NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO POSSIBLE US COURSES OF ACTION AGAINST NORTH VIETNAM
CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL
NOTE; This is thc estimate. No further dulnbution will be made.
Submitted bT ihc DIRECTOR OF CINIRAI INIEUIGEKF.
Concurred in by lhc UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
Ai Indicated overleol5
Submitted by the
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency ond Ihe intelligence organizations of the Departments of State.C and NSA.
Concurred in by the
UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
ononcurring were the Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of Stale; Ihe Director. Defense Intelligence Agency: the Atomic Energy Commission Representative lo the USIB: and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Assistant to the Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of his jurisdiction.
CLASSIFICATION OF TITLE IS OFFICIAL USE ONLY WHEN USED SEPARATELY
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
SUBJECT: : COMMUNIST REACTIONS TO POSSIBLE US COURSES
OF ACTION AGAINST NORTH VIETNAM
To esticate Communist reactionsS course oi" sustained olr attacks on North VAetnan.
This estimate is intended to nuoplcr.cnt, not to supersede,n the sane subject, Ootcd For cxomple, the probable involvement of Cor?iun*st air forces is discussed in that paper, and not in this.
1. The US air attacks on North Vietnam hove added another inyedfent to on sLrcody intricate ond complex situation. Hence Comunlst reactions to these attacks vill not be the product of thc attacks o'onc, but u'.Jl ie
governed by numerous factors: the state of relations among the USSR, Communist China, and the DRV; the attitudes and conduct of various free world powersespecially France; developments in the UM; the course of events in South Vietnam; the manner ond rone with which the US air attacks develop and the policy of the US itself, not only as this policy may be enunciated by the administration, but also as the Cocnmunists may read the influence upon it of newspaper and Conrressional declarations and other expressions of diverse views. Ue cannot estimate with confidence or precisian how these factors uill interact in weeks to cone.
Reactions^ to the_f Early February orrc of the Sane Type, South of "the" lyth Parallel
To establish Communist power in South Vietnam nnd CO unify the country under the Hanoi, regime is the pr'nary notional objective of the DRV leaders. From thennin%'; of the insurrection in the South, houevor, they hove consistently admonishedco be prepared for a Only in the past few nonthc have they .ccosionally talked in terms of victory being near. This feeling may have been dampened somewhat by the past week's tougher US action.
There are probably some among tho DRV leadership who wouldautious course. They would ur<je that collapse of CVII resistance Is inevitable in time despite any amount of foreign support, and that it would be foolish isk destruction of the DRV's laboriously acquired modern
economic sector merely to accelerate the pace of victory. However, in the present moment of high emotion in Hanoi they probably hesitate to voice such thoughts.
fc. To the militant majority, the recent US sir attacks probably appear to be the actionsoe endeavoring to uord off defeat. Those leaders probably reason that If the DRv/vc stand firm or even increase their pressures in the South, thoy will have to rideeu more supIs US attacks, but that the US/CVH disposition to continue thc strugele uill decline. To these leaders, any disploy of apparent weakness in the face of the bombing would signal to the US that it had hit upon the way to get what it wants in the area.
5- He accordingly believe that the DRV/VC reactionew more air attacks like those of early February would probably be to continue their pressures in the South more or less on the scale of recent weeksalways with an eye upon factors like those mentioned in paragraph 1. At the moment, the Communists cannot be sure whether US actionsustained course of air attacktit-for-tet" program of limited reprisals to specific provocations. It is possible that they would,eek or two, refrain from direct attacla on US installations, but we cannot estimate that such restraint is probable.
li'hcComun&sts will cluost certainly encourage the ffiv
the wore nilltant course, c do not believe tliat they will intervene In Vietnam with substantial military force during this sta;,e. We see no
evidence ot present of preparations to do so, although ve cannot hove full confidence in our ability to detect such preparations.
Reactionseclared ami "ugtainefl US. Pro/yamof_ Bortbinr'. in the Horth
the past decade the LW las invested uuoli tine, effort,in the development of industry, transportation, endmilitary facilities. Thoy irill not lightly sacrifice these hreat by thc US to mount sustained attacks on these cs-ctsbe greeted in Hanoi with ni::cdf tropUotion At thc start, thc Cormuiists could not *oc convinced tWvt thc
US intended really to follow through uith th>3 Tiit-ycertainlysnne of pressures in on endeavor to tvakc the UO desist. They would raintain strenuous diplomatic ond propofjanda efforts to organize" intemotionolainst the US policy. They would probably threaten dire consequences to US interests in the area. Chinese Cconuniat threats would be irore insistent, and Chinese Corruniot forces; vould pro'jobly le deployed in more threatening postures. Victttacks vould probebjy continue, though not neccssorilyteady pace.
despite these pressures, the US vigorously continued inand cera/;cfi sore inportsnt ccor.ouic or military esscts, the uW
leaders would have toecision. They almost certainly believe that while the US could destroy ouch in their country by air attacks, these olone vould not cause their retire to collapse or prevent them fromto aupport the insurgency in the South. And they imy believe that their International political position would Improve If they became the object of sustained air attack from the US, Accordingly, they might decide to intensify the struggle, accepting the destructive consequences in the North in the expectation of early victory in the South.
9. It seems to us somewhat more likely however that they vould decide to moke some effort toespite from US air attack, especially If the US had indicated thatespite wouldharp reduction of Viet Conee do not know how far they would fp in concessions.
The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes this course of action less likely than that described ln paragraph 8. Re considers that Hanoi would feel that any benefits to be gained byespite would be more than offsetoss of momentumime when victory appeared near,oss of face with the VC, and by the consequent bolstering of US/CVN morale, llano! vould have in mind thatler such clrcui-ctrncca rv -jit only invite the US to resume strikes upon any renewal of VietlLitary activity.
Moreover, the assumed vigorous US attacks on major tor-jets could easily coincide with thc probable use over the DRV of Chinese air defense from Chinese bases. If so, US responses would either hove been to acknowledge the privileged sanctuary of Chinese bases or to strike the bases in hot pursuit, thus inviting further Chinese military responses. Hanoi's persistence would be reinforced cither way.
whether the US would accept what might he offered, or what the international situation might be atime. We think it extremely unlikely, however, that Hanoi would concede so far to US demands that it would entail abandoning its support of the insurgency in the South or giving up its intention of unifying Vietnam under Communist control.
Chinese Communists would almost certainly be willing toDRV in even the more militant course of action outlined in paragraphhave set forth in SHIE, with Stateof dissent) the use the Chinese would be likely to make offorces.
Possible, but Unlikely Reactions
of temporarily easing off or intensifying presentpressure, the Communist leaders might actually engage in actionschange the scale and nature of the war. These would be ouchand aggressive courses and, although they seem to us unlikelylight of logic and prudence, they are possibilities which cannot
a. They mightarge-scale DRV Invasion of South Vietnam and/or Loos. We think it unlikely that they would do this in response to bombings of Horth Vietnam. They would feel that at best this drastic policy
would only accelerate victories in Laos and
will win before very long through les3 costly tactics. Such an invasion would virtuallyreater involvement of the Chineae in Vietnam, which is in itself distasteful to the Horth Vietnamese. The Coaaninists would recognize that to launch such an invasion would be to Invite further major destruction upon the DRV and perhaps upon China.*
b. We think It unlikely that the Chinese or DRV would respond to US air raids by air attacks on US aircraft carriers or South Vietnamese air-
fields. To do so would invite counterattacks on the vulnerable Communist bases and start the escalation of an airorm of hostilities most disadvantageous to the North Vietnamese and the Chinese. neak attack on 3
The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes thats applicable only in the Initial stages of bombings in north Vietnam, well below the Hanoi-Haiphong target complex. Once US attacks destroy major industrial and military targets in this complex, however, Hanoi will have substantially lost its hostage and suffered the maximum damage it could anticipate from the air. In this cose the DRV, having suffered the destruction of its major military facilities and the industrial sector of its economy, would probably carry on the fight and proceed to send its own armed forcesarge scale to Laos and South Vietnam. Hanoi might assume that the US would be unwilling toajor ground war, or that if it was, it could ultimately be defeated by the methods which were successful against the French.
Furthermore, if the DRV should persist in this fashion, Peiping would probably introduce limited numbers of Chinese Communist ground forces into the DRV asoth to prepare for further escalation and to make clear Pelping's commitment to assist the Korth Vietnamese.
carrier by an unidentifiable Chinese sucoarlneore difficult possibility to weigh, but we are inclined to think the chance is slim; the risks would be fairly high and Chinese confidence ln the ability of their inexperienced submarine force to pull It off is probably low.
c> We also think it unlikely that the Chinese Communists would start another major crisis elsewhere on the periphery of China. Faced with the possibilityull, scale war ln Southeast Asia, Peiping would want to have the greatest possible strength focused there% Chinese propaganda has Indeed, said that America'sforce" in Asia is spread thinlylong arc from South Korea tond that if the conflict were expanded, the "time, place, and scale of the war would be beyond US control." However, we think this is no moreeneral warning of the dangers of expanding the war. Peiping is likely, however, to continue talking of warast front" and perhaps even to stir up alarms elsewhere to keep US power dispersed and deter the US in Southeast Asia. The Chinese Communists might, for example, increase the apparent military threat ln Korea, bombard the offshore Islands In order to raise tensions in the Taiwan area, or perhaps make threatening moves on tbe borders of India.
The Soviet Ingredient*
12. Assuming the fairly limited Soviet involvement which we have estimated, Soviet policy is not likely toetermining Impact on DRV and Chinese policy. The fact that the Soviets have become involved at all, however, almost certainly has some effect on DRV and Chinese calculations. How the Soviet involvement affects DRV reactions will depend upon the extent of whatever Soviet commitment has been given. If the Soviets have urged caution, the DRV might be somewhat more restrained and flexible in its responses to US pressure than we have estimated above. However, we believe it more likely that Soviet promises of aid for DRV defenses, along with the very, fact of Soviet reinvolvement will cake the DRV leadersmore confident and aggressive. They may hope to benefit in their confrontation with the USino-Soviet competition in baclcing them.
13- The probable effect on the Chinese of the increased Soviet presence is certain to be complex and ambivalent. On the one hand, the Chinese are almost certainly upset at an apparent Soviet move tohare of credit for any Communist gains In Vietnam and to try to displace some of Peiping's influence over the DRV. On the other hand, they welcome whatever additional deterrent can be laid upon the US by Soviet involvement in the situation. More important, they see an opportunity to force the USSR either to endorse the Chinese line on policy toward the US or toecpose itself as faint-hearted
* Possible Soviet reactions are discussed in In the
two following paragraphs we consider only the impact of Soviet policies on DRV and Chinese Communist reactions.
in its devotion to Communist duty. Whichever choice Moscow makes, Peiping expects Soviet authority to he undermined, and Chinese influence strengthened, in the International Communist movement.