not underestimate the risk of bombing the North. (A summary of
a recent CIA study on Communist military readiness capabilities
is attached.) (2) But aside from the risk of
greatly expanded hostilities, there is the considerable risk that
the object of the exercise (i.e., forcing Hanoi to call off its
dogs in the South and/or to improve our negotiating posture) won't
be attainable by this means. The risks involved in retaliation
are less than those in the other two categories.
I assume that
our objective in Vietnam is to reduce the insurgency to a point
where the GVN can handle the problem itself or alternatively to
establish sufficient leverage to achieve by negotiation what we
are unable to achieve (at least achieve in a reasonable period
of time) on the ground. If this be so, then the war must still
be fought and victories achieved in South Vietnam. A major (and
well-publicized) military victory a month would do much to convince
Hanoi that the cost of the insurgency is high and would entail
infinitely less risk than bombing important North Vietnamese installations.
a few important military victories are now essential for Vietnamese
(and U.S.) morale. But how?
U.S. military advisers at Division level and above have had virtually
no significant influence on the planning and execution of major
military operations. We advise period. In large part this is because
we have been understandably reluctant to go beyond this. In large
part, too, ARVN officers resist relying on U.S. advice at this
level because of (not unnatural) regard for face and pride. Thus
we find ourselves critiquing rather than executing a Binh Gia-type
crudely we have, or think we have, the best staff officers in
the world; our intelligence on VC operations and concentrations,
while still not good enough is improving; regular ARVN forces
are nothing to be ashamed of. What is needed is to undertake the
kind of top-level strategic and tactical planning using ARVN forces
that we would be using if it were indeed our war. This will take
some new arrangements with the GVN, some additional high powered
U.S. staff officers and a willingness to assume the risk of authority
and responsibility for failure as well as success.
on accompanying and subsequent U.S. moves, the evacuation of U.S.
dependents can signal determination or weakness. My own feeling
is that we should pare down sharply. We have more use for MPs
than to ride school buses; the presence of so many women and children
in Saigon is an inhibition, conscious or subconscious, on action.
To wait until we have to evacuate in haste and possibly in confusion
would be folly.
Re the Government
All we need--and
all we should press for--is a government that is in charge, that
is prepared to continue the war, that is receptive to our advice,
and that has enough support or at least acceptance among the various
political groups to stay in power for a couple of years--or, at
least, have its personnel shuffled and structure modified only
in reasonably orderly fashion. Whether it's a military, civilian,
democratic or autocratic government is beside the point now.
in the last day or so indicate that there may be a thaw in the
relationships between Huong and Khanh and Khanh and the Embassy.
This is fine and we should move forward carefully and gently rather
than worrying about the fine print of any Huong-Khanh confrontation.
still confront the Buddhists, who will continue to retain the
power to move [make] any government unworkable, even if they cannot
actually topple it--a fact of contemporary Vietnamese political
life we will simply have to accept and reckon with. The problem
is that the Buddhists--or, more accurately, the militant bonzes
who now control the "Buddhist movement"--don't know
what they want, in a positive sense. The Buddhist leadership enjoys
the exercise of political power but prefers to veto rather than
propose. It does not want the responsibility of office or, actually,
direct participation in the governmental process. This leadership
is hypersensitive to affronts to its honor or present political
position, and to any recrudescence of what it considers "Neo-Diemist"
or "Catholic" authority. The leadership is also divided
among itself and jockeying for primacy within the Buddhist movement
in a manner such that no contender for politico-ecclesiastical
power can afford to let another appear more militant than he.
(In many ways the Buddhist movement in SVN bears striking analogies
to the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.)
At the moment
the Buddhist leaders, particularly Tri Quang, are calling for
Premier Huong's ouster. Actually, this demand may be a bargaining
counter. When Huong came to power, Tri Quang was ready to accept
him, but anti-Huong "out" politicians got the ear of
Tam Chau in mid-November and persuaded Tam Chau to lend his tacit
support to anti-Huong demonstrations. To prevent Tam from usurping
the mantle of militancy, Tri Quang moved to the head of the anti-Huong
can probably be placated and Huong simultaneously kept in office
but only if there is a juggling of personnel in Huong's cabinet
and in the make-up of the compromise body which emerges to replace
the HNC. To keep the Buddhists on the reservation it will be necessary
for discreet overtures to be made to Tri Quang and to other leaders
to flatter them by soliciting their views and, more importantly,
to sell them on the need for not opposing Huong and Suu, if only
to maintain the appearance of governmental continuity. In turn,
however, their advice will have to be sought on the composition
of the successor to the HNC and on cabinet changes. These soundings
would have to be undertaken by both Vietnamese and Americans.
The process will be delicate and time is fast running out. If
started at once, however, and if reasonable Buddhist personnel
demands are met, they can perhaps be kept in line during the critical
On the US
side, such soundings might perhaps best be taken by a special
Washington emissary. His presence and functions would obviously
have to be carefully coordinated with Ambassador Taylor, but such
an emissary could play a useful role as a lightning rod, a soothing
balm to hypersensitive Vietnamese pride, and a communicator between
presently contending elements in Saigon.