MEMO 3/1/68 QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE SITUATION IN VIETNAM

Created: 3/1/1968

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subject: questicws couceiooto ths situaticwi, the cakuwist position

Hod docs Hanoi view the.present phase of'thc vorjhas Hanoi concluded that ftand that MTBust COlovictor/ this year

1. Hanoi'o strategy of revolutionary varfer* in -

Vietoon lias always cubrneed two propositions! to prepare forprotracted struggle and to seek victory Jn the shortest possible tine. From toe Introduction of large US forceshe euwier7 tho eapbasis wss on the probability of aWar of attrition. See* backing away froa the protracted

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war theno becuoe evident In captured decuneots sad Hanoi'slater In our view the-Intensity of the Tatend tbe exertions being rade to sustain pressures cenfirns that Hanoi Is now,cngagednjor effort to achieve early end decisive results. let the Cor-rauolsts probably hsvcigid tins-table. They apparently have high hopes of achieving tboir objectives this year, but they vlll preserve ceo older able tactical flexibility.

2, It la still, not altogether clear why the Vietaancce Communist* chose this course off action at this tine. They certainly were not desperate or fearful of early collapse. econsideration of thoir capabilities to succeedong warhaveontributingad they probably regardedtbe balance off farces as suffflolently favorabla toajor and widespread offensive. The fact,of Presidential elections la the US nay have influenced their decision, end, off course, the tactical advantage of the Tet truceolo in the iwsedlate timing. Id any cabs, it does not appear that they undertook tbeoffensive because tbey had concluded that protracted conflict was no longer feasible for then.

what are tha eenebllitlea of tbe KVA/VC forces to sustalo tbelr present offensive, and, iff they choose to,rolonged war thereafter?

3. There Is no doubt that the Coraunlats have alreadyigh price in the present offensive phase. They have not only lost manpower, but also quality resources such as the special units enployed in the Tet attacks. Bcverthelcia, prior to Tet here wastrenuous drive to bring units up to strength with new recruits and upgraded guerrillas. Conplete

guerrilla units also were merged with Local forces to fora

elements. Infiltration, of replacements and units from the North

haa probably been heavier than previously believed. art of tbe

Main Forces have been withheld from major combat. Finally, an *

intensive effort to raise new levies la underway in tha rural

areas, where the Cewunlata now enjoy fuller access. 'Thus, It is con-

colvoble that tho enemy's gross strength-is not significantly lover

now than it was in the latter part

fc. Ihe Communist supply rx>slt^ mightactor limiting combat capabilities in the next few months. Many forces arc now deployed away from their bases at tbe ond of longer lines of supply. Expenditures of emaunltton and losses of equipment have been re- latlvoly high. These factors will be offset in scco degree by the extraordinary stockpiling that evidently took place before Tut end by the Increased availability of manpower in- the countrysido which will permit the continued porterlng of military supplies and food to VC/KVA forces.

hile notatter of physical capability,position is much enhanced, for the time being at

by tholr possession of the strategicWithinbla permits them to choose the tine end place of combat and to

keep US/ABVM forces pinned down and dispersed in static defense of'wany potential targets,

ccordingly, we believe that tho NVA/VC forcescapability toelatively high level ofoccasionally to intensify It over the next severalrocket and mortar attacks on urban areas andmajor bottles with US forces and assaults,cities. At the same tlwe, the Communists willto consolidate their hold on foraserly pacified .

7. It is conceivable that the Communists regard tho present campaign ns so critical to the ultimate outcome of the var that they will corenit their full resourcesaximum effort in the near term, even at risk of very high losses. But it is far more likely that they probably will not use their resources Ineckless manner as to deny -

of

themselves the possibility of continuing tho strugglethe next several"

What is the Conirtunlat attitude toward negotiations: In particular how would Hanoi deal with an onconditlonal cessation of US bombing of KVIJ and what would be its term*ettlement?

The Cxmsaunlste probably atlll expect the war to end eventually In some form of negotiations. Since they hope the present military effort will be decisive In destroying the GVN and ARVN, they are not likely to give any-serious consideration to nQgotiations until this campaign has progressed far enough for Its results to be fairly clear.

If, however, the US ceased the bcafblng of north Vietnam In the near future, Hanoi would probably respond nore or less as Indicated in Its moot recent statements. It would begin talks fairly soon, wouldairly wide ranging exploration of Issues, but would not modcrato Its termsinal settlement or stop fighting in tho South.

10. In any talks, Comrainlst torus vould Involve the establlsh-mentew "coalition" government, which vould in faot If not In appearance be under tho domination of the Coppuntats. Secondly, they would insistuaranteed withdrawal of US forces within some precisely defined period. Their attitude toward other issues vould be dictated by the degroo of progress in achieving these two prirjary objectives, and the military-political situation then obtaining in South Vietnam.

of bombing and opening ofsignificant Cotosuintst concessions vould beto the Saigon government. There would bo athat the Thicu-Ky regime vould collapse, end this would

in fact be port of Hanoi's calculation in accepting negotiations.

me/'

What Is tho likely course of events in South 'Vietnam ovor the nextonths, assuming no change In US policy or force levels?

In the assumedotal military victory by the Allies or the Communists ia highly unlikely in the nestonths. It is manifestly Impossible for the Communists to' drive US forces out of tho country. It is equally out of tho Question for US/GVK forces to clear South Vietnam of Coamuniot forces. It is possible, however, that the overall situation In this period willecisive turn,

He think it unlikely that this turn could be In the US/CVN favor. To be sure, Communist forces are now exposed to aggressive count erect Ion, their supply lines are extended, and some base areas nay be vulnerable. Morale pay be poor in some of the

units vhich have suffered heavy losses. But we see no

evidence yet that the CWH/ARVH vill be inspired to seise tho initiative, go over to the attack; exploit the ConMunist vulnerabilities, and quickly regain the rural areas. Ve doubt thay have the vill and capability to make the effort.

Ik. Far more likely is an erosion of the ARVTJ's morale and effectiveness. He do not believe that the GVH villcollapso, or that the ARVH will totally disintegrate. But thereairly good chance that Communist pressures will resulterious weakening of the GVN/aKVN apparatus and on end to its effective functioning in ports of the country. In these circumstances, virtually the entire burden of the war would fall onorces.

15. The Ccomunists too vill be weakened byffensive efforts, losses will be heavy, ccoibat effectiveness will be lowered, and morale vlll be damaged by tho failure toomplete victory. Even though thoir situationis the ARVH will be strong, their forces will probably not beosition to register decisive advances unless they radically escalate the war by an all-out invasion.

16. In bum, thereigh risk that both the ARVH andvlll bo seriously weakened In the next months, and perhaps Our best estimate Is that in the bseuraedthe overall situationiontbs hence vlll be no

better than a

REACTIONS TO US COURSES OP ACTION

.

'"'Whatlikely HYA/vC strategy over the next

months If US forces are Increased, OT?

1t> we vould expect the Communists to continue- the vor. They still have resources available in North Vietnam end vitbio. South Vietnam to Increase tholr troop strength. Their strong logistical effort and their ability to organize sod exploit the people under their control in the South enable then to counter OS Increases by smaller increases of their own. en-month period the Coomunists vould probably be able to introducenew unit* into the South to offset the US maneuver battalion increments of tho various force levels given above.

18. Ve cannot foresee the outcome of future coobat resulting from, the increase In US forces. The Couounists vould probably

'mi' ummmrn^msmii

have to modify their current tactics, especially if the

mcreocots vers large enough to permit the formation ofreserve as well aa providing for tho partialof the ADVN. In some places, they vould retreaturban areas, trying to hold as much ns possible of

19* The prospect of heavy US reinf orcenents might perouade Hanoi to gamble on on nil-out Invasion froa the North to_ seizeorps before reinforceraents couldwn it ted. It is also possible that the Communlote vould greatly expend their allitary pressures In Laos. The purpose ofove vould he to drov off US forces from South Vietn&ia, end to indicate that, unless the var vae ended, tho USontinued expansion of Its eemmitaent.

20. We vould not expect tho eddition of any givenUS troops to change the policy or attitude of the USSR Both vould bo vllling to increase esslstence inPeking vould offer wore oanpouer for Korth Vietnam. Both be concerned that the US vould still be frustrated 1

vould eventually be led to Invade North Vietnam. But

China nor the USSR vould be likely to enter tho vor In

S buildup, and neither vould ho likely to take drastic diversionary moves outside of Vietnam,

21. The general international climate vould certainly worsen for tho US. Thore would be gceator apprehension that the war in Vietnam vouldpand to the point cf o. US conflict with China, and perhaps even with the USSR; Many countries vould blase the USrying to negotiateanoi. International pressures for an end to the. fighting would increase. At the soma time, some US allies in Asia would be relieved that the US chose to reinforce rather than accept an unfavorable political settlement.

What is tho likely Ccsmnmist reactionhange in US strategy toward greater control over population centers, with or without Increased forces?

22. eneral the Cciaaunists vould view thts moveuccess for their strategy. Their tactical response in such circumstances would depend mainly on the nature of US enclaves. If these were fairly large and embraced much of the outlying countryside, the Coouaunists would believe them to be porous enough to Infiltrate and harass, much as they are doing now. If the defensive perimeters were fairly solid, however, the

Communists would not try to overrun them in frontal assaults. Instead, they would concentrateime on consolidating the countryside and Isolating the various defended enclaves. In particular interdicting supply lines and forcing the US to undertake expensive supply ixnrcoents from out ofommunist-control led regimecoalition" facade would ho set up in "liberated" areas and attempts at terrorist activity inside the enclaves would be undertaken. Hanoi vould hopeombination of military and political pressure, together with the dim prospect fox acMeveawnt of the original US alma In the Vietnam struggle, would eventually persuade the US to extricate itself through negotiations.

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