Created: 5/23/1967

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Reaction to Various US Courses of Action



7 No.


In tha. following section we consider Communist reactions to an increase in US troop levels by, an intensification of the bombing program against military, industrial, andimilar bombing program plus the effective interdiction of North Vietnamese harbors. We also consider the effect on Communist policy of leveling off of US troop commitments,eduction in the bombing.

Reactions to Expanded US Military Bfforts

is ample evidence that overthe North Vietnamese have preferred towar, even with the likely prospect of itsrather than to end it by negotiation

or otherwise. They must have calculated that thair refusal to move toward negotiations during the Tet period would subject them to an expansion of the US bombing program and possibly other forms of escalation. Moreover, their own military efforts in South Vietnam, especially in the northern provinces, must have been taken with the realization that the ground war would intensify and perhaps invite new US counteraction. Finally, the North Vietnamese in the past several months have apparently discussed with both the USSR and China additional and perhaps new forms of.

Hanoi may have been unsure as toor the degree that the US would intensifyit appears to be taking measures to copemilitary pressures. For oneharp increase in shipping to Northfar The North Vietnamese areplanning to strengthen their air defense

with Soviet assistance in the expectation of ever increasing bombing attacks. And the transport of supplies through Laos suggests they believe the ground war will expand, at least during the next rainy season.

may be that Hanoi's intransigenceof determinationinal efforta more favorable military positionnegotiations. But it would be more prudentthat Hanoi does not expect any suddenturn of the battle in its favor. appears to expectrolonged strugglenecessary, and to believe that it cana struggle in the South and bear up underbombing in the Horth with Chineseassistance.

Course A: The OS announces and begins to

implement an increase of US forces of.

The US action might dispel certain notions that Hanoi has entertainedeakening of US resolve. Even though same increases may beby the Communists, Hanoi's political-military calculations have rested greatlyelief that domestic political pressures and internationalwould limit the US' ability to add to its forces in Vietnam. Moreover, Communist military plans now aim at stretching US and ARVN forces to the point where the Communists can bothajor setback to the Revolutionary Development program and score an important local victory over US forces. Finally, the ideaar of attrition, as thedefine it,rogressive weakening of US and ARVN forces over time, or at least the achievementtalemate which would heighten pressures on the US to negotiate on more favorable terms.

Since Hanoi almost certainly believes that the military and political outcome of the war will

be decided primarily by developments in South Vietnam, it has been willing to absorb considerable bombas long as the ability to continue the war in the


buildup would probably not occasion any significant change in Soviet or Chinese policies. North Vietnam would probably receive some heavier weaponry for use by the Communist forces in the South. Beyond this, the Soviets might at some point during the buildup counsel Hanoi to seek an end to the continuingbut we strongly doubt that they would be willing to apply any significant pressure on Hanoi to this end. Peking, however, would continue to urge unyielding military resistance.

Course B; The us continues the war on about the present scale of effort, increasing forces in South Vietnam by no moreivision or so.

The North Vietnamese leadersrelieved as it gradually became apparent that

US strength was leveling off. They would probably interpret it as confirmation of their recent estimate that the US policy is constrained by internalfactors and foreign commitments. Even though the war is not going well for the Communists, they would probably believe that US reluctance toarger number of new troops gave them an excellent chance to persist in their present strategy andthe US in the war of attrition. * also calculate that it woulddecisive" battle under these conditions. We are not saying, however, that maintaining US forces at present levels insures Hanoi's ability to prolong the war for another two years. Again, much depends on the operationalin South Vietnam.

and Peking. There would befor either Mobcow or Peking to react tooff of US troop deployments. Thebe encouraged in their belief that thenotrotracted war. Tho USSRsomewhat relieved that the US had nota further escalation, but would have noto bring greater pressure on Hanoi



Course C. The US intensifies bombing of

military, industrial, andtargets, except near the Chinese border. It does not attack population centers, seek to close ports, or attack dikes or airfields other than those already struck.

As far as Hanoi is concerned, this program is well under way. Moreover, the bombing is not the most significant aspect of the war for Hanoi. Shortajor invasion or nuclear attack, there is probably no level of air or naval action against North Vietnam which Hanoi has determined in advance would be so intolerable that the war had to be stopped. And it probably also calculates that as the US increases air actionoll is inevitably taken of the oivilian population, various political pressures on the US to desist will mount.

We cannot say what precise counteractions the Communists may take as this program is developed. There is notlose relationshipiven level of bombing and Hanoi's strategy and tactics or Peking and Moscow's responses, material from captured documents suggests that long-range military planning in South Vietnam proceeds without much reference to US bombing of North Vietnam. those Chinese and Soviet reactions which arehe provision of men and equipment, often come before or in an early phase of new US bombing programs. In our view all three Communist Parties react less to strikes against specific targets than to the intensification of bombing in general.

13. Though we recognize that morale andwill are not susceptible to exact measurement, this bombing program is not likely to be the decisive element in breaking the will of North Vietnam. Nor would it alone be likely to force North Vietnam to change its attitude toward negotiations. Probably the critical factors for Hanoi would still be its view of the war's prospects in the South and its judgment as to whether international and domestic pressures on the US would increase significantly in these circumstances.


intensified bombing programNorth Vietnam to seek and obtain anlevel of assistance from China and from The net result would probably be anChinese troop presence, probably includingof combat infantry at some of thebeing prepared for Chinese use.Chinese air space would be almostoccur. There wouldood chance thatwould at some point providefor theNorth Vietnamome new weapons systemsrange and firepower. We would notthe surfacing of some Sovietvolunteer" role. Such increasedSoviet support would probably reinforcedetermination to persevere.

Courseimilar bombing program including the effective interdiction of North Vietnamese harbors.

The most important additional effect of this course would be toirect challenge to the USSR. The Soviets would have three broad options! they could attempt to counter USby their own naval forces, bring pressure on the US in some other area (say,r accept the necessity of relying primarily on rail transport across China to support Hanoi. Theywould regard the first option as not militarily feasible and much too hazardous in any case. The second might seem somewhat more attractive, but still highly risky and uncertain. The third seems by all odds the most likely. But the USSR would also want to take some vigorous diplomatic action to condemn the US in the UN, to raise international alarms, and to convince the US that relations with the USSR were comingangerous pass.

A principal political effect would be to place Chinaommanding position. Peking would not only control the remaining lines ofbut its influence in Hanoi would almostincrease at the expense of the USSR. The main thrust of China's growing leverage andwould be directed toward persuading Hanoi to


continue the fight. To this end the Chinese would still have to permit Soviet supplies to pass through, and would themselves have to make it clearer to Hanoi what military actions China would take to support the regime if the bombing and mining seriouslyeconomic and political controls throughout North Vietnam.

is conceivable thatesult ofbombing and the interdiction of thesituation in North Vietnam would slowlythe point that Hanoi felt it necessary topolicies. We cannot estimate in advance howmight be willing to absorb, though we thinkthat the bombing and mining programsuch pressures that Hanoi would choose toor otherwise terminate the war. In anycritical factors would be Hanoi's view ofprospects in the South and its assessmentroaction to the new escalation signaled by

Effects of Certain Courses or Combinations

is possible that one of the aboveincreased military pressuresombinationwould persuade Hanoi that its military andsituationhole and in particular thefor success in the war in the South wereseriously. At this juncture, thetheir allies might become critical for the The Chinese would no doubt urge themon, perhaps by returning to guerrilla warSouth. We think it unlikely that theoffer, or the Vietnamese accept, openby Chinese forces in South Vietnam. Wewouldood chance that at this phasewould strongly urge Hanoi to move towardsettlement, although we do not thinkwould apply any sort of sanction to As for how Hanoi would respond to thenight receive from its allies at this point,

we think no responsible judgment is now possible; our inclination is to believe that Hanoi might takeegotiate and try touerrilla action going in the SoutET


19. On the other hand, Hanoi could as well go in another direction. In the peat we have estimatedumber of responses which the North Vietnamese might make were unlikely because they would raise the chances of further and more damaging US At some point, however, these restraints might be abandoned, if the North Vietnamese felt that the US was determined to destroy North Vietnam. Thus, Hanoi might try to attack carriers and other naval ships, increase military pressures and their own role in northern Laos and perhaps northeast Thailand, step up assassinations and urban terrorism in South Vietnam and perhaps even begin attacking US bases with weapons from sites in North Vietnam. The purpose of such actions might be not so much to affect the military situation as to precipitate more favorable termsegotiation.

Effects of Restricting US Bombing to Southern

reaction to thisreat extent on the timing and onUS actions accompanied or followed it. circumstances it occurred, Hanoi andprobably attribute the shift in bombinginternational opinion and to domestic USand thus see it as confirming their viewUS would not persistong struggle. might be dispelled if the USit clear that the bombing was beingan effort to raise the cost of moving meninto South Vietnam. But it would be even

a more effective move if the reduction occurred after the US had indicated an intention to increase its force in South Vietnam and perhaps to take other actions to block or reduce North Vietnamesethrough Laos.

this latter case, Hanoi's reactiondepend on the diplomatic moves which theand especially the formula beingnegotiations. We cannot say whether Hanoifact be prepared to move toward negotiations. At

a minimunv however, they would have to recognize that the redirection of the bombing program would

citialam pressures in thethus strengthening the chances thatand rld Persistong time, ifoccurred after the US buildup Ifthe North Vietnamese mightalloway lit

?ione fi^hXnegotia-

case, the formula thenlar*alv determine Hanoi's

22. The Soviets would probablv beHia-

rTor^VT1 t0he US"frort

ettlement,ar less likely to

Spv wini *us resolve. Accordingly,

1PrSbably adviee HanoiProbeS

ward Possible negotiations. How-

e Ukely to put much Pree-sure on Hanoi to respond.

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