chapter  1
28 Pages

The start of negotiations

In the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive, President Johnson announced in a televised address to the nation on 31 March 1968 that (a) he was restricting air strikes of North Vietnam to the area below the 20th degree parallel (b) he had instructed Averell Harriman to begin negotiations as soon as the Vietnamese communists were ready; and (c) he would not be running for the forthcoming US presidential election. In his speech, President Johnson, however, did not say whether he would resume the bombing or raise the level of American forces in Vietnam should the talks fail to materialise. According to Bui Tin, Johnson’s announcement, coupled with the

earlier resignation of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as well as the recommendation of the ‘Wise Old Men’ that the US should end the war, convinced the Hanoi leadership that the US were preparing to back out of Vietnam. Bui Tin recalled that

[they] discussed these developments among ourselves and concluded that the US must be in great difficulty. Who could be greater than Johnson as President of the United States? Who could yield as much power as McNamara while he was secretary of defense? Who would have his name linked to the Vietnam conflict as closely as Westmoreland? It was clear that the United States had reached a dead end in Vietnam.1