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Presidential Brief On Vietnam

PRESIDENTIAL BRIEF ON VIETNAM: 1969-1973

FROM: THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

TO: THE PRESIDENT

RE: SITUATION IN VIETNAM

PRESIDENTIAL BRIEF

There are, at present, questions about the legitimacy of our presence in Vietnam as well as our current effectiveness in terms of our efforts there. The morale of our troops has since declined significantly, and support for the war has soured from our citizenry. Communist nations, such as East Germany and the Soviet Union, have also been unrelenting in painting us as aggressive capitalist intruders into a government otherwise capable of self-government. Rethinking our approach to the situation in Vietnam as soon as possible is in our best interests as a nation.

Military action against North Vietnam has been highly unsuccessful under the previous administrations, especially under the Johnson years. The escalation and ground wars under Johnson have dramatically increased spending and production of military goods at the expense of the industrial sector. To finance the present war without alarming the populace with higher taxes, the previous administration had inadvertently caused inflation. The war had rendered the economy’s ability to supply the demands of the market, even as labor approached full-employment.

In light of this, communist fronts against our troops have been highly successful, although the Tet Offensive has undeniably caused damage. Emboldened by this during your first few months in office, you were determined to increase pressure on the battlefield, a fact proven by the Menu Bombings you launched against North Vietnamese base camps in Cambodia. However, these were ultimately fruitless, and the US troops were kept in sore disadvantage throughout the latter years of the war. Your office later realized that this approach brought you no closer to ending the war, just as it had failed your predecessors.

And yet, the US was on the verge of losing the war, a probability that America feared would have immense repercussions on its image as a superpower and on its brands of free market capitalism and democracy. Abandoning Vietnam altogether also had similar consequences. It was by all means a slippery-slope: if the US fails, its allies around the world would begin to question the country’s commitment to their security from communism, and the communist bloc would begin to challenge the US interests everywhere. As the country has expressed its commitment to preventing the further spread of communism in the world – this being an affront to the interests of the US – the present Cold War was, in all senses, limiting what your office could do to resolve the matter as the country originally intended: to close the conflict with dignity.

Using the communist casualties from the Tet Offensive of 1968 as a foreground, the first withdrawal of the US troops from Vietnam became possible in 1969. This is in keeping with the program you launched in the same year, Vietnamization, which entailed improving South Vietnam’s military capacity in order to further localize the anti-communist efforts in the country. This further implied the gradual removal of American troops and presence in South Vietnam, as the region eventually gains political and economic stability. Further, plans have been made to open diplomatic talks with North Vietnam through direct and indirect means, such as coercion via air strikes or exploring the possibility of increased economic relations with Russia, in hopes that it would persuade North Vietnam to cease its offense.

Throughout all of this, the domestic anti-war movement had gained a lot of traction. Inflation had helped worsen the dissatisfaction felt by the populace over the rising number of soldier casualties in an ultimately unsuccessful war effort. Social unrest in the form of protest demonstrations, such as the one in Lincoln Memorial, has grown in frequency, even as the movement found its way to popular culture. This was followed by more unrest as an emergent conflict between protesters and peacekeeping authorities worsened. However, you remained convinced that the protest movements represented, at the most, a minority of people, and that a majority of Americans supported your decision. This was revealed in your Silent Majority address given in 1969, in which you stated that continued Vietnamization, gradual withdrawal, and negotiation were the things that the American majority sought from your office.

With regard to foreign perception of the US’s presence in Vietnam, the escalation and ground wars which took place under LBJ had dramatically changed the image of the country. We owe this to the propaganda spread by communist factions, such as East Germany and the Soviet Union. These factions capitalized on the US’s persistence in Vietnam and interpreted it as an aggressive capitalist stance that impinges on the freedom of a nation otherwise capable of self-government. A public opinion survey launched by the United States Information Agency (USIA) had highlighted how our present efforts in Vietnam became a trump card for communists, fostering a belief that the US is a colonialist-imperialist power bent on crushing a legitimate national liberation movement in Southeast Asia. These perceptions have undeniably affected the way your own administration was perceived both domestically and internationally.

With all of these as undercurrents, key events, beginning from 1970 until the eventual full withdrawal of the US troops from Vietnam in 1972, transpired that would eventually lead to the weakening of the country’s influence in Vietnam, and the ensuing end of the Vietnam War. The fall of Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia in 1970 was the precedent that caused North Vietnam troops to be displaced from the South Vietnam border. We responded with a military incursion into Cambodia a month later, which set back North Vietnam attacks and bought time for Vietnamization and withdrawal of the troops. In 1971, the South Vietnamese forces would launch their own offensive into Cambodia and Laos, an effort that would prove to be a costly failure. Finally, in 1972, the North Vietnamese launched the Easter Offensive into South Vietnam, which forced us to deploy a series of air strikes, which eventually forced the Vietnamese Politburo to engage us in negotiations. Negotiations for a peace settlement between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho began shortly after, which ended unfavorably thanks to President Thieu’s contention. Unable to find any common grounds between the two sides thereafter, we launched what would be the final offensive from our side in December 1972, the Christmas Bombing, which targeted the North Vietnamese Heartland. This eventually convinced Thieu to resume peace settlement talks in 1973, just before your previous term ended, which eventually allowed all American troops to withdraw safely from Vietnam.

This has briefed you thus far about the present situation in Vietnam. All factors considered, it is best for you to continue supporting Vietnam despite the absence of our troops there to preserve the dignity of the troops who were sent there and to settle the unrest within our shores. In your upcoming turn as the president, we advise you to keep these events in perspective in order to help our country transition from this period of frustration into one of prosperity.

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