Feb?'uary 2, 1968 CONGRESS! ON AL RECORD - SENATE
THE "PUEBLO" INCIDENT
Mr. MANSFIELD. Mr. P resident , I ask
unanimous consent that an a rticle by
J ames Reston wh ich appeared in t he
Great Falls, Mont., T ribtme of January
30, 1968, entitled Pueblo Incident and
Vietnam Lesson," be printed at this point
in the RECORD.
There being no objection , the article
was ordered to be printed in the RECORD
as follows: . '
"PUEBLO" INCIDENT AND VIETNAM LEsSON
(By James Reston)
WASHINGTON.-In the Arab-Israeli war and
the latest International crisis In North Korea
President Johnson has shown that he ha_,;
learned something from the tragedy of Vietn
am. He has listened carefully to the arguments
for and against military Intervention
In North Korea and restricted himself to cautious
The lesson of Vietnam is that it Is easier
to get Involved in wars than to get out of
them. Sudden military action, even If lim! ted
to retalia tion for some provocation , can
quickly lead to couilter-moosures and soon
involve the prestige and power of the no.tlon.
This Is what happened when the President
reacted to the North Vietnamese attack on
our destroyers In the Gulf of Tonkin by
bombing North Vietnam, and there were officials
here who wanted to take similar action
to punish the North Koreans for capturing
the USS Pueblo.
This could, however, have quickly reopened
the war along the 38th po.rallel in Korea, and
confronted us with a two-front con..4.ict at a
time when we are already over-extended. In
fact, this may have been precisely what the
Communists wanted. So the President waited,
turned to U.N., and called up some alr and
naval reserves-just enough to flll some of
the gaps In the under-strength units weakened
by the drain In Vietnam, but not
enough to alarm the worl of Vietnam, Is slmply a humlllatlon
which everybody understands and resents,
but this would not have gotten the 83 crew
members back, and might have started a second
war, which nobody needs ln the present
No doubt there are North Korean vessels
on the high seas which the U.S. Navy can
Intercept a.nd hold until this senseless Incident
Is settled. Apparently the Russians have
understOOd the posslblllty of retallation for
their own spy ships, Innocently characterized
as trawlers, are reported to have vanished
ln the last few days from their normal
cruising lanes near the coastal United States.
Nevertheless, the Pueblo Incident, even if
it ls settled without military action, ls Instructive.
For it shows just how much of our
effective military strength Is now tled down
In VIetnam, and how vulnerable we are under
present policies to new diversionary attacks
on areas we are committed to defend.
The gap between our commitments and
our power to meet those commitments oould
be very great, very quickly, l! the Oo=unlsts
were to stir up trouble through Oommunlst
guerillas ln Koree., Talwa.n, Laos,
Thailand, Iran or the Near Ea.st, or ln any one
o! two of these places at the 118.IIle time.
Even by creating military Incidents, the
Communiats can Influence the internal
pollc!es of the United States, and divert to
war more and more funcls whica are needed
for the reconstruction a.nd c!vil order of our
President Johnson's problem was to take
strong diplollUltlc action a.nd prudent military
defense measures, without belng dragged
Jnto any impotuoUB moves which would put
intolerable stralru! on a.n already over-extended
mil!ta.ry establ.l.shment abroad a.nd
flna.nclal structure at home.
So fa.r he has kept the balAnce fairly well
on the Pueblo affalr. But the larger balance
between his worldwide commitments a.nd his
power Is still uneven, or can quickly be made
so by even limited moves by Communist
forces anywhere ln the great arc !rom the
Sea of Japan to the Mediterranean.
Yet in this s:tuatlon, many ln the Congress
who oppose the President's supplementary
war tax a.re at the same time the loudest
howlers for a harder war in Vietnam and
milltary retal!ation ln Korea.
Fortunately, the President has not fallen
this time for the tactical move of acting first
and thinking of the consequences later. He
ha.s mea.sured his words a.nd his action in a
very dit!lcul t st tuatton. He deserves the unity
and support on Korea he has requested.
Mike Mansfield Papers, Series 21, Box 44, Folder 6, Mansfield Library, University of Montana
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