What we found and where we are
Understanding our purposes in Vietnam must begin with a look at the situation we found when we took office and the situation today. Let us compare them in concrete terms.
Two years ago the authorized troop strength for Americans in Vietnam was 549,500. Troop levels had risen steadily for five years. On January 1, 1971, that authorized level was 344,000 and on May l, 1971, there will be a new ceiling of 284,000. Troop levels have dropped at a steady rate. The process will continue.
Two years ago American combat deaths for the previous twelve months were 14,561 and averaged 278 weekly. In 1969 the figures were 9,367 and 180, respectively. In 1970 they were 4,183 and 80; and indeed in the last six months they were 1,337 and 51. The decline has been constant.
Two years ago the enemy could launch major offensives in most parts of Vietnam. The pacification program was just beginning to recover from the setbacks of the 1968 Tet offensive. Now the enemy mounts very few significant operations and is particularly quiescent in military regions III and IV in southern South Vietnam, which contain two-thirds of the population. Pacification has made steady progress throughout these two years.
Two years ago there was no comprehensive allied peace plan for ending the war. Now, as the result of several initiatives by the Republic of Vietnam and ourselves, we have laid out a comprehensive and flexible framework for a negotiated settlement.
Two years ago the additional demands of the Vietnam War were costing us approximately 22 billion dollars per year. Today they are costing us approximately half that.
Two years ago the ratio of South Vietnamese forces to American forces in Vietnam was less than 2 to l. Today it is more than 3 ½ to l.
Two years ago the ratio of South Vietnamese to American major engagements with the enemy was about 7 to 1. Now it is about 16 to l.
Two years ago there was no assurance that the South Vietnamese could undertake large-scale military operations on their own. Now they have proven their ability to do so.
Two years ago the South Vietnamese constitutional system was just beginning to take hold. Since then the National Assembly and the Supreme Court have played increasingly meaningful roles, and there has been a series of elections at the province, village, and hamlet levels. Today, the political focus in South Vietnam for almost all forces except the Communists is within the established system.
Two years ago large areas of South Vietnam were unsafe and many routes impassable. Now, while there are still many dangerous pockets, the vast bulk of the country is secure.
This progress has been made possible largely by the efforts of the South Vietnamese. It is they who have compensated for the reduced U.S. effort. It is they who now carry the major part of the burden and are progressively taking on more.
In short, with assistance from us and other allies, the South Vietnamese have made their country the most dramatic and concrete example of the partnership principle of the Nixon Doctrine.