The deteriorating military situation has also caused economic problems for Thieu. The NLF forces have control of most of the food-supply routes into the larger cities and towns and have caused food shortages for the Saigon regime since March, 1972, as reported by Reuter on January 1, 1973. Food shortages have caused inflation in Saigon-held areas, and according to the Agence France Presse report of January 3, 1973, the Saigon regime again devalued its piasters on December 30, 1972. This was the sixth time in five months that the Saigon regime had to devalue its currency.
To help Thieu out the United States will have to pump more money into South Vietnam by hook or by crook. In case of a ceasefire agreement, the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam will mean the loss of precious dollars for Thieu. Japan’s economic aid to Thieu at the present time is substantial but it cannot keep him going. Despite the recent announcement by Japan’s Foreign Minister on January 17 that Japan would extend “emergency economic aid to Indochina as rapidly as possible after a ceasefire in the Vietnam war” (New York Times, January 18, 1973), it is doubtful that this would solve Thieu’s problem without increased American aid.
From the political, economic, and military standpoints it is clear that Thieu will try to sabotage the ceasefire agreement as best as he can. Thieu also knows that the United States is most reluctant to get rid of him. “Trust me,” Nixon is reported to have written in a letter to Thieu that accompanied General Haig during his last trip to Saigon. What else did Nixon write in that letter that commands Thieu’s trust?
There is a great difference between diplomatic maneuvers and political realities. The optimistic rumors and the temporary suspension of the bombing over North Vietnam may only be moves to try to bolster the weak diplomatic positions of the United States and the Saigon regime. By appearing to be seriously working for peace, the United States hopes that the blame for any future break-down of the peace talks could be shifted to “the other side.” Also, anti-war efforts on the part of the American people could lose momentum so that when Nixon faces the American people with another fait accompli (such as the systematic destruction of the dikes that this writer discussed in a previous article in the Phoenix) the reaction would be weak and belated.
In the very near future (perhaps on Inauguration day) Nixon may find it expedient to announce a unilateral ceasefire over all of South Vietnam, in which allied troops would not fire unless fired upon. Since the political situation in Vietnam will not be resolved by such an announcement, the National Liberation Forces will continue with their operations. But the United States might have fooled enough people into thinking that the NLF is the “enemy;” that they will fail to see the true enemies of peace, Nixon and Thieu.
It is still premature to talk of a peace agreement. Pressures from all possible angles will have to be exerted on Nixon, especially by the American people, until an agreement is signed. After that, pressures will have to be continued in a sustained manner to make sure that Nixon does not sabotage the agreement and continue to intervene in Vietnamese affairs.