China’s Immunity Gap
The Zero-COVID Strategy Leaves the Country Vulnerable to an Omicron Tsunami
Despite the willingness of many Americans to settle for less than a satisfactory settlement in Viet Nam, and despite the possibility that events may foreclose the alternatives, it seems useful to examine just how "bad" a settlement we really are willing to accept and what the alternatives to such a settlement are. Despite heated discussion, some of the central issues involved in negotiations have not been debated-or at least not in sufficient detail and concreteness to make them clear. Indeed, so far each side is demanding victory on its own terms, the only difference being that we have offered North Viet Nam some face-saving devices, while Hanoi talks as if it is determined to humiliate us. Thus many people have dismissed these public positions as debating stances or meaningless rhetoric designed to raise morale or inspire confidence among allies and supporters-not serious approaches to settlement.
The problem, I suspect, is more fundamental. It is difficult to imagine that the United States will acquiesce in any solution in which those forces and elements in South Viet Nam which have been seriously committed to our side will be denied a major voice in the settlement or very reliable guarantees against molestation and discrimination after a settlement is achieved. They include two or three million individuals in the armed forces, the Government and the administration of the country-and their families. Our moral "wards" also include most of the million or so Montagnards, some major part of the one to two million adherents of the Hoa Hao religion, most of the 1.7 million Catholics, many of the 1.4 million Chinese (most of them seemingly neutral in the war rather than actively anti-Viet Cong), probably a majority of the million or so Cao Dai, almost all members of the Dai Viet and VNQDD political parties, and others.
Even those Vietnamese whose anti-communism derives from their status as landlords, property owners, merchants, officers, civil servants, etc., are entitled to protection-at least in so far as they may find themselves in jeopardy because they supported the same cause we supported. In addition, many ordinary Vietnamese are strongly opposed to the Viet Cong and have aided us because of no particular ideological or religious commitment or other particularist characteristic, but simply because they reject communism as they have seen it in action, or have reacted against terrorism or specific atrocities.
This makes a lengthy list of people with a moral claim on the United States. While no one knows what would actually happen if the communists gained control of all of Viet Nam, we cannot-on the evidence of North Viet Nam's record after 1954-dismiss the possibility of political pogroms or a murderous purge of the régime's enemies and "anti-social" elements in the "new" South Viet Nam. Earlier this year in the city of Hue, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces assassinated more than a thousand people, most of whose names were on prepared lists. How we would feel about the possibility of the Hue atrocities being repeated on a nationwide scale is a matter that does not need elaboration.
What would be some of the other consequences of a dishonorable and humiliating settlement? In general, the international consequences, while by no means negligible, do not seem likely to be as important as the probable disillusionment, frustration, alienation and divisive recrimination in the United States. A "stab-in-the-back" legend on the right would compete with "military-industrial-complex" theories on the left. The alienated could argue that the stupidity, incompetence and immorality of the Establishment had now been proved; it was stupid in the way it got into Viet Nam, incompetent in the way it dealt with the war, and immoral by its own standards in the way it got out.
One can easily imagine a "backlash" based on a combination of those forces which supported Senator Goldwater in the 1964 election and dedicated to "ideological regeneration" of the United States. If we regard the 40 percent who voted for Mr. Goldwater as a hard core of support for such a cause, it seems by no means improbable that it could attain a majority. If it did assume power, it would be unlikely to support those "great society" programs which many opponents of the present Administration believe are inexcusably blocked by the Viet Nam war. Even if this rightist coalition did not achieve a majority, it could easily succeed in blocking such programs. In any case the bitterness in American life might be unprecedented.
It is often said that France got out of Indochina and Algeria without suffering permanent damage; actually the repercussions were severe. Many Frenchmen argue that if French Army rebels in Algeria had crossed into metropolitan France, they would have been opposed only by the communists; the rest of the country was too disillusioned and apathetic to care. But it is one thing for a country like France to go down to rock bottom and then come back. It might be a very different thing, both domestically and internationally, for a world power like the United States.
Before discussing whether our commitments can be met and examining the alternatives that may arise, it must be noted that one's attitude toward the Vietnamese war is often determined by one's attitude toward such specific issues as: the degree to which anti-white and anti-American feelings increase as more Americans come into the theater and the degree to which these feelings create empathy and support for the heroic little man in black pajamas and antagonism toward the white man in the B-52 bomber; the degree to which we are fighting nationalism in Viet Nam; the degree to which the forces behind the National Liberation Front (NLF), which tend to be dedicated, devoted, disciplined and honest, would be better guardians and leaders in the modernization process than those on our side who distressingly often are corrupt, partisan, self-seeking "peoples of the past;" the difficulty of identifying the enemy; the extent to which the Catholics are regarded as a foreign element; the degree to which the present Saigon Government has been discredited because it depends heavily on generals who served under the French against the revolution, and because it is backed by an outside white capitalist nation that supplies much of the actual fighting strength; the degree of passive support enjoyed by the NLF; and perhaps most important of all, the degree to which we are destroying the country.
I believe that the American and European consensus on every one of these nine points is almost completely wrong or misleading; if I did not, then I would have to acknowledge that much of what follows is either mistaken, misleading or irrelevant.1
It seems reasonable, both logically and intellectually, to start with an examination of the pre-Tet situation. There were at that time at least three commonly held assessments of the state of the war. The first and most usual among the American public was that the Vietnamese war was a hopeless morass incapable of "military" solution. It would eventually find a political settlement, perhaps after a collapse of American and South Vietnamese morale.
In sharp contrast to this was the attitude held by many in the top command in Saigon. They believed that there would be clear signs of victory by spring of this year, and that those signs would be unmistakable by June. They did not necessarily expect a collapse of the communists, but they did expect a decisive change which would make an allied victory seem inevitable. This optimism was based on two theories. First was the assumption that "as soon as we show the North Vietnamese they cannot win, they will quit." The second can be called the "attrition-pressure-ouch" theory of victory. It holds that as American forces cause increasing losses to the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, and in addition make life increasingly difficult and uncomfortable for them, the communists will eventually find their morale stretched to the breaking point; recognizing the hopelessness of their position and the extent of their losses, they will quit.
The obvious reply to the first of these theories is that Ho Chi Minh could equally say, "As soon as I convince you that yon cannot win the war your morale will collapse. Would you care to compare biographies?" In partial answer to the second theory, as long as morale is not too eroded the NLF and the North Vietnamese clearly can replace their losses at the present rate for the rest of history. About 250,000 young men come of age each year in North Viet Nam and about 200,000 in South Viet Nam. In principle, the NLF could replace the 50,000 or so losses that it has been suffering each year, either by drawing on the rural half of this pool or by substituting North Vietnamese. North Viet Nam by drawing on its large pool not only can replace its casualties indefinitely but can also provide "recruits" for the NLF.
These may be the extreme positions of optimism and pessimism. There are also a whole series of what might be called moderate positions. There is, for instance, the one held by a group of analysts at Hudson Institute. In their 1967 assessment, the situation in Viet Nam was relatively promising, particularly when contrasted with 1965 and 1966; with no basic change in policies or programs, they foresaw the possibility of victory, or at least a decisively improved position, in two to five years-without assuming that morale on the other side would collapse. If substantial improvements were made in various programs, a more rapid military victory was possible and both a break in the enemy's morale and a successful political settlement would become more likely.
Does what happened during Tet change this assessment of the situation at the end of 1967? The first point to make is that an extensive improvement in the arms and equipment of the Army of North Viet Nam (NVA) and the Viet Cong (VC) occurred in late 1967 and early January and represented a very substantial escalation by the Soviets, Chinese and North Vietnamese; it is startling in retrospect how virtually unnoticed it was by the public and by many in the Government, even though it was detected and discussed in some detail by the press, which apparently got the information that U.S. intelligence had developed. As a result of this arming and upgrading, most enemy units now are about as well armed, except for lack of artillery and air support, as the corresponding American units-in some ways, better armed. They are a great deal better armed than the Army of South Viet Nam (ARVN), and incomparably better armed than the Popular Forces and Regional Forces. Furthermore, there are many more North Vietnamese now active in the South, both as members of the Viet Cong and as NVA units.
Second, the alleged failure of allied intelligence was not as great as usually assumed. Our intelligence estimates of the NVA/VC order of battle before Tet seem to have been reasonably accurate, though the full significance of the new armament, upgrading and increased infiltration was not appreciated. In particular, while many "new" units were used in the Tet operation, they seem in almost all cases to have been formed by upgrading existing units-e.g. by taking squads of local Viet Cong and putting them together, introducing some NVA personnel, giving them better armament, perhaps some augmentation by recent recruits and draftees and then using the resulting body as a new main-force unit. Finally, almost all the major enemy movements into position to attack were detected. The Tet offensive can be compared with Pearl Harbor; the intelligence was better than alleged; the interpretation and action were lacking.
A third important point about Tet is that it is difficult to overestimate the degree of relaxation that prevailed before the attack. Most curfew restrictions were dropped almost a week before Tet; while officially about 50 percent of ARVN personnel were given leave, the absentees in many cases amounted to 70 percent or more-despite the fact that the guarding of the cities and even many of the bases was the responsibility of ARVN units. Though American forces were put on alert, they too were often overly relaxed. Some of the effects of this were offset by warnings and indications of local action picked up in some cases a week or two before Tet, in others only a few hours before. Almost all units had either local intelligence warnings or alerts from headquarters which warranted major alert and other preparatory actions.
The failure of most units to react adequately can be explained if not justified. First, both the Americans and the Vietnamese had become used to past violations of the Tet truce in many areas away from neutral observers. Despite their protests, the world had given these violations a disbelieving or indifferent shrug. Further, the allied command did not believe that the enemy would violate the truce openly and explicitly in areas where foreign journalists and diplomats were present-particularly in view of the advantages Hanoi was deriving from applying political pressures to bring the United States to the negotiating table. In the event, of course, the world's indifference became positive annoyance that the Americans should accuse the enemy of perfidy; one can easily imagine the repercussions if our side had broken the truce. The point is not to sound a note of moral righteousness, but to observe that while communists often obey the form of an agreement and sometimes even the spirit, it does not cost them much, either internally or externally, to violate both.
It was relatively easy, then, for the enemy simply to walk or ride almost openly into the city of Saigon and other urban areas. The only limitation was that not all the personnel could be briefed on the operation in time, and therefore many could not participate. Either for this or political reasons, or both, almost all of the first-wave assault was by Viet Cong with perhaps some NVA reinforcement. It did not take much, if any, coöperation-even passive-on the part of the local population for this movement into Saigon and other cities to go largely undetected. It seems probable that, with the possible exception of Hue, there was really very little extensive long-range preparation among the population. Indeed in most cases local cadres were not notified of the attack in any specific terms. Another of the ways the Viet Cong seem to have achieved relative surprise despite the size of the attack was by using relatively untrained personnel. In many areas the tactics used were incredibly inept.2
Furthermore, the fact that the Viet Cong infiltrated into the cities were often those familiar with the area (who could most easily find sanctuary with relatives or friends or otherwise avoid attention) meant a very sharp limitation on the size of the initial wave. Partly because the first assault was so weak, partly because the ARVN resistance was unexpectedly strong, the reinforcing units outside the cities never did get a chance to attack during the first wave. There are other reasons why the enemy did badly, including, in many cases, bad luck. The relatively good performance of the ARVN has sometimes been overstated but, with a few exceptions, it was never catastrophically poor and was often excellent. This, plus the indifference of the people to the NLF/NVN propaganda, are two major gains in the Tet offensive.
There is a great deal of evidence that the attackers had been told that the ARVN would not fight, that the people would rise and that if they held for 48 hours they would be reinforced. Political units supposed to take over the local government accompanied the attackers. In some cases local cadres gave themselves away, and in many of the captured plans there was what we would call a "civil-affairs annex" on how to run the captured areas. The survivors of this effort are very likely to have some feeling of failure and of having been misled, particularly in view of the promises made to the communist troops last November of victory by spring, with an NLF-dominated coalition government in Saigon.
The mere fact that the NVA/VC could mount a major operation of this kind is of course a victory of sorts which itself benefits their morale. But the extent of their psychological victory seems much larger in Europe and in the United States than in Viet Nam, although the Vietnamese civilians were no doubt badly shaken. But the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong doubtless have a more balanced perception of their real gains and losses. They suffered appalling casualties and all they can show for it are unspecifiable consequences of a psychological and political sort-all of which, while potentially important, are either uncertain or far less than the explicit or implicit promises.
Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the Tet offensive was its effect in the rural areas. It was announced that of the 44 provinces, 13 suffered severe setbacks in the attack, 18 modest setbacks and 15 were basically untouched by the communists. This sounds serious but not disastrous. Unfortunately, there seems to be some evidence that the 13 provinces which suffered most seriously included some of the most populous provinces where the greatest advances had been made by the Government in 1967. Large losses there could represent an enormous setback to the national pacification program. Many of the less affected provinces were the less populous, and some were under so little Government influence or control that to say they suffered little change is fairly meaningless. Many of the losses incurred in the countryside were probably unnecessary. The relatively long time taken by the US/GVN leadership before responding may have had serious effects and may be one of the major things for which it can be faulted.
Nevertheless, in my judgment it was the enemy that suffered the major defeat, at least in the period January 29 to February 2 or 3. The "psychological," "political" and "diplomatic" victory was won by the NLF/NVN-or rather lost by the United States-in the period from early February to March 28 when the Pegasus operation for the relief of Khe Sanh started. We appeared to hand victory to the communists by a widely publicized and (according to news stories) desperate request for two hundred thousand more men; by an emergency airlift of twelve thousand soldiers; and by the almost complete disparity between what was said by official U.S. spokesmen and by Saigon correspondents about the current situation and future prospects. All this made it simply impossible for many Americans and Europeans later to accept even the most reasonable explanations and statements coming from the Military Assistance Command in Viet Nam. It was the lack of a prompt counter-offensive and a quick return of our forces to the countryside, plus confusing news stories, that lost Tet. Now, clearly, the allies have started to regain the initiative, and the next few months will give some intimation of how successful they will be.
The Vietnamese fence-sitters are more firmly in place than ever, but among the committed elements there seems to be a new spirit of energy and determination. It is, of course, easy to exaggerate this; some of it will wear off, some of it is purely rhetorical and some of it will be frustrated. It seems true, however, that the Government's mobilization is now faster and more expeditiously managed than it would have been otherwise, and that the arming and training of students, civil servants and others are being accepted with less protest than anybody expected. Those who are committed to the Government now appear to have a higher morale and better motivation than ever before. There is a new feeling of confidence and dedication in Saigon that arises both from a feeling of danger and paradoxically from the increasing realization of just how limited a success the Tet offensive was.
What, then, is the prognosis for the future? There is a new American management. Clark Clifford has replaced Robert McNamara; Abrams has replaced Westmoreland. This inevitably means some new policies, some new tactics, some new emphases. The withdrawal of Mr. Johnson as a candidate has changed in very important ways the President's relationship to the war and to domestic and international politics. For the moment, at least, he enjoys greater confidence and real authority. He is now in some degree "above politics," able to make choices and to create and live with situations which were impossible before.
What, then, can this new management hope to accomplish? Its first order of business will be the attempt to get a peaceful settlement in South Viet Nam and, failing this, a deëscalation of the conflict (perhaps by some kind of mutually limited or even unlimited withdrawal).
The simplest version of "agonizing compromise" would involve another partition of the country. North Viet Nam might be conceded one or two of the northern provinces of South Viet Nam (perhaps granting Hanoi its original goal of a border at the 16th parallel). In this case the North might retain de facto control of part of Laos or obtain some de jure concessions in that country. Such a territorial division would probably involve large-scale population movements between a truncated but still independent South Viet Nam and the North's newly annexed areas.
Another plan for partition would be to establish a more or less independent buffer state between North and South Viet Nam, perhaps including areas touching Viet Nam's western border, thereby providing a buffer zone between South Viet Nam and Laos and Cambodia.
It should be clear that any proposal for partition would be vigorously resisted both by the South Vietnamese Government and the National Liberation Front, both of which would regard this kind of solution as a betrayal, as to some extent it would be. Yet even from their point of view such a "double cross" would be preferable to a settlement in which one or the other had no choice except emigration or submission to a hostile régime.
Another way to achieve physical security and preserve some degree of economic and political viability in the South might be to "balkanize" the country-dividing South Viet Nam into a large number of more or less autonomous federal districts, and allowing each of them considerable de jure and de facto autonomy (including the right to recruit and maintain local military forces). The whole would exist under loose central government, more of a confederation than a true union, but with various safeguards and international guarantees. The central authorities would have major responsibility for communication, transportation and the maintenance of the integrity of each of the districts. Such other governmental functions as education, health, etc., might be delegated to the districts.
There are other modes of settlement but none seems likely to work in practice, or to be negotiable even if they are theoretically workable. And even if they were negotiable they are unlikely to seem satisfactory to either the South Vietnamese Government or the NLF, and this alone could make them unsatisfactory to both Hanoi and Washington.
The other broad alternative is to set up some political-military process whose outcome is uncertain, thus giving to each side a "fair chance" for victory or compromise. Some kind of caretaker government could be established to attempt to conduct reasonably free elections in which both sides compete. A less plausible possibility involves establishing a coalition government among the NLF, the existing Government and possibly some other elements. This strikes me as somewhat less promising than a coalition between the Ku Klux Klan and SNCC to deal with integration issues in the United States, or an Israeli-Arab collaboration to deal with frontier problems in the Middle East, or a coalition of the United States and the Soviet Union to institute a viable world government.
A possibly more practical proposal is mutual withdrawal of troops by both North Viet Nam and the United States, each side thus agreeing to let the NLF and the GVN fight it out with only logistic support from the outside. Even if Hanoi did some cheating (but not too much), a Saigon victory would be quite possible (in contrast to what would have happened in 1965 or 1966, or perhaps even in 1967). But NVN seems unlikely to be willing to make such an arrangement unless they are more desperate for prompt settlement than they now appear to be.
Actually, almost all of the proposals just discussed are less likely in practice to represent an "agonizing compromise" than a "face-saving surrender" by one side or the other. But if they were negotiated in this spirit, the motive would be transparent. Even a settlement intended as an "agonizing compromise" would probably be taken by the outside world as a sellout if it involved any coalition between the GVN and the NLF. Most Europeans and Americans interested in these issues believe that any coalition which contains major representation of an armed communist faction will be taken over by that faction, particularly if it holds one or more key ministries. If the communist faction is disarmed and has none of the crucial ministries, the world would conclude that the communists' interests had been sold out. In the in-between case, both sides are likely to feel sold out. Therefore, even a settlement which really represented an agonizing compromise, where neither side could predict the outcome, might still look like a sellout to many.
It is also possible to touch off a process, unconsciously or deliberately, which would have the same effect as a sellout. If the South Vietnamese believed we were going to sell them out, it is easy to imagine the existing anti-Viet Cong coalition falling apart as various groups tried to make special deals with the National Liberation Front. Or more likely, some kind of a "neutralist" group would organize a coup against the current Government and then either try to make a deal with the NLF or, as its puppet, arrange for an "election," a "mutual" withdrawal of foreign troops, a "coalition" with the NLF, or similar "transfer" of power. One can imagine other processes begun in which concession followed concession, each one in turn weakening the posture of the side making it, and thereby provoking further demands leading to additional concessions.
Neither of these, I would judge, is really likely to occur-neither a settlement involving serious concessions by both sides nor a sellout, either deliberate or unintentional. Because we seem to be demonstrating our understanding of the need to maintain the confidence of the South Vietnamese anti-VC coalition during the negotiations, what we must consider seriously is the possibility that Viet Nam may be a conflict which can not be settled or halted or even deëscalated without considerably more fighting.
In passing, it should be pointed out that one of the worst situations of all may occur if the North Vietnamese feel that we are politically and morally defeated and that they can get anything they want. Under these circumstances their demands could be so stark and their negotiating technique so intransigent that they might destroy or discourage the "peace party" as an important movement in the United States, leaving only a "war party"-perhaps one which was willing to escalate in a reckless fashion. Short of this, they still could force the United States back to the battlefield in a dangerously intransigent mood.
Let us assume for the moment that we cannot achieve a reasonably rapid settlement, or even start in motion a process which allows a fair degree of mutual disengagement. How may events then transpire? Under current (but recent) policies it seems likely that there will be a major and high- priority program to rearm, retrain, improve the leadership and otherwise upgrade the military and police forces of South Viet Nam. If we systematically use joint operations to retrain, test, evaluate and then correct weaknesses of the South Vietnamese forces, I believe that the result, even before the end of 1968, could be more thorough and effective than even the most friendly observers now believe. By making U.S. operations "leaner," and by transferring various responsibilities to the South Vietnamese in both combat and support, it should also be possible to begin withdrawals of American troops in January 1969 or soon afterwards; something like five to ten thousand men a month would be a reasonable rate to aim for. If for political and tactical purposes these figures were used as a lower and upper limit, it would put useful pressure on both the South Vietnamese and American authorities in Viet Nam without creating big risks. Of course, we would have to hedge against a major escalation by the North or an ineffective effort to upgrade the military.
It is quite conceivable that, if the competence of the GVN military and police can be increased, and if this can be accompanied by extremely rapid economic growth,3 the authority of the South Vietnamese Government and its international standing would be so enhanced that both defeat and sellout would soon become impossible. This rough picture is not necessarily a completely accurate or even a likely prognosis of what will happen. It ignores many current problems and faults and many possible future difficulties and weaknesses. It is, however, as plausible as the more usual assumptions of "a hopeless morass" or "more of the same."
Certainly this is true if the United States itself improves its tactics, operations and programs in ways that are now reasonably clear to a large consensus of professionals, and if less of a "business-as-usual" attitude prevails in Saigon and Washington. Among the requirements are: longer tours of duty, at least for officers; accelerated promotions such as occurred in Korea and both World Wars; greater willingness to patrol, ambush and to fight at night; more effective intelligence collection and use; more widespread adoption of tactics which have been proven effective in particular units; and, most important of all, a more intelligent and selective intervention in the affairs of South Viet Nam. Equal in importance to these military and administrative changes is a much better formulation of our goals, strategy and techniques so that we ourselves understand what we are doing and the world gets a sense of competence and assurance on our part. In addition, we should reform some of our practices to meet higher standards than the usual rules and customs of warfare call for-particularly with regard to civilian damage.
Some will argue that the Saigon Government is too unstable and lacking in broad support to make these proposals practicable. The danger of collapse of popular support for the Government is probably less real than the possibility of renewed rivalry between Thieu and Ky resulting in some kind of coup or other illegality. It is also possible that Thieu and Ky at some point might attempt to assume an even greater degree of control over the army and administrative apparatus generally, touching off another military coup. For a long time, too, there will be a possibility that religious, ethnic or other rivalry may explode, the most obvious being an already organized independence movement among the Montagnards (FULRO) and such groups as the Hoa Hao and the politicized Buddhists.
The danger can be made more acute in two ways: by a strong feeling among the South Vietnamese that the Government is going to be betrayed by the Americans anyway and so one had better do something in a hurry; or by a lessening of the sense of peril which would remove the pressure for unity and coöperation.
Although it may be true that Viet Nam is almost ungovernable, yet at the moment it is one of the most democratic and constitutional nations in Southeast Asia-even under the stress of war. It will be doing well merely to hold this position. One could hardly complain if South Viet Nam sustained a government about as decent and competent as that in, say, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand or the Philippines. Only a maniacally dedicated and disciplined group is likely to give it greater unity in the foreseeable future.
In sum, it is obviously of the utmost importance that the United States take great care in its conduct of negotiations and in the settlement it accepts. The following series of steps and expectations might be a reasonable program:
Honestly pursue negotiations with the hope of achieving some kind of "agonizing but reasonable compromise." If this succeeds the outcome is not a victory, nor is it a defeat.
Do not pursue negotiations to the point of accepting a dishonorable or humiliating defeat or withdrawal, or of disguising a sellout as something else.
Develop a clear and acceptable alternative to settlement, for otherwise we may be too weak in negotiation, or the other side may be too excessive in its demands, or we may not be able to maintain the confidence of the South Vietnamese.
Such an alternative should include:
(a) Much better formulation and exposition of our goals, strategies and tactics so that we ourselves understand what we are doing, the world understands and many existing myths and misconceptions are clarified.
(b) Improved tactics, operations and programs including an explicit and plausible "theory of victory" and proper plans for implementing it. The necessary ideas already exist but have not been applied.
(c) Massive upgrading of the armed forces of South Viet Nam, including the police, so that a major portion of the effort can be transferred to the GVN and the hope held out of eventually transferring full responsibility.
(d) A conversion of the war to a "just war," in part by suitable limitations on our tactics and operations, in part by adopting a reasonable theory of victory and a long-range program of economic and political development; and the clear exposition of all this to the international public.
Plan to reduce U.S. forces in the next two or three years to between two and three hundred thousand men.
Gradually shift greater responsibility to the GVN, while we ourselves display a greater willingness to risk heavy casualties for substantial gains.
The Viet Cong infrastructure is gradually destroyed and its recruitment ability greatly reduced, thus reducing Hanoi's capacity to fight in the South.
With air, artillery and logistic support by the United States, the South Vietnamese develop the capacity to cope with the declining level of hostilities.
Either the war peters out or there are renewed and successful negotiations. To deter a resumption of major hostilities, the United States stations two or three divisions in South Viet Nam for a considerable period. 1 I discuss all of these issues reasonably fully in a recent book, "Can We Win in Vietnam?", by Frank Armbruster, et al. (New York: Praeger, 1968). In this article, I find myself in the somewhat uncomfortable position of presenting points without making the necessary introductory arguments. 2 For example, there is only one place in the eight-block perimeter of the Presidential Palace which is virtually invulnerable to attack. This is where the blockhouse is located. The Viet Cong concentrated their entire attack on this point and failed to get into the Palace. 3 Recent studies indicate that this could be achieved even during hostilities if something like 1967 levels of security were reëstablished.