The Joint Chiefs recommended hitting targets up to the Chinese border. Ellsberg suspects their real aim was to provoke China into responding. If the Chinese came in, the Joint Chiefs took for granted we would cross into China and use nuclear weapons to demolish the communists.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower also recommended to Johnson that we use nuclear weapons in both North and South Vietnam. Indeed, during the 1964 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater argued for nuclear attacks as well.
Johnson feared that the Joint Chiefs would resign and go public if Johnson didn't follow at least some of their recommendation and he needed some Republican support for the "Great Society" and the "War on Poverty." Fortunately, Johnson resisted their most extreme proposals, even though the Joint Chiefs regarded them as essential to success.