disagree with Colonel Summers on this point because ourcentral objective in South Vietnam was to prevent the country from being overrun by North Vietnam. Actually, and you've heard me say this before, I think from a 00:36:00military point of view we achieved that objective. By 1966 we had forces out there that the North Vietnamese and Vietcong could not overrun regardless of what they did. So I think it was militarily feasible to establish a situation which North Vietnam could not overrun by force. And we did that. But where we failed was that we could not do it quickly enough to prevent war weariness from expressing itself here on the home front. And this reinforced the tenacity of North Vietnam by thinking that they could achieve politically what they could not achieve militarily. But I think I disagree with Colonel Summers on that particular point.
RICHARD RUSK: Colonel Summers is making the assumption that yes, we mademistakes over there. However, the war could have been won. Is that what he is saying? 00:37:00
SCHOENBAUM: I think that's what he is saying, had we done things differently.
DEAN RUSK: It was won from a military point of view. And I think Colonel Summersand I might disagree a little on that.
RICHARD RUSK: Well, I'd sure disagree with his main thesis. It was a no-winsituation from the beginning, at a price that the American people would be willing to pay. How did he define victory? (interruption) Tom, how did Colonel Summers define victory if he thought the war could have been won? And at what price would this country have had to pay to bring about victory?
SCHOENBAUM: Well, I think that's where his analysis breaks down somewhat, as Mr.Rusk has so well pointed out. I think Colonel Summers is analyzing this in terms of classical warfare, and Clausewitz and the classical warfare tradition, in terms of articulating your objective then bringing to bear the force necessary to attain that objective, and doing it as quickly as possible. Obviously, that's 00:38:00the ideal situation. But he disregards a number of things like the possibility of nuclear war and what we would really have done if China had came in. And in a sense maybe, as we say here, maybe the lesson of Vietnam is that if you can't--This is my own gratuitous comment and it's not worth anything really--but if you can't do it the right way--Either you do it the right way or you don't. Either you do it in a feasible way according to the laws of war and the laws of psychology at home, or you'd better not get involved at all because you're going to get your nose bloodied if you try to do the impossible, and try to disregard the psychology of the American people, and try to get involved in essentially a 00:39:00defensive struggle. I don't know. Why do you have to say?
DEAN RUSK: Well, Clausewitz emphasized very strongly that the mission of thearmed forces must be determined by national authority and not by the armed forces themselves. There is, in some of our military thinking, the idea that in war your purpose is to destroy the enemy: just to wipe them off the face of the earth. That's the World War II syndrome.
SCHOENBAUM: Yeah, he points out--if I can just interrupt you for a second--hesays that this is the World War II syndrome but this is not Clausewitz's syndrome. Clausewitz would say that you don't have to destroy the enemy, that the victory is not destroying the enemy, unconditional surrender, but simply attaining your military objective. So you have to define your military objective 00:40:00in advance. And when you attain it then you have won even though you don't destroy the enemy.
DEAN RUSK: In my book we did define that objective very precisely. It was toprevent the North Vietnamese from overrunning South Vietnam by force. How that's simply--
RICHARD RUSK: And it worked in Korea.
DEAN RUSK: And it worked in Korea, yeah.
RICHARD RUSK: As a concept it's not totally bogus.
DEAN RUSK: But I think Colonel Summers underestimates the extent to which wedid, in fact, achieve our military objective from a military point of view.
The failure at the end out there was a political failure. War (inaudible) to theAmerican people and the reactions in Congress and things of that sort.
RICHARD RUSK: Or the fact that the North Vietnamese were adamant, were justabsolutely determined to unite that country, and they had been trying for thirty years.
DEAN RUSK: --to seize South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
SCHOENBAUM: Also, is there not a kind of a cost limit, especially when our own00:41:00territory isn't threatened? We can look at it this way: we attained our military objective. We had a half million-plus troops in Vietnam. But one of our options could have been, well, we just settle down there with our half a million troops there and we keep doing what we would have done if it took fifty years and we continually spend $3 billion a year and we have suffered two thousand killed a year, and we just sit there.
RICHARD RUSK: Camp out.
SCHOENBAUM: Camp out there for fifty years.
RICHARD RUSK: Does he say that?
SCHOENBAUM: No, he doesn't say that.
RICHARD RUSK: But that's what he's leading to. That's what he is suggesting.
DEAN RUSK: Well, that is a problem that is inherent in guerrilla war. And thedrawn-out character of operations against a significant number of guerrillas does raise some very serious questions as to whether your own people will 00:42:00sustain the long effort that may be required. As I say, we simply have not worked out a proper or an effective approach to deal with guerrilla operations. But I think Colonel Summers thinks more than I do that somehow this was a military failure. I don't think it was a military failure. But I certainly don't think there was any confusion about what our objective was out there.
SCHOENBAUM: I agree with that.
DEAN RUSK: There's one element that Colonel Summers has not adequately, I think,taken into account, and that is we had to give continuing thought to our strategic reserve in the event that there was trouble in NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Alliance], for example. We did not call up all of the National Guard units that were available, nor all of the Reserves, because many of those were 00:43:00held in strategic reserve. We didn't know where else trouble might break out. Now in Korea we gave MacArthur seven divisions and said to him, "Now this is it. That's all you're going to get." And in Vietnam, even though we had half a million men out there, we still had to think about the condition of our strategic reserve. And senators like Richard [Brevard] Russell [Jr.] were very much concerned about the readiness and strength of our strategic reserve during these years and spoke about it often.
RICHARD RUSK: Pop, I hate to read my own views into this interview when we areafter your views. But if Summers, a very perspective man who has written an excellent analysis of our problems over there, has made the assumption or judgment that despite all this we could have won that war, his is a serious flaw. This is really a misreading of what that experience is all about. Jesus! 00:44:00
DEAN RUSK: Well, I have a little different view than you on that.
RICHARD RUSK: Yeah?
DEAN RUSK: I think it could have been won. And from a military point of view itwas won--
RICHARD RUSK: Had people stayed behind it, right.
DEAN RUSK: --had the country here continued to support it.
SCHOENBAUM: Well, this was obviously the North Vietnamese strategy to win itpolitically. And you can see that even more clearly in hindsight now. But--
DEAN RUSK: There's another major element related to this problem about thestrategic reserve. In the first four or five years in Vietnam we relied heavily upon professional soldiers. But then we came to rely almost entirely upon, at least for manpower, draftees: draftees who had, in effect, a minimum, of training, minimum of field seasoning, and with a promise that after a year they 00:45:00would come home. Well, the morale of our own forces dropped off considerably as we began relying upon fresh draftees for duty out there.
RICHARD RUSK: Isn't it more accurate to say that the morale dropped offconsiderably after Lyndon Johnson and you made the decision after Tet that we had to start pulling back. And later that trend--
DEAN RUSK: You mean in '68?
RICHARD RUSK: --developed. And then it became a holding action.
DEAN RUSK: No, I think there was a growing morale problem before Tet.
RICHARD RUSK: Really? You think so?
DEAN RUSK: Yeah. I mean, for example, when Iwas on my way to CBI [China-Burma-India theatre] with General [Joseph Warren] Stilwell we flew through North Africa and we visited the First Division, the Big Red One, in North Africa. And we found after talking to officers there that the 00:46:00morale of the troops of the First Division had gone to hell because they had passed the word through the Division that after North Africa they were going home.
RICHARD RUSK: They didn't go home for another three years. (laughter)
DEAN RUSK: Again, God forbid, but I don't think that we can successfully fight awar with troops who are promised that after X amount of action then they will all go home. And we did that in Vietnam. And I suspect that was a mistake.
SCHOENBAUM: So we should have relied more on volunteers.
DEAN RUSK: Then as the fresh draftees continued to arrive out there they, towardthe end, brought along with then the sense of dissent on the home front. So a good many of them arrived out there with a pretty negative view of the whole business. 00:47:00
SCHOENBAUM: Was this dissent on the home front, you think, a product of thesixties? Or would it occur today under the same circumstances?
DEAN RUSK: I think this kind of dissent would grow the longer any armed struggle continues.
RICHARD RUSK: Regardless of what age we are talking about?
DEAN RUSK: That's right. The American people are basically impatient about war.And I made that point in other places.
RICHARD RUSK: Pop, I'm delighted to hear you say that. Being a member of thatsixties generation, that's been much maligned: refusing to serve our country.
DEAN RUSK: You remember the disillusionment that set in toward the end of theKorean affair. And the slogan got to be "No More Koreas." Now the slogan is "No 00:48:00More Vietnams." Well, the American people don't tike war. It's just as simple at that. And because of that we may be faced with the fact that if we had to do anything like this again, we've got to do it as quickly as possible--If that means using maximum forces, okay--and accept the implications that are connected with that simply because of the unwillingness of the American people to sustain a long, protracted war to which they see no end.
RICHARD RUSK: Are you being a little bit unfair with the American people? Theysustained World War II for five years. They sustained the Vietnam War for eight years in an active sense. And really, taking '61 to '73, you're talking twelve to thirteen years. What kind of patience are you looking for?
DEAN RUSK: In World War II you could see the lines moving forward. You could seeMacArthur and Nimitz seizing island after Island in the Pacific and closing in 00:49:00on Japan. There was a sense that this was going to be over, and in not too long a future. That's a very different thing than one of these damn guerrilla type operations.
RICHARD RUSK: Can you fault the American people for their lack of patience, inview of the fact that we couldn't see lines moving forward or territory being gained?
DEAN RUSK: No, no, I'm glad we're the kind of people we are on things like that.
RICHARD RUSK: Do you care to keep going? DEAN RUSK: Well, I put on another tapethe story of General [George Catlett] Marshall.
RICHARD RUSK: That we have.
DEAN RUSK: You see, I'm convinced--I could be wrong, but I'm convinced that ifyou look at the people at the grass roots in any country--here, Soviet Union, Western Europe, Asia, Latin America, wherever--you find people who want peace and not war. I do not believe that people at the grass roots anywhere really want war. Now sometimes they want other things that are incompatible with peace. But, nevertheless, they--
RICHARD RUSK: That means war.
DEAN RUSK: I think this is a special problem in democratic systems because thatfundamental desire for peace has a chance to give itself full expression. And that is something which we have to take into account. I myself, as I have said before, underestimated the patience of the American people. And I think we just have to--
RICHARD RUSK: Overestimated.
DEAN RUSK: Overestimated, I'm sorry. I overestimated the impatience of theAmerican people.
SCHOENBAUM: Just one more. I turn to Richard [Milhous] Nixon. Richard Nixon haswritten two books on Vietnam, including one hook that he called by the title No 00:50:00More Vietnam in which he said that by that phrase he didn't mean that we shouldn't try, but that we shouldn't fail.
RICHARD RUSK: Another profound statement.
SCHOENBAUM: Nixon basically in his books--Just to summarize one statement aboutit, he condemns JFK for allowing the overthrow of [Ngo Dinh] Diem because, he said, this induced political chaos in the country. He condemns LBJ for primarily halting the bombing and for fighting a limited war. So I think Nixon would certainly subscribe to the Harry Hummers' school of bringing to bear a very great power on the enemy.
RICHARD RUSK: Well, he had his chance.
DEAN RUSK: Mr. Nixon became President in January 1969. He could have opened itup into an unlimited war. He could have done a lot of things which he didn't do. 00:51:00And he didn't because the American people and the Congress simply wouldn't let him. We turned over to him a military position that could not possibly have been overthrown. But we could not turn over to him a united Congress and a united people. And he was working against considerable odds when he was President.
RICHARD RUSK: And yet look what he did!
DEAN RUSK: He had four years there, '69 to '73, where he could have made somechoices which he did not make.
RICHARD RUSK: Yet, look what he did do. Sure, we pulled hack our effort on theground. But in the air he intensified the aerial campaign against North Vietnam. And we dropped, more bombs over there than several times what we had done in World War II. And what good did it do?
DEAN RUSK: Which demonstrates that CINCPAC's view that they could win the warall by themselves by bombing North Vietnam was phony to begin with.
SCHOENBAUM: What about the idea that Summers says that we started makingprogress and pacification only when, under Nixon, we left it to the Vietnamese? Is that a fair assessment or would you disagree with that?
DEAN RUSK: Well, we left as much to the Vietnamese as the Vietnamese couldpossibly do. At all stages they did do most of the work in what is called pacification. American forces did not undertake that work and abilities that pacification involves.
SCHOENBAUM: I think that was a good interview and the one that we needed to do.And that's all that I have for now. If there is any concluding--
DEAN RUSK: I think the questions raised by Summers should be thought about verycarefully, particularly in the State, Defense Department, and our war colleges because he has raised some excellent questions and we need to think about them very hard, and think about them before we let ourselves get involved in other 00:52:00situations involving the use of American forces. I'm not talking about Grenada. We could have taken Grenada with the meter-maids of Miami. But anything involving a serious engagement of American forces for any significant period of time. We need to think about the questions raised by Colonel Summers.
RICHARD RUSK: I'll second that notion. Summers himself has got to do some morethinking because if he takes the point of view that we could have won that war, then he just missed the boat. I don't see how he came up with that.