THE VIETNAM SITUATION

Created: 6/6/1968

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

^ Deputy" Director, Central^

r.iThomas'L' Huohei^iho'Di'Cclor'of' Intelligence end Peseorth,-

Gen.arroll, ^the;efcr.se Intelligence Agency v'

onor,'ihe Director, Nationol _Siscurity Agency'; ,

*V ' ' . '^ " "

r.rown, Jr* the Assiitartt Goncra! Manager, Atomic Energy Com-

liicn or revolation ofn any manner'to'an unauthorised person is prohibiten

This malarial contains information affeding ihe National Detents of the United Slate* meaning ef the espionage, tha irons/

prohibited.

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THE VIETNAM SITUATION

THE PROBLEM

To estimate probable developments in the Vietnam situation over the next six months or so.

ASSUMPTIONS

For the purposethis, estimate we make two assumptions, thai the discussion* Iwtwccn ihe US and Hanoi are no! broken offin this period and that ihe US does not resume full-scale bombing of North Vietnam.

CONCLUSIONS

Vietnamese Communists are .striving through theirstrategy inecisive result in the war thiswill coordinate intensified military and political operationsSouth with diplomatic moves, all designed to disintegrateof the GVN. intensify pressures for peace within the t'S.about ma|or concession* in the Paris talks.

forces arc suffering extraordinary militarywith massive replacements from ihe North, they willigh level of military pressures during thedo not believe, however, that the Communist military effortwill be decisive. ARVN's fighting effectiveness willbe seriously weakened, and the Saigon government, despilepolitical and administrative weaknesses, will probablycapability to cope, at least minimally, with the problems of

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C. Nevertheless, developments in the Paris talks or in US politics could severely test the GVN's stability and even its survival. Saigon will pressough stand by the US and for major concessions from Hanoi. Moves toward compromises, whether at US initiative or Hanoi's, could touchevere crisis in Saigon, especiallyormul political role for the NLF appeared likely. In the end, Saigon's appraisal of US policy, in the context of the Presidential elections, could he decisive in ihe continuing viability of the GVN.

D For its pari, the regime in Hanoi is feeling the strains of the long and costly struggle These will intensify if the war is protracted at the present high levels. While we expect no early shift in strategy, if, hy year's end. the situation has noturn in its favor Hanoi will probably he obliged once again lohorough review of its options.

DISCUSSION

he beginning of formal diplomatic contacts in Pans hasew phase and added new complexity to the Vietnam problem for (Ik* near lurm at least, the struggle within South Vietnam is still ihe predormnanl factor, butst the negotiating table will become increasingly important.Hanoi* calculations and especially the mood and outlook in Saigon.

I. THE COMMUNIST POSITION

umber of (adorn have ltd ihe Vietnamese Communists into the priM-nl phase of fighting and talking- Ever sun- Ihe US intervened in force, ihev have issumed that the war would have tu culminate in wnne kind of negotiations, but they were determined lo avoid tuch talks until their battleBeld position peimttted themegotiateosition of apparent strength.5 winter-spring offensive, they believed, would achieveosition. Having shifted the focal point of their operations to the whan areas and generally intensified theii military pressures they .mlicipate tliat live confidence andof the CVN and the ARVN wul be badly shaken if not demolished,rjc parts of nir.il irr.ir iv illrom CVN control,lor Ihe GVN will fade, and that the US will be demoralized bv these setbacks and by the prospectong, costly effort to regain lost ground,S election year they apparently expect the overall political/mi liliirv results will cause the US to seek an end to the war on terms favorable to the Communists

ight-TalkTriiis. Hanoi expects that the present phase, laslmg perhapshange in the L'S Administration, svill prose decisive in its revolutionary struggle. Communist force* svill try to maintain continuous military

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pressures especially around cities and towns, erode tbe pacification program in the countryside, and. it limes and places of their choosing, launch major offhrusts. Hanoi will coordinate these intensified militiry and political operations in tbe South with diplomaticll designed to disintegrate the fabric of Ihe CVN, intensify pressure* (or peace within. and bring about major concessions in the Parti talks.

Military Capabilities

i. In terms of capabilities to sustain this fight-talk strategy, the next few months ;ire likely to he critical. Since last fall ihe Communist forces have made notable gains in firepower, andandr.it their force structure through an unptcce-dented level of infiltration from the Norlh. From mid-February until early May thereelative lull in large-scale Communist oflensive operations, andforces have been recruiting, refitting, and regrouping.emit of those activities, plus the large number of replacements and new units now in the pipeline, and intensified recruiting in the countryside. Communist forces will he capable oferies of major attacks between now and the fall.

main thrusts will probably be against targets of politicalpecial effort is already underway against Saigon,tactics may be applied against other key provincial centersto penetrate urban areas may be followed at some stage bymore direct assaults. The present pattern of infiltration, current troop

and weatherajor eflort in the Central Highlands fairlyenewed effort in the Oa Nang area, and perhaps the eastern DMZ during the summer.

the Mime time, ihe Communist* will have to face problems ol theirwill limit the extent to which they can effectively carry out at leastIheir plans. The problem of preparing and executing major offensivesareas has beeome mote complex and difficult, and the possibilitysurprise has been reduced. Allied counteroperations andto disrupt Communist plans and impose heavy costs unanuary have been extraordinary, and largeenemyuch as al Kite Sanh. have proved highly vulnerable toThe miallly of Viet Cong forces, particularly the guerrillas,have declined somewhat, and the increasing reliance on Northhas allowed let* ami less time for combat training in thewilh terrain, ind assimilation into existing units. There areproblems of morale, though the Communist defectionidlthese problems could be aggravated if costly military operations do not hiearly peace. Despite an increase in logistical capability from theLaos, as well as in-owntry. il willajor problem for theittpply Urge forces in forward positions over extended periods ofiIk- Communis, have to calculate that their intensified military

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operation* could cause the US to resume inll-'i al< or at least augmented bombing over the North, thus adding to their problems of repair and rchabllilation.

sum. ve do not believe that the Communists can succeed indecisive defeat on US/AflA'N forces on any Urge scale or across anyNor are Communist forces strong enough to seize and hold urbanan extended period. But they can create great disruption and turmoilabout the destruction of parts of the areas attacked. Moreover,will probably be able totrong position in much of

Politkol factors

for their political position, the North Vietnamese leaders arcconfident that their position in South Vietnam and in Paris is athai they are bcttci able to withstand pressures for peace than thethey can afford to wait for elections in the US without fcur of seriousm their combat effectiveness, chat they cannot be defeated inand that the US will be constrained from escalation and willto moveompromise settlement, which in itself will threatenof the gosemnient in Saigon.

evertheless, in our view, theie aie good reasons for Hanoi to have doubts oser the future. In North Vietnam there arc the cumulative strains of the war resulting in part from (lie large combat losses of the past two years andby the current infiltration rale. Aside from (his heavy drain on North Vietnamese manpower, (here is no doubt that the bombing in the North severely (asked North Vietnam'scapabilities and constant strain and pies-sureork long hoursodest diet piodiiccd some lowering of mor.ile in the North While Hanoi's control mechanism haseciuatety with these problems, the regime could hardly contemplate an indefinite prolongation of (lie war along current lines with confidence- and assurance.

Hanoi the position of the CVN may appear precarious but thecannot be sineollapse is inevitable by any early date.Hanoi has reason to be concerned over its failure to developpopular support let alonegeneral uprising" inCommunist lorccs liave not been able to sustain the "eonlcalled for after Tet. and the tactical initiative in some areas hasAlhed forces. And the political atmosphere in the US prolxiblv seemsand ambiguous to Hanoi than in the period from (he TetPresident Johnsons address ofarch-

balance, it would appear that tiie Consrnunists ran and wilt curry outmilitary aod political campaign at least (hiough the summer.situation in Smith Vietnam is nut likely to improve much, if ut all. for

Hanoi by (he end of the summer, and it may be worse, fn any case, we believe Ihe military campaign will not by itselfecisive result. Thus. Ihe outcome of the total Communist effort will depend on such politicalas the viability of the GVN in face of [lie Communist onslaught and on the course of the talks in Paris.

II. THE GVN POSITION

Tel offensive, the continuing intense Communist military andand especially the Paris talks have added new dimensions lo thein South Vietnam. South Vietnamese doubts of the future haveincreased sharply, and there is considerable concern about thedepth of the US commitment. Despite some tightening of Ihe ranksund outside the government, the total response of the GVN has notshape, and the non-Communist political forces have still notkind of political cohesion that would permit the leadership lo act within the new situation. These factors tend to reinforce one another andthe government. On the other hand, the South Vietnamese leadersno tendency toward panic or political extremism and thus far atmore inclined to look for ways to strengthen the government andwar effort.

Notionol Leadership

We consider the chancesignificant increase in governmental cohesion and national political unity to he slight over the next six months. Longstanding divisive factors continue to be strong and the problems created by theto constitutional government have added new aspects to the rivalries between civilians und military, within the military, and among the numerous civilian political and social groupings. Meanwhile, neither the new constitutional In-stitutions nor the three national "fronts" founded just after the Tel offensive appear to have mobilized any appreciable degree of mass popular support behind the government.

On the positive side, President Thieu has strengthened his image andwilhm Ihe Assembly and among the civilian politicians, lie appears in-creasingly committed to enlarging the role ofhe government, despite the conflict this raises with many of the seniorew Prime Minister. Tran Van Huong, has been appointed, and his prospective Cabinet includes sev-eral civilians who, like Huong,easure of popular support, ll is thus more broadly based than its predecessor and has more prestige. This, together with ihe President's apparent interest in asserting his own role more strongly, could lead, in time, lo more vigorous and effective government

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Optimism on this score must bc tempered, however, by the (act lhat the proposed Cabinet Includes some potentially disruptive individuals, and still excludes representativesumber of important political groups.ihe National Assembly, while it has generally supported the govemmenl, Ls nevertheless intent upon maintaining its independence of the executive, which will be unable to count on an assured majority in either House. Difficulties between the executive and legislature over the Sough issues to be faced during the next few months may tempt the executive to circumvent the legislature on critical issues.

More importantly, however, the contest and maneuvering betweenThieu and many of the senior generals, including Vice President Ky, are continuing and indeed have been exacerbated by Thicu's efforts to expand his osvn personal power and consequently limit the influence of the generals.Huong's penchant for independence and his announced intention locorruption wherever he finds it may aggravate rather than ease civil/military tensions. An attempt by Thieu and Huong to effect tna)or changes in the military command over the objections of the senior generals wouldevere crisis.

In general, however, it does not appear Ukely that constitutionalwill be overturnedilitary coup. Despite their mihappiness with Thieu, the senior generals have accepted the nesv situation, while making it clear that any reshuffling of the military structure must have their collective approval. Humorsoup will recur. However, the inclination of sOnn ol the senior generals looup is tempered by their realization that theUS reaction would be extremely adverse and thatove would, at present, play into Communist hands in the US-DHV conversations in Paris.

IS. At this point, the Huong Cabinet and ihe military appear to share strong opposition to any concession to Hanoiolitical settlement of the war.it is possible lhat if issues arising in Paris seemed to threaten the future ol Ihe GVN. this in itself could become the basis lor greater unity between the civilians and the military. It is also possible, though perhaps less likely, that the same trend of events inif it appeared that dements within the GVN were prepared to goprompt the generals lo abandon their relatively cautious behavior, ignore the consequences in the US, andoup precisely in order to sabotage those talksreparation for "going it alone" against the Communists.

lft- On balance, however, we think il most likely that Thieu. Huong, and the generals will play their cards carefully and each will avoid drastic actions that would provoke drastic responses by the others, ln Ihe end. there mayodest gain in the stability of the constitutional systemlightof the domestic political standing of the GVN. Al the same time, be-

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cause ol ihe hopes generated by Huong's appointment, the failure ol hiscouldostly setback.

Ai/minisrrafJte ViaMity. In urban areas the government is still laboring to some extent under the problems of dislocations and disruptions created by the Tet otTensive. Recovery in some areas has been painfully slow. Nevertheless, with US help, the government's administrative machinery has remained largely intact and has eonlinued to Function. Several Communist offensives on the scale of that at Tet could, of course, physically overwhelm the CVN's ability to cope. But mOie likely is the type of action which has occurred in the Saigon area since early May. Similar attacks in various areas svill result in continuing pressure un tiie CVN's administrative ability, but in view of US assistance, we do not believe that the siiuation svill reach unmanageable proportions for the CVN. Even so, as the burdens imposed by continued Communist pressure accurriulale, Ihe CVN's ability to provide administrative services to the people svill probablyurther decline.

The Economy. The South Vietnamese economy was dealt ablow by the Tet offensive. The present situation is one of near stagnation, and it could deepen into crisis unless tho GVN acts decisively to bolster confidence and toeturn to more normal levels of activity Physical damage to communications, industry, and marketing facilities has continued during the recent attacks in and around Saigon. The industrial sector has made little effort to resume normal operations nor have manufacluiers whose plants sverc undamaged expanded their activities to pick up the slack. Movement of basic food supplies into the capital area continues lo he adequate, however, and there should be no prolonged shortages of rice or other foodstuffs in any part of the country. The mercantile community lacks confidence in security conditions and is uncertain of Ihe future. Import activity appears to betandstill except for such items as foodstuffs, pharmaceutical and building materials. Consumers appear reluctant lo spend for anything other than necessities, but. if ihe security situation improves, the threat ol inflation svill increase dramatically as the demand for goods outstrips the supply.

The Countryside

Since the Tet offensive, the CVN has been able to reestablish some of its previous control in terms of territorial security {outposts, logistic bases, and openVN' military units are nmv belter deployed and more active in mral areas Ihon immediately after the Tet offensive. Thedd revolutionary development teams are htnclioning once again.

But the CVN's overall representation in the countryside remainsless than before Tel. ARVN'i conimitmeulrban defense hasin the face of the continuing threat to the cities posed by large NVA/VC units and this has lurlher weakened peasant confidence in the CVN's ability

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to provide security in the countryside. In the lace of increased rural insecurity and the demands of urban recovery, the GVN's emphasis on civic actionappears to have diminished. In response to the current challenge, President Thlen has ordered pacification to be "refocused" so that the program will concentrate on hamlets surrounding provincial and district capitals and LOCs. By the end of March, the GVNeasonable degree ol controlillion fewer rural inhabitants than prior lo Tel. In addition,amlets were considered tounctioning administration prior to Tet; by April, this figure stoodhough it does not necessarily follow that the VC nowarge proportion of the balance. Thus the GVN recovery effortong way lo go, will most likely be slow, and, as in the past, will be subject to sudden reversals in the face of renewed Communist military action.

he Armed Forces. In addition to continuing US military support, Ihe ability of the government to exercise ils authority in South Vietnam depends heavily on the presence and the combat effectiveness of ARVN. Theis now undertaking measures lo increase troop strength, to strengthen top level leadership, to raise morale, and to improve firepower. Some progress will be made in all these fields,eneral ARVN's performance since Tct has been more aggressive. .Nevertheless, the GVN's Armed Forces face some lung term problems. Overall leadership remains spotty, the quality of training is low, especially for technical personnel, and the emciencv of the selection and promotion system is questionable. Although improved, Ihe basic motivation continues to be weak, making the armed forces susceptible to shifts in the prevailing political and psychological climate.

sum, we believe that ARVN's fighting effectiveness will not heBut on the other hand. ARVN is unlikely to increase itssignificantly during the next several months or to assume aof the COmbat

Populor Attitudes

It is not possible to estimate popular attitudes with much confidence. There is no doubt that popular resentment of the Vict Cong has increasedesult ol ihe Tet attacks, incursions in populated areas, and incicasinglv harsh pressures on the peasants. At the same time, there is also increased hostility toward the government and tho ARVN (oi failing to provide protection against the Viet Cong, for looting, and for widespread destruction Irom air strikes and artillery. And the US is also blamed lor destruction ol urban areas.

The predominant sentiment, however, is probably one of increasingto avoid the hazards ol the war. The Communists have failed to rally broad popular support, but thus far so has the GVN. The bulk ul Ihe people remain passive, though theretrong desire ior peace in rural areas; this, desire may also strengthen in urban areas if ihtv are subjected to continuous

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Communist harassment along the lines of the attacks in Saigon. Most of the people respond to power and authority, whether that of the Vict Cong or the CVN. Left to themselves they are likely to remain uncommitted and disengagedecisive break in the struggle becomes obvious.

Communists hope to exploit and add to the growing popularpeace. In Utc cities, they are currently engagedajor effort toa new front, the so-called "Vietnam Alliance of National,nd to attract important leaders as well as the masses tofar, the success does not appear to be significant, but the Communistslookingonger term impact. Their basic aim is to advanceof the Allianceredible "third force" which can bring peace toand workoalition government with the liberation Front;also attempt to develop itajor political factor in the Paris talks,coming months, the Alliance will almost certainly gain some adherentsknown and neutralist and leftist oriented politicians and maysome well known figures, particularly if the Huong governmentthe Alliance is unlikely toarge popular following duringunless thereajor break in favor of the Communists in theor in the negotiations.

III. EXTERNAL FACTORS The Paris Talks

The diplomatic moves emanating from either side in the Paris talks will obviouslyrofound impact on the psychological mood prevailing in Saigon and throughout the country. Hanoi will probahly wish to keep the talks going for some time, lt sees the discussions as an opportunity for propaganda on key issues as welleans to divide Washington and Saigon and increase pressures on the US for concessions. At the same time, Hanoi does not wantisk the resumption of the bombing by breaking off the talks at any early date. In effect, Hanoi believe* time is running against the Allied side. But if the North Vietnamese should conclude that this belief is unfounded ihey might moderate their negotiating position.

During the course of the Paris talks the CVN expects, and svill continue to press for, the closest iwssible consultation and coordination with ihe US. It will be sensitive to nuances, rumors, and background noises in Paris and the US. In general, Saigon will oppose any concession to Hanoiajor concession in return. From Saigon's point ol view the bombing issue provides an early test of tendencies in US policy. If Ihe bombing of the North were stopped without clearcut and credible restrictions being placed on Northsupport to Communist forces in the South. Saigon's confidence in the US would be severely shaken.

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a later stage in the negotiations, it is almost certain thatorn promise settlement giving the Alliance or the NLF arole in Saigon would touchevere cruis in the GVN. Thisbe true even if these discussions resultedonsiderable scalingNorth Vietnamese demands. At this point. Saigon would fear thatsolutionolitical role for ihe Cotnmunistt wasCommunists would attempt to exploit the uncertainties in Saigon andwould add to the confusion ami demoralization throughout the GVN.

US Politics

in Paris are but part of the larger question of how USdevelop in un election period and alter. Both Hanoi ami Saigonthe US electionhadow of uncertainty over the future. Foray* not feel the need lo make any sign-Scant changes in its positionuntil alter the Presidential nominations and until it has digested anyin policy between the nominees. US developments, however, aremore immediate importance to Saigon. Election rhetoric in the US isbe amplified and magruficd in Saigon and perhaps badly distorted. InSaigon's appraisal of USould be decisive in the continuingthe GVN.

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