President Lyndon B. Johnson State of the Union Address, Vietnam Section
January 10, 1967

I come now finally to Southeast Asia-and to Vietnam in particular. Soon I will submit to the Congress a detailed report on that situation. Tonight I want to just review the essential points as briefly as I can.

We are in Vietnam because the United States of America and our allies are committed by the SEATO Treaty to "act to meet the common danger" of aggression in Southeast Asia.

We are in Vietnam because an international agreement signed by the United States, North Vietnam, and others in 1962 is being systematically violated by the Communists. That violation threatens the independence of all the small nations in Southeast Asia, and threatens the peace of the entire region and perhaps the world.

We are there because the people of South Vietnam have as much right to remain non-Communist--if that is what they choose-as North Vietnam has to remain Communist.

We are there because the Congress has pledged by solemn vote to take all necessary measures to prevent further aggression.

No better words could describe our present course than those once spoken by the great Thomas Jefferson:

"It is the melancholy law of human societies to be compelled sometimes to choose a great evil in order to ward off a greater."

We have chosen to fight a limited war in Vietnam in an attempt to prevent a larger war--a war almost certain to follow, I believe, if the Communists succeed in overrunning and taking over South Vietnam by aggression and by force. I believe, and I am supported by some authority, that if they are not checked now the world can expect to pay a greater price to check them later.

That is what our statesmen said when they debated this treaty, and that is why it was ratified 82 to 1 by the Senate many years ago.

You will remember that we stood in Western Europe 20 years ago. Is there anyone in this Chamber tonight who doubts that the course of freedom was not changed for the better because of the courage of that stand?

Sixteen years ago we and others stopped another kind of aggression--this time it was in Korea. Imagine how different Asia might be today if we had failed to act when the Communist army of North Korea marched south. The Asia of tomorrow will be far different because we have said in Vietnam, as we said 16 years ago in Korea: "This far and no further."

I think I reveal no secret when I tell you that we are dealing with a stubborn adversary who is committed to the use of force and terror to settle political questions.

I wish I could report to you that the conflict is almost over. This I cannot do. We face more cost, more loss, and more agony. For the end is not yet. I cannot promise you that it will come this year--or come next year. Our adversary still believes, I think, tonight, that he can go on fighting longer than we can, and longer than we and our allies will be prepared to stand up and resist.

Our men in that area--there are nearly 500,000 now--have borne well "the burden and the heat of the day." Their efforts have deprived the Communist enemy of the victory that he sought and that he expected a year ago. We have steadily frustrated his main forces. General Westmoreland reports that the enemy can no longer succeed on the battlefield.

So I must say to you that our pressure must be sustained--and will be sustained-until he realizes that the war he started is costing him more than he can ever gain.

I know of no strategy more likely to attain that end than the strategy of "accumulating slowly, but inexorably, every kind of material resource"--of "laboriously teaching troops the very elements of their trade." That, and patience--and I mean a great deal of patience.

Our South Vietnamese allies are also being tested tonight. Because they must provide real security to the people living in the countryside. And this means reducing the terrorism and the armed attacks which kidnaped and killed 26,900 civilians in the last 32 months, to levels where they can be successfully controlled by the regular South Vietnamese security forces. It means bringing to the villagers an effective civilian government that they can respect, and that they can rely upon and that they can participate in, and that they can have a personal stake in. We hope that government is now beginning to emerge.

While I cannot report the desired progress in the pacification effort, the very distinguished and able Ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, reports that South Vietnam is turning to this task with a new sense of urgency. We can help, but only they can win this part of the war. Their task is to build and protect a new life in each rural province.

One result of our stand in Vietnam is already clear.

It is this: The peoples of Asia now know that the door to independence is not going to be slammed shut. They know that it is possible for them to choose their own national destinies--without coercion.

The 'performance of our men in Vietnam-backed by the American people--has created a feeling of confidence and unity among the independent nations of Asia and the Pacific. I saw it in their faces in the 19 days that I spent in their homes and in their countries. Fear of external Communist conquest in many Asian nations is already subsiding--and with this, the spirit of hope is rising. For the first time in history, a common outlook and common institutions are already emerging.

This forward movement is rooted in the ambitions and the interests of Asian nations themselves. It was precisely this movement that we hoped to accelerate when I spoke at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in April 1965, and I pledged "a much more massive effort to improve the life of man" in that part of the world, in the hope that we could take some of the funds that we were spending on bullets and bombs and spend it on schools and production.

Twenty months later our efforts have produced a new reality: The doors of the billion dollar Asian Development Bank that I recommended to the Congress, and you endorsed almost unanimously, I am proud to tell you are already open. Asians are engaged tonight in regional efforts in a dozen new directions. Their hopes are high. Their faith is strong. Their confidence is deep.

And even as the war continues, we shall play our part in carrying forward this constructive historic development. As recommended by the Eugene Black mission, and if other nations will join us, I will seek a special authorization from the Congress of $200 million for East Asian regional programs.

We are eager to turn our resources to peace. Our efforts in behalf of humanity I think need not be restricted by any parallel or by any boundary line. The moment that peace comes, as I pledged in Baltimore, I will ask the Congress for funds to join in an international program of reconstruction and development for all the people of Vietnam-and their deserving neighbors who wish our help.

We shall continue to hope for a reconciliation between the people of Mainland China and the world community--including working together in all the tasks of arms control, security, and progress on which the fate of the Chinese people, like their fellow men elsewhere, depends.

We would be the first to welcome a China which decided to respect her neighbors' rights. We would be the first to applaud her were she to apply her great energies and intelligence to improving the welfare of her people. And we have no intention of trying to deny her legitimate needs for security and friendly relations with her neighboring countries.

Our hope that all of this will someday happen rests on the conviction that we, the American people and our allies, will and are going to see Vietnam through to an honorable peace.

We will support all appropriate initiatives by the United Nations, and others, which can bring the several parties together for unconditional discussions of peace--anywhere, any time. And we will continue to take every possible initiative ourselves to constantly probe for peace.

Until such efforts succeed, or until the infiltration ceases, or until the conflict subsides, I think the course of wisdom for this country is that we just must firmly pursue our present course. We will stand firm in Vietnam.

I think you know that our fighting men there tonight bear the heaviest burden of all. With their lives they serve their Nation. We must give them nothing less than our full support--and we have given them that-nothing less than the determination that Americans have always given their fighting men. Whatever our sacrifice here, even if it is more than $5 a month, it is small compared to their own.

How long it will take I cannot prophesy. I only know that the will of the American people, I think, is tonight being tested.

Whether we can fight a war of limited objectives over a period of time, and keep alive the hope of independence and stability for people other than ourselves; whether we can continue to act with restraint when the temptation to "get it over with" is inviting but dangerous; whether we can accept the necessity of choosing "a great evil in order to ward off a greater"; whether we can do these without arousing the hatreds and the passions that are ordinarily loosed in time of war--on all these questions so much turns.