Courtesy Reuters

Viet Nam: Crisis of Indecision

As the war in Viet Nam moves well into the third year of the major phase that began early in 1965 with the deployment of large numbers of American troops, there are indications that the long and difficult conflict is in a state of irresolution, or what the communists describe as "indecisiveness." This does not mean stalemate, a word Washington officials rightly reject, since the military contest on the ground remains highly fluid and damaging to both sides, while the population and economy of North Viet Nam, subject as they are to an ever-widening pattern of bombing, are obviously being hurt (reports from the North say that half a million persons, including perhaps 100,000 Chinese, are now engaged in repairing the bomb damage). In South Viet Nam, American troops and their foreign allies, and occasionally the South Vietnamese, are continuing to win some major battles and with the help of coördinated tactical air, heavy bombing and artillery attacks are inflicting heavy casualties on the communists.

Despite these losses by attrition, however, and despite their acknowledged difficulties in replenishing their guerrilla ranks, the communists have held their own, are still able to strike back effectively, and have managed over the last six months, through continued infiltration from the North and some recruitment in the South, to increase their total number of men fighting in South Viet Nam from 260,000 to approximately 300,000, of whom some 60,000 at present are North Vietnamese. According to accounts of prisoners and defectors, as many as two-thirds of the four or five thousand men being infiltrated each month in small units into South Viet Nam are being lost within a period of months, through bombing of infiltration routes, as a result of illness (chiefly malaria or intestinal disorders) or in battle. Nevertheless, the replacements keep filtering through the Laos corridor, and in addition the North Vietnamese have committed as many as three full divisions at a time across the Demilitarized Zone for action in the First Corps area, the northernmost part

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