SNIE 53-64 CHANCES FOR A STABLE GOVERNMENT IN SOUTH VIETNAM

Created: 9/8/1964

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SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE

chancestable government in south vietnam

NOTE; This is the estimate os approved by the United States Intelligence Board. No further distribution will be made

Submitted by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE?

Concurred in by lhe UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD

As indicated4

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The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimates

The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organization! of theol State. Defeme. and NSA.

Concurring;

Director of Intelligence end Research, Department of State Director, Defeme Intelligence Agency Director ofNational Security Agency

Abstaining*

The Atomic Energy Commission Representative lo the USIB and tho AssistantFederal Bureau of Investigation, Ihe subject being outside of their jurisdiction.

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CEKTRAL IHTELLIOEKCE AGEHCY

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SUBJECT: GHAKCBSTABLE GOVERHffiMT IK

SOUTH VTETKAM

THE PROBLEM

To osseo3 tho chances for the cmcrgoncetablo non-CntnnuniGt regime in South Vietnam-

CCIICLUSIOH

At present tho odds are against the emergencetable government capablo of effectively prosecuting the war in South Vietnam. Yet tho situation is not hopeless: iable regime evolves from tho present confusion It may even gain strength from the release of long-pent pressures and the sobering effect of the currant crisis. Of the men on the scene. General Khanh probably has tho beet chance of mustering sufficient support toeasonably stable and workable government.

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Tho downfall of the Diem regime- released powerful political forcoe previously suppressed or underground. Reli3lou8 groups, principally the Buddhietc, the students, labor, ond the diverge ajvoy of Intellectuals end politicians both et hone and in exile raovod quickly to voice their aspirations end unite thaa-oelves felt. These cross currenta were reflected within the military establishment, particularly among the senior officers. Tho struggle among these variouo forceo can be expected to continue until an acceptable balance is struck, one group proves strong enough to dominate the others, or the fabric of cantral Covornoont is torn apart.

The convulsions of recentave surfaced andthese deep-seated divisions and strains. They havereciprocal suspicions between the military leadership and scgncnts of the populace, et least in urban areas, increased disunity within the military establishment itself, and

produced serious discord, including religious strife, among the civilians. The present situation io far more serious than that of> for the Viet Cans are now stronger, and3 popular enthusiasm over Diem'a oustor cave his immediateegree of general support and period of grace the present ahaky goveroaent docs not hove. Furthcreore, tbe events

of the past nine months have inevitably Increased sentiments of

war weariness end frustration, and probably caused "neutralism"

n end to tho constant struggle) to appear increasingly

attractive to many. Also, the factors Inherent in tbe US/GVKhove caused seme rise in cnti-Americas feeling,probably will grow.

3. Tho situation is fragile and vulnerable to attack or exploitation from all sides. It affords obvious opportunities to

any person or group reckless or ambitious enough to undertake a

coup. There are indications of such plotting by at least two

croups: disgruntled. Dai Viets allied with officers who presently

coraaand key military unite, and another group influenced by

Colonel Pham Hgoc Thao. Among the civilian population some

Buddhist and Catholic leaders appear to be trying to avoid new

violence, but the spectre of religious strife has not been laid

to rest. Recent Buddhist demands have alarmed the Catholics and

militants of either persuasion may provoke fresh crises. While

scene civilian pollticans wish toonstructive role, most

remain more concerned with personal power and prestige than

national unity. The students eeem to be calming down, but this

volatile group remaino vulnerable to manipulation from various

quarters, including the Viet Cong and, perhaps, the French.

k. The present governmental rvrrnngoocnts are likely to undergo flevural changes during the next few weeks. The 3hakyevolved amid riot and di-,corrta cixty-doy caretakernt headed by on ostenoible triumvirotu of rival generalswastopgap. Some othor armBfjnM&tfl will be triedperhaps in ccauoction with the proposed Katlonul Congress* Beyond the immediate crisis over governmentalowovur, there is tho question of whether any stable regime con emerge, capable of effectively prosecuting the war. On present evidence, chances of thisinuot bo rated aa less thin even*

5. The situation in South Vietnam ia so fluid and complex, however, that those developments which appear most likely will not necessarily occurs. Indeed, they have not on raany occasions In both ancient and recent Vietnamese history. Therehance, even if it be slight, that the experiences of the lost week or ao may ultimately prove salutary, that the situation had to get worse before it could get better. In the political chaoo nnd conflict, some longstanding pressures have been released, some smoldering grievances and quarrels have been aired and possibly onolloratod, and the dangers implicit In continued drift have been mode more real. It is not impossible that adroitcould turn these conditions to advantage in convincing

influential figures of the nood for national unity underleaders, ijcperfect as they nay be.

6. The real relationships of the persons and groups involved in the present situation aret is not clear hew much power General Khanh actually retains or what role he will play in forthcoming weeks. In some respects, recent events have damaged him politically. At least cone of his military colleagues are obviously unhappy at what they regard as his weakness in the face of Buddhist end student disorder. On the other hand, his manifest reluctance to use force againstcivilians nay lay to rest long3tr-ndiog civilian suspicions that hoeo-Diomist anxious to reverse theof3 andan Lao dictatorship. His courogcous willingness to stand alone and unarmed amidstcrowds won him personal respect.

In the context of present realities Khanh probablyetter chance than any other obvious figure of providing the leadership aroundtable government could be built. His success in this venture, however, is far from assured. Even if he himself shows the necessary astuteness and willingness

See Annex

to tackle the task hia success "ill dependreat degree on the willingness of other influentialeneral Khlem, General Minh, and Tri Quang) to lend him support or,inimum, to refrain from working actively for his downfall. General Minh in particular probably retains enough prestige soovernment which did not have his participation, or at least his approval, would have considerably lessened, chances of survival.

8. There are, of course, several possibilities otherovernment in which Khanh plays the paramount role. Some new figure may arise or seme already prominent personality may prove to hove hidden talents or unsuspected support. at the moment every likely alternative candidate has individual drawbacks or enough known opposition to cast serious doubt on his ability to provide unifying leadership. Several groups or figures seem strong enough to exorcise what amountsc facto veto in the business ofoviirnment. Although it is possible that sonx: individual or faction may

succeed in overthrowing the present government, noneother than Khanhpresently seems capable of holding power..

The longer tho present unstable situation laBts, the more difficult it will be toovernment which can

preserve even the appearance of unity and determination. In such circumstances, neutralist sentiment would almost certainly increase, together vith the dangeroosely organized coalition would emerge which could take advantage of frustration and war weariness toeutralist solution. In theabsence of firm central direction from Saigon, the morale and effectiveness of individual unit commanders in the field will decline, and there is even the danger that some might moke their own accoonodations with the Communist enemy. There ishance that seme province or region vill secede, and there are already rumors of noparaticit tendencies in Hue.

10. On the other hand, except for tensions in Hue, there is as yet little sign of the icoiner.ee of such dire Furthermore, in weighing the situation in South Vietnam it is Important not to focus exclusive attention on events in urban areas. During the past month, the war in the provinces has been carrying on, the army 6hows no signs of slackening its efforts and, indeed, has recently scored two major successes. Local officials have probably adopted the traditional Vietnamese wait and see attitude rather than taking actions which might Jeopardize their own position. Prolonged discord in the cities

will inevitably affect the rural pacification effort, but so far the- limited momentum which the countrtrinsurgency effort had in theot diminished*

11. the viet cong obviously are not indifferent to south vietnam's current troubles. hanoi and viet cong propaganda emphasizes that the communists expect victory to come primarily from south vietnamese political failures and instability. there is no evidence that the viet cong triggered the recant actions which led to urban upheaval, but the communists have almost certainly been actively encouraging discord and violence (cloven of those arrested as directly responsible for the worst of recent disorders in saigon were claimed by the police to be known vc agents). militarily, recent weeks have been marked by an actual decline in vc attacks, though this "lull" isormal phase and thoro are signs that the vc may now be preparing to step up their activity. judging from past experience, it will take some time for the vc to ready themselves to take full advantage of recent developments. also, the communists may wish to avoid the risk of increasing the obvious vc threatoint where it might unify anti-cccmiunists presently engaged in internecine political strife.

12. Soma of the recent agitation against Khanh'shaa had anti-American undertones. In some circles thereelief that the US prodded Khanh into attempting to eliminate Minh as chief of state and into resuminghind ef tightformerly exercised by Diem. Minh himself is manifestly resentful of what ho regards as US undercutting of his position (though Khanh too has been uneasy about what he considers US endeavors on Minn's behalf)- There hasrowing entl-American feeling among some Catholics who blame the US for Diem's overthrow end resent what they consider US favoritism of the Buddhist cause. In some military quarterseneral Khiem) and probably in some civilian circles as well there is resentment at what ia inevitably viewed as US "meddling" in internal Vietnomesee affairs.

13- Communistand possibly also Frenchgents have encouraged, and exploited anti-US sentiments. The idea is oiso being circulated that South Vietnam isattlofield on whichlien powers, the US and Communist Chftna, are waging war by proxy. It is likely that anti-American sentiment will grow.

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POLITICALLY INFLUEHTTAL indiv1xcials ASD PRINCIPAL POWER FACTORS IH SOOTH VIETKAM

1. General Mguyen Khanh: Khanh, who retrained titular Premierember of the ruling triumvirate in the governmental structure devised onugust, has come out of seclusion and taken over the reins of control againat least temporarily.eptember, leading military officers swore allegiance and Gigned loyalty pledges to Khanh, but Khanh's military support is not as solid os this would indicate, and much of iterious coup challenge. KJianh currently seems to have the support of Buddhist leaders, partly because of his willingness to accommodate their demands. This support, however, cculd swiftly dissipate if Khanh's general political influence should wane or if ho should fail to make good on Buddhist demands. In essence, Khanh i3 the first choice of few but, apparently, the acceptable second choice of marry. He probably has little remaining Catholic support at present. His break with the Dai VIets seems irreparable. Khanh's unsuccessful mid-August attempt to acquire plenary powers has caused him to lose much face, especially ainong the military, and probably alienated most students end traditional

politicians, even though some of the latter privatelyresent needtrong central government. One of Khanh's strongest cards is his obvious US backing, though this in itself is also causing some resentment end could be used against him in certain contexts.

ime, it looked as if recent events hod undermined Khanh'o confidence in his ability to outmnneuver his rivals and sapped his will to continue the struggle in the political arena.rief rest, he seems to have re-entered the fray, but it is still not entirely clear how he intends to play his hand.

General IXiong van Minh: Minh may soon regain his former position as titular Chief of state. Many officers

have become disenchanted with Minh's lack of leadership qualities and an increasing number of senior officerseneral Khiem) are becoming annoyed at Minh's reluctance to accept responsibility, despite his appetite for prestige. Nonetheless^ he stillenerally popular figure with the troops and many segments of the civil populace, his name has considerable magic, and ho could easily be usedat'3 paw by some faction. Symbolically, heero to the Buddhists chiefly because of his role in ousting

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diem. buddhist leaders apparently vent minh retainedey position, though they recognize his personal shortcomings. the same reasons which make minh attractive to the buddhists make him anathema to the catholics. at the moment he seems to beairly constructive role, but given his past performance and personality, hinh is more likely toivisivenifying element in the vietnamese political scene. he does not like khanh, resents what he consider the latter'3 usurpation of power, and is unlikely to give more than lukewarm support, at best, to any government in which khanhredominant role.

general tran thlen khiem: with his customary political agility. general khicro has clung to power through the recent crisis ond still appears to be in control of the armed forceshough lie has apparently submitted, his resignation as minister of defense. khiem participated in both the november and january coups, and many officers owe their jobs to him. his penchant forhowever, seems inconsistent with true leadership, and herincipal target of buddhist and student critics. khiem has preferred to work through khanh and in allegiance with dai viet officersncluding his deputy. general thieuho command much of the striking power in the saigon- area. ke has

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calledUSnd said he was tired of having the Americans meddle in internal Vietnamese affaire. His degree of influence and authority in the military establishment gives himpolitical power, but he probably has too many powerful opponents to be eblo to serve as the headtable Government.

5- Other Military Figures: The military establishment still holds the key to stability in South Vietnam, but its leaders now are probably shaken by an awareness that they cannot dictateecalcitrant public. Furthermore, the military remains factional!zed around various generals. Most of the generals, including the three discussed above, may prefer to bide their time wiiile trying to workaBe of powerolitical alliance with various groups. Thereood chance, however, that some military factionhe Dei Viets, perhaps with Khiem, or constant intriguers such as Colonel Fham Kgoc Thao, General Do Mau, or othersay try to seize controlilitary coup.

6. The Print Generals: Generals Le van Kim, Tran van Don/ Ton that Dinh, and Mai huu Xuanhe quartet arrested when Khanh took power in- etill seem to be on the political sidelines. Khanh's attempt to have them participate in the Military Revolutionary Committee meetingsndugust was

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ANNEX

voted downajority of the mrc. nevertheless, there ore Etill friends and forcer proteges of thece officers who feci they have been unjustly treated end the fact that their status has not really oecn resolved to anyone's entlro satisfactionontinuing political irritant, especially in the military if, instead of cooperating, the present paramount generals (especially khanh. khlen,and minh) should imock each other out of the rine, the iyilat quartet (particularly kim or don) mightore active role. they are unlikely to lend much support to khanh, but might veil form an alliance with minh, particularly if the object of that alliance were to unseat khanh.

7. ilguyenxuaa conh: vice premier ilguyen xuanarvard-trained economist who served es "acting premier" in khcnh's cbeence, now seems to have stepped down, but could still emergeey position. oanhechnically competentnot known to be allied with any political or military faction. as such, he may prove toeutral figure vho can keep the government machinery running until the situation io somehow stabilized. oanh io probably deemed acceptable to the americano, although general khanh personally does not like bia. oanh's political abilities ore questionable, and he seems unlikely to emergeeel leader.

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8. ffguyen Ton Hoen and the Daiguyen Ton Hcan, Vice Premier for Fee if ication, ond leader of the southern faction of tho Dai Viet Party, haa tendered his resignation from the government and is now on "vacation" in Hong Kong. His political future is uncertain. All Dai Viet elements, particularly Hoan's faction endeseer extent the predominantly northern splinter group to which Foreign Minister Quat belongs, are critical of Khanh. ublic denunciation of Hoan has almost certainly ruled out any future accommodation with the southern Dii Vlets. This group hasmall popular base, but has been using its semi-official position to recruit in the provinces. It retains adherents in socio hey military commands end security positions. The Dai Viets now seem to be allying with Generel Khiem, with Roan hoping utlimately to become prime minister. The Dai Viets do not appear wedded, however,olution involving leadership by either Khiem or Iloan. They probably vould support Minh if he would permit the party on influential role. In any event, the Dai Viets, particularly Hoan's Faction, seem more interested in obtaining power than in contributing to national unity.

5 The nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam, commonly called the Dai Viets, was founded durings end reached its height under the Boo Daiith its chief influence in Korth Vietnam. It splintered Into numerous factionsmong which were the northern factions headed by Drs. Pham Buy Quat and Dang Van Sungmaller but more militant southern faction headed by Dr. Hoan.

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9- theutership: tho socio of the buddhist leadership are still unclear. there ere signs of continuing internal divisions among them despite the fact that the militant thich tri quanh obviously has been their paramount spokesman in the current crisis. quangev personal regard for general minh, but is prone to give kinh public backingounterpoise to other generals the buddhists do not like. hekhiem anathema, more because of khiem's association with the diem regime than because of his nominal catholicism, even though cuang equates the two. the buddhists vero lukewarm towerdakeover last january, and embittered by hiaugust charter, nevertheless, they are presently backingpertly because of his apparent willingness to cote to terns with them in on effort to owb his own rivals, and partly because tho buddhists fear the consequences of his overthrow. ihe buddhists neparcatly want to retain their new-found political leveruge and tearcre-jnergence of diem's followers end of catholic influence.

id. thich tri qunng: tri ftiong cay symbolize buddhist aims, but his personal motives ore more complex. he ia tho head of the association of buddhist monks in central vietnam and ore of the most influential and militant members of the buddhist hierarchy.

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There continues to be no firm evidence that Tri Cueng is pro-Cccrounlsts, or ppo-neutrelist. There is little question, however, that he aspires loowerful bohlnd-the-scenes political force. There is considerable question about the conpetibility of his ultimate aims with US interests.

U. The Catholicg: Catholics have been apprehenisvo since the overthrow of the Diem regime. Although more favorably inclined toward Khanh than toward Minh, they remain wary of Kh^nh'c They strongly endorsed theugust charter, which oecmed toirmer direction of the war against the Viet Cong, but they now seem to regard Khanh as having capitulatedto tho Buddhists and students. They apparently look to General Khiem as their preferred leader and they nay be increasingly sympathetic to elements of the Dei Viet Perty, although up to now the Buddhist labelling of tho Dai VIotro-Catholic party has boen unjustified. Most Vietnamese Catholics vould probably be sotisifod with any government giving promise of effective loader-ship and guaranteeing thera equal rights and equal participation. ilitant minority Identified with Father Hoang Qrynh, fearing both Buddhist vengeance and loss of Cetholla privileges, continues to distrust almost all Buddhists and to pressatholic-oriented regime. This minority lias complicated the events of recent dayss capable of creating fresh crises ot any time.

12. The Students: Buddhists, ond Trl Quane in particalar,trong influence on Vietnamese students, whose sympathy vith the Buddhist campaign against Diem "Jrou^ht tbsx. for the first timeotional political role. Studentsthe firet to agitate against Xhenh'e axoumptlon of "dictatorial power." They seen to have been moved by aof factors: idealism, feareturn of Diemist rule, var-wcaririecs,pposition to conscription. They may also have been manipulated by rival political factions, by Buddhist leaders, by politically-nindot-professors, by the Vict Cong, by the Frenchor,likely, by all of these at various tinea and in various ways. The students ore almost cortoinly not under full control of Tri iueng, despite his boasts,ew of them now back Khanh. There ore several responsible student lenders, but studentsotential fec-ier for instability.

13- Other Hon-Communlst Politicol Groups: The only other political party with any discernible influence, the nationalist Perty of Vietnamase of strength primarily in the northern provinces of South Vietnam. There le some evidence that the Buddhists, end some of the "ore radical Hue University profoc-3ors who opposed both Khcnh end Khiem, have vTQDD ties. Kerry of the traditional Saigon politiclano aspire only to positions of personal

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although they orefavorably inclined toward minh than khanh or khiem.

Ih. the religious sects, the coo dai and hoa hco, have taken no stand in the recent crisis. their military cooperation was first sought by minh, but brought to *ruitioc under khanh, and they probably still support khanh. the growing importance of the sectsource of recruits for regional force cenpanies in several delta provinces may make then on increasing political force.

^* the viet cong: there is no evidence that the viet cong instigated or are responsible for recent actions which have led to urban and political upheaval in south vietnam, tlioush some of the recent violence and some of tho aati-'njriciin manifestations were probably due to, or intensified by, viet cong agent activity. the success of the buddhist campaign against diem has led the communists increasingly to emphasize the importance of the "political struggle" in the cities; and projxigenda froa both hanoi and the "national liberationmphasizes that the communists expect victory to cone primarily from political paralysis in saigon- luid confused situation, the communists obviously have considerable cecity for mischief malting. there are some

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Groundu for suspecting that. In addition to contributing to urban violence in Saigon and elcevhoro, the Concunioto nay be in some measure behind current political tcneions end manifestations of separatlct tendencies in EV.o. (Lo Xhac Quyen, the Hue professor who has recentlynational Solvation Council" and seeno to be actively opposing all coepronisea resclied in Snigcn to defuse the current situation, has long been accused by his opponents of fiavinc Comunist Effiliotions.) Conrnunists opportunities for maneuver, pressure, end dieruption will obviously increase if political instability and uncertainty in Saigon Is prolonged and if popular passions continue to bo eroueed over religious differences.

16. Tbe French: Ve have no evidence of any direct or indirect French hand in recent South Vietnaneoe political difficulties, which are being viewed in Furls as on "inevitable" development. However, the volatile students certainly constitute the clement of South Vietnamese society to which tho French have the greatest access (through their educational influences, especially the teachers France provides). iniauc. It ia evident that recent South Vietnamese difficulties have been helpful to the French policy of advocating neutralism and negotiation by creating an atmosphoro which lends support to the argument on which this policy is ostensiblyho argument that tho political situation in South Vietnam is bound to deterioratent no snti-Connuniet group is capable of generating enough popular support to be able to defeat the Vict Cong.

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