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January 06, 1966 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1966-01-06

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U.S. Peace Offensive Brings MixedReactions

________._____ ____ _ _.._._._d n __ __ '-



For almost two weeks, no Amer.
ican bombs have fallen on North
Viet Nam.
For almost one week, United
States diplomats have been engag-
ed in a vigorous peace "offensive"
aimed at bringing about uncon-
ditional negotiations on the Viet
Nam war. But so far, Washington
has reached no clear decision on
the significance of the response
by Hanoi, Peking and Moscow.
The drive toward negotiations
began quietly, coming on the heels
of a 30-hour Christmas truce that
was only partially observed by the
Viet Cong.
It was soon clear from the hur-
ried comings and goings of offi-
cials such as Ambassador-at-Large
W. Averell Harriman, United Na-
tions Ambassador Arthur Gold-
berg, Special Presidential Assistant
McGeorge Bundy and Assistant
Secretary of State G. Mennen Wil-
liams, that the U.S. had embark-
ed upon a major effort to trans-
fer the fighting in the Viet Nam
war theatre out of the battlefields
and into the diplomatic arena.
Visit Nine Countries
The four presidential aides vis-
ited leaders of nine countries
(France, Britain, Poland, Canada,
Yugoslavia, Italy, India, Algeria
and Tunisia) in an attempt to
open diplomatic channels and, at
the same time, to refute domestic
and foreign critics of U.S. policy
who contend that this country has
not undertaken a serious, sincere
effort to open negotiations.
Many of these critics have ar-
gued that, as long as our bombing
of North Viet Nam continued,
there could be no positive response
from Hanoi to suggestions for ne-
gotiations. Well-informed Commu-
nist and neutral diplomats spoke
out in a similar vein.
Thus, a combination of circum-
stances led to President Johnson's'
carefully considered decision- to
open a major drive for peace at
this time. The .brief 'Christmas
M truce afforded an ideal opportunity
to get his diplomatic show on the
road. So far, however, the re-
views have been mixed.'
Reactions Vary
British Prime Minister Harold
Wilson, India's Premier Shastri,
Pope Paul VI and others have
strongly commended the intensive
American effort. Moscow's reac-
tion has been generally non-com-
mittal. Predictably, Peking's re-
sponse has been harsh and dis-
The biggest question mark of
all, however, remains North Viet
Nam. President Ho Chi Minh's di-
rect response to the halt in bomb-
ings will constitute the key which
will determine whether fighting
will continue at an intensified
level or whether a serious at-
tempt to open negotiations can
come about.

Hanoi radio and press organs
have issued a number of negative
statements already, condemning
the U.S. effort and standing firm
on Hanoi's precondition for talks
-adoption of a four-point pro-
gram based on the 1954 Geneva
agreement, which ended the war
between France and Viet Nam.
May Be Acceptable
Three of these points may be ac-
ceptable to the U.S.: an end to
foreign entanglements in the
country, a provision for free elec-
tions, either in South Viet Nam
alone or in the entire country,
and an ultimate withdrawal of
American forces.
The Hanoi program, however,
also calls for a Saigon government
to be set up "in accordance with
the program of the National Lib-
eration Front" (the political arm
of the Viet Cong.
Hanoi Program Unacceptable
This point is unacceptable to
the U.S., since it is believed that
Viet Cong participation in a Sai-
gon government would lead to ul-
timate control of the country by
the Communists.
Another ambiguous point in Ha-
noi's program is the call for with-
drawal of American forces. It has
pot been made clear whether such
a withdrawal would be necessary
before negotiations, or as an end
result of talks. If the former con-
dition held, the point would be
obviously unacceptable to Wash-
Administration officials have
not, however,.been completely dis-
couraged by the seemingly harsh
line in the Hanoi press. It had
been expected that, whatever
North Viet Nam's private view of
the peace offensive might be, a
negative line would be maintain-
ed for public consumption. Offi-
cials are awaiting a direst response
through private diplomatic chan-
nels before deciding whether to
resume bombing North Viet Nam.
There have been various re-
ports that the U.S. would resume
bombing by early next week or
that it would wait until at least
January 24, after a four-day truce
to celebrate the Vietnamese New
YeaYr. Both sides have agreed to
halt the -fighting from Jan. 20-24.
Cautious Optimism
There has been some cautious
optimism because the pace of
fighting in South Viet Nam has
been reduced in recent days and
because public attacks by the Com-
munist world on the U.S. peace
drive have failed to mention the
pause in the bombing of North
Viet Nam.
Although there has been con-
siderable ground fighting in the
South since the Christmas truce
ended ,the Viet Cong have failed
to launch any attacks upon Amer-
ican positions.
Most of the fighting has been

limited to encounters between Viet
Cong and South Vietnamese forc-
es. U.S. troops have been involved
in several operations in the Me-
kong Delta area, but these were
initiated by the Americans rather
than by the Communists.
The Communists' failure to
mention the bombing pause has
led to speculation that North Viet
.. am still has not decided whether
to take up the U.S. offer for un-
conditional talks.
Playing for Time
When that decision is reached,
it is expected that it will be com-
municated either through diplo-
matic channels, a reduction in
military activity and a halt in
North Vietnamese infiltration into
the South or, if the offer is re-
jected, a major attack upon Amer-
ican forces in the South.
Some officials view the Com-
munist silence on the bombing
pause as an inducement for its
continuation, at least for the pres-
More pessimistic diplomats are
said to feel that the North Viet-
namese may be playing for time
in order to build up their military
forces, to complete repairs on
bombed-out bridges and roads, and
to secure additional support from
Russia and Communist China.
Soviet Mission '
While Peking's attitude toward
the war is manifest-it supports
an all-out effort to win the war
militarily. although it seems to
be reluctant to directly involve it-
:~; h.."t.". :" .. . ;.f l; th:..:.":": l t:.'."y.YsVl N":":::fY

self in the fighting-Russia's at-
titude is less clear.
A top-level mission headed by
the second-ranking Soviet Com-
munist party official, Alexander
Shelepin, arrives in Hanoi today.
The purpose of the mission is not
clear-Russia may either be seek-
ing to convince President Ho Chi
Minh to accept American offers
to negotiate, or the Soviets may
be planning to grant additional
military and economic aid to Ha-
noi to support the war effort.
Battle for Influence
In either case, it is clear that
a major battle for influence is in
progress between Russia and Red
China, with North Viet Nam
caught in the middle. While Rus-
sia may well wish the war to end
in order to concentrate on do-
mestic economic problems, Soviet
leaders may be reluctant to allow
the Chinese to charge them with
failing to support North Viet Nam
resistance against what is consid-
ered by the Communists to be un-
justified American aggression
against a comrade nation. Thus,
the future course of the Sino-
Soviet ideological dispute may well
help determine Hanoi's attitude
toward negotiations.
While Soviet prestige is report-
edly on the rise in Hanoi govern-
ment circles, the North Vietnamese
may be reluctant to antagonize
their powerful northern neighbor,
Red China, by acceding to U.S.
calls for peace talks. Furthermore,
the Hanoi government itself is

split into pro-Moscow and pro-
Peking factions which are jockey-
ing for power. President Ho is
said to belong to the pro-Soviet
group, but powerful military lead-
ers are opposing him.
More Problems
Washington officials caution
that, even if the fighting can be
scaled down and some kind of pre-
liminary talks started, even more
difficult political problems may lie
An acceptable settlement of the
war for the U.S. must include
guarantees of self-determination
for South Viet Nam. Hanoi is
likely to insist upon a powerful
role for the Viet Cong in any
new coalition or neutralist Saigon
government. The U.S. fears that
if the Viet Cong are granted any
role in such a government, they
would eventually dominate it. The
Communists would thus have won
their battle by peaceful means.
Strongest Force
It is usually acknowledged that
the Viet Cong are the strongest
political force in South Viet Nam
today. It is thus considered highly
improbable that the Communists
would be willing to give up a dom-
inant political position after 15
years of costly fighting, first
against France, then against the
Diem regime in Saigon, and finally
against an American force which
is approaching the level of 200,000
The immediate future - the
question of whether the war is to

be intensified or preliminary talks
started-is still the main focus of
Washington attention.
President Johnson faces diffi-
cult decisions related to the new
budget, which may rise to more
than $110 billion if the fighting
continues. A restive Congress con-
venes Jan. 10, and a full-scale
debate on Viet Nam is considered
likely, especially if new and more
intense fighting breaks out.
Domestic Considerations
The President, furthermore,
must weigh the domestic political
implication of intensified fighting
with increasing American casual-
ties, a rising troop commitment,
a possible callup of reserves and
the imposition of federal controls
to stave off inflation and impose
wartime economic measures, all in
an election year. Reports that
spending for "Great Society" pro-
grams may be trimmed because of
war costs have already met with
objections from congressmen, gov-
ernment officials and portions of
the public.
The President thus faces a di-
lemma which he is seeking to re-
solve in advance by ruling out
escalation of the war, thus en-
abling the U.S. to halt its mili-
tary buildup, reduce its spending
for the war, and authorize suffi-
cient funds for the new domestic
programs approved by last year's
Congress. Whether this last-ditch
diplomatic effort can succeed
should become clear within the
next few days.

Opening j

1 :
i~ :

Friday, January 7


of Temple Israel, Detroit


Reception and Discussion follows
John Planer, Cantor
direction of MICHAEL ROBBINS
JOAN TEMKIN, organist

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