Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Hearings Eighty-ninth Congress, Second session January 28; February 4, 8, 10, 17, and 18, 1966 SUPPLEMENTAL FOREIGN ASSISTANCE FISCAL YEAR 1966 – VIETNAM
U.S. Government Printing Office Washington : 1966
pp. 528 – 530.
Senator Clifford P. Case (Rep. – New Jersey)
VIETNAM POPULATION UNDER VIETCONG CONTROL
Senator CASE. General, I would like to pursue a bit further the line of inquiry that we were engaged in before, and in a sense to continue the one Senator Gore was engaged in, too.
We were talking about whether this thing is going to work or not, without indefinite escalation.
One question was whether anything had been grained in this last year in terms of the percentage of the population under the control of the South Vietnamese Government, under the control of the Vietcong and in no man's land or disputed territory. And the figure that had mentioned in your statement was something like last July being 53 percent Government controlled, 26 percent Vietcong controlled, and 22 percent contested.
General TAYLOR. That was last summer.
Senator CASE. That was last July
General TAYLOR. Yes, sir.
Senator CASE. And Senator Mansfield, you said, stated in his report that the Government controlled about 60 percent, indicating some improvement.
General TAYLOR. Modest. I would not overstate it.
Senator CASE. Modest improvement.
But now my attention has been called to a statement by Secretary McNamara in hearings in the latter part of January, in which he gives an estimate of about 53 percent of the population of South Vietnam under Government control, that is South Vietnamese control, and Vietcong about 23-and the 24- per cent figure in contested territory.
That seems to be the same as your own figures of last July. But then he goes on to say that Prime Minister Ky's figure of 25 percent is probably a much more realistic appraisal of what is government controlled than is the 53% percent. This isn't very encouraging. You give more optimistic results as due to operations this past month, January of 1966.
General TAYLOR. I am just giving the official figures.
Senator CASE. I am not trying to knock anything down. But this comes against a background of statements made to us year after year that were overoptimistic, that were unrealistic, as it turned out and we are just trying to find out whether it is possible to do the job we are trying to do in the war or are we still in effect barking up the wrong tree?
If we are, it seems to me more dangerous than ever, because we have gotten ourselves involved in terms which to many people raise the question of whether we are not now in the grip of events rather than in control of them, and in a situation in which it will always seem necessary to escalate from this point to another.
ESCALATION OF TROOP STRENGTH TO 800, 000 MEN
I know in your interview in U.S. News & World Report you say that a figure of 800,000 American ground troops is utterly fantastic. I take it you would still say so?
General TAYLOR. Yes, sir; I certainly would foresee no such requirement as that.
Senator CASE. That this was utterly fantastic.
General TAYLOR. Yes, sir.
Senator CASE. You would still feel that this is so, even if we keep on matching and then increasing the ante as we have done since about a year ago?
General TAYLOR. Well, I would say the pursuit of the objectives I have been describing with some of you gentlemen would not require any such figure as that.
Senator CASE. Well now, have we distinguished sharply enough between limited objectives -- we all agree our objectives are limited --and the inevitable process in which we find ourselves caught up in attempting to get those limited objectives? This is the concern we all have of going into an unlimited war -- as the Aiken -Mansfield report says, a general war in southeast Asia, which it flatly predicts --and the administration has not, through the President, said there is any alternative.
General TAYLOR. Well, I think I have made my position clear that I do not see any inevitability in the kind of escalation you refer to. Escalation, I suppose, could be compared to some extent, to a poker game, and in a poker game the side wins which has the greater resources and the strongest nerves.
I would say that we certainly have the greatest resources on our side of the table and I also hope we will always have a good strong nerve.
PUBLIC NEEDS ASSUARANCES ABOUT OUR INVOLVEMENT
Senator CASE. Well, the concern expressed by many people is not that the United States is going to do everything that makes sense in its own protection and in the fulfillment of its commitments. The question is of keeping its actions, it seems to me, in reasonable balance in relation to its commitments and its needs. . .
. . . Senator Morse blew up this morning when somebody suggested that we shouldn’t raise these questions. I don’t have exactly the same approach as the Senator, but I am equally concerned whether we are getting into a situation that is beyond our control, and getting into a situation in which the responsibilities of the Congress of the United States are being handed over to an executive and there is not upon our own Government the kind of check that the Founding Fathers thought would be a good idea. This is involved in the inquiry that we have got right now. . .
AMERICANS MUST UNDERSTAND POLICY TO SUPPORT IT
Senator CASE. . . . . But seriously, I am troubled by any suggestion that any question raised is weakening American efforts abroad. Americans cannot support any policy that they don’t believe in and they can’t believe in any policy that they don’t understand. And the only basis on which a democracy can demonstrate its determination is first understanding what the policy is all about, and not being told, “Don’t raise questions about this because our boys are going to be hurt.”
Nobody is going to hurt our boys, consciously or unconsciously, and the only harm that we will do up here is not to pursue this to the point where everyone substantially finds himself in general agreement because things are so obviously right. All I personally want is to be assured that we are on the right track, and the experiences we have had over the last few years are not such in many cases as to make us completely easy with just a rather calm assurance to “trust us.” That is why I think it is desirable to get to the bottom of the thing as far as we can now. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I didn’t mean to make a speech, but I had to state that I am not yet satisfied that what we are doing makes sense.
The CHAIRMAN. It is a very good speech, I thought. . . .