2 MARCH 1962, Page 4

Long Haul in Vietnam

As this week's strafing. of the presidential palace in Saigon shows, the US Government has a difficult job on its hands if it wishes, in President Kennedy's words, to make the South- Vietnamese Government 'a more effective instru- ment for the people.' Eight years after the Geneva agreements the picture in South Vietnam is a familiar one: a government which is unpopular with large sections of the population. a country- side terrorised by guerrillas infiltrating from the Communist north and through Laos. To remedy this situation, no doubt, demands political reform on the part of President Diem's regime, but will also require the deployment of consider- able military force on the part of the American Government.

The parallel here is Malaya. If South Vietnam is to be saved, then operations on the same scale must be undertaken as were successful in that country: the development of small, mobile units able to fight in jungle and rice-field, the resettle- ment of villages and the punishment of those furnishing food to the Communist partisans. This is a considerable task (the British force in Malaya was a large one), but it is probably an essential one if the American position in South- East Asia is not to collapse. The attitude of a SEATO member such as Siam is bound to depend on what happens in South Vietnam.

The fact that the .latter borders on a Com- munist State will also create international diffi- culties. Infiltration from the north and through Laos will have to be stopped, and this may lead to a new clash. But China is hardly in a position to engage in a trial of strength with America at the moment.