Our assistance to Vietnam, or Indochina
, went through several phases. We began simply as a close partner of France in the Marshall Plan, NATO, related directly to the European scene. Then uh we began to move toward more direct assistance when we saw some movement in French policy toward some kind of autonomy or independence for the Associated States of Indochina
. Then came the Korean War, and the speculation about whether there would be a major communist offensive into Southeast Asia
, and that stepped up our aid, eh, very considerably.
Of course, uh, the more Mao Zedong consolidated his power on the mainland and gave expression to his hostility toward the United States, the more we became concerned about what his attitude was going to be toward Indochina
, and so we again stepped up our effort there.
When the battle lines were drawn, in uh, Indochina
itself, in what turned out to be the conclusive series of engagements there, uhm, ...we uhh, had divided counsels in our own government during the Eisenhower Administration. There were some like, uh, Mr. John Foster Dulles and Admiral Radford who wanted a uh considerable involvement, if necessary, by US forces.
But there were others, primarily President Eisenhower himself, who did not think that we should become involved on the mainland or intrude ourselves militarily into that situation. That compromise was uh reflected in part at the Geneva Conference when we ourselves did not even sign the Geneva Agreements.
When we uh made it known that as far as we were concerned they were not binding upon South Vietnam or upon the United States. Although it was declared that any attempt to interfere with those uh results by military force would be looked upon by us as a threat to the peace. So that uh we uh we began in a small fashion, steadily increased as the stakes grew, and then the critical time came in after the Geneva Conference when uh President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles concluded the Southeast Asia Treaty. That added an entire new dimension to the problem because under that treaty, the United States committed itself, solemnly, quote: "To take steps to meet the common danger" unquote, if those protected by the treaty were subject to attack.
That was re directly related by us to the entire question of collective security in the postwar period, because we knew that the response of the United States under that kind of treaty had a bearing on the judgment that other capitals would make about how we would act under NATO, or the Rio Pact or other such treaties. But uh, unfortunate— we entered into the Southeast Asia Treaty at a time when there was a lot of talk about, uh, massive retaliation and a "bigger bang for a buck" that kind of thing, and there were those who seemed to think that it—the Southeast Asia Treaty was a cheap treaty, that all we had to do was to s—send some carriers out there and bomb somebody and that it would be all over with. There was not a thoughtful, serious, wide-ranging
discussion of the seriousness of entering a mutual security treaty in which we pledged ourselves to take action, because our failure to do so could have uh chain reactions, with regard to other treaties, and deeply undermine the possibilities of collective security in the world.