VIETNAM AND BEYOND
JOHN CURTIN MEMORIAL LECTURE-1968
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BACKGROUND TO THE WAR
BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH VIETNAM
"[Our purpose in Vietnam]," said President Johnson
on February 17, 1965, "is to join in the defense and protection of
freedom of a brave people who are under attack that is controlled and that
is directed from outside their country." In the same place, the Department
of State's White Paper Aggression from the North, we read:
South Vietnam is fighting for its life against a brutal campaign of terror and armed attack inspired, directed, supplied and controlled by the communist regime in Hanoi ... The war in Vietnam is a new kind of war ... a totally new brand of aggression has been loosed against an independent people.
The war in South Vietnam is in this way represented to
be a classic example of a new kind of aggression by one country upon another.
The forces of the Governments of South Vietnam and of America are not fighting
against people who have lived all their lives in South Vietnam but they
are fighting against a force which has come in from outside-from North Vietnam,
Russia and China. It is represented that the guerrilla war is moved, and
made what it is, not by South Vietnamese, but by North Vietnamese, Russians
and Chinese, and that if this aggression from the north could be
cut off, the war effort of the guerrillas would end and the South Vietnamese
people would live in peace.
The French historian, Phillipe Devilliere, believes this
is an "Orwellian rewriting of history which twists or obliterates every
significant event between 1954 and 1960" so powerfully financed and
widely spread "that millions of people all over the world are now unable
to know the truth."
between North and South
No aspect of the war in Vietnam has been so much discussed
as the relationship between North and South Vietnam. The discussion has
left at best a confused outcome; at worst what Devilliere describes. It
is vital that the discussion of this aspect of the war continues not to
locate blame in one place or another, but so that we can understand what
has happened in the Vietnamese war, for unless it is understood, the war
cannot soon be halted, nor can policy for other parts of South East Asia
be arrived at, which may prevent an extension of the war over all the mainland
of South East Asia.
The war in Vietnam cannot be understood unless it is realised
that North and South Vietnam are each part of the same country, temporarily
divided by the Geneva Agreements of 1954. This means several things. First,
much of what is done by Vietnamese in the south will be national in historical
force, tradition and nature. Second, the further back towards 1954 we go
the more distinct are the two Vietnams; the more the war has escalated
the closer they come together. Finally, the two Vietnams are so much part
of one Vietnam that it is impossible to claim aggression by any one from
the north upon anyone in the south.
Both sides broke the Geneva Agreement and the breaches
of the north until 1962 were less than those of the south and of the United
States, and they have remained so since 1962, although northern participation
in the war in the south has continuously grown since then. The war is now
almost one war in the whole of Vietnam and this situation has resulted mainly
from American escalation. The war has escalated not so much because of increased
North Vietnamese participation but as a result of Vietcong success and of
American escalation in an open ended war which, as Senator Mansfield reported
on January 3, 1966, is "open ended [to the extent] to which North Vietnam
and its supporters are willing and able to meet increased force by increased
It can hardly be denied that the revolutionary war in Vietnam
has met with much success. The French were defeated at Bien Bien Phu and
agreed to concede about half of the country to the revolutionary forces.
The revolution in the south has generated sufficient strength to cause the
present South Vietnamese Foreign Minister to conclude in 1966 that if: "the
free world forces withdrew we would be taken over within a few weeks";
and to need over 500,000 men and massive fire power from overseas even to
hold it at bay.
Perhaps the essence of successful revolutionary warfare
is that it must have effective political appeal. This point the late
Bernard Fall laboured so diligently to demonstrate. Much of the work done
on revolutionary warfare up to 1962 seems to have made the same point into
a fundamental factor in such warfare. The voluminous study, Modern Guerrilla
Warfare, published by the Rand Corporation in 1962 leaves us with that
When there are no economic and political foundations for the guerrilla movement, there will be no guerrilla movement. ... A country has to be ripe for the formation of partisan bands in that the bulk of the people will support them. ... A guerrilla force can neither survive nor function without community support.
Marly in 1961, according to George K Tanham in his Rand
study Communist Revolutionary Warfare, told us that "...the
crucial fact today is that the Communists are arousing the people to fight
and work for them."
To understand how this was done and to know what we are
fighting in Vietnam it is necessary to re-examine the background, not so
much from the results of what General Manwell Taylor described as "the
covert work of specialised intelligence agencies", but more from the
"scholar's knowledge of history, the economy, and the political and
social springs" of Vietnam.
The Diem Government
Soon after the 1954 Geneva cease fire, hostilities in Vietnam
came to an end. Many Vietminh fighters in South Vietnam moved to North Vietnam,
while others remained where they lived in the south and hid weapons and
supplies. A far larger number of North Vietnamese came to the south and
were successfully settled there. They were, of course, anti-Communist and
represented a far greater northern contribution to South Vietnamese anti-Communist
strength than anything the north was able to send to the south to help the
Communists. Bernard Fall reports that 99.5% of the non-Catholics remained
in the north but 65% of the Catholics went to South Vietnam and the "Government
of President Ngo Dinh Diem immediately used the Northern Catholics as its
major base of power."
The division of Vietnam began with a significant exchange
between one part and the other. Northern personnel and leaders remained,
no doubt, as significant in the succession of governments in Saigon as they
could ever have been with the National Liberation Front (NLF).
The Diem Government came to office to establish effective
anti-Communist power in South Vietnam. Its objective from the beginning
was to prevent South Vietnam from going Communist. What the Government of
South Vietnam stated in 1963 had always been its view: "...the Communists
seek to absorb South Vietnam by force or subversion in order to extend Communist
domination over all Vietnam," and, not only was it the South Vietnam
Government's main purpose to oppose this but, if it was to be done, there
could be no negotiations, compromise, or agreement with the Communists.
The Foreign Minister, Tran Van Do, put it in August 1966: "The Vietcong
have two choices: they can surrender or be destroyed."
Before the Communist threat could be dealt with the Diem
Government had to deal with other opponents. They were the sects in and
around Saigon-the Hoa Hao, Cai Dai, and Binh Xuyen. Diem obviously concluded
also that it was necessary to get rid of the French.
The Diem Government proceeded to achieve these aims with
a speed and efficiency that astonished everyone. Success began to pave the
way for a reputation for Diem as the Churchill of South East Asia.
Most of the first phase of Diem's campaign had been achieved by the end
It seems that soon after July 1956, the time for the elections
had passed without any elections being held, the first clashes between former
Vietminh fighters and Diem's village leaders and others began. Diem first
sought out and killed former Vietminh cadres and others and exercised the
powers given by his legislation of January 1956, which, according to Bernard
Fall: "forced all opposition into the agonising choice of self imposed
exile for the rich and total silence for the rest." The result was
what Fall described as an "awesome control apparatus". Diem's
control, of course, was never complete or intensive enough to have made
South Vietnam into a police state. But anti-Diemism was one of the main
causes of support for the NLF.
Hanoi was much responsible for the ideological influence
which was moving South Vietnamese revolutionaries in these early years and
may have sent to the south some of those who led them, but at the same time
Hanoi adopted a passive and cautious role in relation to the southern revolutionaries
and Fall tells us that it is "a documented fact that until 1958, Hanoi
made repeated overtures for low level agreements with the south, all of
which were turned down by Saigon." Jean Lecantur believes even the
open recognition by Hanoi of the NLF that came in 1960 was "cautious"
and made not "on their own but rather in response to the pressures
of militants in the south."
in South Vietnam
But the revolution in South Vietnam in 1956 was not a new
revolution. It was a continuing one. It was a Vietnamese revolution. It
was a revolution in a single country.
When the word Vietminh was synonymous with patriotism
and when "The people fighting President Ngo are the same who fought
against the French, and in their view they are in arms for essentially similarly
reasons" (Robert Trumbull, New York Times), there was bound to be a
continuity in a Vietnamese mould.
I am sure of two things: the closer we examine the NLF
and its organisation, the more completely and uniquely Vietnamese we find
it to be and yet the more we find it in substance to be South Vietnamese.
It was not only that the revolutionary movement was derived
from Vietnamese national history and tradition and from the particular reaction
of this history and tradition against the French and later against Diem
and America, not only did it gain support because it was always coupled
to the needs of farmers, youth and women, but it derived much of its strength
from the very fact of its organisation. The most significant weakness of
South East Asian societies is lack of organisation. Most of them seem to
be a collective of individuals with no real links between one and another.
In Indonesia, I understand, there is no word for organisation.
The strength of the revolutionary movement in South Vietnam was very much
derived from the intricacy, complexity and force of its organisation. The
attractive power, and power of involvement of the individual in such an
organisation, can be as effective in itself as nationalism or any other
objective in the growth of the movement. In an unorganised society the attraction
and power of organisation is no less legitimate a factor than is national
independence or economic progress, because these latter things depend very
much on the achievement of effective organisation, just as effective organisation
depends on adoption of legitimate aims and grievances.
To those involved in the revolutionary movement their organisation
may well have become a way of life, most aspects of which affect life. The
social revolution-the economic, political and social objects-it seems, always
came first. The success of the NLF seems much derived from the fact that
what it was really organising was not a guerrilla war but a social order
in which the villagers were to control themselves and develop their own
All this may have originated not only from Vietnamese history,
tradition and influence as distinct from South Vietnamese. It may have originated
as a plan in North Vietnam, but there was a vast and significant amount
in what was done that was in no way imported from North Vietnam. There was
no blue print at the beginning. Although no one could underestimate the
influence of Mao and Giap, the southern leaders, whether they came from
the north or not, were forced to experiment and improvise.
Ho may have been a master organiser but there can be no
doubt that the movement in the south had organisational genius too. At any
rate what resulted in South Vietnam was now compared both to what had been
done in China and by the Vietminh. Furthermore, what was new had emerged
not from the influence of Mao or Giap but from the struggle in South Vietnam.
Indeed there is more than a suggestion that the movement's success was closely
related to the extent to which it intelligently improvised from experience
and its failures were often related to its dogmatic application of the works
of Mao and Giap. Indeed there are those who believe that it made a fatal
mistake in 1964, which followed increased northern participation from
mid-1963, when it moved from the revolutionary guerrilla war aimed at the
general uprising, to the Mao-Giap conventional war as the way to final victory.
Changes were indicated before they came in 1968.
Whatever be the significance of North Vietnamese plans
and leaders, the movement in the south had a force and logic of its own.
While North Vietnam begins with the objective of reunification and assumes
unity and solidarity of the struggle between north and south, what also
is equally obvious is that North Vietnam was always anxious to hide and
restrict her involvement to avoid growing cause for escalation. In addition
to this, while unity and solidarity was assumed, it was equally assumed
that the southern movement would have to be largely self-supporting. What
is more the southern movement has always been largely self-supporting. It
is probable that to the end of 1964 well over 80% of the Vietcong manpower
had never lived anywhere but in South Vietnam, over 80% of their arms used
had not been imported from Communist countries and over 80% of the cost
of the revolutionary campaign had been raised in South Vietnam.
It may be true to say that North Vietnam was always prepared
to give what assistance was necessary, but the fact that little was necessary
was evidence of how completely the effort was a South Vietnamese one. But
even this statement is probably too strong. North Vietnam was the subject
of too many pressures from the south and too concerned to protect her own
achievements against attack for it to be assumed that she was always ready
to do whatever was necessary.
Communist countries have always placed the security of
their own revolution well ahead of the advance of that of their comrades.
North Vietnam was probably no exception. China certainly was no exception.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jnr, reminds us that the notorious Lin Piao document
was read with more care by the Rand Corporation than by the State
Department. And "far from being Mao's Mein Kampf [it was a]
message to the Vietcong that they could win 'only if they rely primarily
on their own resources and their own revolutionary spirit'."
However much it may appear to Washington that "South
Vietnam is fighting for its life against a brutal campaign ... by the Communist
regime in Hanoi", it would not appear like this to the South Vietnamese
guerrillas who for years had to capture most of their equipment and supplies,
who had no air cover and little transport, and who were isolated and hunted
like animals. However much we may be impressed by the north as the base
of the revolution, the southern guerrilla would know who was doing the work.
Not only was there always a firm and continuing separation of the armies
of the north and south, in which as their orders attest, the "main
duty of the People's Army of the North was to defend the territory of the
North [while the] main duty of the Liberation Army of the South was the
liberation of the South", but in the case of all other aspects of the
social revolution the main duties had necessarily to fall upon the people
of the south.
The thesis of Aggression from the North is fundamentally
false because it is designed to give the impression that the revolutionary
war has been carried on in South Vietnam against the wishes of most of the
people; that the support that exists for it in the south is slight, and
what does exist has been secured by terror or indoctrination; and that its
main force in men and weapons has been imported from North Vietnam, Russia
The truth is that the main force of the revolutionary war
has always been made up of South Vietnamese people who have been motivated
substantially by legitimate aims. The fact that the southern revolution
derives its character from Vietnamese history and tradition makes it no
less South Vietnamese in substance. In fact it makes it even more indigenous.
The fact that the revolutionary movement has northerners
amongst its leaders makes it no less Vietnamese. The organisational structure
of the NLF and its many branches may well have been laid down in Hanoi.
The revolutionary war was much influenced by Mao and Giap. But what resulted
both in organisation and war was unique to South Vietnam and different from
what was done in China and even by the Vietminh. The events of 1956 and
1964 are the events of a national revolutionary war of a uniquely Vietnamese
kind, carried out in South Vietnam, substantially by South Vietnamese people
and resisted by other South Vietnamese people who were increasingly aided
by the United States of America.
Beyond 1964 the scene changes. The guerrilla war became
something more conventional and the South Vietnamese forces are increasingly
replaced by an American attack, not only upon South Vietnam, but upon the
north. At the same time, northern participation in support of the revolution
in the south increases. It may well have been that northern participation,
if needed, may have increased in any case, but it turned out that it was
needed mainly as a result of American involvement. The American attack on
North Vietnam in 1965 meant that one of the chief inducements against northern
participation in the south was finally removed. North Vietnam now had little
to lose from attack, as well as having acquired the need to defend herself
and the anger for retaliation. To simplify the guerrilla war in South Vietnam
into aggression from the north is a distortion of history. To describe the
more conventional war and the North Vietnamese participation after 1964
in the same way is false and misleading.
OF THE WAR
What is the value of a more objective assessment of the
war in Vietnam? First of all it reduced the blame or responsibility attributable
to those Vietnamese we are fighting and because of this should make a settlement
easier to achieve. Second, and settlement may much depend on this, it justifies
participation by the NLF in the determination of the future of South Vietnam.
Third, because of the uniquely Vietnamese nature of the revolution, apprehension
of it spreading to countries that are not Vietnamese will be reduced.
Whilst it cannot be concluded that a more objective and
fairer assessment of the war than the one that prevails would suddenly change
the continuously escalating trend of the war-and it is escalating today
as much as ever-itself derived from the aggression from the north thesis-such
an assessment would help a great deal and may finally be necessary if a
settlement is to be reached. In the absence of this better assessment of
the war it is difficult to see any future for it but a continuing escalation
into full scale war against North Vietnam and sooner or later against China.
Total war involving the Soviet Union may then come soon. American internal
politics temporarily checks this development.
In the absence of an accepted re-assessment of the war,
very little may be done to attempt to end it.
To explore the possibilities of peace in Vietnam, subject
to the prevailing assessment of the war, we must look at the significance
of China, the problems created by taking into account the rest of South
East Asia, and finally, the specific aims of the main parties which are
influential in the war in Vietnam and the possibilities of reconciling them.
Senator Fulbright, I believe, has correctly pointed out
As long as China and America are competitors for predominance in South East Asia there is unlikely to be a secure peace in that part of the world. ... The essential principle of an accommodation in Vietnam is that it must apply not just to Vietnam but to all of South East Asia.
No one could mistake the significance of these propositions,
but equally as much no one can suppose that either China or the United States
is going to cease to be a competitor for predominance in South East Asia.
The vital question is not that they compete, but the form of the
competition. Similarly a South East Asian settlement will be needed if Vietnam
is to be stabilised but the process must start in Vietnam.
The desirable thing seems to be to see Vietnam in a sound
and fair context of China and South East Asia not as a single part of the
conventional view of each.
The conventional view is that Vietnam and South East Asia
are in upheaval because of China. China is assumed to be the prime and essential
mover, the aggressor, the originator and carrier of revolutionary force.
"China is engaged," said the former Australia Prime Minister,
Sir Robert Menzies, "in a downward drive between the Pacific and Indian
Oceans." This conventional view of China is false.
The Chinese leaders use extravagant words of war, but they
act cautiously. They claim to be the spirit and inspiration of revolution
everywhere, but they not only leave the revolutions to depend on their own
spirit and resources but they tell them clearly enough that they have to
do so. They are Marxists good enough to know that revolution can rarely
be imported and must depend upon its own historical dynamic. The general
conflict in and around China has not arisen because China has tried to expand,
not because of any military expedition, Tibet and India not withstanding,
but because China herself has become the subject of pressure.
The general conflict has not come into existence because
China has pressed aggressively on the outside world, but because the outside
world has pressed aggressively on China. No one can be certain what China
will do in the future. When she is far stronger she may become aggressive
in actions as well as in words. But she has not done so yet. She has not
sent 500,000 men across the Pacific with a powerful navy and airforce. She
has not put them into action a few hundred miles from the United States.
She has not dropped bombs a few miles from her enemies' border. But, it
is answered, she is responsible for the revolutionary war and for its power
in South Vietnam. We have seen that this also is not true.
It is not China who is radical, positive and aggressive.
China is conservative, cautious and defensive. Her aggressive talk and other
angry and disturbing noises are a result of the pressures upon her, not
the sounds of a military or revolutionary expedition.
Just as we need a fair and objective view of the war in
Vietnam if we are to have a good chance of ending it, we need also a fair
and objective view of China's conduct if the tension between her and the
United States is to be reduced.
The United States is far the most powerful military nation
in the world. She could easily stop and destroy any Chinese military expedition
on land, sea or in the air. She is committed to do so and under all foreseeable
circumstances would do so. This is a powerful reason why China will not
launch such an expedition even if she was otherwise prepared to do so. What
the United States does find difficult to handle is an indigenous revolutionary
war like that in South Vietnam. Now, there are two vital points to make
China is not the cause of this situation or even a part
of it-the cause lies in the revolutionary country and in the United States.
Solution of the problem may lie in more limited aims, somewhat like the
1. Preparedness to discourage, meet or stop any clearly military expedition by China.
2. Action to support governments in countries like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia on conditions
a) that they take serious, genuine and effective action to achieve political and economic progress; and
b) that internal security, even against Communist agents from outside, is left to them.
If this action fails there is no more or strategic justification to introduce and escalate military action, not only aimed at destroying the revolutionary movement, but making it necessary to do so, if victory is to be won.
Adoption of these aims would require guarantee of boundaries
and probably some supervision by a body like the International Control Commission.
This is necessary if it is to be known whether a military expedition is
taking place or not. In fact in the Vietnamese cause the International Control
Commission did provide a fairly accurate picture of what happened and its
findings confirmed neither the American nor the North Vietnamese version.
If conflict is to be lessened between America and China, America will need
to accept the fact that genuine, indigenous revolutionary forces do exist
in some countries and they cannot all be destroyed in the name of anti-Communism.
China and the Soviet Union will need to recognise that it is in their best
interests, and certainly in the best interests of the revolutionaries, to
leave things substantially to them. Interference by both sides is counter-productive-it
tends always to mislead, misdirect and transform the chosen ally against
his own interests.
South East Asia
Of course there can be no lasting Vietnamese settlement
unless increasing security and progress can come to the rest of South East
Asia. I can do no more at this point than indicate a few of the factors
The answer to revolution in the rest of South East Asia
is the answer that was denied to it in Vietnam. It is the answer of a little
more democracy and a little better delivery of the goods. Where there is
more than one race it is a multi-racial society not the attempted supremacy
of one. It is the peasant in the paddy fields for whom something must be
done; the worker in the cities who has never known a regular job.
Doctors are of more value than men with rifles and rifles
are not able to circumvent the need for reform. It is self deception to
say nothing can be done unless security is established first when the very
act of establishing security has to be performed by backing a ruling group
which cannot make effective reforms.
There is a tendency to look at Vietnam policy as a kind
of mistake that could have been corrected if only we had known what we know
now. It is not inefficiency or fault of the old ruling groups which makes
them act as they do. They will not provide land for tenants and landless
peasants because they or their friends own it. They will not give votes
to farmers or workers because they know they will vote for someone else.
It is not inefficiency or faults that makes them act as they do, it is the
fundamental requirements of the system upon which they depend.
But South East Asian countries are entitled to safeguards
against military expeditions. These can be given and enforced without any
escalating involvement in support of governments which cannot satisfy their
own people. There is little reason to believe that far greater security
could not be arranged for other South East Asian countries out of a settlement
of the war in Vietnam than will ever result from its continuance.
WAY FOR NEGOTIATION
If we may turn to the question upon which improved relations
with China and greater security for South East Asia so much depend, we may
find also the conditions upon which a cessation of present hostilities depend.
The aim of the Government of South Vietnam has always been
to maintain South Vietnam as an anti-Communist state. Perhaps no significant
member of any South Vietnamese Government except Minh very briefly, has
ever been willing to negotiate with the NLF, and certainly none has ever
been prepared to share power with it. The South Vietnamese Government has
always believed that you cannot share power with Communists-if they get
any, it won't be long before they have it all. They see the ability of the
Communists to gain power not as an outcome of their position in relation
to any genuine historical process, but alone as a result of terror, indoctrination
and deception. Their power is never derived from the people, but always
imposed upon them. If one accepts this view then there is no place for negotiations
and it would be hypocrisy to talk about being ready to accept them. Given
this view, there can be nothing for the Vietcong, as Tran Van Do put it,
but surrender or destruction.
The objective of the United States from the start was to
prevent Communist domination of South Vietnam. The only point at issue was
how this could be done. At first it was aid and advice in exchange for needed
economic and political reforms. It was their war and all America
could do was help and advise them. But they did not achieve the needed economic
and political reforms and as they failed they grew less effective as a government
and the NLF grew more effective. With South Vietnamese Government morale
and performance at a low ebb, the NLF changed over partly to a conventional
style of war and the United States, having recognised the dangers of involvement
of large numbers of American troops on the Asian mainland, was forced to
adopt precisely this kind of war.
Now it seems that no force on earth can turn the United
States away from its commitment, and the basic objective is still to prevent
Communist domination of South Vietnam. How can it be achieved? Here the
objective is not to escalate the war, or win it, militarily, but to make
by escalation, the war so costly to the other side that they will appeal
for a cessation and agree to negotiate. Leaving aside the question of whether
any governing group can be forced to appeal for a cessation of hostilities
as long as its power to govern remains, suppose they agree to negotiate,
what are we going to negotiate about? Will we negotiate with the NLF and,
if they will not settle for less than a share in the Government of South
Vietnam, will we grant it? If we do so, is this consistent with our aim
from the start of preventing Communist domination of South Vietnam? I don't
think this question has ever been publicly answered, if it has been answered
at all. It has to be answered, and probably a public answer has to be given,
if the ground is to be cleared for negotiations.
The objective of the Government of North Vietnam is the
reunification of North and South Vietnam under a Communist Government. But
it was not an objective that was seen to be achievable quickly by direct
North Vietnamese action. It was to be achieved at first by the result of
an election in South Vietnam in July 1956. When that election was not held,
North Vietnam agitated that it should be held, and for a time seemed uncertain
about what action to take, but left the initiative to South Vietnamese revolutionaries.
Always ready to impose upon South Vietnam objects, organisation and methods
in its own image, North Vietnam proceeded cautiously to do so. There can
be little doubt the Government believed that the revolutionary forces led
by Communists in South Vietnam must inevitably win. Revolutions always do!
But equally as much, North Vietnam, aware that too much participation by
them would be certain to lead to increased American intervention, left things
very much to the South Vietnamese while at the same time seeking to influence
and control them. Now, of course, the situation has changed and North Vietnam
is being pounded by 3,000 tons of bombs a day-the attack, in fear of which
she was cautious, has now come. It may be possible to hit North Vietnam
so hard that her leaders would ask for an end to it and agree to sever all
connections with South Vietnam. But this is an improbable outcome.
Turning now to the NLF we find that its objective is to
overthrow the Government of South Vietnam and take its place. Probably the
NLF would share power with some other groups, but not now with the military
government in Saigon. The question here is-can the NLF be hit hard enough
to destroy it or force it to accept less? The probability is no.
We may say then that the possibilities are:
The Soviet Union appears to present no problem. The Soviet
does not want the war to escalate and they want to see North Vietnam preserved
and the NLF recognised. But the Soviet may not be anxious to see America
withdraw from the area for this may free China for more positive action
on her common boundaries with the Soviet, and strengthen the Chinese interpretation
of the national revolution.
The main Chinese objective, on the other hand, is precisely
to secure American withdrawal from the area. Whilst China is apprehensive
of an escalation that brings America closer and closer, she would not like
to see a de-escalation that leads to a long-term American presence in South
Of those on the other side in the conflict, North Vietnam
may be the most difficult to induce towards a cessation of hostilities,
but in certain circumstances the NLF could not be expected to stop fighting.
The probabilities are that a cessation of bombing of the
north may be enough to allow a commencement of effective negotiations. Recognition
of the NLF in the negotiations and afterwards in the Government of South
Vietnam may, however, be necessary. This latter would certainly be necessary
to prevent a continuation of hostilities.
It may be possible to couple the presence of American troops
to the protection of minorities after an agreement and to the supervision
But it must be stressed that in existing circumstances
effective negotiations are most unlikely. Given that it is the main American
objective to retain South Vietnam as an anti-Communist base, which would
require severance of connection between North and South, and given that
the Government of North Vietnam and the NLF would not accept this-then negotiations
cannot emerge from the present situation.
One might expect that the only way in which this stalemate
may change is for civilian and regional groups to emerge in the decision-making
process in the Government of South Vietnam which, although opposed to the
NLF, are opposed also to the war, and would be prepared to negotiate with
Such a situation showed signs of emerging through perhaps Ngo Dinh Nhu, probably through Minh soon after the overthrow of Diem, and certainly through Khanh a little later and is emerging again in recent weeks. The justification for this development is that the people of Vietnam have no choice as long as the war continues and that they will have to decide their own future sooner or later.