29. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
—Vietnamese Developments Yesterday: Ambassador Bunker has provided a very interesting analysis of Hanoi’s current and probable future military and political strategy.
Bunker believes the Communists have concluded that time is now working against them on the military side in South Vietnam. They are thus counting almost exclusively on American disenchantment with the war and with the U.S. casualty rates to produce a strong domestic anti-war reaction sometime before the end of 1970.
The enemy anticipates, in Bunker’s view, that we will so tire of the war by that time that we will bring increasing pressure on the Thieu government to make more and more concessions to the Communists so that the U.S. can disengage. This pressure in turn will weaken the GVN and open the way to its dissolution and the subsequent formation of a “peace cabinet” or coalition.
Bunker believes we will see a lot more interest by the Communists in Paris in starting substantive negotiations on both military and political issues. This, he thinks, is not mainly an indication of softness in their position, but of a desire to get a process started which they believe will greatly increase friction between the U.S. and South Vietnam.
Bunker looks for the Communists to try and maintain an intensified level of fighting over a long period in South Vietnam to back up their negotiating stance. He expects this to be sprinkled with occasional “dramatic military demonstrations.” All of it will be designed to impress the U.S. and South Vietnamese public with continuing Communist strength while avoiding crippling casualties for enemy forces.
Bunker recommends that we redouble our efforts to show our solidarity with the GVN and that we push to get GVN–NLF contacts going. At the same time we should be prepared to move ahead with discussions on both military and political issues at the talks in order to increase the chances and decrease the time needed to arrange a settlement which the Communists will accept.[Page 88]
All in all, I find Ambassador Bunker’s views on enemy strategy well in accord with my own. (Tab A)2
[Omitted here are Kissinger’s response that an estimated 11 rounds of 122 mm rocket hit Saigon the previous evening, evidence that the Vietnamese Communists planned new attacks during Laird’s visit to South Vietnam to demonstrate their “authority,” and additional information unrelated to Vietnam.]