Diplomacy: In Quest of Peace

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Guns for Buttering. Ostensibly both Moscow and Peking fully support Hanoi's cause in Viet Nam. China, however, supplies largely ideological fuel to the "war of liberation." Only Russia can materially assist with modern arms —such as the SAM missiles ringing Hanoi. So far, the Russians have been exceedingly selective in their weapons, are sending just enough to lure Ho Chi Minh toward their side of the Sino-Soviet dispute, without risking a more direct confrontation with the U.S. Albania, Peking's European mouthpiece, insists that that is the whole purpose of the trip by Shelepin, who is a party troubleshooter rather than a diplomat. He is, in short, to find out whether Hanoi would attend a conference of all the Communist parties later this year, which would, in effect, excommunicate Peking from the club.

If the Albanians, who have often been right about Moscow's intentions in the past, are correct, Shelepin's mission is not peace. In the long run, however, a North Viet Nam clearly allied to Moscow rather than Peking would surely be a less implacable and fanatic enemy. Such are the complexities in Asia that in the short run, Moscow may well have to supply more guns—and thus increase the intensity of the war—to snare Ho's alliance.

Back home, the U.S. peace offensive had already struck sparks of domestic debate on the eve of Congress, reconvening this week to hear the President's State of the Union address. There were fears that a prolonged bombing pause might limit American freedom of action and make it difficult to resume hitting the North in the face of a newly aroused and hopeful world opinion. Democratic Senator Richard Russell felt that the pause had already gone on too long, urged resumption of bombing at once.

Democratic Senators George McGovern and Frank Church argued that negotiations were doomed to failure unless the Viet Cong were included at the bargaining table. McGovern described the Viet Cong leaders as "determined, proud men" who would not let anyone —Hanoi, Peking or Moscow—negotiate for them. Not so, replied Senator Edmund Muskie, just back from an around-the-world, five-Senator fact-finding mission for Johnson led by Democratic Senate Leader Mike Mansfield. Muskie took the view of most informed observers in Viet Nam: that whatever initial independence the Viet Cong might have enjoyed in the late 1950s has long since withered, as Hanoi has moved in to direct the war.

Republican Senator Everett Dirksen, while supporting the President's search for negotiations, took a dim and pessimistic view of their usefulness unless the U.S. scored a clear military victory first. "We must have capitulation before there is peace," said Dirksen, otherwise "how much negotiation are you going to get?"

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