CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE flGEKI
SUBJECT: PROBABLE CC+MJRIST REACTIONS TO A
US COURSE OF ACTIOn
PROBLEM AND ASSUMPTIONS
This SNTS considers probable Communist and Free World reactions to two kinds of assumed changes in the conflict In Vietnam:
ASSUMPTION I, HEAVIER ATP. ATTACKS ON NORTH VIETNAM AHDSUBSTAIiTIAL FURTHER BUILDUP OF US FORCES IN SOUTH VIETNAM
A. The US Intensifies aerial attacks on North Vietnam (thencluding military targets within the Hanoi-Haiphongirsthe main POL facilitiesey power plants, then carrying on accelerated ROLLING THUNDER attacksirfields,OCs, and other militarily significant* targets. The program would extenderial mining of the main ports, with sufficient warning to enable shipping to clear the ports prior to activation of the minefields.
B. The OShase II buildup of its forces beginning in6 and finishing in September, raising the total OS ground forces in South Vietnamo at; there would also be some additions to air and naval strength.
I. PROSPECTIVE US/GVH VICTORY IH SOOTH VIETNAM
At some point within the neat year or so the US/GVH forcea In South Vietnam appear to be clearly on the way to destroying the VC/PAVHfor carrying on the insurgency at significant levels.
In the summerhe US began Its Phaseof forces in South Vietnam,otal ofovember. Sizable units of these forces have engaged the enemycoastal areas and In the interior highlands. US air strikes Inhave been extended to Include the roads and rail lines fromwell as some SAM sites.
Communists have recognized this as an Increasing USin Vietnam, perhaps greater than they had Initiallythey have proceededeasured fashion, not yieldingactions but continuing to press forward with the war alongestablished. The DRV has made Improvements on its IOCSLao panhandle and It has sent additional PAVN units to South Vietnam,
bringing the total there to0 awn. These forces have engaged In attacks of at least regimental site against US forces. Additional PAVH forces have been recently detected coming down the inprovei* Ho Chi Klnh trail aad there are indications that more will ccme.i/
3. The Increased US air attacks have elicited an Intense response by conventional AAA, and SAM defenses have been Increased and utilized, though with limited effectiveness. DRV fighter aircraft reaction has been negligible.
k. Although Chinese Communist fighter aircraft have sometimes
scrambled vhen US flights have come near China, they have not sought
combat over the DRV. Chinese railroad troops and other support forces,
perhaps as manyave moved into the northern DRV to maintain and operate supply linoa, and these troops nay have some AAA units vith them. We have detected no major moves of Chinese combat troops In response to developments in Vietnam, but Peking has been constructing alrflolds near Vietnamriority basis and has taken other measures to strengthen its air defense. It has also Improved its logistic capabilities near the DRV and Laos.
Seeor further dlscusnlon of PAVH/VC capabilities for further buildup.
he Acting Director, Rational Security Agency, Dr. Louis W. Tordella, and Mr. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, do not believe that there is at thiseasonable basis forumerical estimate of Chinese Coioounlst troop strength In the DRV. They consider that the actual numbers of troops could be substantially more or substantially less than the figure appearing in the text.
I. PROBABLE REACTIONS TO ASSUMED US COURSES OF ACTION
A. To Intensified US Attacks on North Vietnam
5. Intensified US air attacks such as those postulated would probably not, In and of themselves, cause any basic change in DRVe believe that Banoi's leaders would not decide to quit and that PAVN Infiltration southward would continue. Though damage from the strikes would make It considerably more difficult to support tbe war in South Vietnam, these difficulties would not be Immediate. Over the longer run, the sustained damage inflicted upon North Vietnam might impose significant limitations on the numbers of PAVN and VC main force units which could be actively supported in South Vietnam from North Vietnam* For this reason, the ComBrunlsts would explore tbe possibility of exploiting alternate supply routes from China and they sea to Cambodian ports and thence overland or by Inland waterways to South
The views of Mr. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, on the probable effects of such attacks are statedootnote to paragraph
kj Lieutenant General Joseph F. Carroll, Director, Defease Intelligence
Agency; Dr. Louis W. Tordella for the Director, National Security Agency; Rear Admiral Rufus L. Taylor, Assistant Chief of Naval OperationsDepartment of the Navy; Major General Jack E. Thomas, Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, United States Air Force; and Major General Roy Lassetter,or the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, would modify this Judgment to take into account tbe longer run cumulative effect which Intensified air attacks together with the other postulated courses of action Included Inould have on DRV capabilities. They believe that as time goes on and as the Impact of sustained bombing In North Vietnam merges with tbe adverse effects of the other courses of action as they begin to unfold, the DRV wouldclearly aware of tbe extent of US determination and thus might reconsider its position andeans toessation of the hostilities.
5_/ Cambodialace of transit and entry to South Vietnam is discussed at seme length in Annex B.
To lessen the weight of the air strikes, the DRV would still have to rely on passive defense measures to reduce the damage, and employment of AAA and SAMs to make the attacks as costly as possible. Even if much of the DRV's air force (at leastSs) survived the attacks on Its hases, it would havemall and short-lived capability to interfere with the US attacks.
It is possible that the DRV has contingency plans for surviving aircraft to attack American bases in the South or US carriers. However, they would probably expect that such strikes would provoke wider and heavier attacks. Hence we think such DRV action unlikely, though the possibility cannot be ruled out.
Thus, any significant alleviation from the pressure of the air attacks vould have to come from outside tho DRV. inimum, Hanoi vould request, and Peking and Moscow would agree to supply, additional air defense equipment and replacements for essential materiel and equipment destroyed by the air attacks. China would almost certainly send additional logistic troops and, probably, antiaircraft forces, into the DRV. In time, however, sustained damage to the LOCs would make it difficult to supply the materiel for an increased air defense.
9- To defend the DRV, Hanoi might ask permission to operate DRV fighters from Chinese bases, or might request the Soviets and/or the Chinese to provide fighter units of their own, operating from Chinese
airfields. We believe that the Chinese would not comply with any suchoth the DRV and the Chinese air forces are ill-equipped to engage in sustained combat withir forces; furthermore,ontest would invite retaliation against Chinese territory. China would almost certainly not mate its air facilities available for operational use by Soviet combat aircraft.
10. We do not believe that either Hanoi or Peking would bo willing, at this point, to introduce substantial numbers of Chinese ground combat troops Into the DRV. From Hanoi's point of view,ovement could involve an undesirable expansion of Chinese influence. Moreover, it vould seem to both Peking and Hanoi to involve undue riskshinese-US
Dr. Louis to. Tordella for the Director, national Security Agency; Mr. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; and Major General Roy Lassetter,or the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, consider that the chances are about even that the Chinese, if requested by the DRV, would permit DRV aircraft to intervene from Chinese bases, or would evon do so with their own aircraft, in the event of continued OS air attacks near the Chinese border. They vould not expect any of these measures, of themselves, to repel the US attacks militarily, but would hope to make our operations increasingly costly and possibly deter further US escalation while running high but acceptable risks of being bombed themselves.
military confrontationonsequent widening of the war which we
think the Ccmmunists would not wish to invite at this point in the
11. The SovictB vould find their policy problems compounded by the US actions. They vould seek urgently to ascertain the DRV's attitudeolitical settlement and toward Chinese intervention. The Soviets are committed to help defend the DrtV against air attacks, but they vould recognize their continued inability to do so effectively. However, they would have little political choice but to try to meet Vietnamese requests for more air defense equipment, though they vould continue to avoid overt involvement. Soviet relations with the US would deteriorate further.
12. The expansion of the bombing would be regarded by much of the non-Communist worlderious new escalation of the war. There would bo extensive criticism of tho action, particularly if it resulted in heavy civilian casualitieo. However, there would probably not be any
7/ Mr. Thomas L. hughes. The Director of Intelligence and Research, Departcent of State, believes that the estimate underrates theend overrates the disadvantages which Hanoi and Peking might seearger Chinese military presence in Worth Vietnam. The present situation already indicates that Hanoi will receive whatever numbers of Chinese troops would be useful In repairing and protecting communication lines to China. As US air attacks Increase, Hanoi and Poking may feeleployment Into Tforth Vietnamumber of ground combat troops vouldalutary warning to the US of Peking's commitment to Hanoi's cause and of the specterider war. While the Eorth Vietnamese would not welcome the Increase in Influence which this Chinese presonco might imply, they would feel this factor more than compensated for by the increasing Chinese contribution to their protection and to the prosecution of the war. They are awareery large Chinese presence was eventually withdrawn from Horth Korea. Neither Hanoi nor Peking would estimate that the mere presence of Chinese forces, nor even their efforts to defend themselves against U3 attacks, would involve arisk that the US would widen the war. On the contrary, at this Junctureeployment might well appeal to both regimes as the most effective and safest available deterrent to further US escalation.
clcnificant change in the position of important US allies concerning US
policy in Vietnam. Nevertheless, adverse public reactions would create some political problems for the governments In the UK, Italy, and Some African and Asian nations, perhaps joined by Prance, would be openly condenmatory and night seek to formalize their protests in the UN. In general, the US would be subjected to Increased pressure to cease the bombings and undertake negotiations.
13. Although the nature and extent of Communist and Free Worldwould vary somewhat depending on which targets were bombed, ve do not believe that the differences would be critical.
3/ Mr. Thomas L. H'jghes, The Director of Intelligence and Research,
Department of State, believes that both Communist and Free Worldwould differ significantly according to the targets attacked. POL facilities could be most plausibly justified as targets relating to Ir.fiitration and logistic support of the insurgency In the South. Attacks on power plants,especially those embedded in urban areas, wouldtronger reaction from both Corzoinlst and Free World governments because it would be widely assumed that we were Initiating an effort to destroy the DRY'S modest Industrial establishment. Attacks on llr.ea ofand other targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong area would confirm the fears generated by the attacks on power plants and vould inevitablyharp rise in civilian casualties. The distinction between suchand all-out war vould appear Increasingly tenuous. Aa these attacks expanded, Hanoi would be less and less likely to soften its opposition to negotiations and at some point it would come to feel that it had little left to lose by continuing the fighting. It vould be likely to ehedpolitical inhibitions It might then still havebotharger PAVN intervention in the South (limited only by logistics) andurther Chinese garrisoning In tho DRV, The latter would becomeacceptable not only to deter further US escalation by the specter of Chinese involvement, but also to secure the North from US Invasion attempts, to which the bombings might seen torelude. To the extent that the Chinese presence In Horth Vietnam grew In response to our attacks, even such allies as Japan and the UK would be faced with still heavier domestic pressures to condemn the OS openly and to cesse all cooperation with our effort in Vietnam. Attacks on DRV airfields vould bepecial class. They would be seen by Communists and others to be purely military and vould thus not stir the strong reactions that other targets vould provoke. Such attacks vould, however, probably Increase the risk of Chineseas noted in our footnote to paragraph 9-
To Mining tho 8eaport3. During the pant five months, calls at Horth Vietnamese ports by Free World ships, primarily vessels of British and Norwegian registry chartered by the Communists, have ranged betweenndonth. We believe that mining the main harbors, even with adequate warning to avoid visiting unintentional damage to shipping, would bring Increased attacks on US policy throughout the Free World. Tho Norwegian and British governmente, especially, would be under added domestic pressure to oppose the US actions; they probably would register strongbut we do not believe that either country would significantly alter its policy toward the US. The Soviet Union would be presentedarticularly unwelcome dilemma. The difficulty of clearing such mine fields and the ease of rescuing would virtually rule out efforts to reopen the ports. The Soviets would certainly protest vigorously and might try for some kind of action in the UN. We do not believe, however, that the Soviets would risk their ships in mined Vietnamese harbors. Peking and Hanoi would try to compensate by keeping supplies moving in shallow-draft coastal shipping and overland.
B. hase II Buildup in South Vietnam
15. Both Hanoi and Peking are countingoss of US will to continue the struggle in Vietnam, but they have indicated that they do not expect this to happen soon, or before the US hasubstantially greater effort than it has to date. urther US force increase would, of itself, be unlikely to produce any significant policy change on the part
of the Ceramists. The continued, buildup vould be recognizedign that US determination vss still strong and that the Communist forces in Vietnam stillong struggle, nevertheless, the Comrauninto almost certainly believe that their motivation and determination ore superior, that lacklearcut victory combined with domestic and foreign pressures will erode US determination, and that they can outlast the US In thiseven in the face of extremely heavy troop losses.
We believe, therefore, that the principal VC/Banol/Peking reaction to the postulated US buildup vould be Increased infiltrationVW units and supplies and continued efforts to generate and exploit anti-American feeling in the South. It would not be the buildup itself, but the results on the field of battle, vhlch would determine any basic change in Cocmunlst policy.
The GVH leadership would welcome the increased US prooenceign of increased US corral tment. Consciousness of the growing force on their side, however, vould almost certainly whet the GVH leaders' appetite for "total victory" and night make them reluctant to cooperate with US efforts to bringegotiated settlement. Inevitably, the greatly Increased US presence in South Vietnam would generate increased anti-foreign feeling among soon segments of the populace.
II. PROBABLE REACTIONS TOLEAR TREND TOWARD US/GYM SUCCESS IN THE SOUTH
f this estimate discussed reactions to US courses of action under conditions where, though hard pressed, the Communists still felt that time was their ally and that eventual victory would he theirs. Part IIituation In which they have concluded that the tide of battle has turned so unfavorable that their forces in the South face defeat If current policies are continued. The given assumption docs not set forth the time or conditions by which this state has been reached, or what sequence of events and decisions may have taken place between now and then. orking hypothesis, we presuppose that the VC/PAVN forces are taking continued losses at an unacceptable level despite heavy PAVN Infiltration, and that the DRV is unwilling or unable to infiltrate and support sufficient additional PAVN to redress the balance.
Hanoi could seek to solve Its problem either by retrenchment or by escalation. Almost any form of retrenchment would directly Involve the VC/NPLSV, and almost any significant escalation would Involve increased Chinese participation. Hence, although Hanoi probably vould be the primary locus of decision making, it is likely that critical strategic decisions wouldonsensus of the parties involved. The dialogue among them vould continue, vith each party applying pressures on the others.
Retrenchment. Reducing the level of conflict could be doneumber of ways. Theseacit standdown, with PAW forces and vulnerable cadres returning to the Worth and tho organization in tho South goingimilar arrangement but accompaniedigh level of VC terror and sabotage, vhlch Hanoi vouldeasefirenegotiationsr some combination of these. The choice and timing could be orchestrated according to whether the purpose vas toemporary respite or to set aside the insurgencyatter of some years.
A retrenclunent could offer Hanoi relief from aerial bombing, an end to the manpower and economic drain of supporting the var in the South,hance to rebuild the ERV. It could also obviate the need for the presence of Chinese troops in. It vould not mean giving up hope of CcemraniEing the South. The weak popular base of any likely South Vietnamese government, and its questionable prospects for stabilityS military phase out, vould offer considerable opportunities for an eventual Communist takeover by one means or another. For China,esolution vould mean removal of the Immediate dangerar vlth the D5hance to concentrate on pressing economic problems at home. The VC vould be relieved of heavy casualty rates.
Communists vould also see serious drawbacks in choosingof retrenchment. They vould be extremely reluctant to adultpostpone indefinitely their "liberation" of South Vietnam and toall their bitter sacrifices had not paid off. They vould fearof morale among the Communists in the South, vith Many of the hard core would have to flee to the North;those who remained would be ferreted out and executed, ovortlyby the victorious anti^cmmunlstfl. The DRV leadership vould
be faced at home with reduced faith In its Tightness.
broader implications of retrenchment vouWourse, particularly vith Cceamailst China. During theor so, Peking has deliberately and publicly made the Vietnamese war
a test-case of Mao's theories that "local wars of liberation" can succeed even in the face of opposition from the US "paper tiger" If only they are pressed vith sufficient determination and proper use of the techniques of "peoples var." On this hangs,reat extent, Peking's present bid for leadership of tho Communist and Afro-Asian worlds. Tlie recentof the 3ino-Sovieteries of setbacks for China's foreign policy have undoubtedly added to Peking's desireemonstrable victory for Ita theses In Vietnam. On tho other hand, Peking's charges that Moscow has consistently failed to give proper support to the DRV couldign that Peking Isossible course of retreat.
2k, Escalation. We find some difficulty in envisioning aand effective way in which the Communists could attempt to reverse the tide in the assumed situation. orea-type march of large numbers of Chinese troops into South Vietnam through the DRV and the Laos panhandle would encounter extreme logistic difficulties, would be exposed toby US/gvh attacks, and would invite US retaliation against China. Yet the number of Chinese forces that could be Infiltrated Into the South and supported there, given the assumed situation, momU be unlikely to achieve what many battalions of PAVII had failed to do, while stillsome risk of US retaliation against China.2/
25. arge number of PAVN troops could be released to go South if Chinese forces moved into the DRV to provide local defense. Such an
9/ Major General Roy Lassetter,or the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, and Mr. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believe that the last sentence does not properly highlight the Chinese Communists threat and the size of the forces that could be moved to and supported In the South. Based upon past performances in both Korea and Tibet, there is no reason to assume that once the Chinese Communists decided to commit ground forces In support of the war in Vietnam, they would not commit the total number of forces they consider vithln their capability to support in an effort to redress the unfavorable situation. Important factors supporting this position are: our knowledge of the results of air interdiction programs during World War II and the Korean War; the impossibility of doing Irreparable damage to LOC capacity; demonstrated Communist logistic resourcefulness in covertly creating forward stockpiles of var materiel; their ability to move large amounts of war materiel long distances over difficult terrain by primitive means; and the difficulty of detecting, let alone stopping theof personnel over obscure jungle trails.
additional increment to Ccexuuilat forces in the South, however, would pose formidable logistic problems. It would also increase DRV concernreatly increased Chinese presence In their country.
26. ourse somewhat more attractive to both Peking and Hanoi might be to try to disperse US strength and create alarm byront in northern and central Laos and northern Thailand. This might be attempted initially by the ujcFathct Lao forces heavily encadred and supported by Chinese and Borth Vietnamese. Peking might hope that this tactic, at least in the early stages, would not result in US air attacks on Chinese territory. Other diversionary efforts could be directed at Taiwan, South Korea, or even India, but these would seem to be sore useful as threats In being to worry the US than as practical means to alter the course of the war in South Vietnam.
27- Hons of these courses would carry the assurance of victory, and all of them entail the possibility in some cases tho near certaintyof developing into an outright Sioo-Arcrican war. Peking would realize that this could mean direct attacks on Chinese territory, possibly including
the use of nuclear weapons
r. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research,of State, and Dr. Louis W. Tordella for Director, national Security Agones believe that Poking would feel that It could undertake actions at the lover end of the spectrum Indicated in paragraphsndithout undue risk of an outright Slno-American war. (See footnote to) Peking would not, for example, anticipate direct US attacks on Chinrso territoryertainly not nuclear attacksn response to an enlarged Chinese ground presence In North Vietnam orombined PL/DRV/ Chinese offensive in Laos. On tho contrary, they would probably calculate that by bringing heme to the US the dangerous implications of escalation their actions would probably deter further US moves. This Chinesepoints to the danger so lucidly discussed In paragraphsandf this estimateho danger that tho US and China might slide slowly into war, almost without realizing vhat was happening.
28. In the light of all these considerations, ve believe the odds axe tetter than evenii/ that, dogmatic and ambitious though the Cccasuniita bay be, they vould, in the circuMtances postulated, choose scoc fom of retrenchment rather than further escalation. Looking this far Into the future, in light of the many changes that nay have taken place in the meantime, ve cannot with confidence estimate which of several possible forms this retrenchment would take. We believe that the Horth Vietnamese, who areeavy burden, would be the first to incline toward retrenchment. The Chinese, who are not much hurt by the war, would probably be slower to come along, but their ability to stopove by Hanoi is Limited. The VC/HFISVTI would have to pay the greatest priceolicy of retrenchment and they would probably believe to the last that their cause could be saved if only their allies to the north would do more. However, they would not have the decisive voice.
29- The reasons for the Ccesnuniats to choose the more prudent course of standing down to fight again another day are persuasive, and wo would be inclined to place the chances of their doing so much higher wore it not for those factors which, for wantetter word, we call "Irrational."
r. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes that the odds are onlyittle better than even."
These Include cot only ideological fanaticismorld riev alien to our thinking but also deep-seated eDotlonal factors Including the arrogance of the Chinese leaders and elements of nationalisa and racism. Peking's leaders have not always been prudent. Thus we cannot discount theirourse of further escalation as heavily as our oun reasoning would indicate.
30. The discussion Inas been based on the implicitthat the Communists had allowed the situation to develop against themajor change In tha level of Chinese Involvement and that the Communists were forced toelatively abrupt, major decision. In fact It is considerably more likely that, as they suffered the successive reverses that brought them from the state of relative optimism described ino the far more somber assessments of Part IJ, they would have taken steps calculated to re-verso or redress the course of events. Hence, we believe that the dangerino-Amerlcar war lies lesseliberate
IP/ Mr. Thooas L- Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research,
Department of State, does not believe that the choice facing the Chinese loaders Ishoice between the rational (retrenchment) and the Irrationalut rather that thereubstantial rational componentdeterring US escalationn the latter course He therefore believes that In the assumed circumstances there is an almost equal chance that the Chinese would enlarge tho war and bring In large numbers of Chinese forces.
aad abrupt decision by Peking to take on the OS thanradual aeries of relatively minor escalations vhlch almost imperceptibly lead intoar. For example, as the bombing of the DRY increased, the number of Chinese involved in logistic activities there vould increase and their area of operations might gradually extend southward. Antiaircraft and protective ground forces might accompany those logistic troops. Step by step this could leadegree of Chinese involvement that vould be almost irreversible and might lead to contact at some point between Chinese and American forces.
31. Soviet Reactions. onsideration of Soviet reactions has not been integrated Into the preceding discussion because of the limitedthe USSR has on the decisions of the Asian Commmists. Pacedlear trend in favor of the US and GVH, the Soviets would realizoritical Juncture had been reached end that the time had come for plain speaking with Hanoi. At tho some time tba Soviets would hope to use the situation to enhance their status in Hanoi at Chinese expense. They would almost certainly urge the DRV not to expand the war by accepting large-scale Chinese Intervention. They vould probably give private warnings to the DRV leaders that Soviet support would not be forthcoming if this advice were disregarded. They might undertake some political initiative, along or in association with other states net directly Involved in Vietnam, to try toeasefire and In some way afford the DRV an opportunity to save face.Original document.