Ml-WHIAHUM FOR THE DIRECTOR
3UBJECT : The Com! or Political Struggle for South Vlotnnm
1. The long awaited end ouch heralded third Communist offensive haa faUeo well abort of its advance billing. Io contrast to repeated warningsuBln country-wide attack, approaching or even exceeding the Tet offensive, tbe current effort baaairly cautious affair. Do doubt aucb of this la due to increasingly effective Allied spoiling operation*. In any event, tbe bulk of the evidence Indicates that the Communists are not nowajor military offensive; moat of the action baa been sporadic, vltfa considerable emphaals on attacks by fire, and only occasionally followed by limited ground probes. The present effort Is more prolonged but leas lotenae than the Tet or Hay offensives.
2. Tba pap between the ominous predictions and tbe aubaequeot reality has ltd to considerable speculation. On* vlev Is that the Coenrunlsts haveear disastrous defeat and have been forced to postpone If not cancel their plansajor offensive. ontrary opinion is that tbe climax is yet to come, and that ve have only witnessed the preliminariesassive assault, ultimately against SalRon.
3> In our view neither of these interpretationsccurate. While there will probably be lulls and new bursts during the next several months. Communist military action is not likely to rise significantly above the level of the past aontb. It now appears that the Ccacunlets havetrategic decision to conserve tbelr forces, while trying to maintain intermittent pressures sufficient to preoccupy Allied troops In or near the urban areas. Further, this decision, we believe, rests on Hanoi's reappraisal of certain fundamental Coomunlst strengths and weaknesses eappraisal which was probably conducted at the highest level during Le Due Tho'e absence from Paris la July.
k. In terms of manpower and materiel, tbe Communist forces are still capableormidable effort. But tbe
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political ana military leaders must now be acutely aware that such an undertaking involves extremely high costs, cannot be recycled Indefinitely, and would almost certainly not win tbe war. On the other hand, the Coosiunists are quite capable, without the expense and risks of an extraordinary military effort,
of enduring the next six months or more without seriously
Impairing their position In South Vietnam.
In theseassive military move would only be Justified If it promised significant psychological and political dividends in terns of Hanoi's basic objectives: breaking the "aggressive will" of the OS and destroying the GVfl. It would be foolish to rule outove; Hanoi could welligh political return not apparent or convincing to others. In our view, however, the Comraunleto can no longer have very high expectations that their objectives can be advanced by large scale military attacks. The Tet attacks were unique, andense an aberration. They yielded Important gains for Hanoi, but It is increasingly unlikely thatituation can be duplicated.
Now, Allied forces and tbe general populace have been fully prepared for further offensives by the Ccnnunlsts. US
opinion to sane extent at leaat haa been conditioned to expect an intensification of the fighting. The record of the last few months should raise doubts in Hanoi whether tbe Parts talks can be directly Influenced by battlebr evenn South Vietnam. And one Important benchmark has been passedthe political conventionsignificant turn in US policy.
further consideration must be of BrowingHanoi's calculations. Unless the North Vietnamesebyapid settlement In the next threewill have to dealew American administration. might be tempted toolitical move or evenmilitary effort In an attempt to sway the election.
But they could have no assurance of the net result; Hanoi is in no better position than anyone else to guess what policies will prevail after the election. In this context, it would be prudent for the North Vietnamese toew administration with its forces not seriously weakened, rather than expend its sMpower and resources trying to influence an outgoing administration.
sum, we agree with the remarks, recentlyPresident Thleu, to the effect that the present period isone: the military aspects of tbe struggle will
gradually be overshadowed by the political aspects. The military effort will be supplementary to the political and diplomatic struggle. We believe that Hanoi Intends toegotiated settlement; the optimum period for this settlement opened onarch and in Hanoi's view will probably not last much beyond the first six monthsew administration. Thus, we foresee an Intensive political-diplomatic struggle coming, one which could produce some dramatic surprises.
9. Io Paris we expect tbe pace to quicken somevbat. Since Hanoi Is not certain of tbe character of tbe nextits Immediate aim will be to commit the OS more firmly to the continuation of the talks, soew administration could not easily abandon then. Some concession, ifosmetic one, will probably be made behind the scenes to whet the interest of the US team. Probably Hanoi believes there is still an outside chance that the bombing will be ended before the American elections and it will work for this la Paris. Hanoi's general objective still is to move the negotiations onto highly charged substantive issuesbe role of the Front, tbe withdrawal of American troops, etc.which unnerve Salgoa and create divisions between the US and the GVN. Tbe re would also be some advantage la advancing the talks soew administration would be able to dispose of
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tbe Vietnam problem by making some clear-cut docIsloos- Major concessions to tbe American position on reciprocal de-escalation, however, seem unlikely before the elections. If such concessions are Intended, they would probably be reservedew
10. Within South Vietnam, the Cosaunists Intend to go forward with the political preparations for an end to the flubting. They will develop two new instruments: the urban oriented 'Vietnam Alliance fornd the administrative apparatus in the rural areas known as revolutionary liberation ecanittees. Thus far these two instruments have beenublic Identity separate from the National Llberatioo Front. Though this calculated ambiguity cay be soaewnat confusing to the rank and file. It permits the Canonists to keep open several options when serious negotiationsolitical settlement begin. The general aimcoalition" government underlies the creation of these new devices, but bow the various pieces fit together is open for bargaining, in any case, theare laying the groundwork forhare of political power when tho fighting stops.
11. Soma painful choices, however, confront the CcBamunists as they proceedettlement. One is whether to press
ease fire. With tbelr forces Intact and in control of large areas in tbeease fire night seem on attractive move, especially since tbe OVN seems to fear it. The CcBEJunista would count heavily on tbe widespread popular fearsease fire could only mean that the CoBasuniste would be eventually given some political position in Saigon. On tbe other band, by agreeing to cease fire, tbe Coamunlsts would lose Important leverage on tbe QVft and the US and would then be in the position of having to deal, sooner rather than later, with the present Saigon authorities. We simply cannot be sure bow they would weigh tbe prospective gains and losses. Butove could come at any time.
12. There Is one further problem which Hanoi nay have already begun to mull over. What If, despite serious negotiations continued military action,hange in US administrations, Hanoi cannotettlement which,inimum, provides an opportunity for winning power in political competition. In other words, what if US terns are simply too harsh and Then forth Vietnam must face tbe prospect of reducing its own minimum terms, or gearing its military strategyuch longer war than it now foresees or intends. An awareness