PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO A US COURSE OF ACTION (SNIE 10-11-65)

Created: 9/22/1965

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

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CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL

PROBABLE COMMUNIST REACTIONSS COURSE OF ACTION

NOTE: This is the estimate. No further versus will be -txihiished;

DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE HOARD

As inidos'ed ovtfleal

Submitted by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

al indigence Aycncl

Concurred in by the UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD on oncurring were the Director, De/ense Intelligence Agency.and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Direcior of Intelligence and Research, Department of State dissented. The Atomic EnergyRepresentative to Ihc USUI and the Assistant to the Director. Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside nf their jurisdiction.

Classification of title is official use only when used separately

/ September

SUBJECT: PROBABLE COKMOWIST REACTIONSS

COURSE OF ACTIOH

THE PROBLEM^/

To estimate) probable Cocanunlst reactionsS pro-pram of air attacks on certain new targets In Horth Vietnam.

ASSUMPTIONS

For tho purposes of this estimate wo assume air strikes against Phuc Yen and four other airfields near Hanoi end Haiphong; against rail ond highway routes and traffic between Hanoi and Haiphong and between Hanoi-Haiphong and China; against four major thermal power plants; and againat SAM installations defending these areas. We further assume that attacks on all these targets are begun within tha next few weeks

I? The Director of ITIR, Department of State, dissents from this entire estimate. His reasons are set forth at the end of the estimate.

andt>ugfily simultaneous fashion. Wc also assume reatrikesand subsequent armed reconnaissance against the rail.

TIE ESTIMATE

many raonths our estimates have emphasized theof the fact that the Ceemwnists, especially tho DRV andthey vere winning the war in South Vietnam and needed onlytheir momentum until the cvw collapsed and the US vas forced

to abandon the struggle. In this confidence Hanoi haa been willing to endure bombings of the DRV, to accept the increasing US commitment, and to refuse any negotiations. Moreover, the Communists have counted on international and domestic pressures on the US, as well as on the growing capabilities of air defense around the critical Hanoi-Haiphong area, to deter further escalation. Finally, they probably have had strong doubts about US determination torotracted war, and these feelings have probably been strengthened by repeated US soundings and overtures for negotiations.

think, however, that recently this general confidenceweakened both by US/evil military successes and by tangiblethe US is willing to increase its commitment. Tho situation has

'come to'oeeniPDore dangerous_ond discouraging than they probably had expected" luid victory must, seem to thco much further off than itev months ago. Thus, ve think that the assumed US action vould comeime vhen DRV doubts may be growing.

3. Public Communist declarations and commitments to continue the struggle, however, remain as firm as ever. Recently, the DRV has once again vigorously rejected negotiations on any terms except its own, apparently in response to approaches from various Intermediaries. The Chinese have been vehement in denouncing negotiations altogether; they have even warned the DRV more or less openly against thorn. Their warnings may Indicate Chinese worry that the DRV is weakening; indeed, thereew indications, private and tentative, that Hanoi may not bo quite as adamant in its position as Its public declarations assert.

Imaedlate Reactions

k. The Cownunists, while they have hoped that the US vould continue to exempt the Hanoi-Haiphong area from attack, probably have rated as fairly high the chances of the kind of US attacks assumed here. Their reactions, therefore, would probably not be greatly affected by shock or surprise.

ia possible that the DRV hu contingency plans for surviving aircraft to attack Aoerican bases in the South or US carriers. There io no evidence of training for this type of nlssion. They would probably expect such strikes to proTdke wider and heavier US attacks. Thus, ve think that the chances would be against such retaliation, though it cannot be ruled out.

second immediate danger would be Chinese air Interventionover the DRV or against South Vietnam or US carriers. Itthat Hanoi and Peking already have an agreed plan for theintervene from their own bases In response to the kind of USin tbis est'note. We doubt this; the Chinese are notirm or unqualified commitment. They would wish to weigh

the effectiveness of the initial US attack and to receive thc DRV reaction before making any move likely toS attack on South China. However, the danger of accidental encounters would be particularly high if US aircraft were operating close to thc border.

in tho first few days, during and immediatelyonset of the US attacks, there wouldhance of an attack onor shipshance of Chinese air intervention. But veunlikely.

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1 fcourse, there vould aleoreat hue and cry from the Comtminis'fc-aide, and the usualof protests, threats and warnings. He would also expect new acts of terrorisa and sabotage inside South Vietnam, particularly against US forces. Viet Cong capabilities in these fields are considerably greater than they have yet chosen to demonstrate. The principal'Cotormmlst reactions however, vould con* in later weeks and months, and they vould of necessity be greatly affected by the ongoing course of military and political events as well as by the US actions we consider ln this estimate.

Subsequent Reactions

9- China. The Chinese vould strongly urge the DRV to continue the fight; to this end they vould probably promise more equipment and personnel to build up air defenses, and particularly to defend and repair thelines of coBBunlcatlon to South China. The Chinese sright agree to send their own aircraft and pilots to the DRV, but on balance we think this unlikely in the wake of the demonstrated vulnerability of DRVAlmost certainly the Chinese vould oppose negotiating, and they might warn the DRV not to count on Chinese support if it movedease-fireiplomatic settlement. We think Chinese views carry great weight in Hanoi, particularly If the DRV leaders were divided over future policy.

57 The Director, !tSA, for the national Security Agency, considers tbe

chances of the Chinese sending tbeir own aircraft and pilots to the DRV despite the demonstrated vulnerability of its airfields as being about even.

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lerey be that these US ettscks vault) t'o the beler.ee and cause

Ch-nose intervention. The Chinese rairht belcve tbnt ihe var lied posoed

the po'nt of no return ond that aconfrontatione

'iiev'teble pr'ce of cont-nu:n-oretrpn. The CVneec

de this vor the test cose foroctrine of "peoples var"

a-a'nst the US; they have staked nuclin ;t. onnot be

onf'.dent ti'at the Chinese would continue to refra'n fron intervening

in the air from their own bases as the US continued attacks near thc

Chinese borderaeakened I';RV. Dut on balance ve think t

unlikely that they vo<tld so intervene.3/ with somewhat more confidence,

we estimate that the US attacks would not provoke large-scale Chinese

intervention with cround combat forces; Peking would almost certainly

believe that this would run very hirh risks of var with the US.

USSR. The Soviets would increase their efforts to halt They would put pressure on the US and urge negotiations There are some recent indications that the Soviets are nowto put some pressure on the DRV, perhaps because theymilitary assistance and the trend of the guerrilla var givesgreater authority. The Soviets would almost certainly ar;ree to DRV

lie Director, HSA, National Security Agency, considers the chances -that the Chinese will intervene ln the air from their own bases os the US continues attacks near too Chinese border as being about even.

^requests toajpeplaee air defense equipment, although they would do so more to-retain thoir influence with the DRV than in the expectation that they could furnish an adequate defense against US operations.

12. The Soviets could try to relieve pressures on the DRV by movtnr. against the US in Eerlin. We continue to believe there are strong inhibitionsouble crisis. Carefully controlled harassments and occasionally provocatlve demonstrations of US vulnerabilities are always possible, however. otentially unstable situation in the Soviet leadership adds an element of uncertainty to the Soviet positions.

13- The DRV. In Hanoi, reactions would probably develop along one of two conflicting lines:

(a) Hanoi might believe that tho new US attacks and tbe subse-

quent interdiction campaign did not alter the basic situation. The North Vietnamese might stick to their belief that the guerrilla war is, byrolonged struggle against heavy'odds, that there will be setbacks and defeats, but that the ultimate gain Is worth it. Thoy might feel that damping down the war ln the wake of US attacks would appear as capitulation. They might feel that if the war were interrupted the Viet Cong movement could not long maintain its morale and cohesion. Along this line of reasoning they night also conclude that the US escalation

ofatill not do. intolerable damage and would probably not be extended to attacka on urban population. They night decldo that the US was desperate in the faceong war involving US troops ln the South, and that further struggle, perhaps Involving the dispatch of PAVN units to tho South on an increased scale, was the best course to crack the Saigon Governeent'and US resolve.

(b) On the other hand, the DRV might estimate the situation quite differently. The growing US commitment in the South might persuade them that the guerrilla war could not be prosecuted to final victory. Withoutromise of ultimate success they might believe Viet Cong morale could not be sustained. Moreover, tbe attacks on the DRV's air defenses andider range of targets might convince them that the US intended to escalate the air war almost indefinitely, if necessary. Thus thoy might decide that, while their position in the South was still strong and tho Viet Cong still Intact, lt would be more expedient to move toward negotiations or some tacit understanding in order to pursue their objectives through political means, and possibly at some future time to resume guerrilla warfare.

lh. We believe that the US course of action assumed here would reinforce the thinking described in subparagraph (b) above. Even so, lt is not likely that tho North Vietnamese would move Immediately to

the conferende table; they would probably feel that there was still time to test the. effectiveness cf the Viet Cong against US forces. They might still hope toritical blow against US and GVH morale, perhaps by engaging US forces somewhere in the hinterland. Failing this, they might next revert to hit and run tacticsime. And there la still the question of whether China couldwitch to political tactics.

15- In general, however, ve think it unlikely that in the new situation created by the US attackn assumed here, the DRV would simply continue the war along present lines. We think that this US course of aotlon would be more likely in time to move the Horth Vietnamese toward political and diplomatic Initiatives than to cause them to escalato the war.

16. The Viet Cong. As noted above, Viet Cong morale is an important Ingredient in DBV estimates of how to prosecute the war. Ve have little good evidence on the state of Viet Cong morale. And it is difficult to Judgo the impact of specific US moves, since their effectivenessradual cumulative process. In the aseumea instance, the new US air attacks on the TSW would be unlikely to affect Viet Cong capabilities or Intentions In the short run. Over tbe longer term, however, if it became apparent that supply and reinforcement were more and more difficult, it Is likely that VC morale would deteriorate, particularly if they Buffered setbacks on the order of Chu Lai together with continuing pressure on the ground and from the air.

IS#riVK

IV. Other Considerations-. urrent factor which night play boeo role is ;the Indo-Paklsteni; conflict. The Communists night see-the new US move in Vietnam as an attempt to take advantage of the diversion of world attention to the Indian subcontinent. The US attack might help to dissuade the Chinese from any major involvement there. Peking would almost certainly be increasingly reluctant to divert resources to support Pakistan in the face of new escalation in Vietnam, its primary area of concern. In general, however, we think that the course of the Indo-Pakistant conflict would not greatly affect Communist reactions to tho US course of action considered in this estimate.

The following is the position of the Director of Intelligence and Research, Deportment of State:

1. The Director, TJJR, Department of State, dissents fundamentally from the key estimates made above. He believes _that the postulated air strikes against the DRV'a SAM sites, airfields, thermal plants, and prime rail, road, and traffic targets would be seen by the Communistsas well as by most othersundamental change in the character of our escalation of the Vietnam war. Separated strikes on these targets, carefully spaced over time, would help reduce adverse reactions, although these would be serious in any event. The composite

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program assumed here, however, would oe regardedolitical end allltary .watershed cxwparable to that of last February when our bombing of the DRV began.

Hanoi, Peking, and Moscow would all view tho strikes as initiating and in large part executinghe highest level of militarily significant escalation available In the "DHV abort of ground invasion. Even assuming precision bombing, the strikes would inextricably involve industrial and civilian losses beyond the objectivea deliberately targeted, as well as almost certain Soviet and Chinese casualties. In operation the newwould appear to have exempted only deliberate attacks (of no military significance) on the population Itself, (komunlsta and noo-Comminists alike would consider that this sudden massive action contradicted the many prior official indications, public and private, that we Intended to respect the special sensitivity of the Hanoi-Haiphong complex. They would regard these undifferentiated and simultaneous strikesross departure from our past policy of graduated pressure. They would probably conclude that we had decided to forsake further efforts toJudicious combination of political-military pressures against thenetwork, and had chosen instead the blunt instrumentroadassault on the chief elements of the DRV economy and Its self-defense capability. The credibility of our protestations of limited objectives would slump, and our actions would Just as plausibly be seen to invite

the eapUulotion of the DRV under pain of total destruction, raise the specter of an eventual Invasion on the ground, and in any case appear to threaten the DRV's ability to survive.

3. Under these circumstances, it Is unlikely that Hanoi would choose to move toward negotiations or compromise; it ls unlikely that Moscow could afford or would be willing to urge Hanoi to do so; end it la certain that Peking would press Hanoi to persevere. These positions would be mutually reinforcing.

k. The ERV leaders, as the estimate notes, have recently indicated that their terms for negotiation may not be as inflexible as they have sometimes seemed. The assumed attacks, however, would immediately deter Hanoi from any diplomatic overtureo it may possibly have been contemplating. It would fear that any sign of compromise under such pressure would be read by friends and enemies as capitulation, would undermine all possible future bargaining positions, would Irreparably damage Viet Cong morale, and would predispose the DS to renew these pressures at any time and under any conditions it thought appropriate. Whatever hesitancies the DRV may have had would now be resolved in favor of militant prosecution of tbe war and of more Insistent requests for, and far fever qualms over, Chinese and Soviet aid.

Far'fromespite from the bombings, the DRV would attempt to retaliate byhe tempo of the groundt would send additional ground forces to Laos and South Vietnam as rapidly as the infiltration routes permit. It probably would surface these efforts, at least to the extent of acknowledging the despatch of "regrouped southerners" andoth to raise Viet Cong morale and to discourage the US and its aupportera with the prospectong Jungle war.

The DRV would certainly at once press Peking and Itoscov vlgorously for prompt aid ln rebuilding its defenses against air attacks. Inhibitions about additional Soviet and Chinese presence ln the DRV would diminish. Hanoi might veil drop whatever reservations it may have had against the use of Soviet or Chinese pilots. It would be most impatient with Slno-Sovlet disputes about transit rights, but would expect those past hurdles to be overcome ln the new atmosphere.

7- Although Hanoi's reaction will continue to be of primarythe locus of decision making vill shift perceptibly away from Hanoi to Peking and Moscow. Peking villajor role in determining the overall Communist response to the assumed US actions. Given the preceding estimate of Hanoi's response, these reactions vill be consistent. Hence the frustrating dilemma of the main estimate probably will not ariseHanoi's switchingrack despite giving China's contrary views "great weight." (Comparendf the SHIE).

o. Itsls almost certain that Hanoi and Peking have concerted their preparations and discussed plana for Chinese action ln the event of US attacks such as the ones assumed here. The Chinese would strongly, urge Hanoi to reject any thought of negotiations, and they will purposefully underwrite the DRY'a will to persist. They would furnish the DRV with logistic assistance In prosecuting the war in the south and in making further US air attacks as costly as possible. They would give safe haven to any DRV planes which escaped our strikes and would permit them to operate from Chinese bases. They would probably provide Chinese planes and pilots to operate from the remaining IfiV facilities if and when useable.

Chinese would immediately increase their defensivealong their frontier and perhaps over adjacent DHV territory

In which their ground forces appear to be active. The danger of accidental encounters with US planes will be high and will increase as US planes approach the border. If the DRV airfields are successfully interdicted, thereetter than even chance that Chinese air vill intervene from Chinese bases.

Chinese would probably in any case increase theirthe ground in Berth Vietnam, furnishing anti-aircraft, engineer,units and. If asked, providing combat forces to defend against a

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possible US^&vaslon of the north, thus freeing DRV forces to ro southward. With the destruction of the rail line Into China, the logistical problem of supplying the DRV vould increase. To the degree that the US program la successful and South China must become the operational and Infrastructure base for further air defense of the DRV, the Chinese will need Soviet support and protection. Greater Soviet involvement night reluctantly be desired to deter This is an additional factor likely toonstructive resolution of previous Sino-Soviet frictions over the speed, scope, and method of aiding Hanoi and bolstering South China bases.

do not believe that the Pakistan-India war is likelyany limitation on Peking's willingness and ability to carryforegoing responses. Peking has prepared its forces and Itsfor some time to face the eventuality of the US actions assumedestimate. Its likely actions against India, outlined in SNIEprobably not be deterred by such US actions, nor will therequire the diversion of Chinese air or ground forces available

to aupport Horth Vietnam and to defend South China.

in addition to the general Increase in pressurestho Interacting nature of the two Asian theaters of war, Pekingaware of certain comparative advantages ln an escalatory response tomove ln North Vietnam. Peking knows that tho Vietnamto bring the US Into confrontation with both China and the USSR,

while the Indian theater -tends-to tiring the US into confrontation only with China. Therefore Peking would hope to breach US-USSR relations on the matter of Vietnam, reducing thereby the freedom of both the USSR and the US to respond against Chinese pressures in the Subcontinent.

13- Tbe Soviets would'be specifically affronted by the assumed US course of action in Vietnam. They would almost certainly interpret It as an assault on the viability of Worth Vietnam, whose security they have committed themselves to defend. They would be likely to regard the US actionirect challenge to themselves, the core so since it would probably result ln Soviet casualties. They would be unlikely to place any credence in assurances that US intentions were still limited (something they have been prepared to do thus far). The sensational nature of the American initiative and the obstinacy of the Chinese and DRV reaction to it would harden the Soviet response.

It. Under these circumstances Moscow would be less likely than ever to press Hanoi to negotiate, and It would redouble its effort to participate meaningfully in the defense of the DRV. Moscow would renew its earlier offers of additional aircraft and pilots and would attempt to increase the flow of SAMs and technicians to man them. The Soviets would renew their proposals of last springooperative effort vith the Chinese to aid Hanoi. The Chinese, for their part, would find it

nore difficult than previously, to refuse reasonable cooperation in expediting Soviet aid, especially in view of the assumed destruction of DRV-Chinese rail lines. Despite the continuing hostility between Chinese and Soviets, their respective stakes lo the struggle are likely to lead to competition to see who can help Hanoi most effectively.

15- Unfortunately for them, Soviet problems In providing rapid and effective aid would be serious. DRV airfields and associated installations would be unusable, heavily dsmaged, or under continuing attack. Previously prepared SAM sites would likewise be difficult to replenish, and the US would presumably not abstain from attacking sites ln preparation, as it did during the installation of the present Soviet-supplied SAM capability. Under these conditions. It ts likely that the Soviets vouldtrong attempt to mount an air defense effort from Chinese territory and ve believe that, despite haggling, some arrangement to this end vould be consummated. argaining factor with Moscow, Peking will probably requestand Moscow providesophisticated Soviet airnd SAMs) to protect bases and logistical lines in South China.

l6. We believe that fundamentally the Soviets would nevertheless remain interested in an end to the conflict. While under the stepped up military assistance effort which ve believe they would be bound to make

the Soviets jould be prepared to run tho risk of direct engagements with US forces in Vietnam, we believe that they would not contemplate these risks with any equanimity and would still attempt to prevent escalation from running out of control. Accordingly, even in addition to its greater military involvement, Moscow can be expected to resort to various forms of political pressures to deter the US,urther substantial worsening in bilateral relations. .

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