SNIE 14.3-70: THE OUTLOOK FROM HANOI: FACTORS AFFECTING NORTH VIETNAM'S POLICY

Created: 2/5/1970

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

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SUBJECT: SNIE THE OUTLOOK FROM HANOI: FACTORS AFFECTING

NORTH VIETNAM'S POLICY ON THE WAR TH VIETNAM

THE PROBLEM

To assess the factors affecting Hanoi's outlook on the var In Vietnam and to estimate Its probable course of action

CONCLUSIONS

primary alms are to develop North Vietnamlines and to extend Its control over Southits leaders seem to believe that the first of thesebeen scanted and must be given greater attention. They alsothe US presence in Vietnam is the major obstacle to theof their objectives.

still considers that It has the vili and basicprevail. But it also plainly realises that its position in the

xcluded from automatic downgrading and declassification

South has declined. In particular. It It apprehensive concerning Vletnamlxatlon; It fears that the longer the program goes on without effective challenge, the greater the likelihood that the GVB can develop the capability to hold its own withoutsubstantial US military presence.

this state of affaire, Hanoi has essentially threefirat, to undertake an all-out military effort, wouldlosses and greater risks than Hanoi seems willing tofor the next six months at least, the ConnunistB mightthat such action would slow the US departure rather than hastentime, however, as further US forces depart and as Hanoi hasto repair existing deficiencies, it might be tempted to seekdecisive results in nev large offensives.

second and, in our view, the likeliest course0 is torolonged war much along Even with this approach, they will wish to Inflictat lor. and pacification, to impose casualties on US troops,keep pressure on the South Vietnamese Armed Forces (RVNAF),possible occasional major tests. Thus, there could be fairlylater this spring or thereafter which might produce aitableRVSAF losses. The problem with this course froa Hanoi's pointis that it still involves relatively high casualties,strains of the war In North Vietnam and on the weakened Communist

apparatus In the South, and offers no certain hopeecisive success In the foreseeable future.

E. The third option, to negotiate an arrangenent which would speed US withdrawal, hasin th* past at leasteemed to the Communists to have more rlsXs than advantages. Hanoi probably fears teat any political formula that could win US withdrawal would also undermine the overall Communist position in the South- But given the uncertainin South Vietnam and the current Communist priority on getting US forcea out, Hanoi may see some utility in probing the possibility of some arrangement which It calculates would hasten US withdrawal or fixtimetable for such withdrawal. In this process, any concessions that the Communists might make would almost certainly be Halted and not aimed at an overall negotiated settlement.

DISCUSSION

1. Hanoi's alas arc to develop the North along "socialist" lines

and to extend Its control to the South, which from its point of view is

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an Integral part of its domain. Despite years of strenuous effort and sacrifice, neither goal seems close to realisation.

1/ When we refer tue mean the Vietnamese Communist Party, which has always regarded Itself as national in scope, not as an entity confined to what Is referred to as "North Vietnam-" Prom the date of its founding ko years ago, the prime objective of the Party has always been the acquisition of political control over all of Vietnam and some form of domination over Laos and Cambodia.

I. HANOI'S VIEW OF THE SITUATION IN SOUTH VIETHAM

2. From our perspective, the Communists are In trouble In South Vietnam- Their casualties still exceed their Infiltration and local recruitment rates. The quality of their forces is also declining, and the VC forces continue to depend heavily on HVA support- The morels of Communist cadres and soldiers has declined further. Their already troublesome supply problems are complicated by Cambodia's variable attitude toward the movement of Communist materiel across its Large areas of the South Vietnamese countryside are being denied to them, and this reduces their access to manpower and economic resources. These losses have also reduced Communist capabilities to maintain an effective political apparatus and to proselytlxe and gain political support. Although the people of South Vietnam remain politicallythey seem less disposed to cooperate with the Communists. But these are our views; the question Is whether the Communists see their situation in the same way.

3- We believe that to some extent they do- Though Communist statements and documents normally contain lists of shortcomings, thereore sombre tone following8 Tet offensive. Communist cadres have been roundly excoriated for their shortcomings, particularly In the political field, have been exhorted to do more, and have then been reproached for falling once again. In, COSVIfeemed to admit thst Communist capabilities had been considerably reduced. It contained the most explicit catalogue of Communist

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liabilities yet to appearigh-level Communist document. Thli haa continued toocoon these In captured documents and In the testimony of Conmunlst prisoners end ralllers. Finally, in December, General Clap pointed out that the Communists had Ignored many of the cardinal precepts ofpeople'snd declared It imperative to repair these faults even If this meant going on the defensive temporarily.

U. In South Vietnam, Hanoi has taken various actions to copt with its difflcultlea In the military field. In an effort to avoid th* heavy casualties associated with large-scale military actions, the Cooaunlets have resorted to tactics designed to conserve manpower. They have increasingly relied on small unit, sapper, and shelling actions directed against South Vletnaaese territorial security forces and Allied field positions and military Installations. They have sent five main force regiments into the Mekong Delta to bolster their eroding position. At the same time, thereoncerted effort to halt the erosion of guerrilla and local forces; indeed, in some areas it appears that NVA main force units are being broken up and assigned to lover echelons.

5. The Coaaunlsts seem to fear that they have overemphasised military action and neglected the political and subversive baa*. They haveignificant restructuring of their apparatus in South Vietnam, apparently designed to enhance its staying power. This restructuring consists of: (a) the movement of cadres Into government-held territory, often under the guise of defectors; (b) the transfer of experienced cadres from military to political bureaucracies; and (c)

the tightening up of the party structure by raiting standards and conducting purget. The Communists alao have stepped up efforts to subvert the South Vietnaaese people and military. And, In adeparture from past practice, manyerhaps most of the operatives are being assigned strategic or long term responsibilities instead of tactical functions. Finally, the Communists are attempting to refurbish and strengthen their mass organiiatlons.

6. Despite Hanoi's obvious concern with its problems, the Communists almost certainly believe that they enjoy some basic strengths andwhich will ultimately prove to be decisive. They see themselves as the only valid representatives of Vietnamese nationalism; in their eyes, the Saigon regime could not sustain itself if deprived of US support. The recent CVS military and political gains are probably not considered by Hanoi to have been either crippling or irreversible. Hand probably believes that its Infrastructure is Inherently mere durable than that of the GVN, although it must be bothered by the degree of political stability achieved in South Vietnam over the past few years and by the fact that the GVN, whatever Its efficiency, has now extended Its presencereater areaarger number of people than for several years. Militarily, the Communists attach considerableto controlling the adjacent Laotian and Cambodian border areas, which they probably believe can continue to serve as base areas and sanctuaries.

2/ See, "The Communist View of the Situation Inor our estimate of the situation in Laos.

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If US support Is withdrawn only gradually, Hanoibelieves that the GVN can be undermined sufficiently toCommunists to move from their rice roots positions to anof power. The Communists count heavily on their abilitiesareas of guerrilla war, terrorism, and political organizationto exploit basic vulnerabilities in the South vulnerabilities which they think will becomeas time passes. Hanoi must be heartened by Presidentto rally greater political support, by the GVH'sand by the general war vearlneas of the people of Hanoi probably also draws some encouragement from attemptspolitical figures In Saigon to exploit grievancesaspirations for peace, and by their increasing boldnessthe Thieu government. None of these vulnerabilitiesdecisive as long as US troops anchored the military effortup the Thieu regime. But with the US now moving out ofleaders probably are counting on better opportunitiesin the future and are bent on trying to be ready to exploit them.

II. HANOI'S VIEW OF US POLICY AND VTETNAMIZATION A. US Policy

assessment of US policy In Vietnam probably hasshifts in the pastonths. In the latter part, the Communists seemed to believe thereood chance

Soto

V. OUTLOOK

In Hanoi'* view, the US presence in South Vietnam is the msjor obstacle to the achievement of its goals. In attempting to get around this obstacle, Hanoi has three basic options: {a) undertaking another all-out military effort to break US will by Inflicting heavy casualties and exposing OVH military weaknesses; (b) prolonging the struggle in the hope that the South Vietnamese leadership cannot keep up the fight aa US force levels diminish; and (c) offering sufficient concessions in negotiations to speed the US withdrawal. The Communists can, of course, shift from one military option to the other, and in Hanoi's view, either could lead eventually to more substantive negotiations.

28. At present, Hanoi does not seem willing to pay the price and assume the risks likely to attend an all-out military effort. Into the heavy Communist casualties this would Involve, Hanoicalculates that, for the next six months at least, such action would slow, rather than hasten, US withdrawal and might lead to an escalation of the US military effort. In time, however, as further US forces depart and as Hanoi has more time to repair existingIt might be tempted to seek quick and decisive results in new large offensives.

29- Attempting to wear out US resolve through prolonged war Is more or less what the Communists are presently doing. This course puts substantially fever strains on their capabilities, but It still ties

down Caaaunlst manpower and reaourcaa In vhat could be an Indecisive struggle for an indefinite period. Hanoi might fear that this would further reduce its popular support among South Vietnamese and further erode its general position In the South. Moreover, though this approach complicates on-going QVN and US programs, including Vletnamltatlon, it is not likely to curtail them significantly.

30. Even if it adopted the option of prolonged struggle, Hanoi would probably believe it necessary toevel of allltary action sufficient to maintain preasur* on the Vlttnamltatlon andprograms and to inflict casualties on both RVNAF and US forces. Indeed, It is rather clear that the Communists are preparing for an early Increase in military activity. While theae activities willbe aimed at selected targets and involve relatively modestand commitment of forces, certain "key" targets might be hit hard. Some RVNAF units might be selected for attack, particularly in the Deltaorpsest of Vletnamltatlon; in addition, the Delta area appearsikely target for extensive attacks on the pacification program. Attacks by fire will probably increase andew coordinated aapper/main fore* attacks on tovns and cities might be attempted. But even in maintaining relatively low levels of warfare, significant losses would be incurred by the Communists; their force levels are likely to decline even further during the next six months,

ubstantial increase in their rate of infiltration and recruitment in South Vietnaa.

31. Despite the risks snd costsrolonged struggle, Hanoi's actions over the past year and the policy statements emanating from the regime's leaders strongly indicate that this is the course the Communists Intend to pursue. They seem to have concludedore measured and balanced approach to the war ia necessary to preserve their military structure, to strengthen their Party apparatus, and to rebuild popular support. This approach apparently sterna froa two basic Judgments on Hanoi's part. First, they see an increasing possibility that the US/OVN effort will continue at effective levels for some indefinite period; second, they believe that somewhere In the evolving situation there willossibilityudden change or critical opportunity which they must be in position to exploit.

32- While we believe that the Communists are buckling down for the long haul and that they will not try to slter the military situation in South Vietnam decisivelye also believe that Hanoi is not satisfied with the way the war is going. Given the evident strains of the war in Worth Vietnac and the decline in the Communist position in the South relative to the GVN, the Communists might be tempted within the year to seek an arrangement at Paris which would hastentated period. So far, at least, the Communists have been unwilling to use negotiations for anything more than tactical purposes. Hanoi probably fears that any political formula which could win US withdrawal would also undermine the overall Communist position

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and objectives in the South, and therefore Bay consider that ssrlous negotiations ousteakening of the US position and the strengthening of the Communist position in the South.

33- Nonetheless, Hanoi's presence In Paris and Le Due Tho's recent return thereontinuing interest In negotiations. Although Hanoi probably harbors llttls hope of reaching an overall political settlement,oalition government. It may see seme utility In probing the possibility of some arrangement which It calculates would hasten US withdrawal orimetable for such withdrawal.

3k. inimum, Hanoi would of course hope that such action would sharpen US-CVN differences and stimulate antiwar sentiment in the US. Any concessions which Hanoi might make In the coming months will almost certainly be limited, and aimed at speeding US withdrawals rather than toward an overall settlement.

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