Policy statement about American objectives in Southeast Asia

7/7/2020 Policy statement about American objectives in Southeast Asia, June 25, 1952, in The Pentagon Papers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), vol…
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Policy statement about American objectives in Southeast Asia, June
25, 1952, in The Pentagon Papers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), vol.
2, pp. 286–288.
Under President Harry Truman, the United States adopted a foreign policy doctrine called “containment.” Originated by
George Kennan, Dean Acheson, and other diplomats and policy advisors, containment aimed not to fight an all-out war
with the Soviet Union but rather to confine communism and the Soviet Union to their existing boundaries. This doctrine
led directly to the Vietnam War, in which the United States fought to prevent communist forces from attaining power in
Southeast Asia.
25 June 1952
Statement of Policy by the National Security Council on United States Objectives and Courses of Action with Respect to
Southeast Asia1
1. To prevent the countries of Southeast Asia from passing into the communist orbit, and to assist them to develop the
will and ability to resist communism from within and without and to contribute to the strengthening of the free world.
General Considerations
2. Communist domination, by whatever means, of all Southeast Asia would seriously endanger in the short term, and
critically endanger in the longer term, United States security interests.
a. The loss of any of the countries of Southeast Asia to communist control as a consequence of overt or covert
Chinese Communist aggression would have critical psychological, political and economic consequences. In the
absence of effective and timely counteraction, the loss of any single country would probably lead to relatively
swift submission to or an alignment with communism by the remaining countries of this group. Furthermore, an
alignment with communism of the rest of Southeast Asia and India, and in the longer term, of the Middle East
(with the probable exceptions of at least Pakistan and Turkey) would in all probability progressively follow. Such
widespread alignment would endanger the stability and security of Europe.
b. Communist control of all of Southeast Asia would render the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain
precarious and would seriously jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East.
c. Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a
producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities. The rice exports of Burma and Thailand are
critically important to Malaya, Ceylon and Hong Kong and are of considerable significance to Japan and India, all
important areas of free Asia.
d. The loss of Southeast Asia, especially of Malaya and Indonesia, could result in such economic and political
pressures in Japan as to make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan’s eventual accommodation to communism.
3. It is therefore imperative that an overt attack on Southeast Asia by the Chinese Communists be vigorously opposed.
In order to pursue the military courses of action envisaged in this paper to a favorable conclusion within a reasonable
period, it will be necessary to divert military strength from other areas thus reducing our military capability in those
areas, with the recognized increased risks involved therein, or to increase our military forces in being, or both.
4. The danger of an overt military attack against Southeast Asia is inherent in the existence of a hostile and aggressive
Communist China, but such an attack is less probable than continued communist efforts to achieve domination through
subversion. The primary threat to Southeast Asia accordingly arises from the possibility that the situation in Indochina
may deteriorate as a result of the weakening of the resolve of, or as a result of the inability of the governments of
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France and of the Associated States to continue to oppose the Viet Minh rebellion, the military strength of which is
being steadily increased by virtue of aid furnished by the Chinese Communist regime and its allies.
5. The successful defense of Tonkin is critical to the retention in non-Communist hands of mainland Southeast Asia.
However, should Burma come under communist domination, a communist military advance through Thailand might
make Indochina, including Tonkin, militarily indefensible. The execution of the following U.S. courses of action with
respect to individual countries of the area may vary depending upon the route of communist advance into Southeast
6. Actions designed to achieve our objections in Southeast Asia require sensitive selection and application, on the one
hand to assure the optimum efficiency through coordination of measures for the general area, and on the other, to
accommodate to the greatest practicable extent to the individual sensibilities of the several governments, social
classes and minorities of the area….
Courses of Action
8. With respect to Indochina the United States should:
a. Continue to promote international support for the three Associated States.
b. Continue to assure the French that the U.S. regards the French effort in Indochina as one of great strategic
importance in the general international interest rather than in the purely French interest, and as essential to the
security of the free world, not only in the Far East but in the Middle East and Europe as well.
c. Continue to assure the French that we are cognizant of the sacrifices entailed for France in carrying out her
effort in Indochina and that, without overlooking the principle that France has the primary responsibility in
Indochina, we will recommend to the Congress appropriate military, economic and financial aid to France and the
Associated States.
d. Continue to cultivate friendly and increasingly cooperative relations with the Governments of France and the
Associated States at all levels with a view to maintaining and, if possible, increasing the degree of influence the
U.S. can bring to bear on the policies and actions of the French and Indochinese authorities to the end of
directing the course of events toward the objectives we seek. Our influence with the French and Associated States
should be designed to further those constructive political, economic and social measures which will tend to
increase the stability of the Associated States and thus make it possible for the French to reduce the degree of
their participation in the military, economic and political affairs of the Associated States.
e. Specifically we should use our influence with France and the Associated States to promote positive political,
military, economic and social policies, among which the following are considered essential elements:
(1) Continued recognition and carrying out by France of its primary responsibility for the defense of
(2) Further steps by France and the Associated States toward the evolutionary development of the
Associated States.
(3) Such reorganization of French administration and representation in Indochina as will be conducive to an
increased feeling of responsibility on the part of the Associated States.
(4) Intensive efforts to develop the armies of the Associated States, including independent logistical and
administrative services.
(5) The development of more effective and stable Governments in the Associated States.
(6) Land reform, agrarian and industrial credit, sound rice marketing systems, labor development, foreign
trade and capital formation.
(7) An aggressive military, political, and psychological program to defeat or seriously reduce the Viet Minh
(8) US-French cooperation in publicizing progressive developments in the foregoing policies in Indochina.
7/7/2020 Policy statement about American objectives in Southeast Asia, June 25, 1952, in The Pentagon Papers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), vol…
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Southeast Asia is used herein to mean the area embracing Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya and
Copyright © 2009 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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