Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 10. 1965.
Cold War Strategy
Cold War Strategy
"The struggle in Vietnam is a struggle for popular obedience," said Professor Pocock of CU, at the VUW Teach In.
He was referring to the nature of the conflict in South Vietnam. Revolutionaries, he said, are trying to substitute new forms of political and social organisation for old. Essentially it is a contest subject to no rules. "A war, in fact, carried on by all means and methods."
Prof. Pocock said these means range from benevolence to violence, which we tend to view as incompatible. "The Western observer becomes starry eyed in his relations with one side," he said.
"Believe all the atrocity stories you hear about both sides and all the good things you hear about, both sides, and then you can start and find out what is happening." he advised.
Reviewing the revolution theory Prof. Pocock defined a revolutionary as "an idealist who genuinely desires to do good." However, coercion becomes necessary as "the people" do not always know what they want. Such forces have to eliminate many of the people they are trying to liberate. But subversion was not solely a Communist activity and it could not be understood solely in terms of Communist theory.
Prof. Pocock alluded to recent history of Vietnam. The French left in 1954, he said, because the price of remaining would have been the despatch of further French divisions. This solution was untenable in view of the opposition within France of such a move.
At this stage, "Ho Chi Minh had moved from the plane of revolutionary politics to the plane of international politics." he said.
The present situation in terms of USA military presence in South Vietnam constituted this message to Ho and Mao:
"1. You can't win without fighting at division strength.
2. We (unlike the French) are willing to send more divisions.
3. We are willing to take on a bigger fight.
4. How about it?"
Prof. Pocock equated negotiation with bargaining. A competition "in which each side tries to make the other side pay the higher price." In Vietnam, he said, "bargaining has already begun," in fact escalation is one of its forms. The extent of each party's willingness to use arms is one of the issues of negotiation.
It had not yet been possible to imagine where the deadlock which could ultimately substitute for agreement would come. Prof. Pocock thought it might well not come until some kind of confrontation, or deterence dialogue, between America and China resulted.
Either side could only have two objectives. To win the war or ensure a favourable settlement. The Vietcong, said Prof. Pocock, have refused to negotiate because they feel on the winning side. USA strategy can be to defeat the Vietcong in part or wholly. On the other hand they can minimise the effects of a loss.
The thing to watch for is how the tactics and demands change. "That tells how the war is progressing." said Prof. Pocock in conclusion.