328. Editorial Note

On December 5, 1966, Walt Rostow forwarded to President Johnson a 16-page memorandum on “The View from Hanoi,” which Sherman Kent, Chairman of the Board of National Estimates, had sent to Director of Central Intelligence Helms on November 30. The memorandum discussed Hanoiʼs current evaluation of: a) the course of the war; b) the political situation in South Vietnam; and c) the international climate, including U.S. domestic opinion. It noted that from a military viewpoint, Hanoi must have found the previous 12 months “fairly discouraging,” while on the political front Hanoi was confronted with the “surprising durability of the Ky government despite repeated crises.”

The memorandum then considered Hanoiʼs future strategy and concluded with the following paragraph:

“Our best judgment is that faced with the defeat of its present strategy and confronted with unpalatable options, Hanoi is procrastinating. Next spring, after the dry season, is a more likely time than now for modifications in strategy. But if Hanoi is now reconsidering its fortunes, then the two live options are a modification of military tactics toward guerrilla operations or a shift toward the political track, with all its hazards. Our view is that the military option—i.e., some new combination of guerrilla and large unit operations—is still likely to be the preferred course; and given time to work out the consequences and problems, Hanoi may move this way. But this is by no means certain, and for the first time in the last two years, there is a chance of a serious political move from the Communist side.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Vietnam, vol. LXII)