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McGeorge Bundy Supports De-Escalation in Vietnam


Former Presidential aide McGeorge Bundy began to shed some of his hawkish plumage on Saturday--advocating an unconditional halt to the bombing of North Vietnam by next year at the latest and a unilateral withdrawal of at least 100,000 American troops from South Vietnam by the end of 1969.

Bundy was dean of the Faculty from 1953 to 1961, when he left Harvard to join the Kennedy Administration.

"It is now plainly unacceptable that we should continue with annual costs of $30 billion and an annual rate of sacrifice of more than 10,000 American lives," Bundy, now President of the Ford Foundation, said in a speech at DePauw University.

Though he defended the 1965 decisions (in which he participated) to commit American troops to South Vietnam in large numbers and to begin the bombing of the North, Bundy said it was clear that the bombing and the troops "cannot produce victory."

Bundy's speech marked a sharp change from the position he took last spring at Harvard in a debate on the war. At that time, he opposed further escalation, but did not call for any scaling down of American commitments.

In his speech this weekend, he supported the call of the minority plank at the Democratic National Convention for an unconditional halt to the bombing, commenting that "the risk to our own troops can be minimized by alternative means of defense and if necessary by alternative deployments."

"Personal Bet"

Bundy said it was his "personal bet" that the Paris peace negotiations would not proceed far during 1969--even with the bombing stopped--but commented that it was nevertheless necessary to "lift this burden from our lives" by deciding to "steadily, systematically, and substantially reduce the number of American casualties, the number of Americans in Vietnam, and the cost of the war."

"It [the next administration] must make this decision without bargaining or negotiation and establish it as a fact of American policy which must be understood, observed, and recognized by friend and foe alike, and shared in, as they decide, by the other allies of Saigon," he said.

He suggested a pullout of 100,000 to 150,000 troops by the end of 1969, and a similar reduction during 1970. After that, Bundy said, further troop withdrawals would depend on the progress of the peace negotiations.

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