Diplomacy: In Quest of Peace

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Not very much, was the reply of Mansfield's report. "Negotiations at this time," said the Senate globetrotters, "would serve to stabilize a situation in which the majority of the population remains under nominal government control but in which dominance of the countryside rests largely in the hands of the Viet Cong." On the other hand, the Senators gloomily found, if talks do not take place and the U.S. steps up the war, the grim "alternative prospect" is a "continuance of the conflict in the direction of a general war on the Asian mainland." The report was certain to cause a heated Congressional debate, since it seemed to overestimate the Communists' powers of negotiation and underestimate U.S. military prowess and power when fully brought to bear against the enemy. Of course, there was always the risk that the Communists might just seem to take the U.S. at its word—and go to the conference table not to make peace but to undermine the fragile structures of South Viet Nam's government, as well as stall the U.S. build-up while pressing on with its own.

Having Tried Everything. Meanwhile Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. continue to await the sign from Hanoi that may mean peace, before taking the crucial decision to resume bombing of the North. So far, there had been no positive signals of success. But Washington experts took heart from a few negative signs that the peace offensive had not yet run its course. For one thing, they noted that during last May's brief bombing pause Hanoi had flatly refused to accept a note from the U.S. delivered by the Canadians. This time, a note has been accepted. Last time, Peking and Moscow almost at once announced the bombing cessation would not lead Hanoi to the conference table. This time, there is not yet that nyet. Last week the official North Viet Nam news agency carried a dispatch from Pans quoting a French envoy just back from Hanoi as saying that, unlike Peking, Hanoi would welcome further peace initiatives and was interested in negotiating.

At week's end there were other buds of hints as well, which for the time being the White House was prudently keeping to itself, for fear they might wilt in the open air. Whether or not peace does flower from the President's latest and greatest effort, the U.S. can hardly be the worse for its try in the opening days of the new year. If a just and honorable peace guaranteeing the freedom of South Viet Nam can be obtained, all the world will benefit— and with it, the cause of freedom everywhere. If it should fail, the burden of blame will irrevocably rest where it has always belonged—upon the heads of the Communist aggressors, for all the world to see. Then, having tried everything in every possible place, and having enlisted every nation and office that might help in the cause of peace, the U.S. can resume reluctantly—but with clear conscience—the unwelcome and unwanted prosecution of the war.

*The picture on the cover was taken inside the Johnson ranch house on Dec. 7.

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