TODAY'S Vietnam Moratorium will be the largest and probably the most important single protest against the American intervention in Vietnam since the war began. Whether or not such protests as these can ever by themselves succeed in forcing the Administration to withdraw from Vietnam, a successful Moratorium will clearly indicate to President Nixon that the political costs of continuing the war into the months ahead will be far greater than they have been until now. Everyone who stands for an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam should support today's Moratorium, and should do whatever he or she can to make its impact as large and as visible as possible.
The main criticism being levelled against the Moratorium by defenders of U.S. policies in Vietnam is that such public demonstrations of dissent have the effect of encouraging the National Liberation Front and their North Vietnamese allies to wait out the United States at Paris in the expectation that American public opinion will eventually force a withdrawal of American troops without prior concessions by the Vietnamese. Such criticisms must be troubling for many of the politicians and prominent citizens who have recently jumped on the Moratorium bandwagon. since it is undeniable that the existence of a strong anti-war movement in the United States does remove whatever incentive to "negotiate" the continued American presence might hold for the Vietnamese. Any doubt on this score was removed last week when spokesmen for the North Vietnamese and the new Provisional Revolutionary Government (a coalition of Communist and neutralist groups) publicly saluted the Moratorium and the anti-war initiatives of American politicians such as Charles Goodell of New York.
For men like Goodell and other recent arrivals in the anti-war camp, the stronger inclination is to disavow Hanoi's acclaim and find ways of proving that responsible anti-war stands don't actually serve the North Vietnamese or National Liberation Front. But for those of us who aren't running for re-election next year. it is possible and very worthwhile to ask whether we should continue to pretend that we're not supporting the enemy in Vietnam when by our actions we plainly are. In fact, the anti-war movement has reached the stage where it finally can and should declare that it opposes the war not only because of the loss of life in Vietnam, nor solely because of the cost to America, but because the declared enemy of the American government in Vietnam is indeed not our enemy at all. It is time to declare that we reject not only the methods of the American intervention but the goals. The National Liberation Front whom we have been trying to exterminate has the support of the people of Vietnam. It deserves our support as well. And we can best support in the NLF in exactly the same way that we can best support our own troops-by demanding that all American troops be withdrawn from Vietnam immediately.
THE WAR in Vietnam is not, as many of its liberal critics would have it, a "quagmire." It is not a "morass." Americans are fond of viewing Asian wars as vast, unintelligible struggles involving numberless hordes of small, identical, machine-like fanatics. This view explains in a comforting way why the Vietnamese have been able to mount such an incredibly strong and tenacious resistance to American domination in South Vietnam.
But the Vietnamese who have fought against us are not machines. Indeed. it seems likely that a Viet Cong soldier setting out to battle is no more anxious to die than an American. The Vietnamese who have fought against the overwhelming power of the United States for the past four-and-a-half years are not of a different species from ours. Like people anywhere. the Vietnamese feel pain, have love affairs, like to dance, and carry pictures of their families in their wallets. The bravery and devotion of these people can't be explained by racial stereotypes: to understand why they fight, one needs to understand what they are fighting for, and what they are fighting against.
The National Liberation Front could not have successfully gained and retained control of the South Vietnamese countryside without the support of the people who live there. The successes of the NLF, when contrasted with the inability of the Saigon regime even to hold its own during the four-and-a-half years of American intervention, seem to establish beyond question that the NLF substantially represents the South Vietnamese people. A revolutionary movement like that of the Vietnamese cannot be sustained by terror, but depends ultimately on the allegiance of the mass of the population. The NLF has clearly won this allegiance, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government is the legitimate government of South Vietnam.
IN DECLARING its support for the Vietnamese revolution at a time when American soldiers are dying in the effort to suppress it, the American peace movement will be making its day-to-day work more difficult. There is no point in denying that this is so. But however difficult this new step may be, it must be made if the anti-war movement is to forge out of the Vietnam experience a lasting and significant victory.
The American government has some solid reasons for not wanting to withdraw from Vietnam and admit defeat. An American withdrawal might have been possible in 1961, or in 1963, but once the decision to intervene on a massive scale was taken, the war took on a new character. American intervention has transformed the Vietnam conflict into a crucial test of American capacity to suppress movements of national liberation. Before Vietnam. it was not at all certain that even a substantially united people could defeat the concentrated power of the United States. The success of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese has shown that the United States does not have the strength to deliver on its promises of protection to the puppet regimes through which it manipulates internal politics in countries of the Third World. An American withdrawal would confirm this paramount lesson of Vietnam. and it is thus understandable that President Nixon and his advisors have "ruled out" the possibility of an abrupt, immediate withdrawal.
But Nixon also requires a measure of popular support, or at least quiescence, if he is to continue to govern at home. Therefore it seems very likely that the next few months will see the Administration try to settle in for the long haul in Vietnam by smoothing out the rough edges of the war and trying to make it a little easier for the American public to accept. The draft can be "reformed" to take the pressure off troublesome college students. In time the policy of phased reductions might actually reduce the troop commitment in Vietnam to 200,000 men or even fewer. The military command in Vietnam may be able to substitute even heavier air strikes for the costly ground operations that have sent so many young men back to the United States in wooden boxes. At home, non-Vietnam military spending is already being pared down in what could develop into a new effort to show that the Federal Government can produce both guns and butter.
Things are going well for the anti-war movement just now and it is tempting to believe that nothing Nixon can do now will be able to stem the tide. But we would do well to remember how easily President Johnson was able to stop the peace marches by opening the peace talks at Paris: today's Moratorium is the first large-scale nation-wide Vietnam protest in nearly two years.
An anti-war movement based primarily on concern about the domestic effects of the war or on the loss of American lives in Vietnam is easily co-opted and side-tracked. For such a movement, a withdrawal of half our troops would be half as good as withdrawing all of them. Every minor concession becomes a victory, and every such "victory" lessens the strength and cohesion of the movement. This is not an abstract theoretical observation, but something we have all learned from very bitter experience. We must not go down that road again.
The one movement that can never be co-opted or diverted is a movement that demands immediate withdrawal from Vietnam not simply because the costs of the war are too great, but because the people America is fighting in Vietnam are the Vietnamese people themselves. The "enemy" in Vietnam, as embodied in the Provisional Revolutionary Government, is fighting for national self-determination, and should be supported, not opposed.
THERE IS a second reason why support for the PRG is a matter of practical urgency. American policy in Vietnam is only the most glaringly unsuccessful example of a general policy of internal manipulation and oppression which this country practices in under-developed nations all over the world. If the present anti-war movement is ever to broaden its perspective so as to be able to attack the entire structure of American policy in the Third World-the structure that may well lead us into new Vietnams before long-then the movement must at some time have the courage to portray the situation in the world as it is, and to argue that Third World peoples who are fighting for the control of their own destinies are right and should be supported. And it may be a long while before so clear an opportunity for the anti-war movement to take that step presents itself again.
A final reason why the movement should openly support the PRG has to do with simple honesty. In advocating immediate withdrawal, opponents of the war are obviously saying in effect that the Provisional Revolutionary Government (or some coalition dominated by it) should take power in South Vietnam, since the Thieu-Ky government will not be a viable alternative to the PRG once U.S. troops leave. This being the case, it is very important that the anti-war movement make clear to the American people that immediate withdrawal does mean a Communist victory in South Vietnam. Equivocation on this point can only help to reproduce the atmosphere of disillusionment and reaction which followed the "loss" of China in 1949. Instead of vacillating or emphasizing various improbable non-Communist solutions for South Vietnam, the anti-war movement should be preparing for the consequences of its own victory by arguing openly that a Communist government will indeed eventually replace the Americans in Vietnam, and that this is likely precisely because so many Vietnamese were willing to fight and to die for this objective.
It is true that in supporting the Provisional Revolutionary Government in South Vietnam, the American anti-war movement will be inviting charges that it is betraying American soldiers in the field. The movement has survived theses attacks in the past, and it will survive them again. The people of this country are not stupid, and they can see easily enough who is responsible for the fact that Americans are being shot at and killed in Vietnam. Government apologists have long tried to argue that the blame for the American deaths should be placed not on the men who sent Americans to die in Vietnam, but on the people who have urged that they be brought home again. This argument will not work much longer, if it ever did.
Not long ago it was widely held that opponents of the war had to limit their program to a demand for a bombing halt in Vietnam if they were to have any effect. The bombing was stopped, but the war goes on. Now we hear that the demand for immediate withdrawal has become permissible, but to argue for the Vietnamese revolution is a political dead-end. The anti-war movement has never been well served by this sort of pessimism; it would not be well served now.