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July 29, 1971 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1971-07-29

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ntagon papers: JFK plan falls

(EI)ITOR'5 NOTE-' The fotlotoing is the
1 cion tofan analysis of the part of the
Pentagen papers released after theune-
ssftl cort lction against the New' York
'intes and thr eStshington Post. In yester-
day's Daily Brue and Shtelley Levire, who
are members of International Socialists,
explained that John F. Kennedy's plan "to
win the hearty of the people" was, and why
it was doomed to fail. The first part of their
anAlysi, appeared in the aily July 13-14
and in Workers' Power, where this section
Htl also appear.
By BRUCE and SHELLEY LEVINE
MAKING DIEM a scapegoat may have
comforted U.S. policy-makers somewhat;
it was not of much practical value to
them. Roger Hilsman sensibly points out
that
Actually, the issue was bigger than
just the personality of Diem, his dicta-
torial regime, or his family. The issue
was . . . whether or not even the poten-
tial existed in South Vietnam to carry
out the tightly disciplined, precisely co-
ordinated political, social, and military
program that would be needed to de-
feat the guerrillas.
And the hard fact (for Kennedy, Hils-
man, and their elaborate plans) was that
this potential did not exist at all. It did
not exist because it was impossible to come
up with any regime in Saigon that was not
hopelessly tied up with the reactionary
landlord class.
In South Vietnam the landlords form the
foundation-financially, politically, and in
personnel - for the economy, the political
apparatus, and the government bureauc-
racy. They form the native backbone for
what little anti-NLF establishment there is
in the country. They are the only class,
after all, which can be trusted to stand
firm against the advances of the land-
hungry peasantry led by the NLF. To
alienate the landlord class would mean,
for any Saigon politician, resigning him-
self to having no support whatever in the
countryside.
Because the Diem regime could only
be a landlord regime, the hope of land re-
form was nothing but an idle dream. And
with land reform impossible, Kennedy's
entire "liberal" counter - insurgency was
bankrupt. The New York Times reports:
The Pentagon study concludes that
the Kennedy strategy was fatally flawed
from the outset for political as much as'
for military reasons. It depended, the

Galbraith: 'We make revolu-
tions so badly...'
study notes, on successfully prodding
President Diem to undertake the kind of
political, economic, and social reforms
that would, in the slogan of the day,
"win the hearts and minds of the peo-
ple."
If, because of his position - the Times
concludes - Diem was unable to make
those reforms, then "the U.S. plan to end
the insurgency was foredoomed from its
inception . ."
THE IMPLICATIONS of Kennedy's fail-
ure in Vietnam are tremendous, precisely
because - as Kennedy saw - Vietnam
was not unique. The same factors which
(in the Times' accurate term) "foredoom-
ed" counter-insurgency from the start are
to be found throughout America's third-
world empire. In every case, U.S. capital-
ism is inseparably tied to the most reac-
tionary classes and social systems. No
policy for politician) which sets out to
defend that capitalism can hope at the
same time to relieve the peoples' principal
social grievances. Not too long ago, a re-
markably clear - sighted analyst working
for the Pentagon-sponsored RAND Cor-
poration summed tip the problem this way:

In msany of these countries. those peo-
ple alho run the government, oho would
be responsible for formulating and car-
rying out national development plans
and negotiating for foreign assistance,
are themselves very mich attached to
the existing social structure. Even in
those nations where the top political Lead-
eriship is personally committeed to basic
structural alterations of their societes,
their continued authority may rest
on the support of those groups in the
society who still command the bulk of
the resources of the countryside, and
who continue to staff the civil and mili-
tary bureaucracies. These latter groups,
for material and psychological reasons,
may be reluctant to bring on the re-
structuring .
In political warfare against insurgents
like the NLF, the U.S. and American capi-
talism simply have no weapons. As John
Kenneth Galbraith admitted early, it is
physically hamstrung and ideologically,
compromised by - if nothing else _ its
involvement with the local reactionaries.
That is the reason why as Galbraith
moaned early in the Kennedy years, in
Vietnam as elsewhere, "We make revolu-
tions so badly."
IN VIETNAM, the penalty for "making
the revolution so badly" was huge. We
have already seen how land-reform was
the lynch-pin of Kennedy's overall pro-
gram of social - economic reforms. When
land-reform fell through, so did the rest
of that program. And with the collapse of
the social-reform campaign, the entire
structure of "counter-insurgency" came
crashing down as well.
The projected political reforms, we re-
call, assumed a population already won
over to the government's side. But hav-
ing failed to "win the hearts and minds
of the people," neither Diem nor the U.S.
could afford to place their fortunes in the
people's hands. Free elections are fine
and good, but only so long as a favorable
outcome is assured in advance!
In the same way, the military effort
fell apart. The army ranks after all, were
no more than peasant conscripts. The
hatred of the landlords and their govern-
ment which the peasants learned in their
villages was carried into the army. De-
sertion rates soared.
THE ARMY BRASS was unhappy, too.
Reacting to its own growing unpopularity
and insecurity, the Diem regime found it
necessary to conduct periodic purges of the
officer corps to weed out individuals of
questionable loyalties. The Times explains
as the Pentagon account recalls,
the South Vietnamese President had
placed loyal favorites in sensitive posts
commanding troops around Saigon, -es-
tablished a trusted network of military
chiefs in all provinces and stripped po-
tential challengers and malcontents of
troop commands,
Inevitably, these measures - no mat-
ter how 'necessary - had to take their
toll on the officers' effectiveness. They

-Associated Press
After counter - insurgency,
there was nothing left but
war.
did. As the Times adds, "Over the years,
secret intelligence reports had told of the
corrosive effects of such methods on mili-
tary morale."
The army of Saigon began quickly to fall
to pieces. Now there was nothing to do but
turn a greater and greater share in the
responsibility for the actual combat over
to an ever-growing U.S. military garrison.
COUNTER - INSURGENCY had failed
- the attempt to defend capitalism in the
third world through "liberal", reformist
meahs. All that was left was the return
to blood and iron. As it turned out, Ken-
nedy was killed before the final bankruptcy
of his policy became clear to the public.
Had he lived, though, the Pentagon papers
show clearly what he would have done.
Just before President Kennedy's assas-
sination, his top aides held a Vietnam
strategy conference at Honolulu. . . . The
Honolulu conference, set up under Ken-
nedy, ordered planning for a stepped-up
program of what the (Pentagon) account
calls 'non-attributable hit-and-run raids
against North Vietnam."
The drift is clear. We can do no better
than the Times itself in drawing the ob-
vious conclusions.
The Pentagon account . . . presents a
picture of an unbroken chain of de-
cision - making from the final months
of the Kennedy Administration, whether
in terms of the political view of Ameri-
can stakes in Vietnam, the advisory
build-up or the hidden growth of covert
warfare against North Vietnam.

V-

420 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Edited and managed by students at the
University of Michigan
Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in all reprints-
Thursday, July 29, 1971 NIGHT EDITOR: TAMMY JACOBS

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