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Additional resources for US Foreign Policy Decision-Making from Kennedy to Obama: Responses to International Challenges
12 In a May 13, 1961, communiqué to South Vietnam, President Kennedy reiterated his motivations for the increased commitment. . ”13 In June, however, during the Vienna meeting, Kennedy managed to persuade Nikita Khrushchev that representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union should make a major effort to construct an agreement that would recognize Laos as a neutral country. Members of the Kennedy administration and outside groups continued to submit recommendations all the way through September as to the kind of measures the United States should adopt to assist Vietnam.
By October, Kennedy and his advisors had concluded that Diem had not been effective at countering the multiple challenges his government faced and that Washington’s assistance had not generated positive results. On October 11, the NSC met to discuss a number of assessments and proposals. They ranged from the claim that the insertion of forces from the South East Asia Treaty Organization would be thwarted by forces from the Soviet Union, the Vietcong, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), to the contention that 40,000 US forces would be needed to defeat the Vietcong and an additional 128,000 to counter actions by North Vietnam and its allies.
In a memorandum to the president, Mansfield called for the serious consideration of peaceful negotiations and warned of the dire consequences the United States would face if its involvement in Vietnam increased. Present policy says that there is a war which can be won in South Viet Nam alone. There may be only a war which will, in time, involve US forces throughout Southeast Asia, and finally throughout China itself in search of victory. What national interests in Asia would steel the American people for the massive costs of an ever-deepening involvement of that kind?