(Sanitized) ARTICLE

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August 7, 1978
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i r f ?,.jl ~ SaL7 l ' IURAwiM F'OR: Chairman, Publications Review Board dsjyt,' isle Approved For Relse 2001/08/07: CIA-RDP81-00142R600105W4. t^xTENTIth : etary STATINTL f sis ' , . rmation, DDA STATI NI4L Cl': EFEI NCE: PRB-032-78 ' I ;find. nothing in Article article on the political reasons for the. fall. of South Vietnam to which the Publications Review Board should object. In cases such as this, however, it is particularly irlVoTtant that the'published article carry a disclaimer of official origin.. I. refer in. particular to the uncomplimentary (though probably accurate) references to the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, Ghana, and the Philippines on page 4. AI/DDA Distribution: Original - Addressee X - DDA Subject 1 - DDA Chrono 1 - AI Chrono (7 Aug 78) Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Releasa2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R0006W100004-4 Some Reflections on the Politics of Counterinsurgency in Vietnam* b By the time Saigon felt in April 1975, the Vietnam war was probably the most studied in history. This is undoubtedly because of the political and bureaucratic antipathies engendered by the massive US role in the war. But the focus on the US and the shortcomings of its assistance to Vietnam has had a tendency to obscure the impact of Vietnamese political developments on the ability of the GVN to mobilize the resources required for counter- insurgency. The purpose of this brief paper is to reflect on "what went wrong" from a political perspective. I want to review the reasons for and the consequences of the GVN's repeated failure to accommodate demands for the expansion of political participation. For the GVN made the mistake of treating its political opposition as if it were in league with the insurgents. This attitude had the effect of alienating the population of the most secure parts of South Vietnam and of denying the government the legitimacy so vital to creating a political alternative to the Viet Cong. Not to be cited or quoted without permission of the author. Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Relea-?2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R00068G100004-4 Some years ago I compiled a series of maps from Communist sources that showed the extent of "liberated" territories in South Vietnam in 1945, 1954, 1965 and 1970.* I then compared these maps with the historical research that had been done on local rebellions in southern Vietnam during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These maps, when overlaid on each other, were striking in two respects: -- first, Viet Cong strongholds had traditionally been sources of anti-government activity. -- second, Communist control beyond these areas expanded only marginally over the twenty-five years from 1945 to 1970.** This is not to say, I should hasten to add, that GUN claims of pacified territory were vindicated by my research, but that there had definitely not been a very substantial expansion of Communist * For details, see my "The Partition of Vietnam and the Unfinished Revolution," in Thomas E. Hachey, ed., The Problem of Partition: Peril to World Peace (Chicago: Rand, McNally, 1972), pp 214-250. ** The extent of both GUN and PRG control in the period from 1973 to the collapse of the GVN changed more dramatically than in any prior period. But again, what is striking about Communist advances is that they were confined largely to areas over which they had traditionally held sway, and from which they had been dislodged only by vigorous US and ARVN operations between 1968 and 1972. Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Release 2001/08/07: CIA-RDP81-00142ROON00100004-4 control over territory or population for nearly the entire period of the war. Hence, the importance that must be ascribed to the politics of the struggle, especially the degree to which the`GVN's responses to both the Communist and its own domestic opposition affected the outcome. Yet, one of the least well understood aspects of the Vietnamese experience is the importance of politics in war. Post-mortems on the fall of the GVN generally stress the impact of Communist violations of the Paris Agreement in 1973 and 1974 (which made possible the prepositioning of troops and supplies for the 1975 offensive) and the waning political will in the United States to counter these violations. These are the wrong starting points for understanding what happened in April 1975. For the GVN collapsed from within (as the Communists predicted it would), and it did so despite a decade of massive American support for the war because the GVN still did not represent a political alternative to the Viet Cong. II. The circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of South Vietnam's nine governments between 1954-1975 need not be reviewed here. But for the purpose of this paper, it is important to recall what these governments all had in common. They depended for their support either on a faction of the military officer corps or on a religious organization. However creative Vietnamese (and, later, Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Reledst 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R0006 6100004-4 American) institutional draftsmen were throughout the period, the GVN never outgrew its cabal-like and repressive character. As one Vietnamese political leader put it: these regimes "present an image of a centralized government filled with power, but in reality they are cowardly, incapable, confused and closed, an administration of decrees and arretes." There was a time in the life of each of these regimes, never- theless, when their authoritarianism seemed a welcome relief from the instability generated by waves of street demonstrations and successive coups. But it is important to keep in mind that societies can be immobilized either by anarchy or by the response to it (i.e., repression by police and other security forces). Argentina today would be a good example. Eventually, there is stagnation, and with it, the tendency for government to come to rest in the hands of the elite group (usually, the professional military) that possesses a monopoly on force. The intervention of the military into politics under these conditions is far from a temporary expedient; hence the "staying power" of such juntas as those in Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, and the tendency of "martial law" administratioois elsewhere (e.g., Ghana, the Philippines) to become institutionalized. For societies that have gone through these experiences,"stability" may become essential to economic growth, thus providing a new legitimacy to the regime in power (often regardless of its attitude toward the ex- pansion of popular political participation). -4- Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R0006Q0100004-4 For such regimes, stability is an end in itself. Public order -- rather than popular political mobilization -- becomes the gauge of its strength. The regime holds on to power by divide-and-conquer tactics; this means that its survival virtually depends on keeping all other political forces weak. Countering insurgency requires more than the capacity to maintain public order, however. In such situations, governments require the active support and cooperation of the people to defeat the insurgent politically and militarily. For the insurgent makes two interrelated claims that the government cannot refute as long as it refuses to expand political participation: first, that the government lacks legitimacy and, second, that it cannot draw support (political, economic, or military) from the population it claims to govern. In such situations, counterinsurgency depends both on what the government can do to prevent the insurgent from making headway through unconventional warfare and on the degree to which the population can be effectively mobilized to the government's cause. The latter task often conflicts directly with what the regime feels it must do to survive against its rivals. Nowhere was this tension more acute than in Vietnam between 1967 and 1975. III. Because those who controlled the GVN treated demands for expanding political participation by organizations other than the ones it Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R0006OO100004-4 created or could control as a threat to their hold on power, the GVN consistently failed to take advantage of the resources its own population could bring to bear in the struggle with the Viet Cong. Two primary examples of this come to mind, but before describing them I think it important to review briefly the nature of the political culture that existed apart (unfortunately) from the govern- ment in Saigon. Much has been written about the social and political complexity (see map) of South Vietnam.* By 1970, some twenty-seven active political groups existed in South Vietnam (50 groups were officially recognized as "political parties" by the Ministry of Interior). By and large, these groups were either religiously or regionally based. What functions did they serve? The principal religions of southern Vietnam, (Mahayana and TheraVad Buddhism, Catholicism, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai) provided for many a socialization into politics by teaching effective models of political organization and action. This latter function proved extremely important -- despite the fact that it was never treated by * See, for example, my "Government and the Countryside: Political Accommodation and South Vietnam's Communal Groups," ORBIS (Summer 1969), pp 502-525 and "South Vietnam: Neither War nor Peace," Asian Survey (February 1970), pp 107-132, and the studies by others cited in these articles. Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Socio-Political Complexity in South Vietnam (circa 1970) MAJOR ETHNIC GROUPS Vietnamese (Mahayana Buddhist) Tribal Groups (Mon-Khmer) Tribal Grounds (Malayo-Polynesian) Chain Khmer (Theravada Buddhist) (Chinese concentrated mainly in cities) RELIGIOUS MINORITIES Cao Dai Hoa Hao A Catholic Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Relea 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 the GVN as an asset in forming the anti-communist core of a modern military establishment and in compensating for the GVN's inattention to political indoctrination in training regular forces and civil defense cadres. It could rightly be said, I think, that the anti-communism of the South Vietnamese population was the result more of the work of the religions than the government. Regionalism, while often cited as an obstacle to national integration in Vietnam, played an important part in lending cohesion to army divisions and instilling them with a sense of mission (especially when it came to territorial defense). Regional roots also proved important to assuring that the vast migration to the cities, as well as the existence of a huge refugee population, occurred with a minimum of anarchy and the psychological strains that accompanied such phenomena elsewhere. The principal vehicle here was the traditional, local "burial and self-help organization" that provided social welfare services to millions of people the-GVN failed to reach effectively. Whole districts of Saigon, plus many provincial cities and refugee camps, were virtually run by these organizations. With respect to the rural population, the social and religious organizations mentioned above also contributed importantly to the maintenance of a corporate life and to agricultural production in ways that made relatively little demands on the central government for re- sources.* Unlike the "hydraulic society" of the North, which required * This is a point made in Robert L. Sansom's study of The Economics of Insurgency in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1970), especially pp 160-163. Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA- DP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Relea9tw-2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R00060 100004-4 vast amounts of collectivized labour to maintain the dikes, rural society in the South was able to prosper more autonomously. The intervillage cooperation that was required, moreover, was facilitated by the religious organizations which managed to maintain the canals of the Mekong Delta and feed at least three-quarters of the population of the whole country (plus the Communist forces that operated in the South) by cultivating only a fraction of the arable land. In terms of mobilizing the political groups spawned by religions or regionalism, there were in my view two critical periods for the GVN, one in 1966 and the other in 1968-1970. The GVN's response to demands by these groups for the expansion of political participation had the effect of alienating the population from its cause. Had the response of the GVN been different, it would have derived two key benefits: it would have inherited (from the religions) an already legitimate anti-communist ideology and it would have been able to support on-going social welfare and self-help programs rather than appear in competition with them. Instead, the leaders of the GVN viewed such political and social activism as threat to their own survival. In early 1966, the government of Nguyen cao Ky committed itself to organizing elections and drafting a constitution as a consequence of the US-GVN summit meeting in Honolulu that February. Ky pledged "to formulate a democratic constitution in the months ahead, including Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Releasker 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 an electoral law; to take that constitution to our people for dis- cussion and modification; to create on the basis of elections rooted in that constitution, an elected government." Ky's return from Honolulu, however, brought little subsequent progress in either drafting a con- stitution or preparations for holding elections. Instead, Ky continued to focus on consolidating his support within the coalition of generals in the National Leadership Committee (the Directory) that ran the GVN. As part of his strategy, in early March, Ky called for the resignation of General Nguyen canh Thi, the popular commander of the I Corps region and one of Ky's principal rivals within the Directory. Within two days of the resignation order, riots and demonstrations calling for the reinstatement of General Thi and tangible progress toward free elections broke out in DaNang (the administrative capital of I Corps), Hue, and other major urban centers. Ky, in turn, de- clared martial law, and ordered army troops to occupy Buddhist pagodas and to arrest Buddhist leaders. Ky regarded this struggle movement primarily as a demonstration of support for General Thi rather than for elections. As such, he responded in military rather than political terms. The demand for reinstatement of General Thi, however, was rapidly overshadowed by the demand for a new constitution and elections, and reflected the desire of the Buddhists to participate in the process Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 of government rather than to overthrow it. This is a key point that the government failed to realize. While a constitution was subsequently drafted and elections held in which some Buddhists political leaders participated, throughout the period government security forces continued to arrest leaders of the demonstration. The result was that the government system created in 1966-1967 lacked legitimacy from the outset.* This made the political developments of the 1968-1970 period even more striking. The Communist's Tet Offensive turned Americans off to the war. It had the opposite effect on large segments of the South Vietnam population. As I have noted in some detail elsewhere, Tet convinced many Vietnamese political leaders that their principal enemy was the Viet Cong, not each other.** To this end, and to the surprise of many, after the Tet offensive the leaders of even opposition political organizations sought to participate in the GVN. They sought, especially, to accelerate the establishment of local self-defense forces and to work closely with provincial government authorities in social welfare and community development projects. * For an excellent analysis of what "legitimacy" meant to the Vietnamese, see Steven Young (citation to be supplied). ** See Politics in War: The Bases of Political Community in South Vietnam. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1973). Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Rele 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R00 600100004-4 At the national level, moreover, even those members of the opposition who had been imprisoned by the Ky government or its predecessors were seeking. to run for election to the national assembly. Perhaps the most dramatic example of this change in attitude appeared within militant Buddhist political organizations. All of the members of the 1966 Struggle Coordinating Committee, for example, were by 1969, leaders in Buddhist social welfare services. The order of the day for these social welfare organizations and local Buddhist hierarchies in general was cooperation with the government. In only rare cases, however, was such cooperation welcomed in Saigon and used as a means of bridging the gap between the government and the population. All too often, Thieu and his close circle of advisors evaluated such actions on the part of other politicans in terms of the impact they might have on Thieu's ability to remain in power rather than on what they could contribute to the war effort. Thus, most who sought a stake in the GVN even on Thieu's terms were denied it. IV. In an interview in Paris in 1970, North Vietnam's chief negotiator at the stalemated Paris Talks made the following prediction: It is unnecessary to negotiate because we will win... the South Vietnamese administration is strong, but it will gradually be weakened by internal disputes. Then, time and patience will be the factors in our victory. It is not necessary to use an athlete to knock down a sick man. Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Relee 2001/08/07: CIA-RDP81-00142R000`00100004-4 Throughout more than three decades of warfare, the Communists never wavered in their conviction that victory depended as much on what they achieved on the battlefield as on the political weakness and corruption of the South Vietnamese government. In April 1975, their view proved right. Has Hanoi found the formula for success in wars of national liberation? For Hanoi's strategy of revolutionary war to succeed, what is required beyond a similarly organized armed struggle move- ment is the unwitting cooperation of the government it seeks to overthrow. So the answer to the question posed above could depend largely on the level of political participation that occurs in the societies where insurgent challenges exist or are likely. There are few instances in which the leaders of governments of the type de- scribed here find it in their immediate interest to respond positively to demands for the expansion of political participation.* And, as noted above, resistance to expanding political participation has a tendency to become institutionalized. If it does, this could virtually assure that movements of the type Hanoi created will suceed provided their time horizon is long enough. * Such examples would include the experiences of Ghandi and Nehru in India,Mao inChi.na,.Magsaysay in the Philippines, Nyerere in Tanzania. For a systematic discussion of the pros and cons involved in expanding political particiption, see Samuel P. Huntington and Joan M. Nelson, No Easy Choice: Political Participation in Developing Countries (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976). Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For Releawer'2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R0006Q0100004-4 This conclusion is clearly of great potential significance to states who view the success of such movements as benefitting the projection of their power. And the record so far must look very good to the insurgent as well. Indeed, of the fifty-eight limited wars that have been fought since 1945, thirty-six have been insurgencies and the incumbent government has prevailed only half the time. (See Annex). Given these odds, the need for understanding the politics of counterinsurgency may be no less pressing today than it was when the struggle over South Vietnam began. Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 Approved For.Release 2& dqk8/60R I7A(RDP81-0014.?, 000600100004-4 Opponents (Winner, if Objective Type pf Applicable, in Italics) Warfare Indonesia, 1945-47 Netherlands v. Rebels independence conventional China, 1945-1949 KMT v. Communists power revolutionary Kashmir, 1947-1949 India v. Pakistan Security conventional Greece, 1946-1949 Govt. v. ELAS Rebels power guerrilla Israel, 1948-1949 Isarel v. Arabs security conventional Philippines, 1948-1952 Government v. Huks power guerrilla Indochina, 1945-1954 France v. Viet Minh independence revolutionary Malaya, 1945-1954 Britain & Govt. v. rebels power guerrilla Korea, 1950-1953 UN & South Korea v. China & power conventional N. Korea Kenya, 1952-1961 Britain v. 'tau flau power guerrilla Sudan, 1955-1972 Govt. v. Anyanya rebels autonomy guerrilla Sinai, 1956 Israel v. Egypt security conventional Suez, 1956 Gr. Britain, France, & Israel security conventional v. Egypt Hungary, 1956 USSR v. Govt. security conventional Quemoy-Matsu, 1954-58 Chinese nationalists v. PRC security conventional Lebanon, 1958 US and Govt. v. rebels power conventional Tibet 1950-1959 PRC v. Tibetans security conventional Cyprus 1955-1959 Britain v. Eoka Rebels power guerrilla Algeria 1956-1962 France v. rebels independence revolutionary Cuba 1958-1959 Govt. v. Castro power guerrilla Laos, 1959-1975 _ Govt & US v. Pathet Lao & power revolutionary North Vietnam Goa, 1961 India v. Portugal security Iraq, 1961-1970 Kurdish rebels v. govt guerrilla Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 A-1 Approved Fori.Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-0014QR000600100004-4 Limited Wars Since 1945 (continued) Place and Date Opponents (Winner, if Objective Type of Applicable, in Italics) Warfare Yemen, 1962-1970 royalists v. government power Congo(Zatre) 1960-1962 Govt. & UN v. mutineers & autonomy secessionists Cuba, 1961 (Bay of Pigs) Cuban refugees & US v. government power Vietnam, 1959-j975 mt US & S. Vietnam v. Viet power revolutionary Cong & N. Vietnam Himalayas, 1959-1962 India v. PRC security conventional Angola 1960-j1935.==:t Portugal v. rebels independence revolutionary West New Guniea, 1962 Netherlands v. Indonesia independence conventional Colombia, 1960-present Government v. rebels power guerrilla Venezuela, 1963 Government v. rebels power guerrilla Malaysia, 1963-1966 Britian & Malaysia v. Indonesia national security guerrilla Ethiopia, 1964 Ethiopia v. Somalia security conventional Congo(Zaire) 1964-1965 Govt. v. Simba rebels autonomy conventional Thailand, 1964-present Govt. v. Northeastern insurgents power revolutionary Dominican Republic, 1965 Govt. & US v. rebels power conventional Peru, 1965 power guerrilla Kashmir, 1965 Pakistan v. India national security conventional Nigeria, 1967-1970 Biafran secessionists v. autonomy conventional Nigerian government Middle East, 1967 Israel v. Arabs national security conventional Czechoslovakia, 1968 Dubcek Govt. v. USSR & Warsaw national security conventional Pact Northern Ireland, 1969- Catholics & IRA v. Protestants autonomy guerrilla present & Britain Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 A-2 ? h Approved FoiftRelease 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-0014 1000600100004-4 Limited Wars Since 1945 (continued) Opponents (Winner, if Objective Type of Applicable, in Italics) Warfare Chad, 1969-1971 Government & France v. guerrilla Arab rebels El Salvador, 1969-1970 security Cambodia, 1970-197-5--L US & Lon, Nol Govt. v. Cambodian United National Front power revolutionary Burma, 1970-current Govt. v.U Nu and ethnic rebels power/autonomy guerrilla Jordan, 1970-71 Govt. v. Palestinian commandos security guerrilla Bangladesh, 1971 West Pakistan v. E. Pakistan autonomy conventional and India Middle East, 1969-72 Iran v. United Arab Emirates & security Iraq Burundi, 1972 Batutsi tribesmen v. Bahutu autonomy conventional Middle East,1973 Israel v. Arabs territory conventional Philippines, 1973-presentGovt. v. Moslem rebels autonomy conventional Angola, 1975 MPLA V. FNLA and Unita power guerilla Ethoopia, 1977-78 Ethiopia and Cubans v. Somalia territory conventional Rhodesia, 1960-present Govt. v. Zapu, Zanu power guerilla Zaire, 1977 Govt. v. Katangan Dissidents autonomy guerilla Ethiopia, 1960-present Govt. v. ELF, EPFL autonomy gueri 11 a Approved For Release 2001/08/07 : CIA-RDP81-00142R000600100004-4 A-3 UNCLASSIFIED Ei IN"""QNAl. CONF" NTIAL -SECRET - 2001102O7 : oooj - , . ROUTING AND RECORD SHEET rSUBJECT: (optional TATINTL FROM: Publications Review Board I F06 TO: (Officer designation, room number, and building) DATE Members, PRB .Publications Review Bo rd 1F06 FORM 3-62 610 USEDIITIONSUS OFFICER'S COMMENTS (Number each comment to show from whom INITIALS to whom. Draw a line across column after each comment.) ? SECRET ? CONFIDENTIAL [] INTERNAL ONLY F-1 UNCLASSIFIED .USE ApprdVed"Pbr efefi '`2001/0'8/07 CIA-RCDP81.00142R000600100004-4