If the canapés are any foretaste of the meal, the confrontation will be cold, costly and interminable. After all the enticing tidbits set out by both sides, Washington and Hanoi could not agree last week on a venue for the menu, or even accept that the other side had any real appetite for preliminary talks aimed at ending the Viet Nam war.

During the three weeks since Lyndon Johnson imposed geographic restrictions on the bombing of North Viet Nam as a means to induce negotiations, the Administration has been frustrated on two counts. The North Vietnamese, while benefiting from the curb on...

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