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IN RETROSPECT:
THE TRAGEDY AND LESSONS OF VIETNAM

ROBERT S. MCNAMARA WITH BRIAN VANDEMARK


9. Troubles Deepen:
January 31, 1966-May 19, 1967

(selections from pp. 262-264)

I told the president in a lengthy report that I saw "no reasonable way to bring the war to an end soon." Many factors influenced my thinking, and I laid them out for him in unvarnished detail:

What should we do about this unhappy situation? I perceived no "good" answer, and therefore offered none. I could only advise the president to level off U.S. military involvement for the long haul while pressing for talks, hoping these combined efforts would prevent the other side from waiting us out, avoid endless escalation of U.S. deployments, avert the risk of a larger war, and increase the prospects for a negotiated settlement through continued pressure.

Whatever my hopes, I concluded "the prognosis is bad that the war can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion within the next two years. The large-unit operations probably will not do it; negotiations probably will not do it. While we should continue to pursue both of these routes in trying for a solution in the short run, we should recognize that success from them is a mere possibility, not a probability [emphasis in original]."(*)

It was a sobering--indeed anguishing--scenario. But I could see no better way at the time.

(*)To achieve these goals, I recommended a multipronged course of action: leveling off U.S. ground forces in the South at 470,000; installing an anti-infiltration barrier along the Ho Chi Minh Trail; leveling off Rolling Thunder strikes against the North; and vigorously pursuing pacification.)


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