RELEASE DATE: MARCH 14, 1966
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA,
THE ROBERT TYRIE BENTON MEMORIAL LECTURE
BY GENERAL JAMES A. VAN FLEET, U.8. ARMY (RET.)
SUBJECT: EAST ASIA
OPENING REMARKS: ---- ---.--------- .------..
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ROBERT TYRIE BENTON --------- ----- ------
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'-A---Y EAST ASIA? ---a.-as----------a----------. -- -----------
THE FAR EAST
President Eisenhower, in 1954, asked me to undertake a military,
economic, and political survey of The Far East. What I observed and
concluded then, seems quite timely even today, in view of discussions
going on in Washington and in the press regarding Red China.
I quote from my Report;
1) "The one indelible impression I have of the vast area of East
Asia is that the Communists are gaining and we are losing ground. This
I attribute to the fact that our enemies have one fundamental, easily
understood objective towards the attainment of which all resources and
efforts are bent. For our part, we lack an equally unmistakable goal,
we have yet to achieve unity of action and direction and, indeed, we
have yet to comprehend the true strength of the implacable foe we face.
2) "It is high time we recognized that the threat posed to our
freedoms by the militant forces of communism cannot be easily dodged
or circumvented: there is no pat solution, militarily, politically, or
economically. We must be prepared to admit that there may never be
an acceptable solution if we continue to combat 24 hour-a-day communist
motivation on an 8 hour-a-day democratic basis. It is therefore essential
as a first step that the American Public be made to realize the vital issues
at stake and the contingent sacrifices each individual may be called upon
to make in the struggle for the preservation of the American ideal.
3) "Certainly we must strive to reverse the trend in East Asia,
to halt the enemy advance and to wrest the initiative from him. If we are
to do this, I consider we must attain two separate but related objectives:
one emergency and one long range. The first is to set forth, in precise and
unmistakable fashion, a containing line beyond which we, in concert with
like minded nations, will not permit overt aggression be it direct or indirect.
While this will necessarily represent a continuing commitment, Its only
function, in true perspective, is to establish a firm point of departure for the
Implemlentation of the long range policy. In broad and sweeping terms,
the lonq range policy would have two aspects which should be pursued
concurrently: defensively, the development of increastirT strength and
stability among the free nations of East Asiaz offensively, the main-
tealwe of continuous pressures against the communist design.
4) "The non-communist world has significant assets In Asia.
Individually, the capabilities of the several countries are inadequate
for the successful attainment of far reaching objectives. Integrated and
made mutually supporting the total assets represent formidable strength
for the prosecution of the comprehensive program for the common good.
We must work actively for the creation of a regional, multi-national
organization to insure the progressively phased development of military,
political and economic strengths. Logically, I can only discuss East
Asia since my survey was limited to the countries lying therein. Nonetheless,
I am impressed with the potential of a regional organization geographically
so limited: the component countries represent the bulk of the total strength
in all fields, actual or latent: in that area The United States is unfettered
by either the United Kingdom or France, and only larger grouping might prove
unmanageable at the outset.
5) "The native troops of these free Asian Nations should be trained
and equipped by The United States for the type operation that they would
most likely be expected to perform in their own country and in Task Force
Operations in other Asian countries. These native troops have proven their
value in battle. They should be improved and developed so that advantage
could be taken of favorable situations arising with respect to the enemy
forces of the Chinese communists. Thair strength therefore should exceed
the number required for defense purposes. The cost would be only a small
fraction of the cost for the same number of United States troops.
6) "The propaganda or informational programs of the enemy in East
Asia have been more effective than have the psychological and information
programs of The United States. Therefore, the informational and psycholo-
gical programs in these countries of Eastern Asia should be strengthened and
the emphasis shifted in these programs from United States or individual country
sponsorship to Free Asian Alliance sponsorship as rapidly as developments
7) "The Far East and Pacific unified commands should be merged Into
a single unified command for the Pacific Area., located in the Hawaiian Islands,
to centralize responsibility for countering the military threat posed by communism
in the Far East, insure the most effective integration and exploitation of U.S.
forces and those of our Pacific allies, and facilitate coordination of military
and non-military programs and actions.
8) "A Special Regional Organization, comparable to that operative
within the NATO framework, should be established into the Hawaiian Islands
with an area responsibility identical to that of the Pacific Unt led Command;
that this organization be given broad operating latitudes to effect the coor-
dination, on an area basis, of political, economic, psychological, informational
and cultural exchange programs In the Pacific Area; and thdt this organi-
zation effect close collaboration with the Pacific Command to insure the
integration of military and non-military programs and actions.
9) "A vastly expanded program in the educational field should be
developed and maintained, until private endowment by foundations be made
available, to establish Asian support for United States objectives to foster
leadership, mutual understanding, and good will. Typical programs suitable
for initiation or augmentation would include: strong but discreet support for
Pan-Asian centers of learning to The Philippines with an appeal to all
Asian nationalities, in Taipei for overseas Chinese and in Korea for the
Koreans, to include adequate libraries, to insure that great scholarly work
can be carried out at such centers of learning; vastly increased U. S.
Government and private grants for graduate student and professor exchange
between selected Asian and U. 8. universities; larger U. S. Government and
private scholarship grants for nationals of all non-Communist Asian countries
in selected U. 8. universities; larger U. S. government grants for study and
travel in the United States by public officials and leaders in important walks
of life in Asia.
10) "The representation of The United States in Eastern Asia should
be strengthened. It should be tactful and sincere, and it must have the comp-
lete confidence of the leaders of the several Asian nations. We must accept
these leaders as partners and treat them as equals. The leadership of The
United States must be indirect, and a firm and forthright policy that is
realistic, tough and wholeheartedly supported by each nation in The East
Asian Alliance must be developed and carried out."
These foregoing comments were part of my report in 1954. I am glad
to say that many of ay recommendations were implemented. Unfortunately,
others were not, and Ia my opinion, our failure and slowness to act have
compounded our troubles.
Since 1954 1 have made many visits to all the free nations of the
Far East, Nothing could be clearer than this unfolding design of communist
conquest and control of Asia as the current active stage of the communist
program of world domination. For a better understanding of the full meaning
of that design, it is well to state hare the basic assumptions that are rele-
vant to an understanding of the war for Asia. These are as follows:
1) Soviet Russia intends to build a "One World" of
communist states subservient to Moscow.
(a) through a world-wide program of unconventional war--
cold, tepid, warm, and hot -- as opportunities present
(b) but not to the point of risking full-scale global war
with its attendant threat to the survival of the base for
the World Revolution. (The possibility of miscalculation
must always be kept in mind.)
2) Communist imperialism and the Free World represent ir-
reconcilable systems, and conflict on some level is
irrepressible. In the end, one system or the other must
prevail as the dominant influence on this planet. There
can be no hope of a lasting peaceful settlement as long as
the Soviet Regime exists,
3) Full-scale global Ma is not inevitable, but global convict
is not only inevitable it has long since been under way.
Our problem is not merely to prepare for a possible World
War MI, but to win the war for survival In which we are
4) Central to the aim of a communist "One World" to the current
stage of seeking to complete and consolidate the communist
conquest of Asia, to outflank and undermine the Free World,
as stated by both Lenin and Stalin.
5) The Korean War of 1950-1953 and the War in Indochina were
part and parcel of this communist program of conquest and
thus found their setting in the global conflict that has long
been waged against the Free World. These were not isolated
wars, but were parts of the global war for survival Into which
we are engaged.
6) So long as the Chinese communist regime exists, it will
not abandon its goal of conquest or dominance of East and
Southeast Asia. In our own security interests, we block her
path toward conquest or dominance of the Far East, and she
must consider us as her implacable enemy.
7) For the next several years, communist China is a greater
menace to the Free World than the Soviet Union itself.
Stated another way: For the net several years, the probability
of Chinese communist conquest of further areas critically
important to the Free World is greater than the probability
of full-scale global war initiated by The Soviet Union.
It appears as certain as anything can be in the realm of human affairs
that the victory achieved by communist China at Geneva was but a first in-
stallment: and that regime, flushed with victory, will press on toward its
objective of controlling all Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia, and ultimately
all of Southeast Asia. The terms of the truce would appear to be almost
a guarantee of ultimate communist victory -- unless we take strenuous
steps to checkmate communist China. The SEATO Agreements reached at
the Manila and Bangkok Conferences were hopeful, but it must be admitted
that those Agreements constitute but a frail reed against the surging power
of Communist China. I question their value. It is to be noted that The
United Kingdom and France are among the signatories, and it was precisely
the attitudes of these two powers that stood in the way of decisive action
in both Korea and Indochina.
The aggressive aims of communist China and her controlled satellite's
have been publicly announced. Her forces are poised against us in North
Korea, and through her North Korean satellite she has made clear that tho
Korean Armistice is regarded as only a deferral of communist plans for control
of all Korea. He Chi Minh has similarly proclaimed his intention to take
over all of Viet Nam.
The Chinese communist regime thrives on limited wars such as the
Korean and Indochinese wars, the threat against Formosa, and the continuing
subversion. Its program of conquest or dominance is being pushed ahead
at small cost and with no punishment being suffered. Enhanced prestige
furthers the consolidation of the regime's control over its people. It is
equally clear that communist China fears, above all, unlimited war with
the United Sties, in which punishment would be visited Apon her own
domain, in which her Industrial progress and programs wjuld be largely
erased, in which her weakness would become apparent to her own people,
and from which she would not survive.
Up to date, communist China has very adroitly si.ered a middle
course, always pushing forward her program of conquest or dominance,
but never to the point of precipitating unlimited war with The United States.
The formula by now is a transparent one, clearly revealed in the course of
events over the past number of years: when there arises the danger of
determined military action tby The United States, the "World Peace"
propaganda spigots are opened, and a proposal for discussion and
negotiation is brought forth.
Although the pattern is obvious, the lack of resolution in the Free
World Coalition can always be counted on to yield acceptance of the
communist proposal. Not only does the acceptance erase the threat of
determined action against communist China; It also provides further oppor--
tunities to drive wedges among the allies, aimed at breaking up the Free
This was the patternn in -cre-a, and it was Cu.:licat;.
.. to the : "su-, we have :.. J.- nto the han,. of
the Chinese -o.m.-i ito so :ru,.:pltely th't h..vy ..u.t regard
:air r ~-'.'.r,..-r ta;.:.l.z.J as .K'-, i.i of Fi,< ,. war with 'T e
United SLtate:. and erteA-i of ultimate success of driving
L-nit.... .t:.-it i...:.uence out oif ..-:t and ;--theu h t .*-- .
On tL. t-e 'rt it must be ..Ji..itt. that th..-/ have ,.'-I
roun; for cc.iiAi'.Cence.
We :x m fa.e i; -; .lo to the conse>ue'.-.. in e-. ,rn
2uro.pe of the ultimate defeat that threatens us in the Far
e.. rf..i t defeats we have already suffered. have C:ivn rise
in -esterri, E'urope to a tr'nc: toward an "In.-'ependJent" Foreign
Policy that appears to be only a few steps removecj from a
nvutcralist Fli ::;:',, If all of East and Southeast '..i. should
come un-ler coriunist d::.-ization or control, the leverage of
df;cjjf.u.im :owco. over the 'iJl-e Vast and westernn LuropQ would
be greatly strr .;t.hee'. Though we aLbstainedi fro, s3iqning
tlbat Aniiatice Arement, candor requires us to recognize
that we 'rselv..- 'frd .nnotrhe;-r major defeat in the
gl-baJ conflictt for survival. The energy is exploiting that
victory not as a military defeat for France but as a diplow.-
atic ,.t,.feat for. ':?. Unit:i States; ana it is sir.iil.rly int;-
tretep in eastern Europe and among the 1 Asian neutralists
h'r must recognize that what anr- the Dree World are
suffering in Viet 1a, iA? merely a part -f the price we
are paying frr weakness in Korea -- for the Pod Chinese
vic. tori..;s in or.- '-h.t our self-i-niprc: limitatior
forced on our cor mandcer-, for an Armisttico that relieved
Pe Chiinn of the strains of war in Korea and peoritted
'_er to ei. ,c- her re0curces to wr.:t was then called
In,]o:-.hia, and for the military nn'd diplomatic prestige
that Armistice gave to communist China. The future will
reveal other prices we would pay for a Free Worl. defeat
in this area.
.*y Luilding up native armies you make the people con-
fidc.t t:'at they can win. wh-an they see they are strong
ani: can survive corr.unist propaganda, infiltration, and
lenaLraLions, their leaders will feel strong, will be
bolC, and will 's2y '". It is the only counter wave
I know that will .-ress back the wave of ;)ropaqanda from
the North. A strong person or natior. radiates confi-
-deca rIn-i resists Tr.a-)rure. It will give the .LCle con-
To go back a nu-ibcer of years, in January 1948, George
Marashx3.1 toltu me of th:? critical situation, then faced by
the Orc-k: overn ment, and indeed of the entire Free World
in sa.king to defeat the communist guerrillas whc were
har2asi;::: that strife-torn littl" }-i:j loW. Hs aska.Zd for
r-,y oinion as to what could be don.: to .ave the situation
in ;.eei;ce. In reply, I gave him -,,hat I thought was the
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recipe for success, that the izain job seamied to me to
create in the Gzeezs the will to fight; and that if the
Greeks had the- will to fight, I was convinced that with
our matari.al assistance -- and not a single American
rifleman -- the Greeks would achieve victory. General
Alarshall liked that answer and told me the job was mine.
This is and m-ut be the fundamental basis of fighting
morale. If an army does not have the will to fight, it
is c:efeated in battle. It is the same in footbtill as
you know. If a team before the whistle does not show
clearly that it has the will to win, it will lose,
Our worthy allies in the Far East, all nave a fight-
in;. morale aLd5 will to win, in great measure. They all
have prido of race, pride in country, and )elief in ideals
which in the final analysis is religion.
A necessary ingredient in the formula for sucues. is
the confidence in their ability to win. That confidence
can be built up by American assistance. Give them the
arms and the training .-o that they know they can win, and
the voice of "NO" to the communist invitation will be
louder and louder. In that part of the world, pride of
race, pride in country, and ideal- or religion are strong.
They do not have that confidence to win, until we give
them the weapons and the training to make them know they
canj win. With l hl.: corning frolic us, we havz allied in the
1 < *
Far East that are the most worthy we could ever want
Now, before closing, may I say a few words about Viet
Nan. As I see it there are four solutionst-
1) Pull out coa-pletely.
2) Continue without escalation -- in other words,
half an effort or -- pull back !:alf way as some
3) Negotiate an Armistice favorable to the enemy,
of course, as history clearly shows.
and 4) Go for Victory!
These four choices were the same in Korea. There,
our high policy blundered by negotiating an Armistice at
a time when we had the enemy -- Red China -- completely
exhausted. We had won victory on the battlefield but
high policy threw it away.
We can achieve victory in Viet Nam and this to me is
the only one of the four solutions that makes any sense.
We can and must win in Viet Nam, but many eminent and
influential Americans (to mention a fwi: Walter Lippman,
Lieut. General Gavin, Senator Fulbright, and Senator Morse)
are advocating a partial withdrawal. WE MUST NOT THROW
AWAY VICTORY. That is what we did in Korea, and if re-
peated in Southeast Asia The Pacific Ocean will become
a Communist Lake.
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iMy experience in Greece an-. Korea tells me that
victory in Viet Nam is not far away. There are all too
nany sound reasons v.,hy we are winiiing ai.d WILL win it we
keep the pressure on.
For some months now the war in Viet Nam has changed
from a guerrilla type to one of orthodox warfare. The
Vieb Conq has given battle in larger and larger numbers.
We, in turn, are in position to apply pressure -- heavy
z*resjure -- continuously and on many fronts at the same
tiLie. This calls for heavy supplies on both sides, a
ra--.:;.ir.emesit which we can meet, but which the enemy can-
And so I hale our increased ALL-OUT effort as the
only course of action to bring about victory quickly
and with honor. I predict that the Viet Cong will vanish
anft the war will cnd with a triumph for those of us who
believe in Freedoum.