thumbnail of At Issue; 29; The Stakes in Vietnam
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
National Educational Television presents at Issue, a commentary on events and people in the news. At Issue this week, the stakes in Vietnam. Commentator is Edwin Bailey, Public Affairs Editor for National Educational Television. Exactly ten years ago, speaking here in New York, Vice President Nixon shocked the members of the American Newspaper Publishers Association when he said it might become necessary to send American boys abroad to hold Vietnam for the free world. Now the United States is spending a million and a half dollars a day to help the government of South Vietnam and its war
against the Viet Congarillos who control much of the countryside. There have been more than 300 American casualties this year. We don't seem to be winning in South Vietnam and many people doubt whether anyone can win this kind of a war at all. World opinion and opinion in the United States is sharply divided. General De Gaulle is called for neutralization. Some people in Washington have suggested that we have to extend the war in bomb, North Vietnam. Senator Morse, on the other hand, is demanding on the floor of the Senate that we get out of the South Vietnam completely. To Senator Morse, the conflict is strictly a civil war, one in which we have no business. The more conventional view is that this is a battle to contain China and that if we withdraw from the South Vietnam, all of South Asia will fall to the Chinese communists. To discuss how we got where we are in Vietnam and where we go from here, we have invited Dr. Stanley Millet, professor of social sciences at Breyercliffe College who was in Vietnam in 1961 and 1962 and he was charged with complicity
in a Vietnamese Air Force plot to topple the existing regime. Bernard Fall, professor of international relations at Howard University, author of a book, The Two Vietnames, Longtime Student of Gorilla Warfare, member of the French Underground of World War II. David Halberstam, New York Times reporter, now covering the current American political campaign, who spent 16 months in Saigon covering the war for the Times and won the George Polk Award for that coverage. Neil Shin, UPI correspondent in Saigon for two years, who has just returned from there. Gentlemen, what is our stake in Vietnam? Why is it important to the United States? Neil? Well, I think Vietnam, the outcome of the war in Vietnam is very important to the United States because if we lose there, we will probably lose, we will undoubtedly lose the rest of Indochina, Laos and Cambodia. I think the Thailand will probably go neutral and we, it will possibly endanger and probably bring about a collapse of our entire position
right now in Southeast Asia. I also think South Vietnam is important to us because we've made a, we've stake vast amounts of American prestige. Four million, four billion dollars since 1954 there, an effort to keep the country from falling to the communist. I think we've made a commitment to the Vietnamese people and I think we ought to do the best we can to carry out that commitment. Well, I think it's important to us because I think if we pull off from there, it would have a profound effect as Neil said on all the rest of Southeast Asia. I think it's important to us because we have as a nation given our sacred word to a generation of young Vietnamese that we were there to stay and because if we pull out, they will suffer badly for it because it is our country's word. And finally, I think it's important because I really do believe that in the long run of Vietnam, it just stays outside the communist government. I think the people will be a little bit happier, a little
bit more jolly, the women are a little prettier and a long-run wife a little bit better. I would say that the United States, in Vietnam at the moment finds itself in a treadmill, it's sort of the sort of tiger riding situations, it's pretty hard to get off the tiger and it's pretty hard to stay with them. The tiger is the vietcong and the question remains open is only whether it will be possible to gain more honor from sticking it out in a war that may perhaps not be won than to cut losses at a certain time. For example, in the United States in 1952, the President of the United States and it was a conservative President of the United States preferred to call off the Korean War rather than stay with a stalemated war. Apparently, he felt that the stalemate in long run would be worse than accepting what was there. Obviously, in Vietnam, the situation is much more deteriorated in the South. It would be much harder to draw yet another salami slice parallel. And this is basically what happens at this very moment. I feel that the United States simply
is the state, the American state can Vietnam is simply that it cannot let go. Well, I think Vietnam is one of those great tragic situations. I don't think that the United States ever had a state in any reasonable sense in Vietnam or Indochina, nor does it have one now. I think we have great responsibilities. We've pursued an active policy in Vietnam since 1954, largely based on failure to understand the real problems of the country. And after 10 years of that policy, what we find is that that part of the country, which probably contained the largest anti-communist peasant mass in Southeast Asia, is now overwhelmingly in the hands of the Vietnam Communist leadership. And we've been practically militarily defeated in the field and confront ourselves with only the task of a major and overwhelmingly major military effort to think of even regaining what we had when we started in 1954. I think that it's about time we started to think of Vietnam in terms of Vietnamese and our responsibilities
to them. We have friends there. We've made commitments to them. We've followed erroneous policies and we've got the best that we can do is to try to find some way out of a meaningless and destructive war, bring about peace in the country. For my own part, I see no alternative to abandoning the policies which have been disastrous up till now and to begin a policy based on political understandings and negotiations. Are we winning, as some people say, can we win? No, we haven't been winning that war. I don't like the word winning or losing when I was out there, it's out there. Every American general or VIP came and used the word, we are winning this war and we weren't winning it then. We're not winning the war. Now we're on sort of a part of a downward spiral and it's very late in the game and the enemy is very highly motivated. He's a better arm. He's got a lot of... He's a better arm.
He's a better arm than ever before. He's got a lot of initiative... I mean, in relation to itself, not better arm than we are. Oh, not better arm. I'm assuming he was a year and a half ago or so. To many Vietnamese, the war is very, very old. One of the real problems out there almost as much as anything else is psychological to those people who are as old. It doesn't seem like there's ever going to be any end. The fiber is pretty weak with my impression. So I wouldn't say we're winning it all. I think it's very late in the game. What about the future? The French proposal. Other alternatives have been suggested. I'm sure some of you have ideas about that, too. Well, that's, excuse me, on this one. I think that's one of the most astonishing things that the possibility of a flexible, a flexible handling the situation with some flexibility through the French offer was simply tossed aside by Washington. It was never paid any attention to, except to condemn him. It still is not. As you saw what happened at Manila at the Cito Council during last week. It was a major victory scarred in the sense that the French proposal, not to consider
any kind of negotiation, was voted down seven to one. On the other hand, of course, none of the Cito members present except the United States is willing to do anything for South Vietnam for that matter. This, of course. And I would say perhaps one part of the demithology that we can do in this program is to run down literally what the military proposal means. What does it mean to win the law of the government first? I want to challenge one point back here. I don't think there's really any negotiations that we can have over Vietnam because we haven't got anything to negotiate with. We don't have any chips. We're in a position of considerable weakness about the only thing we could negotiate with is sort of the French idea of neutralization, which all it does really is sort of allow us to save a little bit of face. So I think neutralization does mean a sort of a communist to Vietnam, maybe give us a year of grace to save our face domestically. Well, I think this is obviously there would be a vacuum when we moved out in this country would be taken over like that. I mean, I think I think it is in a sense serious. I think after all, for one thing, we have made a commitment.
The Americans went out there and they said they were going to make this commitment. They asked young Vietnamese of a generation to rally to them and I don't think we ought to bug out until we have to. I'm not very optimistic, but we've been there for nine years supporting an ineffective government that was squandering their resources and I think we can allow this new young government a little bit more time. I don't think we ought to panic over what we've been finding. I don't think it's very hot optimistic, but I would like to see a stain in honor of our commitments as long as we can. I think neutralization is such an obvious step to the communism of the communism of the area and I think it would have a profound effect in the area that I don't think it's something that this is pretty good. Well, in that case, let's look at the military bill of particulars in this particular field. I don't think Vietnam is an exception to any other of the major revolutionary wars that we have encountered in the last 15 years. As you know, I've worked on some of those revolutionary wars and I've been in four of them in France for two years in Laos and in the in French and in Chinese situation and I've also been to Algeria. It takes usually to win. It takes a tie-down ratio of 10 regulars versus one guerrilla in order to break even.
For example, the British and Malay are 280,000 troops versus 8,000 guerrillas. The British and Cyprus at 20,000 versus 600, the French and Algeria at 760,000 versus 65,000, etc. In Vietnam, we have roughly 120 to 130,000 communists. On one hand, the present forces on our side, everything included from Americans to Vietnamese village militia, is about 520,000. There has been an increased promise by Secretary-General 50,000 men, those are 20,000 of which will make up for the losses of the last one and a half years. In other words, we are reaching now a level of about 5 to 1, not even 4.5 to 1, which is obviously not a winning level. In order to get the Vietnamese to attend to one ratio, we'd have to increase the Vietnamese army to 1.1 million men, and since the second slice of a half a million men is going to be completely raw, unoffice, etc., where the officers will have to be trained, we'll have to put in quite a few more Americans than just the 16,000 where they are now. In other
words, the total bill will run into about 1.1 million Vietnamese underarms, plus about 60 to 70,000 Americans, and since the present bill already costs about $700 million, the double effort, plus more Americans will probably cost 1.5 billion dollars. Now, do you, on the basis of what you know, think that the United States is willing, at the present juncture, at this juncture, to put that kind of effort into Vietnam. I don't think the Vietnamese government yet has come up with 500,000 bodies, let alone with the equipment for them. Well, I think we can find out in the next couple months and next six months whether we're going to be able to get any kind of real strength, any kind of real fiber out of this government, whether it's going to be able to do these things. Now, all these statistics you quote in all these numbers, they're fine, I'm sure they do me anything. But the fact is, even if we'd had all those people under arms in the old days, it wouldn't have been anything because they would have stayed on static post. The fact is, are we going to start trying to do the things that we know need to be done in a guerrilla war? And if we do, we really have too much men under arms to do a good deal better than we've been doing. We can start
getting some momentum and breaking the back of some of these hardcore units. I mean, actually, we have enough men under arms now to handle these hardcore units. Oh, sure, we don't. We do. Sure, we do. We can restart. Everybody says now, as a matter of course, that the problem of a guerrilla war is a political one and not a military one. And if there is to, let's take the task of winning the war and I myself thought we always really had a chance to win it if we had shifted to political techniques rather than the military one. But if it's the case that a guerrilla war is a political problem, the increased mobility of the force which is in the unfortunate political side, so to speak, it won't change very much. And I don't see how it will matter very much. Neal talks about a total of 100 or 140,000 VC now. And this is in the face of somewhere between when I first went out there, they were talking about 400 a month getting killed. Now they're talking about something like, I don't know,
1000, 1000 a month. So if we really wanted to calculate what in a political sense in terms of the population, VC support means we would have to add on all the dead ones to find out what proportion of the Vietnamese population has really been fighting on the side of the VC. Well, we didn't know that we were killing 1000 VC before. We don't know now. Unfortunately, a lot of other people get these statistics really don't mean very much. Well, I hope you'll get across in Washington. Maybe they're finally the only thing that rising casually statistics mean is that you are losing control of the population and you are losing war because its intensity is increasing. In a guerrilla war, when you win, the war starts to go away. That doesn't get bigger. One of the things that always amused me in Saigon and still does is the fact that the American military senior military officers would point to these rising casually figures as a sign of victory when actually they are a sign of defeat of
losing rather than a winning one. I would like to come back to this point of neutralization because I think it's becoming a major issue here, particularly when I read things such as Senator Morrison, other people are saying there seems to be a great deal of confusion in the country now and a lot of irresolution about Vietnam. I think that it must be made clear regardless of the outcome in South Vietnam. It must be made clear that there is no such thing as neutralism or neutralization possible in South Vietnam or in India or China. Neutralization is simply a nice, polite diplomatic euphemism to cover an American withdrawal from South Vietnam. It is something which has been thought up by Ho Chi Minh and his great wisdom and he's a very intelligent man as a very polite way of saying to the Americans,
now you've gotten kicked around quite a bit. Now look, we'll let you get out and keep your face and we won't be very nasty about it and we really won't take the country over publicly for two or three years. Why should the Americans? Why should Ho Chi Minh be nice to the Americans? Because it's the technique of don't stiffen resistance when you can weaken resistance. That's the same reason why they don't use mass terrorism if we can resistance. Use limited terrorism. This is what I always noticed in the Viet Cong documents as persuading peace seekers in the ranks of the enemy and these people are geniuses at this kind of thing. They did it with French, apparently from what I read earlier and they're trying to do it with us now and I think that it must be pointed out that both sides, both the nationals and the communists realize that any so-called neutralist government, the emergence of any so-called neutralist, loud-style government itself, I would merely be a transitional
stepped communism. There is a very interesting Viet Cong document which was captured in October of 1962 in the Mekong Delta which I had looked at by the text looked at by Viet Names who I consider qualified and they assure me that this is authentic. They believe that these are independent experts and they're not people who work for the Viet Cong government. They believe that this document is written by a very high level Viet Cong cadre. It's a policy document, probably the zone chief for the western zone, only Bodean Borden. In this document, this man very carefully explains that we are now fighting in order to wear down the resistance of the enemy so that eventually he will be forced to negotiate and compromise. If he is forced to negotiate and compromise, it will be an important step towards victory for us. He refers to the Laosian situation. He says the emergence of a coalition government
in Laos was an important transitional step for the Laosian revolution. If we are able to achieve the same thing here, it will be an important transitional step for us because it will make the progress of the movement easier. He's talking about his movement, the Pong movement, and it will enable us to more easily persuade, more easily neutralize Balakau's elements in force. That's obvious. This is very obvious. For the communists, they will make the best out of the situation. Up to us, of course, if this were ever to occur, not to make the best out of the situation. Let's take Laos again. I was in Laosian 62 when Laos collapsed. The hard fact is, and I'm sure you all also knew it, had we fought on for another month, we would have been driven right through the make on river into Thailand. I mean, the situation in Laos was desperate against with sears of mistakes whose horror and level can only match that of Vietnam, both in size and idiocy. But the hard fact is, in Laos, we were about to be driven right into the make on river, and
what Thailand would have done, I don't know. The hard fact is, the two years later, this is a wobbly situation. It's a bad mess, but the whole make on valley, this whole long sliver that covers the Thai border is still thank goodness in pro-Western hands. There's not a really an immediate danger that it won't remain that way. So, on the whole, I would say, and since it is an underserved heroine who negotiated the Laosian thing, I would say that he did the best of a pretty bad thing. On the whole, it is yet to be proved that what was bought in 1962 in Laos was not rather a pretty acceptable situation under the circumstances. For example, just at the Sita meeting the other day, this is precisely what the French delegate said. He said, France admires what America has done in South Vietnam, but the situation has reached a point where I'm translating from the French. No numerous places, the authority of the central government of Vietnam can no longer be exercised. And that the South Vietnamese government does not have a government, it has not a regime that has the support of the population, which is the essential problem of South Vietnam.
So, the French border in Vietnam, because by the time they left the South and the country there, the nationalism was so fragmented after that war in 1954, it would be very hard to get a popular government kind of. There's always been one of the great problems there. No, I mean, all this is fine. All this talk of neutralization, DeGal, DeGal talks about the neutralization, and people say, why doesn't he spell it out? Well, there's nothing to spell out. Neutralization means the United States goes, it means we move out of there, meaning the fact, of course it does. Of course it does, of course it does. I'd like to say something before we get a big fight here. First of all, Dr. Fallah, I disagree with you about Laos. I think that we indeed have lost Laos. I don't think the Vietnamese and the Prophet Laos are terribly interested right now in moving up to the Mecon River, because they're interested in the corridor which leads into South Vietnam, Saravan, Atopo provinces. Well, this happens. The South happens to be to strike the stronghold of First Pumino Savan. He doesn't control anything. An Atopo province, any more outside of
Atopo. And they don't control anything in Saravan, any more outside. Saravan, a few posts. And the communists, the Prophet Laos and the Vietnamese control Laos. They own it. And when they want to... You're an hinterland. That's the only important area in any one of these countries. You can cut the city off later on at your leisure. And this is what they hope to do in South Vietnam. I mean, neutralization will mean the same thing. It meant a lot. In that case, you have to buy the war effort. The chance to neutralize into China was lost about 17 years ago. What is your solution, Emil? Well, I don't like to come up with solutions. I'm just a poor. I just like to point out my solution if there is a solution to what's happening in Vietnam or in China, as you want to call it right now, is I think the Americans got out of Laos because they were unwilling to fight in Laos. They were unwilling to make
a major American commitment in Laos. They were unwilling to fight the Chinese in Southeast Asia, Chinese or the North Vietnamese. And I think this is something that has always happened to us in that part of the world. It's either put up a shut up and the other sides are willing to take the risks and they're not. And each time the East is out, a little bit more. A little East is out of another country. And now they're trying to East is out of South Vietnam. Well, no one in this right mind could but agree that the present disposition of forces in South Vietnam neutralization will mean internal domination by the communists because they won in the field. They hold the loyalty of the population and just as at the end of the war with the French, they're in a political position to do it. But these are the facts. On the other hand, when you say the other side is willing to ease us out, the real question is the ease us out of what? And who is easing us out? We weren't eased out. We lost the war.
The minute we move out of South Vietnam, they will take the whole area. Which they? The Vietnam and they will take Cambodia to the Vietnam. And then the ties will go loose for the next. That's a domino theory. I don't want to title the domino theory, but it's a great deal to it because the pressure, I mean, I mean as soon as it's been behaving all this way for a long time, it's a very status of preferred prisoner. It's very edifying to remember that the Japanese planes would sunk the battleship, the Prince of Wales and the repulse off the Malayan coast took off from Saigon Airport. Yes, and it's very interesting to remember that the Japanese held Indochina for the bulk of World War II. We were busy marching all the way up to Tokyo and that Indochina in the course of the Second World War played scarcely any role than a place where you housed autonomously large. What Thailand for that matter? The domino theory is a very pretty theory. When you look at it with an American
point of view, but it's interesting that none of the Asian countries see it this way. You don't think China you're doing it? You don't think China sees a reverse domino theory? One of the interesting things is the role of China. They will lose their chance to dominate Southeast Asia, which is what they've been naming it since the Han. And then they're after again and they persuaded people like Nordim, see how they're going to do it, the role of Cambodia according to the morning. This is one of those real myths. Hypothetically the Chinese wish to dominate Southeast Asia. In South Vietnam, there's scarcely any evidence of Chinese activity at all. In North Vietnam, presumably the external support in South Vietnam is coming from the North. Actually, in point of view, the external support from North Vietnam turns out to be very slight. The bulk of the effort is kind of increasing fairly steadily
in North. In point of fact, the Chinese, if anything, seem to be extremely hesitant about making a real commitment to the North Vietnamese in this great discussion of whether the United States was going to move in on the North. And the Hanoi spoke very strongly and peaking talked in a rather modest voice. Exactly how big a commitment China has at the moment in South Vietnam is relatively small. Now, there are many ways in containing Chinese influence. And I agree that the containment of Chinese influence is a serious problem. But the containment of Chinese influence on the field of South Vietnam is to miss the whole problem of South Vietnam. Let us just say to build one series of, once again, upon the kind of false hypotheses which get us into these predicaments in the first place. Well, I don't think Neil and I are bothered too much with false hypotheses. I think you come down to, very simply, it's late in the game. What do you do? What are the alternatives?
Well, the neutralization, I think, to some of us, it does mean that we will be moving out. Is this a very good thing? No, I think, first of all, I think we have to honor our commitment to the Vietnamese people. I've got friends there. And the ones who have committed themselves most to the Americans are the ones who are going to suffer the most. Let me ask one question of a different kind. Do you think our policy there has been affected by the fact that this is an election year? Some of the Vietnamese think that's why they got the extra 50 million dollars. There is real fear in Vietnam right now that the Americans are trying to coast along there and keep it from becoming an election issue during the present campaign and that a deliberate attempt is being made to sort of say we have things on the control out there and don't worry about it. And then the Vietnamese are really afraid that after the election that we will start talking like General De Gaul and we will come up with very fancy neutralization solutions and in other words, in the bottom. I like to bring up one single thought and in other words, you think that this can be
licked militarily or rather, it must be licked militarily. If that is so, you then agree. If you say A, it must be licked militarily and you also have to say B, it has to be a million man on 200,000 Americans. No, I'm not saying that. I'm not saying about any of your ABCs, I don't think any. To talk like that is to talk almost to a American general. No, you know it's much more complex. I know it's much more complex. Well, in this case, you have to speak of pacification. Effective pacification is sort of thing. We must go last. I think we can possibly pass the voicemaries or we can find out whether we can. We can find out whether a government will listen to our ideas and will be effective in using its own resources. And you don't need a million and a half or a million hundred thousand men to start being effective and long on problems and then been problems. That's correct. All you need is to go to civil servants, the likes of which got killed five years ago. And gentlemen, that's all the time we have. Dr. Millett, Dr. Fall, Mr. Halberstand, Mr. Shien. Thank you.
This is NET, National Educational Television.
At Issue
Episode Number
The Stakes in Vietnam
Producing Organization
National Educational Television and Radio Center
Contributing Organization
Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/512-th8bg2jd77).
Episode Description
This program examines United States policy and role in South Vietnam in view of the several options the United States can take withdrawal, continued support of the South Vietnamese, extension of the war into North Vietnam, or neutralization of South Vietnam. These options are considered with respect to a series of more recent losses in South Vietnam and Viet Cong attacks within 15 miles of Saigon, and the assessment of the continuing crises by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Guests appearing on the program in the probing panel discussion will be David Halberstam, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, who has covered Southeast Asia extensively; Bernard Fall, professor of international relations at Howard University; Stanley Miller, associate professor of political science at Briarcliff; Neil Sheehan, United Press International correspondent in Saigon. The host is Ed Bayley, editor of public affairs programming, National Educational Television. Running Time: 28:55 (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Series Description
At Issue consists of 69 half-hour and hour-long episodes produced in 1963-1966 by NET, which were originally shot on videotape in black and white and color.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Talk Show
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Politics and Government
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Executive Producer: Perlmutter, Alvin H.
Host: Bayley, Ed
Panelist: Halberstam, David
Panelist: Sheehan, Neil
Panelist: Fall, Bernard
Panelist: Miller, Stanley
Producer: Zweig, Leonard
Producing Organization: National Educational Television and Radio Center
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2010062-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2010062-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2010062-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “At Issue; 29; The Stakes in Vietnam,” 1964-04-20, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “At Issue; 29; The Stakes in Vietnam.” 1964-04-20. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: At Issue; 29; The Stakes in Vietnam. Boston, MA: Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from