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An edited, expanded version of a briefing given at the joint meeting of AFAG and the Board of Trustees in Washington, November 1965. The author offers general, tentative observations that help place the graduated escalation strategy employed by the United States in Vietnam in a useful analytical perspective. He defines graduated escalation; discusses the requirements for optimal coercion, and the conditions that determine what kind of coercive escalation will be used; and analyzes three earlier crises, and compares their successes and failures with the experience of Vietnam. The special circumstances of Vietnam, including the difficulty of dealing with four opponents--the Viet Cong, Hanoi, China, and Russia--rather than with one, are noted. The Memorandum draws on work in progress on problems in the use of force as an instrument of U.S. policy in limited conflicts.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research memorandum series. The Research Memorandum was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1973 that represented working papers meant to report current results of RAND research to appropriate audiences.

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