Tuesday, June 20, 1972

Political Sources Cautious

Saigon Consensus: Red Drive a Flop

SAIGON (UPI) --The growing feeling in this sweltering capital is that the North Vietnamese spring offensive has failed.

The failure in turn may bring them with serious intent to the Paris peace table, depending on the outcome of the U.S. November presidential elections.

Military sources say the North Vietnamese appear to have lost their drive since swarming across the Demilitarized Zone from the north and are suffering under allied air and naval attacks and mining of harbors.

"Right now, we have only small contacts, with no particular high density anywhere," a military source said of the ground fighting.

But the source cautioned that the North Vietnamese, who have confused the best strategists for decades, might be:
-- "Reorganizing for something."
-- Switching from large to small-scale warfare.
-- Getting ready to end the war.

Political sources are more cautious than the military.

They foresee American involvement in Vietnam, despite the phaseout of the military, continuing for the next four or five years, "depending on the patience and mood of the U.S. people in their world role."

As Hanoi is completely dependent on arms and financial aid from the Chinese and Russians, so is Saigon fully committed to military and economic aid from Washington.

"I don't know whether the American people have the patience to carry on for years," one source said.

The forthcoming U.S. elections, he said, could change the entire situation.

His prediction was that the North Vietnamese have taken a severe hammering, although "grievous losses have been suffered on both sides."

The resumed U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, up to the China border, the greatest buildup of the American 7th Fleet since World War II, and the mining of North Vietnamese harbors "is causing uneasiness up there," the source said.

The sentiment in Saigon is that President Nixon has proved himself to Hanoi as a hard-liner on Vietnam. If he is reelected, knowledgeable circles say, Hanoi will think more of getting down to the conference table in Paris and try to work out some sort of cease-fire.

"Ho Chi Minh's big mistake in 1965 was not to call for a cease-fire," one source said. This was after the Communists had infiltrated great parts of South Vietnam and were stopped only by the American military buildup to more than 500,000 fighting men.

Intelligence reports indicate that Hanoi started its spring offensive this year with the objects of:
--- Causing the overthrow of the Saigon government.
--- Influencing the U.S. presidential elections.
--- Pressuring negotiations at the Paris peace talks.
--- Hoping for a cease-fire on their terms if President Nixon is reelected.

"It has taken them four years to build up since the Tet offensive of 1968," one source said. But since the spring drive and with the unexpected resumption of U.S. Air Force bombing, 7th Fleet and mining activity, North Vietnamese supply lines are said to be severely strained.

"They can regroup in rubber plantations and other areas and strike again," a military source said, "but they have been pretty well mauled by ground activity and the B52s."

"Saigon Consensus: Red Drive a Flop", by SAIGON, (UPI) published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Tuesday, June 20, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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