[The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War, The Complete and Unabridged Series as Published by The New York Times, taught me that sometimes the truth is hidden in plain sight. In this case, all I had to do was open a book, and some of the truth spilled out. Bolded text is my emphasis.]
But behind these foreign-policy axioms about domino effects, wars of liberation and the containment of China, the study reveals a deeper perception among the President and his aides that the United States was now the most powerful nation in the world and that the outcome in South Vietnam would demonstrate the will and the ability of the United States to have its way in world affairs.
The study conveys an impression that the war was thus considered less important for what it meant to the South Vietnamese people than for what it meant to the position of the United States in the world.
Mr. McNaughton would later capsulize this perception in a memorandum to Mr. McNamara seeking to apportion American aims in South Vietnam:
“70 pct. – To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat (to our reputation as guarantor).
“20 pct. – To keep SVN (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.
“10 pct. – To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
“Also – To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.
“NOT – To ‘help a friend,’ although it would be hard to stay in if asked out.”