As we see it: Vietnam '68; Harrison Salisbury/Robert Scalapino
If we had used a truce period to launch a major offensive if we had taken on the cities in this disastrous night in with thousands of casualties. I really wonder what the Moros would have said. Sometimes I think there's a double standard. Quite frankly you know how we are you versus how the Communists are viewed and national educational radio presents as we see it. Vietnam sixty eight a series of appearances of noted spokesman presenting their various views on the war in Vietnam. As we see it Vietnam 68 was conducted over a five week period on the campus of Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Under the sponsorship of the Miami University student senate the speakers for this program are Harrison Salisbury. She lets her prize winning journalist from The New York Times and Dr. Robert a scallop Pino of the political science department
of the University of California at Berkeley introducing and moderating this debate is Dr. Rio Christiansen of Miami University's department of government. Or. Or. Did me a great deal of pleasure to be able to introduce the two speakers today on my right. Mr. Harrison Salisbury who is as you well know the surprise correspondent for The New York Times author of Dateline and lecture on Vietnam. And on my last and Dr. Robert scalloped chairman of the Department of Political Science University of California one of the nation's outstanding authorities on Asia and one of the most formidable defenders on the administration's position. The format that we're going
to use this afternoon will be as follows. Each speaker will make a brief opening statement at the conclusion of their statements. We have arranged a series of questions which are supposed to be in some kind of reasonably logically related order to which each of the two speakers will respond in terms. If we find it desirable we will give them an opportunity for calmer comments. Where this seems necessary at the conclusion of the prepared questions. We will then give. The audience an opportunity to ask some questions of their own until such time as. Speakers find it necessary is one of them dies to catch a plane. Now we add a last moment of the coin. This outbreak doesn't know what he won he may have the choice of either speaking first or
second at his leisure. Thank you for your service. Ladies and gentlemen since the format of this is rather compact. I thought perhaps the most useful thing I could do in the brief time this presentation was to confine my remarks to one area which may bring to you some enlightenment on a couple of really difficult and puzzling questions about the situation. Such an like minded as I may be able to bring from the fact that I was over him. We have about a year ago and the question I am going to address myself to is this. Why is it that with all the American investment in arms and money and lives and technology have we
not been able to produce more striking results. Why is there such a gap between what we have done out there and our goals from the military standpoint and why has it been possible in spite of the enormous offensive which we have been conducting against the North Vietnamese. For the last year or two that they were able in the recent attempt operations to suddenly strike back so savage and fierce It was in the south. I don't know that I can give you only answers to these questions but I can perhaps give you a few observations that are pertinent. I think the first thing that we we must recognize is that we the scope of our operations in the north the air offensive that we have directed there has been a very hard hitting hitting what we have achieved
success in getting our objectives. It would be wrong to suppose that there has not been a great deal of destruction in the north it was a great illustration there when I was there a year ago all at the time of the bombing offensive had reached the level of operations equivalent to roughly equivalent to that which was being flown during World War 2 on the continent of Europe. Since that time since my visit out there the weight of moms dropped in the north has probably doubled and sometime this past fall we we exceeded the total tonnage of World War 2. This means in effect that we have dropped more high explosive on North Vietnam has ever been dropped on any other country in the world at any time. So that there has been no lack of punch and power in our offensive in the north. And this underlines I think in reemphasizes the question in our minds as to
why if we have food done this with such vigor we have not achieved the objectives that we set out for it. We should keep in mind I think what those objectives were because we're not bombing in the north just for fun or for the exercise of our Air Force. There were three principal objectors and I believe they still are the same today. The first one was to interdict the movement of man material and supplies from the north to the south. Secondly we halted to create a climate of opinion in the north as a result of the all the destruction and and the sharp blows driven against the North Vietnamese to bring pressure on the government from the population to enter into negotiations to come to the conference table. We hoped also that the pressure through this and other means I would rise and that Hall and his associates would be compelled
to sue for peace or at least to ask us for some sort of turn. Well none of these things has happened the Tet offensive if nothing else demonstrated the fact that in spite of this very very heavy tonnage the north is still able to provide weapons and man and supplies in the only two large numbers to the south. The weapons which were used in that Tet Offensive were almost entirely brought in from the north. The new automatic rifles many of them Chinese manufacture the rocket launchers almost entirely of Soviet manufacture all that stuff had to be carted down to the south. Also a great many of the military units that were engaged in it came in from the north. This was accomplished in the face as I say of the most terrific offensive the world has ever seen. I think that in itself demonstrates quite accurately that there are some
things which bombing is not capable of achieving. I don't think this is necessarily new and I think we might have learned it perhaps from World War 2. Certainly from the Korean War now perhaps we're learning it again in Vietnam. Why the question remains why why. Why doesn't it work. Well I could see why it didn't work when I was in North Vietnam last winter. All right. It is accurate enough. We hit the objectives. For example we hit the highways we hit the bridges the various depos and things of that kind which are important if we're going to interdict movement of supplies to the south. Yep all the time that I was there and quite obviously since that time the convoys lined up in Hanoi every night at dusk and rolled along the road. After dark to find the great groups of young people with their bicycles a big bicycle carrying Brigades which carry so
much of the bling in the outskirts of Hanoi and moving on down through the night all night long and by day they would disperse along the highway. You would even find them at 3:00 a.m. in the morning long columns of people. Women in many cases with carrying poles on their backs carrying a load of hundred pounds they walk. They walk two and a half months down south and lower their load and walk all the way back north again. That was going on then. How could it go on if we were able to hit the highways and the bridges as we were doing then and as we certainly have been doing since that time. It was able to go on because of the very primitive means but nonetheless effective which they were able to employ to accomplish to continue to move the stuff through their repair roads are easily over there. Principally because there are such poor roads to begin with. We hit a highway there it's nothing but a dirt road to repair it. You simply get twenty men with
shovels and the material to repair it is a hand you shovel the stuff that was blown back into the road again doesn't take them on the road is pretty bumpy after you're through doing that but it was pretty popular before. Not much of a problem they can't repair the permanent bridges that are knocked down but they put in pontoon. Those tunes are very effective I was over many of them myself. They are made out of flat bottom boats lashed together with a with a platform on top of them. The trucks roll down those pontoons are almost as well as they do on the permanent bridges they usually put in breach bridges astroid. There's an infinity of that kind of material at hand and I don't see any reason why they can't go on doing it as fast as we knock these things off. And in fact I was speaking with an intelligence officer who was out there. As recently as last November he estimated that perhaps there were that many is four times as many bridges now in the north this year over last year in spite of our bombing. He doesn't mean
permanent bridges he means pontoon is replaceable. This gives you some measure of the ability of these people to adapt to the very highly technological means we apply to them. I could give you many other instances of the same sort of things sometimes people say but the trouble is we haven't hit them hard enough. We should do it. We ought to blast them back into the Stone Age drive them into the cage. Something that I don't believe that the people who make this declaration are too familiar with the actual living conditions out there most of these people 90 percent of them maybe 95. Live in a simple plot made up of mud and water with the earth floor and the roof. You blast somebody out of that hut into a cave and you haven't you haven't destroyed the living conditions you've improved. We had we had other targets of course besides roads and bridges we had the power plants and things of that kind I think we've knocked out tried to get all their industrial capacity it didn't amount to anything in the
beginning. You could knock out the power plant in Hanoi it's been knocked out a couple of times I don't suppose that 99 percent of the people in Vietnam realize it's been knocked out. They don't know the electricity has been turned off or knocked out because it never was turned on in their village. They don't they're not used to having electricity. They get along with kerosene lamps or candles in most cases they go to bed when the sun goes down. Not much to do after that anyway. It is the primitiveness of this country I think perhaps that's defeated. The remarkable weaponry that we have deployed against Is there something that we might do that would change this picture in the north. I doubt it very much. It would be my estimate that there are practically no targets left in the north were attacking that have not been attacking with the exception of a few few which you're far far magnificent from the military standpoint but excessively dangerous from the political standpoint.
We could obliterate the city of the tunnel. Sometimes it's proposed in the process of doing it we would kill perhaps 100000 or 200000 people and that we might very well find that we were engaged in a war with Russia and or China. We would certainly obliterate their embassy and large numbers of their personnel. We could destroy the shipping and harbor a very attractive target since this is where much of the material which the North uses to conduct the war comes in on the ships. We could destroy it by bombing or we could destroy it by mines prevent access to the harbor or we could declare a blockade and put our naval vessels in there to maintain the blockade. We don't do it because of the grave danger that it would bring us into war. Severance of diplomatic relations or military reprisals on the part of the Soviet Union. We could destroy the canal and dike system of the north. Most of the Red River Delta the Hanoi and Haiphong area is below the level of the
Red River protected from it by enormous dikes. It was in Hanoi or as I was at least the white background at the end of this stadium perhaps fire destroyed those when you look through one large part of the country. You were wiped out possibly for 5 million people a deadly blow at the country there's no doubt about that. But you bring in the Russians and the Chinese into the war and I don't believe. It's an even trade. It's sometimes because there's one only one other target that I know of that's of any consequence in the north that we are talking this is the rail route coming down from China. We do attack it right up to the front tier with China sometimes it's suggested that we move the attack back a little bit into China be more effective. It's also suggested the Chinese would not mind us too much they'd understand it was not directed against them just against the railroad. I don't really believe that that line of thinking has got any very rational
basis I think it would produce war with China. There are two other things we might do by way of escalation on land. We could invade the north. Sometimes we're poles sometimes proposed in rather modest terms. I suspect that we don't do it because of the great danger that would bring Russia and or China in the war. We have their threat to come in on the table and Hanoi has said that if we did that they would ask them to come in specifically. The only other land operation that I have heard of would be an invasion of Cambodia and or Laos. Either of those operations might improve the situation militarily in a rather minor way I doubt if they would be decisive. I don't know of any other escalating measures that have been suggested. We're sending more troops out there at the present time. I expect we'll send another hundred or two hundred thousand. I don't believe that this is it. These are numbers that will change the the posture of our situation radically
out there I think these numbers will in essence merely make up for the losses of the Tet Offensive and give us some security in the city which we do not possess at the present time. That's about as far as escalating or bringing more pressure on the north so far as I have been able to observe these suggestions. I don't think that any of these things are very likely to be done because of the dangers or implications of each of them. I think continuance of the war on the present level is not likely to bring any solution. I think that if we want to to find a way of bringing the war to a solution want to find some means or at least part of our objectives out there we're going to turn to the path of diplomacy and I hope we turn very soon. Thank you. With us. It
was surprising to me. To. Try to. Speak report from Yemen very lazy. I think that the Vietnam picture is serious and complex. I do not accept the thesis and I have never accepted the thesis that all is going well for us in Vietnam. Obviously the Tet Offensive dealt a blow. To our allies and we faced many very complicated problems. I also however do not accept the theses of many individuals. Who think that this is an illegal and or immoral war
and or one of little consequence to us and to noncom in the stage. My own feeling is that on this issue as in the case of most issues in the international right the truth is enormously complicated. Many facets and difficult to ascertain but that no one with the simple solution is likely to have the right answer. I picked up one of your local newspapers this morning and on the front page I know the stay story from UPI where they've been John louse. They lie to the effect that the Communists were on the offensive in Laos and Cambodia and in Burma as well as in Vietnam. And from Pinchon it was reported that North Vietnamese troops were using Soviet made rockets against a government post for the first time.
Cambodian government officials in Nome pan were reported to have said on Saturday that at least five provinces of Cambodia had been placed on a war footing because of the threat from roving bands of coming this guerrillas Burma's leader General Ne Win in Rangoon was said to have disclosed that an upsurge in fighting between the communist guerrillas in the north and the Burmese forces had taken place. And that unfortunately the Communists were guerrillas for using communist China as a point of sanctuary. If we have needed any evidence of the international character of the conflict in Vietnam the events that have taken place in Korea and in Southeast Asia seem to me in the overwhelming measure to have dispelled any theory that Vietnam is sui generous or that the problem lies
only within the context of a civil war in this particular society. In my opinion whether it needed to have been so initially or not whether Vietnam was the proper place or not. Vietnam now has it wide stakes in the. They cover most of eastern Asia. They relate to precisely the future and the fate of most of the noncom in this portion of East Asia. A communist victory in this area in my opinion would result in not only a crushing defeat for us. And new issues about the credibility of our promises and the lives but it would have the most dramatic and drastic impact. Upon the future of noncommunist in such diverse places as Laos
Cambodia Thailand Malaysia. And South Korea. And it seems to me that one therefore has to ask the question is Asia important to us as well as to certain general principles. I for one have felt that there were two areas in the world where it was indispensable to establish some kind of political equilibrium. If we were to avoid World War 3 with enormous risks and the great costs we undertook that task in Europe in the 1940s and early 1950s the risks in terms of issues and confrontations such as West Berlin and Greece were formidable but the stakes were also great. I am not asserting for a moment that there is any precise parallel between Europe and Asia. Obviously there is not. But there are some parallels.
One of them for example is that the major powers of today and tomorrow are also Asian Pacific states. When the Russians come within minutes of each other in the northern Pacific. My own study looks out upon the Pacific. It seems to me incredible to assert that what happens in the Pacific and in Asia in the coming years and decades will be of no consequence to the United States. Our role is not that of a global policeman. Never before in history have we been charged with making so many close decision as to the priority of our commitments and the resource and never have these priorities been more important. I for one believe that we can legitimately take a low posture position in Africa for the foreseeable future. I think also that there are certain other parts of the world where our commitments do not
need to be intensive and where they can take on a rather limited form. But it does seem to me that Western Europe and Eastern Asia are for a nation like the United States and is intimately connected with our future as they are with the future of the peoples of those areas. That's it seems to me that what is now at stake goes far beyond Vietnam and comes to the very heart of the question of whether we can have some kind of political balance. In this crucial area where all world powers intend to converge where some one half of the world's population lives where limitless resources exist. There are some who feel that this means we are fighting Asian nations. I do not agree. Seems to me what is at stake at this very moment is Burmese nation is a Cambodian nation Elizabeth.
Yes and Vietnamese nation listen it's quite true to say the communism in Asia has succeeded mainly where it has been able to capture and use the nationalist movement. But it is equally true to say that many thousands of Vietnamese had to make the decision not just to whether they were nationalist or not. For all of the Vietnamese leaders I know anything about our nationalists but whether they wanted to operate under the communist ages or not that was the crucial decision. And it seems to me quite clear that if we are to aid in any sense to preserve nation Elizabeth in Asia we have got to try to help Haitians help themselves in making certain that neither big powerhead Gemini nor the people's war concept prevail. Nor is it as far as I'm concerned the issue of monolithic communism coming ism is not monolithic and we're not treating it as such. We have never had a more
differentiated policy toward coming. We are in some areas aiding the communists and giving them economic and technical assistance. As with respect to Poland and Yugoslavia we are in other areas reaching agreements with the Commons on such an issue as nuclear proliferation with the Soviet Union. But the vital distinction and unfortunately the difficult one is between those elements of the International Communist movement that are now preparing or preparing to accept peaceful coexistence as an operative principle of international relations and those that insists on with Saddam the power comes out of the barrel of a gun. And unfortunately this cleavage line between European communism and Asian communism is currently in one where there is not a single Asian coming the party or state in my opinion that is yet prepared to accept peaceful coexistence. The power comes out of a
barrel of a gun. There is the thesis that through violence you can overcome precarious agreements and precarious state. As long as that prevails there can scarcely be any peace in Asia and without peace in Asia there can scarcely be any great hope for peace in the world. And I would just close with this thought about our alternatives. It seems to me quite clear that in some respects. Hanoi has been taking us for a ride. Recently the big offensive in the GO sea has been launched and been on for many months. The thesis that if we would only stop the bombing unconditionally and I would sit down at the table quite frankly I think you know I would sit down at that table if we stop the bombing unconditionally. But sitting down at the table and negotiate in an effort to reach a
- As we see it: Vietnam '68
- Producing Organization
- Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- For series info, see Item 3509. This prog.: Debate between Harrison Salisbury and Robert Scalapino. Salisbury is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times; Scalapino is a member of the faculty at the U. of California, Berkeley.
- War and Conflict
- Media type
Producing Organization: WMUB
Producing Organization: Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-28-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Harrison Salisbury/Robert Scalapino,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-6q1sk29f.
- MLA: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Harrison Salisbury/Robert Scalapino.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-6q1sk29f>.
- APA: As we see it: Vietnam '68; Harrison Salisbury/Robert Scalapino. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-6q1sk29f