Just when we'd concluded peace was finally at hand in Vietnam, the Indochina war is heating up again.
The news broke the other day, with reports that the Vietnamese army, now bearing captured American arms, had occupied much of Cambodian territory east of the Mekong River.
Well, we can imagine how the Vietnamese strategist, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, is at work this time. The scene is the operations room of the Vietnamese army. Gen. Giap is standing before a large flipchart showing the latest Cambodian raids against the Vietnamese. Pham Van Dong, Vietnam's premier, and a group of aides are looking on rather skeptically. "Now, sir," Gen. Giap is saying, "if we go in here at the 'Parrot's Beak' and send a unit up the Mekong to Neak Leung, we could take Phnom Penh inside of a week."
"General, how do you think the world is going to react to this kind of invasion?" (Phan Van Dong talking.)
"All I'm suggesting, sir, is an incursion - a limited incursion."
"How many men will you need?"
"About six divisions, sir"
"Hah! That's what Westmoreland thought."
"But, sir, we'll move in with tanks and cobra gunships and bring in a wing of F-4 phantoms."
"What good'll that do you in this kind of terrain?"
"We'll zap 'em with napalm and buzz bombs."
"Didn't we knock down those helicopters with pitch forks?"
"But these are Cambodians, sir. We're attacking with the most modern military equipment known to man."
At this point, Le Duan, the Vietnamese Communist Party boss, interrupts, looking askance at the premier: "Tell me, premier, aren't you a patriot?"
"Yes, of course, but wouldn't it be better to try win their hearts and minds?"
"Sir [this is Giap talking again], if we can get 'em in a pincer movement, their hearts and minds will follow. Don't you understand, those boys are Communists!"
"Excuse me, please. I'm getting confused." (This is the stenographer speaking.)
"I'd say they're Nationalists, not Communists." (Pham Van Dong)
"General [this is Le Duan speaking], you leave the politics to me and the premier, okay?"
"Okay, sir. All I'm telling you is that we can lick that two-bit nation in a week. We'll blast 'em back to the stone age!"
"Now cool off, general, how far do you think you can push before the Chinese enter the war?" (This is Pham Van Dong again.)
"They're too scared of the Russians."
"And if they do?"
"Sir, our pilots are highly skilled at precision bombing. We won't be anywhere near the Chinese border. We've got night scopes, infra-red sights, laserguided 'smart' bombs. All they've got is 50,000 farmers running around in black pajamas."
"I think the general's got a point, premier." (This is Le Duan.)
Pham Van Dong shakes his head. "I'm sorry, sir, I think this could lead to another Vietnam."
An aide enters hurriedly. "Excuse me, sir, but I thought you'd want to know that a mob of anti-war students is demonstrating in front of the palace."
"A bunch of nervous nellies." (Le Duan.)
"They're against the draft." (Pham Van Dong again.)
"Premier, I think you better go out and give tham a talking to."
"What should I tell them?"
"Tell them you're the only premier they've got."