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li^re the Director
CENTRAL innilOEHCE AGENCY
COURSE OF ACTIOH
SUBJECT: PR0BABL2 CCWHJHTST FlACTIOrTSS
To estimate probable Communist reactionsS program of sir attacks on certain new targets In North Vietnam.
For the purposes of this estimate we assume air strikes againat Phuc Yen and four other airflelde near Hanoi and Haiphong; against rail and highway routes and traffic between Hanoi and Haiphong and between Hanoi-Haiphong and China; against four major thermal power plants; and against SAM installations defending these areas. Ua further assume that attacks on all these targets are begun within the next few weeks
Tf The Director of IHR, Department of State, dissents from this entire estimate. His reasons are set forth at the end of the estimate.
andoughly siajuitanecus fashion. we also assume re strikes as necessary aod subsequent armed reconnaissance against the rail and highway targets.
teeny months our estimates have emphasised theof the fact that the communists, especially the drv andthey were winning the war in south vietnam and needed onlytheir momentum until the cvh collapsed and the us was forced
to abandon the struggle. in this confidence hanoi has been willing to endure bombings of the efiv, 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 U3 soundings and overtures for negotiations.
think, however, that recently this general confidenceweakened both by us/ovw military successes and by tangiblethe us is willing to lnoreose its commitment. the situation has
coce to seen noro dangerous and discouraging than they probably had expected, and victory must seem to them much further off than itev montha ago* Thua, ve think that the assumed US action vould coneine vhen DRV doubts may be growing.
3. Public Communist declarations and commitments to continue the struggle, however, remain aa firm aa 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 EfiV oore or less openly against then. Their warnings may indicate Chinese worry that tbe DRV is weakening; Indeed, thereew indications, private and tentative, that Hanoi may not be quite as adamant in Its position as its public declarations assert.
k. The Coseniniate, while they have hoped that tha US vould continue to exempt tha Hanoi-Haiphong area from attack, probably have rated as fairly high the chances of the kind of US attacks assumed here. Their reactions, therefore, vould probably not be greatly affected by ahock or eurprise.
5- The north Vietnamese vould, of course, defend aa beat they could againat the attacks. Beyond this, they might retaliate quickly. It ls possible that the DHV has contingency plans for surviving aircraft to attack American bases in the South or US carriera. There is no evidence of training for this type of mission. They vould probably expect such strikes to provoke wider and heavier US attacks. Thus, we 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 carriera. Itthat Hanoi and Peking already have an agreed plan for theintervene from their own bases in response to the kind of USIn this estimate. We doubt this; the Chinese are notirm or unqualified commitment. They would wish to weigh
the effectiveness of the initial US attack end to receive the KW 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 the border.
in the first few days, during and immediatelyonset of the US attacks, there wouldhance of an attack onor shipshance of Chinese air Intervention. But weunlikely.
course, there vould alsoreat hue and cry fromaide, and the usual stream of protests, threats andvould alsov acts of terrorism and sabotage Insideparticularly against US forces. Viet Cong capabilitiesfields are considerably greater than they have yet chosen The principal Communist reactions however, vould cocevaeks and months, and they vould of necessity ba greatlythe ongoing course of military and political events as veil as byactions ve consider in this estimate.
The Chinese would strongly urge tha DRV to continueto this end they vould probably promise more equipment andbuild up air defenses, and particularly to defend and repair thelines of communication to South China. The Chinese might agreetheir own aircraft and pilots to the DRV, but on balance veunlikely in the wake of the demonstrated vulnerability of DRV Almoet 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.
?7 The Director, USA, for the national Security Agency, considers tbe
cbancss of tbe Chinese sending their own aircraft aad pilots to the DBV despite tbs demonstrated vulnerability of lta airfields as being about even.
irey te that thcoc US ettacks ifooJd t'n the Voler.ce ondintervention. The ChtneBe nirhtve tl>nt the var ladpoint of no return sndS-Chinese confrontation vsaprice of continuin* tho var InVctrpn. Themade this var tlie test esse for their doctr'no of "peopleathe USj they hove staked much prest.ij^. esnnot te
very confident that the Chinese vould continue to refrain from intervening in the air from their own bases as the US continued attacks near the Chinese border andeakened raw. But on balance wc thinknlikely that they would so Intervene.3/ With somewhat more confidence, ve estimate that the US attacks would not provoke large-scale Chinese intervention vith ground combat forces; Peking vould almost certainly believe that this would run very hich risks of var with the US.
USSR. The Soviets vould increase their efforts to halt They vould put pressure on tho 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 war givesgreater authority. The Soviets would almost certainly asree to DRV
he Director, DSA, National Security Agency, ccosiders the chances that the Chinedo will intervene in the air from their own bases as the US continues attacks near the Chinese border ae being about even.
requests to replace air defense equipment, although they would do so core to retain their influence with the DRV than in the expectation that they could furnish an adequate defense against US operations.
Soviets could try to relieve pressures on the DRV bythe US in Berlin. We oontinue to believe there are stronga double criaia. Carefully controlled harasaments anddenonstrations of US vulnerabilities are alwaysotentially unatable situation in the Soviet leadership adds
an element of uncertainty to tha Soviet positions.
DRV. In Hanoi, reactions would probably develop alongtwo conflicting lines:
(a) Hanoi might believe that the new US attacks and theinterdiction campaign did not alter the basic situation. The North Vietnamese might stick to their belief that the guerrilla war is, hyrolonged struggle against heavy odds, that there will be setbacks and defeats, but that tha ultimate gain is worth it. They might feel that damping down tho war in 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 might also conclude that the US escalation
of bombinefl vould still not do intolerable damage and vould probably not be extended to attacks on urban population. They might decide that the US vas desperate in the faceong var involving US troops in tho South, and that further struggle, perhaps involving the dispatch of PATH units to the South on an increased scale, vas the best course to crack the Saigon Government and US resolve.
(b) On the other hand, the DEV might estimate the situation quite differently. The growing US commitment in the South might persuade them that tha guerrilla var 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'a air defenses andider range of targets might convince them that the US intended to escalate the air var almost indefinitely, if necessary. Thus they might decide that, while their position in the South vas still strong and the Viet Cong etill intact, it vould be more expedient to move toward negotiations or some tacit understanding in order to pursue their objectives through political means, and possibly at acme future time to resume guerrilla warfare.
la. Ve believe that the US course of action assumed here would reinforce tha thinking described In subparagraph (b) above. Even so, itot likely that tho North Vietnamese vould move immediately to
tho conference table; they would probably feel that there waa atill time to test the effectiveness of the Viet Cong against US forces. They mighthope toritical blow against US and GVH morale, perhaps by engaging US forces somewhara In the hinterland. Failing this, they might next revert to hit and run tacticsime. And there is atill tha queation of whether China couldwitch to political taotlca.
In general, however, we think it unlikely that in the new altuation created by the US attacks assumed here, the DRV would simply continue the war along present lines. Ve think that this US course of action would be more likely In time to move the North Vietnamese toward political and diplomatic initiatives than to cause them to escalate the war.
The Viet Cong. As noted above, Viet Cong morale ia an important Ingredient in DRV estimates of how to prosecute the war. Ve have little good evidence on the state of Viet Cong morale. And it la difficult to Judge the Impact of specific US moves, since their effectivenessradual cumulative process. Io tha assumed instance, tbe new US air attacks on tbe DRV would be unlikely to affect Viet Cong capabllitiee
or lntantiona in the short run. Over the longer term, however, If it became apparent that supply and reinforcement were more and mora difficult, it ia likely that VC morale would deteriorate, particularly If they Buffered setbacks on the order ofogether with continuing pressure on tbe ground and from tha air.
17. Other Considerations. urrent factor which might play some role is the Indo-Pakistanl conflict. The Communists might see the new US cove 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. Faking 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-Pakistani conflict would not greatlymunist reactiono to the US course of action considered in this estimate.
The following is the position of tha Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State:
1. Tha Director, IHR, Department of State, dissents fundamentally from the key estimates made above. He believes that the postulated air strikes against the SRY's SAM sites, airfields, thermal plants, and prime rail, road, and traffic targets would be seen by the Communistsas well as ty most other observerssundamental 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
program assumed here, however, would be regardedolitical and military watershed comparable to that of last February when our bombing of the DRV began.
2. Hanoi, Peking, and Moscow would all view the strikes as initiatingand in large part executinghe highest level of militarily significant escalation available in the DRV short of ground Invasion. Even assuming precision bombing, the strikes would Inextricably involve industrial and civilian losses beyond the objectives deliberately targeted, as veil 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. Ccnmunists and non-Communists alike vould 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 froa our past policy of graduated pressure. They vould probably conclude that ve had decided to forsake further efforts toudicious 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 objectivea vould slump, and our actions would Just as plausibly be. seen to invite
the capitulation of tho DRV under pain of total destruction, raise the apecter of an eventual invasion on the ground, and in any case appear to threaten the DRV'a ability to survive.
3- Under these circumstances, it is unlikely that Hanoi vould choose to move toward negotiations or compromise; it is unlikely that Moscow could afford or would be willing to urge Hanoi to do so; and it is certain that Peking would press Hanoi to persevere. These positions would be mutually reinforcing.
If. The DRV 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 overtures it may poaaibly have been contemplating. It would fear that any sign of compromise under such pressure vould be read by friends and enemiea as capitulation, vould undermine all poaslble future bargaining positions, would irreparably damage Viet Cong morale, and would predispose the US 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 the war and of more insistent requests for, and far fewer qualms over, Chinese and Soviet aid.
5- Far fromespite from the bombings, the DRV would attempt to retaliate by raielnn the tempo of the grouod war. It vould 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 deapatch of "regrouped southerners" andoth to raise Viet Cong morale and to discouraga the US and its supporters with the prospectong Jungle war.
6. The DRV would certainly at once press Peking and Moscow vigorously for prompt aid in rebuilding its defenses against air attacks. Inhibitions about additional Soviet and Chinese presence In the DRV would diminish. Hanoi might veil drop whatever reservations it may have had againat the use of Soviet or Chinese pilots. It vould be most impatient with Sino-Soviet disputes about transit rights, but would expect those past hurdles to be overcome in the new atmosphere.
7- Although Hanoi's reaction will continue to be of primarythe locus of decision making will shift perceptibly away from Hanoi to Peking and Moscow. Peking willajor 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 tha main estimate probably will not ariseHanoi's switchingegotiatory track despite giving China's contrary views "great weight." (Comparendf the SHIE).
8. It ia almost certain that Hanoi and Peking have concerted their preparations and discussed plans for Chinese action in the event of US attacks such as the ones assumed here. The Chinese vould strongly urge Hanoi to reject any thought of negotiations, and they will purposefully underwrite the DRV's will to persist. They would furnish the DRV with logistic assistance in prosecuting the war in the south and ia making further US air attacks as costly as possible. They vould 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 DRV facilities If and when useable.
9- The Chinese would Immediately increase their defensive air patrols along their frontier and perhaps overerritory 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 will intervene from Chinese bases.
10. The Chinese would probably in any case increase their presence on the ground in Horth Vietnam, furnishing anti-aircraft, engineer, and supply units and, if asked, providing combat forces to defend against a
possible US invasion of the north, thus freeing DRV forces tosouthward. With the destruction of the rail line Into China, tha logistical problem of supplying the DRV vould Increase. To the degree that th* US progran la successful and South China must become the operational and Infrastructure base for further air defenee of tha DRV, the Chinese vill need Soviet support and protection. Greater Soviet involvement might reluctantly be desired to deter the US. Thla 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 tha Pakistan-India war Is likelyany limitation on Peklng'a villlngnesa and ability to carryforegoing responses. Peking haa prepared its forces and itsfor some time to face the eventuality of the US actions assumedaatimate. Its likely actiona against India, outlined in SNIEprobably not be deterred by such US actions, nor vill tharequire the diversion of Chinese air or ground forces available
to support Berth Vietnam and to defend South China.
in addition to tha general increase in pressuresthe interacting nature of tha tvo Asian theaters of war, Peking vould
be avare of certain comparative advantages in an eacalatory response to the American move in North Vietnam. Peking knovs tbat the Vietnam theater tenda to bring the US into confrontation with both China and the USSR,
while the Indian theater tends to bring the US into confrontation only with China. Therefore Peking would hope to breach US-USSR relations on tha matter of Vietnam, reducing thereby the freedom of both tha USSR and the US to respond against Chinese pressures in the Subcontinent.
13. The Soviets would be specifically affronted by the assumed US course of action in Vietnam. They vould almost certainly interpret it as an assault on the viability of Worth Vietnam, vhose security they have cossaltted themselves to defend. They would be likely to regard the US actionirect challenge to themselves, the more so since it vould probably result in Soviet casualties. The/ vould be unlikely to place any credence in assurances that US intentions ware still limited (something they have teen 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, ond It would redouble its effort to participate meaningfully in tha defense of the DRV. Moscow would renew ita earlier offers of additional aircraft and pilots and would attempt to Increase the flow of SAMs and technicians to man them. Tha Soviets would ranev their proposals of last springooperative effort with the Chinese to aid Hanoi. The Chinese, for their part, would find it
more 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 in the struggle ara likely to lead to competition to see who can help hanoi most effectively.
unfortunately for them, soviet problems in providing rapid and effective aid would be serious. drv airfields and associated installations would be unusable, heavily damaged, or under continuing attack. previously prepared sam sites would likewise be difficult to replenish, and the us would presumably not abstain from attacking sites in preparation, as it did during the installation of the present soviet-supplied sam capability. under these conditions. it is likely that the soviets wouldtrong attempt to mount an air defense effort from chinese territory and we believe that, despite haggling, some arrangement to this end would be consummated. argaining factor with moscow, peking will probably requestnd moscow providesophisticated soviet air defense(mig sis and sams) to protect bases and logistical lines in south china.
wa believe that fundamentally the soviets would nevertheless remain interested in an end to the conflict. while under tho stepped up military assistance effort which we believe they would be bound to make
the soviet* vould he prepared to run the risk of direct engagements with us forces in vietnam, ve believe that they vould not contemplate these risks with any equanimity and vould 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 preasures to deter the us,urther substantial vorsening in bilateral relations.Original document.