Courtesy Reuters

Indochina: Disengaging

The war in Vietnam has lasted longer than any armed conflict outside our borders in which we have been engaged in the nearly two centuries of our independent existence, and disengagement and complete withdrawal are still a question mark. The conflict has engendered divided opinions, manifested in bitter and potentially dangerous confrontations among our people, and we still are uncertain what it was we sought and why, where we should now proceed, and what courses of action would best serve our national interests.

Out of the ever-changing verbal explanations of purpose, boasts of successes attained, and justification for our actions which for more than a decade now have emanated from authoritative governmental sources, we are currently assured that we are "winding down the war," that our involvement is nearing its end, that there is a plan to accomplish this, and that that plan will be carried out. We are even assured that no further explanation of the word "end" is needed.

Concurrently come other quite different statements from equally authoritative sources that American forces will remain in South Vietnam until all U.S. prisoners are released, and until the present government of South Vietnam has "at least a reasonable chance to survive" on its own.

It is difficult to see how a war can be ended unless all participants agree to terminate it. And in the light of our announced intention that residual forces, including but not limited to American airpower, will remain until such agreement is reached and captives are released, it is still more difficult to reconcile these statements with the promise that the war is nearing its end.

For my part I must conclude that so long as U.S. armed forces remain on the mainland of South Vietnam, that so long as we retain a residual force there, if only to provide logistical support for the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN), our men will be mortared, shelled or otherwise attacked; and that so long as they are attacked

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