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

Created: 2/5/1970

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x. hflmoi's view of the situation iii south h

ii. hanoi's view op us policy aid vtjjn*ami7ati0k 7

a. us policy 7

is. vietnamizatjor. 8

ih. 'xmestic mchm vietnaigss factors11

a. the post-no leadership and policy

b- party authority and discipline

0. fceouosilc conditions

t). manpower strains

k. popular attitudes

tv. impact of the sino-soviet conflictl6

v. 16

C KNTRAL ISTBliI. IOESCE AGENCY

50

arjBJBCT: sniehe outlook from hanoi: factors affsctinq

NORTHOLICY on THS war in VIETNAM

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To assess the factors affecting Hanoi's outlook or the wax in Vietnam and to estimate its probable course of action

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A. Hanoi's primary aims ore to develop Horth Vietnam along "socialist" linos and to extend Its control over South Vietnan. Currently, ita leaders seen to believe that the first of these goals hnn boon scanted and must be given greater attention. Thoy also believe thatUS presence in Vietnam ia the major obstacle to theof their objectives.

p.. Hanoi still considers that it has the will and baaic strengths to prevail. But it also plainly realizes that its position in the

South has declined. In particular, itpprehensive concerningl fears that Uie longer the program gees on without effective challenge, the greater the livelihood that tho GVTC can develop the capability to hold its ownubstantial US military presence.

G. Tji this state of affairs, Hanoi has essentially three options. The first, to xmdertake an all-out military effort, would involve heavier losses and greater risks than Hanoi socms willing to contemplate. Moreover, for the next 3ix months at least, the Communists mightthat such action would slow the US departure rather than hasten it. In time, however, as further US forces depart and as Hanoi has more time to repair existing deficiencies. It might be tempted to sees quick ant? decisive results :in new largo offensives.

1). Tho Kucoiid and, in our view, the likeliest course for the Communists0 is torolonged wer much along present lines. Even with this approach, they will wish to inflict setbacks to Vietnamieation anr: pacification, to impose casualties on U3 troops, and tc keep pressure on the South Vietnamese Armed Forces (KVNAF),possible occasional major tests. Thus, there could be fairly sharp fighting later this spring or thereafter which might produce sizable US and HVKA? losses. The problem with this course from Hanoi's point of view is that it still involves relatively high casualties, prolongs the strains cf the war in North Vietnam and on the weakenedrw,raluH in tho South, and offers nc certain hopeecisive success in the foreseeable future.

K. The third option, to negotiate an arrangement which would speed US withdrawal, hasn the past at leasteemed to the Communists to have more risks than advantages. Hanoi probably fears that 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 forces out, Hanoi may see seme utility in probing the possibility of some arrangement which it calculates would hasten US withdrawal orimetable for such withdrawal. In this process, any concessions that the Communists might make would almost certainly be limited and not aimed at an overall negotiated settlement.

DISCUSSION

1. Hanoi's aims stp 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 realization.

l/ When we refer toe mean the Vietnamese Communist Party, which has always regarded itself as national in scope, not as an entity confined to what ls referred to as "North Vietnam." From the date of its founding years ago, the prime objective of the Party has always been the acquisition of political control ever all of Vietnam and seme form of dominationos and Cambodia.

I. HANOI'SF THS SITUATION IK SOUTH VIETNAM

?. 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 al.so declining, and the VC forces continue to depend heavily on MVA support. The siorsles i:- riw'y troublesome supply problems are complicated by CambofJia's variable

'..it-wi.'Ccnmunistcross Hr:

tory. 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 proselytize end gain political support. Although the people of fiouth 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 beer, exhorted to do more, and have then been reproached for falling once again. InOSVKeemed to admit that Communist capabilities had been considerably reduced- It contained the most explicit catalogue of Ctsounist

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liabilities yet to appearigh-level Communist document. This lias continued toommon theme in captured documents and in the testimony of Communist prisoners and ralliers. Finally, in December, General Giap 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.

I*. In South Vietnam, Hanoi has taken various actions to copedifficulties in the military field. In an effort to avoidcasualties associated with large-scale militarycvc. r.

have increasingly relied on small unit, sapper, and shelling actions directed against South Vietnamese territorial security forces and Allied field positions and military installations. They havo 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 ?IVA main force units are being broken up and assigned to lower echelons.

5- The Communists seem to fear that they have overemphasized military action and neglected the political and subversive base. Ihey 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-rteld territory, often under the guise of defectors; (b) Lhe transfer of experienced cadres fromolitical bureaucracies;}

the tightening up of the parly structure by raising standards and conducting purges- The noiGiGunists also have stepped up efforts to subvert the South Vietnamese people and mililary. And, in adeparture from past practice, manyerhaps mostf the operatives are being assigned strategic or long term responsibilities instead of tactical functions. Finally, the Communists are attempting Lo refurbishtrengthen their mass organizations.

6. Despite Hanoi's obvious concern with its problems, the Communis almost certainly believe that they enjoy some basic strengths andwhich will ultimately prove to ee decisive. Thoy 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 CV3 military and political gains are probably not considered by Hanoi to have been either crippling or irreversible. Hanoi probably believes thai its infrastructure is inherently more durable than that, of the CTM, 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

il '. it. . . - sv! al-h iu.poi'-

tanee to controlling the adjacent Laotian and Cambodian border areas,

which they probably believe can continue to serve as base areas and 2/

sanctuaries."

2/ Seelftmuntfri. View of the Situation in heos," cl'lacs.

Even if U3 support Is withdrawnradually, Hanoi almost certainly believes that the GVN can be undermined sufficiently to enable the Ocnraunists; to mcoe few their rite roots positions to an eventual seizure of power- The Co-cnuniaLs count heavily on iheir abilities in tho areas of guerrilla war, terrorise, and poli'-ical organization and agitation to exploit basic vulnerabilities ix the South Vietnamese situationulnerabilities which they think will become more pronounced as Lime passes. Hanoi wast be heartened by President Thieu's failure to rally greater political support, by the GVN's economic difficulties, and by the general war weariness of the people of South Vietnam. Hanoi procably also draws some encouragement from attempts by oppositionist political figuresigon to exploit grievances and popular aspirations tm peace, aiut by their increasing boldnoss in criticizing the Thieu government- None of these vulnerabilities has proved decisive a3 long as US troops anchored the military effort and shored up the Thieu regii-.e. 3ut with the US now moving out of Vietnam, Hanoi's leaders probablyounting on better opportunities to develope future and are lent on trying to be reacy to exploit them.

II. UW OP U5 I'd-ICY ANT) VIK'NAMI/.A'nON A. US Policy

8. Hanoi's assessment erf US policy in Vietnam probably has undergone several shifts in the pastonths. In the latter part-nd early lyftj. the 'Jofcwx/.toereood chance

that the us would choose to extract itself from the conflict on the best terms it could get, but extract it soli' ir. any event. in the first months of the nixon administration, this belief seemed to be manifested in two major political moveshe announcement in maynew" ten-point peace proposal, and the formation in juneprovisional revolutionary government of south vietnam." both seemed to reflect increased interest in pursuing possible us concessions by exploiting the negotiating track.

9- around mid-year, however, as it became evident to hanoi that washington was not ready to settle forface-saver" in southrolonged stalemate ensued in paris. hanoi came to realize that, earring additional communist military pressure or political concessions, the us intended to leave only gradually and underin which the gvn and south vietnamese armed forces (kvraf) would he strengthened sufficiently to meet the communist threat with minimal us military supporthe program of vietnaralzatlon.

3. vietnamlzation

10. although hanoi almost certainly still believes that its will to persist, over the long iv-nX remains stronger than that of the us, the communists see themselves, perhaps for the first time, confronted with avi rallied strategy designed to challenge this fundamental assumption. hanoi's view, reflected in practically every public and private

device through vhich the us plans to prolong tho war, to maintain large forces in vietnam for an extended period, and to perpetuate the thieu regime. tho communists may see the remaining us military presence not only as large enough toormidable obstacle to future communist military action but also, by virtue of its essential combat support make-up, as being less vulnerable to heavy casualties. hanoi probably fears that this may substantially reduce antiwar sentiments in the us, thus giving the administration considerably morein its timetable for total withdrawal and in its general policy and goals in south vietnam.

11. hanoi may calculate that the vietnamization program is inherently fragile and likely to become increasingly so as additional us troops are withdrawn. but hanoi probably also recognizes that the program may work well enough and long enough to give theair chance of holding its ownubstantial us military presence, and that tho longer the program remains unchallenged, the greater the danger that both the south vietnamese populace and the communist cadres will consider that it is succeeding. for this reason alone, the communists are likely to seek out opportunities to inflict setbacks, however minor, to the program.

Ii'. thus far, the communists have not subjected the rvkaf to major tests. hanoi probably considers that developments to dale provide insufficient evidence of the us timetable for withdrawal or the jivkaf's

ability to fill the gaps left by departing US units. Hanoi may be waiting until more US units have departed, in the expectation that this will provide better opportunities with lesser risks, and that Communist forces will be better prepared to strike. At some point, however, Hanoi will probably feel compelled either to engage the RVNAP seriously, or to face up to the prospectonsiderably prolonged struggle.

13- Hanoi probably views tho GVN's pacification effort as an integral and key element in the Vletnamizatlon strategy. During tho past year and one-half, tho GVN has sharply reduced the population controlled or influenced by tho Communists. esult, Communist access to local manpower and sources of supply is being restricted, the mobility of many Communist units limited, and local cadre exposed and demoralized. Hanoi may well believe that GVN pacification progress is essentially fragile and can be rolled back once US forces are out of the way. However, lt may now feel compelled to recognize that further contraction of Communist-controlled areas, orrolongedof the current situation, will limit the ability of its forces to confront the, to launch major attacks on population centers, or ever, torolonged struggle. Propaganda, prisoners, ralliers, and captured documents indicate that Hanoi does realize this danger and plans to devote increasing resources to countering the pacification effort.

III. DOMESTIC NORTH VIETNAMESE FACTORS

A. The Post-Ho Leadership and Policy

ih. The death of Ho Chi Minhevere loss to the Communist cause. Ho was widely regardedationalist, and he tried to stand above the terrorism and treachery of the Communist resistance in the pro independence period and the subsequent excesses ol1 the Hanoi None of his heirs has his charisma; without Ho, the regime losse some of its appoal as the defender of Vietnamese nationalism. Ho's heirs probably understand that they lack his authority and cannot match his ability to extract the extra sacrifices and effort from the cadre and people in tho North.

15- It would be surprising if Ho's death has not introduced some uncertainties within the top leadership. Although his disciples have been working together for common goals for nearly four decados, they almost certainly have held differing views on key issues over the years and it would be most unusual if they were devoid of personal ambitions. Ho's commanding presence did not Btifle debate, but he was an umpire whose rulings were accepted, and his authority served toasic unity in support of agreed policies. In the absence of aleader within the collective, the achievement of this unity may now become moro difficult.

Id- As yet, no single individual seems to have emerged as the dominant member of the Politburo. ase can be made that either Le Duan, the Parly First Secretary, or Truong Chinh, Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee, is first among equals. ather shadowy figure, rarely emerging except on important occasions, Le Duan was ranked first in published listings of the leadership at Ho's funeral, is frequently quoted (along with Ho) in articles and speeches by other Party Leaders, and gave the keynote speech on the hothof the Party earlier this month. On the other hand, Truong Chinh has boon seen much more frequently in public since Ho's funeral. Indeed, his star has been on the rise again sincehen heajor speech which implicitly scored the lack of preparation, particularly in the political and organizational fields, in prosecuting the war in the South and in attempting to build socialism in the North. There are, moreover, other potential claimants to the number onenotably Phsmng whoong-time personal friend of Ho's and is currently ranked third in the Politburo.

IT- In any event, we see no indication that the leadership is immobilized ortate of disarray over policy differences. The shift in Hanoi's line in respect to the war in the South has not beent has evolvedonsiderable period. This has probably

3/ Truong Chinh was one of the founders of the Vietnamese Communist Party- Ine was made the scapegoat for the regime's ill-fated land reform policies and removed from his post as Socrctory General oi' the Party.

served to allow more time for accommodation and to mute the impact of Ho's death on the leadership.

D- Party Authority and Discipline

before Ho died, Hanoi seemed concerned thatand discipline had declined and that an unhealthy degreeslippage had taken place. In effect, the regime seemsadmitting that the Party has been slack in exercising its role"vanguard" and that this lias ledack of responsivenessdirectives across the board. To improve the Party apparatus,is relying on exhortations, self-criticism, some reshufflingand an increased emphasis on the first principledeological purity. In the recent heavy emphasisParty's key role in guiding tho military effort, there iseed to improve morale and tighten discipline inservices. These problems are not critical enough toregime's viability, out they do go to the heart of theand probably add to the urgency with which the regimeits efforts to internal affairs.

0. Keonomic Conditions

economic situation has improved only slightly sincehalt. Distribution bottlenecks are common, shortagesgoods are endemic, rice substitutes continuemake up a

substantial part of thet, human and material resources are ill-utilized, and import requirements remain high. Many ofesult of the bombing, some are Inherent In theand ideological rigidities associated vith Communist states in general, and some have beer, aggravated by bad weather. riof report on0 economic plan suggests that emphasis will be put on production of food and other consumer goods, but little Improvement is likely to result so long as the war continues, flcrth Vietnam has alwaysoor country, however, and the current stringencies are not critical, nor arc they likely to bocomo so as long as Moscow and Poking continue to provide assistance to offset shortfalls in production.

D. Manpower Strains

20. Horth Vietnam clearly has felt the manpower pinch caused by its massive infiltration effort from7 to ine country has sufficient manpower to maintain essential economic and security functions in Horth Vietnam and to increase support to the wars in South Vietnam and Laos should it desire to do so. But the quantitative aspect is only part of the story. Hanoi must consider the longer term impact on the strength and vigor of its society of the death or maiming of its men at rates which ir.89 surpassed the annual total of physically fit males reaching draft age. Such sacrifices would probably be acceptable to Hanoi if they achieved an early and decisive result; but they would almost certainly begin to produce profound social and

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political consequences if extendedong period. More immediately, the war has "brought substantial dislocations and strain on the population. Reallocations of manpower have resultedecline in efficiency and production, and. the effort to replace heavy combat losses haseterioration In the quality of the troops and cadres dispatched to 3outh Vietnam. We believe that concern for this situation helped lead Ifanoi3 to adopt tactics designed to conserve manpower and in the latter part to reduce its infiltration rate.

E. Popular Attitudes

The cumulative dislocations of the war seem to haveeneral domestic letdown within Horth Vietnam. This letdown has in increased as the direct pressures of the war on the population have lessened. With the combing halts, the advent of negotiations, andsome popular hopeettlement, people have tended to relax. Ho's death probably has led to soma further decline in morale. In general, the regime's claims of one success after another probably are wearing thin, particularly ir. face of the enormous number of youths sent South and never seen again ana the increasing number of maimed soldiers who have returned to Worth Vietnam.

A decline in discipline has also shown itselfariety of ways, none of them overly significant by itself, but collectively of some consequence. Cupidity seems to "te on the rise, fed cy bureaucratic

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Inefficiencies. There seems toenera! disposition, extending even into the Part/ and array, to evade none of the regime's regulations. Black raarkcteering, hooliganism, and similar broaches of lav and order may have increased. Military recruitment is apparently running into some trouble, andesult the regime has resortedropaganda canrpoign to ur.courage enlistments.

23* Hanoi has manifested Its concern by strengthening its internal security apparatus and procedures, and it has dwelt regularly on the need to heighten "revolutionary vigilance" and to uncoverplots." Some of this, of course, is the normal use of exaggeration tooint. But it appears to run somewhat deeper and toefinite effort to root out even latent signs of disquietude in every quarter. In some oases, the regime's approach Isighten the screws, tut there also are Bigns of greater efforts to reduce pent up grievances by giving more attention to the welfare of the people. Such measures will probably be sufficient to keep the protlen withir. bounds. But the leadership has major domestic problems which have caused it to give more of its attention to the Horth than conditions of recent years have permitted.

TV. IMPACTHRrTJCT

2u. The excesses of the Cultural devolution in China and the attendant worsening of relations betveen Moscow and Peking raised the

spectre in Hanoi of the termination oi' vital Soviet munitionschina rati the possibility of diminished US restraint inwar againstas stopped, and supplies

have continued to arrive alteit with occasional delayseven during

been able throughout toalanced political position between Moscow and Peking-

25- At this juncture, therefore, the Horth Vietnamese must be reasonably certain that tbeand China will continue to provide adequate support forhe economy oi" the North and the war in the South. Moreover, Hanoi yrcbably "believes that even under conditions of helghtt-ned tensions, bi>th Moscow and Peking would make every effort to

?6. bven in the event of larger scale arid more widespread Sinc-Soviet border fighting, Hanoi probably would have adequate amounts of

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of consu^ptioi.e.ral k'-.n'.ha whileituation could be assessed. If, however, siich fighting ver* to continue for very many weeks, Hanoi

the North Viotriamese leadersdoom it prudent further to scale down the level of military operations In the South, oroveease-fir*.

V. OUTLOOK

27- In Hanoi's view, the US presence in South Vietnam is the major obstacle to the achievement of its goals. In attempting to get around this obstacle, Hanoi has three baaic options: (a) undertaking another all -out military effort to break US will by inflicting heavy casualties and exposing GVN military weaknesses; (b) prolonging the struggle in the hopo that the South Vietnamese leadership cannot keep up the fight as US force lovels diminish; and (c) offering sufficient concessions in negotiations to speed the US withdrawal. The Communists can, cf 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 tho 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 wouia 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.

Attempting to wear out US resolve through prolonged war is more or less what the Communists are presently doing. This course puts substantially fewer strains on their capabilities, but it still ties

down Communist manpower and resources in what 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 OVK and US programs, including VietnamiwitAon, 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 military action sufficient to maintain pressure on the Vietnamisation andprograms and to inflict casualties on both RVHAF and US forces. Indeed, it is rather clear that the Communists are preparing for an early increase in military activity. While these activities willbe aimed at selected targets and involve relatively modestand commitment of forces, certain "key" targets might be hit hard. Some RVHAF units might be selected for attack, particularly in the Deltaorpsest of Vletnamiaation; in addition, the Delta area appearsikely target for extensive attacks on the pacification program. Attacks by fire will probably increase andew coordinated sapper/main force attacks on towns 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 Vietnam-

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the risks and costsrolonged struggle,over the past year and the policy statements emanating fromleaders strongly indicate that this is the course theto pursue. They seem to havo concludedore measuredapproach to the war is necossary to preserve theirto strengthen their Party apparatus, and to rebuild This approach apparently stems from two basic Judgmentspart. First, they see an increasing possibility that thewill continue at effective levels for some indefinitethey believe that somewhere in the evolving situation there

willossibilityudden change or critical opportunity which they must be in position to exploit.

we believe that the Communists are buckling down forhaul and that they will not try to alter the military situationVietnam decisivelye also believe that Hanoi iswith Llie way the war is going. Given the evident strainswar in North Vietnam and the decline in the Communist positionSouth relative to the GVN, the Communists might be temptedyear to seek an arrangement at Paris which would hastentated period. Sc far, at least, the Communistsunwilling to use negotiations for anything more than Hanoi probably fears that any political formula whichUS withdrawal would also undermine the overall Communist position

and objectives in the South, and therefore may consider that serious negotiations musteakening of the U3 position and the strengthening of the Communist position in the South.

33- Nonetheless, Hanoi'6 presence In Paris and Le Due Tho's recent return thereontinuing interest in negotiations. Although Hanoi probably harbors little hope of reaching an overall political settlement,oalition govensaent, it may see some utility in probing the possibility of some arrangement which it calculates would hasten US withdrawal orimetable for such withdrawal.

3h- inimum, Hanoi vould of course hope that such action would sharpen US-GVJi 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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