From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri 05 Dec 2003 - 05:24:06 GMT

  • Next message: derek gatherer: "Re: Thoughts on the South- American Man"

    Although she makes my blood boil with her hard-core right wing slant on everything under the sun, Ann Coulter has (in her recent book
    _Treason_), inadvertently of course, gotten the gears of my mind working on some thoughts which have been nascent, but gaining steam. She highlights the supposed infiltration of Soviet agents into higher echelons of the US gov't during the FDR and Truman years. There were the HUAC hearings, the Rosenbergs and the case of the confrontation between Whitaker Chambers and Alger Hiss. Within this dynamic emerged the infamous Wisconsin Senator Joseph "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy (spoofed as a bumbling idiot in the movie _The Manchurian Candidate_ who looked at a ketchup bottle to arrive at the number (ie- 57) of Soviet spies in the US gov't). Was McCarthy a cause or a symptom of Red Scare hysteria?

    There emerged a strong anti-communist sentiment during the 50's within the United States, which affected foreign policy decisions. These decisions had repercussions for the next couple decades as the US involved itself in two significant wars to *contain* the threat of communism. At about the same time the US was directly involved in Korea it was helping the French forcibly regain "their" colonies in Indochina against the "yellow peril" of the Viet Minh. France had controlled Vietnam (Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina) since the late 1800's, but WWII had put a damper on their ability to exploit the natives.

    Ironically, in the midst of WWII a tiny little Vietnamese man, some considered a patriot, hoped that the supposedly anti-colonial US would help his long oppressed country gain its independence from the country that had bowed to the Third Reich and its Japanese allies. The Viet Minh aided downed Allied pilots in Indochina and presented a source of intelligence against the Japanese. But, alas, this Ho Chi Minh fellow was a (gulp) communist, so instead of helping to secure independence for Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam after WWII, the US decided it was best to coddle France as an ally against the Soviets in Europe. Uncle Ho was just a part of the domino prroblem as perceived by the cold warriors in Southeast Asia. He was given the cold shoulder by Washington, which suited Paris just fine, at least until the sea change brought about by Dien Bien Phu, at which point the US was bankrolling a major part of France's attempt to regain its colony, mostly so Vietnam wouldn't fall to communism and become part of a bamboo curtain in Asia. This simpistic anti-communist mindset casually swept aside Vietnam's long standing fear of foreign domination such as Chinese dominance of any stripe, a fear that predated the United States by quite a few centuries. China, the Mongol hordes, France, or the United States, it didn't matter who the invaders were, the Viet Minh knew they had the stamina and the home field advantage to withstand the attack. BTW, when the Vietnamese went to battle with their communist compatriots behind the bamboo curtain, the Khmer Rouge, didn't they have a little skirmish with their communist comrades the Red Chinese? So much for dominos.

    After the defeat of the US-backed French at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam was partitioned with the Viet Minh controlling the north and a US backed regime controlling the south. Supposedly there were to be elections to determine the fate of all of Vietnam. Put to a fair vote, would Ho Chi Minh or Ngo Dinh Diem have become leader of unified Vietnam? We didn't have to find out.

    With help of advisors like Edward Lansdale (a model for characters in the Graham Greene novel _The Quiet American_ and the William Lederer/Eugene Burdick novel _The Ugly American_ (note 1)) the South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem gained steam in South Vietnam. Lansdale was heavily into psychological warfare operations and had cut his teeth helping Ramon Magsaysay in the post WII Phillipines against the communist Huk rebellion. One is tempted to draw paralels between Lansdale and Thomas Lawrence, in that they both excelled at being able to blend into a foregn culture as an outsider and they both had a knack for special operations and intelligence work. Lansdale gave much help to Ngo Dinh Diem in getting him control over south Vietnam, especially given the factional warfare between sects such as the Cao Dai, the Hoa Hao, and the mafia-esque Binh Xuyen. If Ngo was primed to be "our man" in Vietnam against the commies up north he sure lost his edge. After incidents with the Buddhist protestors (one engaging in self-immolation that suicidal act of rebellion that would shock Robert McNamara and the US later as a Quaker set himself on fire outside the Pentagon- note 2) and Madame Nhu's insensitive BBQ comment, Ngo was pretty much done for as he and his brother were killed in a coup de etat. Thus ensued a revolving door of leaders propped up by the US during our long battle against communism in Vietnam, a war with major cultural consequences which will resonate in our collective memory for years to come.

    Yet, ironically, Ho Chi Minh wanted US help for his country's desire of independence from the French colonial masters. Going back to the 1940's we can wonder how the situation culminated in the North Vietnamese army shooting down US pilots and taking them prisoner during the Vietnam war instead of the Viet Minh helping US pilots during WWII. Vive la...

    Did overbearing anti-communist sentiment blind us to the alternative routes in SE Asia? Would ticking off France (and Britain? which had holdings in the region too and played a role in France getting ger Southeast Asian groove back after the Japanese surrendered) have been that bad a choice considering giving Vietnam a fresh start after WWII and averting a nasty war which merely delayed the eventual victory of Hanoi?

    Just some meandering thoughts that might be tidied up into something more formal with ideological underpinnings better fleshed out.

    Scott Chase

    note 1- ironically the actual "ugly American" in the novel _The Ugly American_ was not ugly in the same callous sense brandished liberally by anti-American Europeans. This "ugly American" character named Homer Atkins was physically ugly yet acted in a manner towards native Sarkhanese that should be an example of how foreign service people should act when amongst foreigners in their own land.

    note 2- I wonder what connection exists between the acts of self-immolation of the Buddhist in Vietnam protesting against the oppression of the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem and that of the Quaker in the US protesting against the Pentagon.

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