A North Vietnamese View of American Intervention (1965), Le Dua
The North Vietnamese leaders engaged in their own analysis of the conflict in Vietnam and the prospect of massive American military intervention. In July 1965 Le Duan, a prominent official in the North Vietnamese Communist party, offered his assessment of America's involvement in the region to a group of Communist leaders.

We know that the U.S. sabotaged the Geneva Agreement and encroached on South Vietnam in order to achieve three objectives:

  1. To turn the South into a colony of a new type.

  2. To turn the South into a military base, in order to prepare to attack the North and the Socialist bloc.

  3. To establish a South Vietnam–Cambodia–Laos defensive line in order to prevent the socialist revolution from spreading through Southeast Asia.

At present, we fight the U.S. in order to defeat their first two objectives to prevent them from turning the South into a new-type colony and military base. We do not yet aim at their third objective, essentially to divide the ranks of the imperialist and to make other imperialists disagree with the U.S. in broadening the war in Vietnam and also to attract the support of other democratic and independent countries for our struggle in the South.

Our revolutionary struggle in the South has the character of a conflict between the two camps in fact, but we advocate not making that conflict grow but limiting it in order to concentrate our forces to resolve the contradiction between the people and U.S. imperialism and its lackeys, to complete the national democratic revolution in the whole country. It is for this reason that we put forward the slogan "peace and neutrality" for the South, a flexible slogan to win victory step by step. We are not only determined to defeat the U.S. but must know how to defeat the U.S. in the manner most appropriate to the relation of forces between the enemy and us during each historical phase. . . .

The U.S. rear area is very far away, and American soldiers are "soldiers in chains," who cannot fight like the French, cannot stand the weather conditions, and don't know the battlefield but on the contrary have many weaknesses in their opposition to people's war. If the U.S. puts 300,000–400,000 troops into the South, it will have stripped away the face of its neocolonial policy and revealed the face of an old style colonial invader, contrary to the whole new-style annexation policy of the U.S. in the world at present. Thus, the U.S. will not be able to maintain its power with regard to influential sectors of the United States. If the U.S. itself directly enters the war in the South, it will have to fight for a prolonged period with the people's army of the South,1 with the full assistance of the North and of the Socialist bloc. To fight for a prolonged period is a weakness of U.S. imperialism. The Southern revolution can fight a protracted war, while the U.S. can't, because American military, economic and political resources must be distributed throughout the world. If it is bogged down in one place and can't withdraw, the whole effort will be violently shaken. The U.S. would lose its preeminence in influential sectors at home and create openings for other competing imperialists, and lose the American market. Therefore at present, although the U.S. can immediately send 300,000 to 400,000 troops at once, why must the U.S. do it step by step? Because even if it does send many troops like that, the U.S. would still be hesitant; because that would be a passive policy full of contradictions; because of fear of protracted war, and the even stronger opposition of the American people and the world's people, and even of their allies who would also not support widening the war.

With regard to the North, the U.S. still carries out its war of destruction, primarily by its air force: Besides bombing military targets, bridges and roads to obstruct transport and communications, the U.S. could also indiscriminately bomb economic targets, markets, villages, schools, hospitals, dikes, etc., in order to create confusion and agitation among the people. But the North is determined to fight back at the U.S. invaders in a suitable manner, determined to punish the criminals, day or night, and determined to make them pay the blood debts which they have incurred to our people in both zones. The North will not flinch for a moment before the destructive acts of the U.S., which could grow increasingly with every passing day. The North will not count the cost but will use all of its strength to produce and fight, and endeavor to help the South. For a long time, the Americans have boasted of the strength of their air force and navy but during five to six months of directly engaging in combat with the U.S. in the North, we see clearly that the U.S. cannot develop that strength in relation to the South as well as in relation to the North, but revealed more clearly every day its weak-points. We have shot down more than 400 of their airplanes, primarily with rifles, anti-aircraft guns; [but] the high level of their hatred of the aggressors, and the spirit of determination to defeat the U.S. invaders [are tenacious].2 Therefore, if the U.S. sends 300,000–400,000 troops into the South, and turns special war into direct war in the South, escalating the war of destruction in the North, they still can't hope to avert defeat, and the people of both North and South will still be determined to fight and determined to win.

If the U.S. is still more adventurous and brings U.S. and puppet troops of all their vassal states to attack the North, broadening it into a direct war in the entire country, the situation will then be different. Then it will not be we alone who still fight the U.S. but our entire camp. First the U.S. will not only be doing battle with 17 million people in the North but will also have to battle with hundreds of millions of Chinese people. Attacking the North would mean that the U.S. intends to attack China, because the North and China are two socialist countries linked extremely closely with each other, and the imperialists cannot attack this socialist country without also intending to attack the other. Therefore the two countries would resist together. Could the American imperialists suppress hundreds of millions of people? Certainly they could not. If they reach a stage of desperation, would the U.S. use the atomic bomb? Our camp also has the atomic bomb. The Soviet Union has sufficient atomic strength to oppose any imperialists who wish to use the atomic bomb in order to attack a socialist country, and threaten mankind. If U.S. imperialism uses the atomic bomb in those circumstances they would be committing suicide. The American people themselves would be the ones to stand up and smash the U.S. government when that government used atomic bombs. Would the U.S. dare to provoke war between the two blocks, because of the Vietnam problem; would it provoke a third world war in order to put an early end to the history of U.S. imperialism and of the entire imperialist system in general? Would other imperialist countries, factions in the U.S., and particularly the American people, agree to the U.S. warmongers throwing them into suicide? Certainly, the U.S. could not carry out their intention, because U.S. imperialism is in a weak position and not in a position of strength.

But the possibility of . . . broadening the direct war to the North is a possibility which we must pay utmost attention, because U.S. imperialism could be adventurous. We must be vigilant and prepared to cope with each worst possibility. The best way to cope, and not to let the U.S. broaden the direct warfare in the South or in the North, is to fight even more strongly and more accurately in the South, and make the puppet military units—the primary mainstay of the U.S.—rapidly fall apart, push military and political struggle forward, and quickly create the opportune moment to advance to complete defeat of U.S. imperialism and its lackeys in the South.

1. The Viet Cong. (Return to text)
2. Editorial insertions. (Return to text)
[From Gareth Porter, ed., Vietnam: The Definitive Documentation of Human Decisions (Stanfordville, New York: Earl M. Coleman Enterprises, Inc., 1979), 2:383–85.]
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