170. Memorandum From William Smyser of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1
- What does Hanoi want this Year?
According to most of our intelligence, Hanoi’s objectives this dry season are limited to eroding the GVN’s position and forcing it to implement political provisions of the Agreement according to Communist interpretation (e.g., formation of a National Council with a pro-Communist majority or at least an anti-GVN cast).
These objectives are no doubt based on Hanoi’s 1974 assessment of Communist capabilities this dry season. While these objectives seem limited, we must assume that Communist forces will seize whatever they can.
If they see a chance to win a major military victory over the ARVN, they will do so. Either way, they expect to go into future negotiations with a significantly strengthened hand.
In sum, the North Vietnamese remain flexible and have not yet set a rigid upper limit on what they hope to achieve this year. I think it is true that they will not mount a major offensive on the 1972 scale, but that does not mean that they will not take advantage of every possible military or political opportunity that they can get.
I think we should point this out whenever we have the opportunity, since we must make clear that a decision to cut aid is not a limited-risk decision.2