MEMO ON REACTIONS TO A US COURSE OF ACTION IN VIETNAM

Created: 4/21/1965

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

MODKAWEUM ON REACTIONSS COURSE OP ACTION El VIETNAM

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Thin rDCQorarxlum una coordinated vlth nenior officers of State/Dm, DIA, end CIA (ONE and OCT). Aa of the time of conple-tioo, ve have not secured the views of Mr. Huflhee (IHR) and General Carroll (DIA).

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To eatlaate Coeeainist and seceral world reaction* toUS course of action In Vietnam, stated belov, over the next six to twelve monibn.

ASSUJCTI0S3

Ve aasume that the scale and te-apo of US air action against Korth Vletnaa and acnlnst tho3 ln South Viet nasi continues at present .'evels for the period of this est Jan te. Ve also essuae that, vlthln the next fev aonthfl, additional US Military forces areInto South Viet nan to bring the total US military present there to approxismtel; Co, COO and that these forces wlU hare, as port of tbelr ciitfllon, ground coobat ajtlnat Viet Conea also asauoai thatllied non-US eoabat farces are introduced).

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I. TtlTROIUCriOH

1. The Present Situation. At present it appsars that the EFV, vith stroos; Chinese encoaraceoent. Is date mined for tbe present to ride out ths 'J3 boaberdrjent. Tte Viet Cone, the HHV, acd Coaeamlflt

China hove hardened their attitude* toward Deviations, vltUmt cate-GOrieally excluding the possibility ender all conditions. They atlll coo-eldcr that the tide is rwrninj in favor of the VC, deaplte tha boatbinca In the South. They apparently calculate that the DRV can afford farther punishment end that. In the tteantttae, US detercination to persist will weaken because of the pressure of Intermtional and US domestic opinion, the threatroader conflict, and 'ncrenainc IKV air defenee

S. The Sovleta have exhibited increased concern about tbe trend of events, and Moscow haareater interest in react 1st lona than the other Coanauiiats lirrolved. nevertheless, the othera have thua far rejected Hoeeow'e efforta In thla direction. In these circma-atances the Soviets have beeneries of steps, each of vhlch Increases their involvenent and comarttaent. In an effort to vie vlth the Chinese as supporters of forth Vietnam and the VC's "national liberation atrviGSle." Soviet SANs ore alnoet certainly on tha way, and the recentxxaajalque ausceeta that ajceaant baa been reached on other fortes of military assistance aa veil.

3. Hon -Coaasunist opinions are Influenced prlnarlly byactors: feera that the var vlll spread beyond Viet no ta, and Judoasnte aa to the relative chancea of the ttfo aides. On the first point, faaxaarser var are presently not hl&i, but they He fairly near

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the surface and work largely against the US. On the Mcood, soot vox Id opinionthat political weakness in Saigon, the success of Viet Cong guerrilla, tactics, and tha ground predominance of China vlll eventually lead to Coenunlat victory. Another factor, one vhlch works la the US favor, la tbe priority vhlch acne goveruj&ante, notably the Ot and Australia, attach .to naintalnlng solidarity with the US In Southeast Asia.

R?Bcticn3ontinuation of Present Courses of Action

a. If present US policies eontlnua without the Introduction of large additional forces or Increased US air effort, the Ccamainlete are likely to hold to their existing policy of seeking victory in the local military struggle In South Vietnam. Tbey will try to intensify that struggle, supporting it with additional men and equipment. At tbe same time, DRV air defenses vlll be strengthened through Soviet and perhaps Chinese aid. So long ea the trend la South Vietnam appears to the Comcunists to be favorable, however, ve doubt that they will open new fronts in Indochina, launch an overt invasion of South Vietnam, or challenge the US in the air in the southern part of tbe DRV.

5. Aa to the course of tbe struggle In South Vietnam Itself, In these circumstances ve think It unlikely that the Viet Cong and its supporters will come to bailer* that they can no longer support

tho var ond oust oaxe concessions extend Ing beyond the suj^rficlsl In order to end It. They are nore likely to boll ere that they are prevailing or at least holding their own.

thess estlcatoa are correct, then some changesopinion are lihely over the next six to twelve months veconsiderinc. Pearsarcer war vould probably decline,

but tbe conviction of ultloots Cotinunlst victory would be strengthened with the passags of tine. Under these clrcunstances, therefore, tho outlook laecline ln support for the US, although the chenge night not be very great.

II. REACTORS TO THE ASSUMED GREATER US rrsovroexz

assuaed US course of action would requireto re-exaolne their estimates of US lntentlona. buildup of US and other foreign forces becaias clear,and nou-CoBnunlst opinion would probably concludeUS hadirm decision not tovllitary defeatVietnns. Moat of those who believed that UB policyto create the bJjIsslI conditionsace-savingabandon this belief. Many people, and In particularnight believe that this US decision could be undone at

later atojje, but all vould perceive atemporaryand strengthening of the US commitment. However, aa It become apparent that US operations acalnat the DRV were still beins conductedimited basis, vlthout maximum use of air and naval power, the Communists vould be likely to conclude that US determination to prevail had not yet overcome ita concern toideninc of the var.

Initinl Comraniat Reactions

B. In the circumstances thus creoted, the CoiiaaunistB nlrfrt reason that military victory vould nov become very difficult or perhaps even unattainable. They might think this, not because they expected tho nev enemy forces rapidly to reverse the tide of battle, but because they feared they vould be unable toeries of successful local operations and thereby to maintain the morale of the Viet Congroloncea struggle. Additionally, they might Infer from the increased US commitment that, if apersisted, the chances of aUS resort to more aGcreasive actions were greater.

9. Alternatively, tbe Coisaunlsts mi^ht reason that the nev eneary forces vould serve only to postpone the ultimate Coomunist

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Ia this, they would he counting on such factor* as the capabilities of the Viet Cong, the Known aversion to "getting bogged down"and vur in Asia, the political vulnerability of the Saigon Government, the pieasur-is of world and domestic US opinion, and the evident nnvUllnsness, at least thus far, of the U3 to expand the conflict by bombing northern Xorth Vietnan.

ID. Although there vould be differences among them in general ve believe that the Viet Cong, Borth Vietnam, and China would initially respond along the second of these lines of reasoning. Accordingly, they vould probably try to offset the nev enemy strength by stepping up tho Insurgency, reinforcing the Viet Cong as-aesessary vith the sen and equipment necessary. They would likely count on time being on their side and try to force the piecemealengagement of US troops under conditions which might bog then down In jungle warfare, hoping tothe USe facto partition of tbe country. The Soviet Union would be more inclined to the first line of reasoning but, unlessevents had ln the meantimeajor change In post-Khrushchev policy, the USSR vould almost certainly acquiesceecision by Hanoi to intensify the struggle.

11. Therehird possibility: that Hanoi and Peiping vould choose the arrival of major new OS forces as the mooenteneral Bhovdovn. This couldarge-scale invasion of South Vietnam by DRV troops, movements of Chinese forces loco the DRV, end movements of DRV and/or Chinese troops into northern Inoa or beyond. Wc do not believe, however, that they would react In

this fashion, at least until they hadhance to observe how the US Intervention had affected the course of the war.

Communist Reactionsnter Stage

22. Subsequent Coanunlat reactions would depend upon the subsequent course of the struggle In South Vietnam. Ve cannot estlzate hew that struggle would evolve after new aatl-Consualst forces had arrived and the Viet Cong had In turn received nev eupport. In general, however, ve believe that the Viet Cong, the DRV, and China all rate the staying power of their side as inherently superior to that of their enemies. But the critical factor will be whether these beliefs are prove* in sense* validated In terms of the tides of battle, the casualties, and other indicators with US and SVH forces over another six to twelve months of fighting.

13. If the Communists concluded that the Viet Cong's military

prospects had seriously worsened. In spite of the reinforcements

noted in paragraphesult of the US intervention and

military successes then they wouldhoice between taking

steps to Interrupt the conflict or shiftingarge-scale ground

offensive along the lines of paragraph U. In weighing these

alternatives, we think they would recognize that by connaitlcg ground

forces to of *ecalve operations, the US hadreater ertake

In the war. Moreover, tbey vould probably also recognize that the

chances of overrunning South Vietnam In

overt Military operations had receded, and that If they tried to do

thla ecalnotUS forces, the US prohobly would not accept

defecthe war to the WV and China, perhaps

ualnn nuclear weapons. Thus, va think that, if and uhen this

point Is reached, tha chances are socevhat better than even that the DRV

and China would rasort-topolitlflal-voves would goak atemporary political solutionrather thanajor ground invasion.

Vt. The USSR la less concerned than the other CorarunlBt states to defeat the US in South Vietnam. Its chief motive ia to preventefeat from redoundlns to Chinese credit and ita own discredit, to uphold its claims to leadership of the "socialist canp" and the "national liberation inovemont.* These concernsHanoi with considerable leveraco over Moscow, and the USSR vould probablyiieral support and specialized military assistance to the DHV in any of the various levels of conflict here envisaged. But ye note that the present level of Soviet Involvement in Southeast Asiaecent policy departure which reverses Khruoachev's tendency toward flisencajement, and It IS thereforeharp increase tn risk mljjht cause the USSR Co revertore aloof posture.

tbe moat important non-CoasuLlstbe those of the South Vietnamese. These reactionbe aonevhat ahbivalent, that 4a, On the one handbe considerably encouraged ea the ese hauie bvtthe Increased US support: on the other, th^re yould be avith the pas rage of tine, to relax efforts est thesomeone else would now do the- fighting. Ihelarge number* of US troops might lend credence tothe US bad colonialist aoMtlons ln Vietnam and cause a

rise in popular support for tbe VC. Ibe key determinant, hcvever, vould be the effectiveness of the total US effort. If thislackening of VC pressures, US-South Vietnamese working relations vould be fairly saooth. If, on tbe contrary, the var looked as If it vould dragitharticular respite from DPV/VC pressures. South Vietoases* war weariness and antl-Americanism would probably begin to threaten the US political base in South Vietnam.

vould be wide variations, ranging from very positive

to very negative, ln tbe reaction* of the other ncn-Corniubaat national to the US course of action assumed here. However, tbelr declarations and moves would, for the most part, tend to be unimportant, sinesew can have, or even hope to have, any noticeable Influence on the countries most directly involved ln Vietnam. The ultimate

effect of developments In Vietnam on US relations vlth the bull: of these countries vould continue to be determined by the eventual success or failure of US policy there and by the degree to which any Individual country found itself beeoeini- more deeply embroiled In the conflict.

IT- Major NATOuch as Great Britain, Vest Germany, Canada, and Italy, vhlch hove heretofore largely supported US actions, vould be almost certain initially- to continue this posture. Hovever, their concern at this further evidence of US willingness to enlarge Its conaitoent, and at the implications for further escalation later on, vould enhance erfatting desiresegotiated settlement. ile Rome end Bonn vould be llltely to remain passive, London and Ottawa would probably press Washington privately to shov greater willingness to start talks with the Communists, while avoiding additional escalating actions, and also deviae schemesc facto cease-fire or ultimate settlement, nevertheless, both countries vould go very far to avoid an open break with the US and to maintain their lines of communication to US pollcynakera.

10. Such allies aa France and Pakistan, vhlch are already negatively oriented to US policies in Vietnam, vould deplore the

essused course, of action, predict Its folluro, and step up theirto mobilisepressure, primarily on tha US, but also oa tha CcreauilstB, to nova to the conference table. India's reaction vould be similcr, though perhaps even core vocally hostile to India nod Franc* el Jit also see* to vork out Joint positions or even nev Initiatives vita th* USSR, but Pakistan ooy be mare vary of such actions in vlev of Ayub's recent rebuff to Moscov and of the vulnerability of nevly-estabUshed ties between Pelplnc and Karachi.

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