Spin. (Geez man, you're all over the place) (3.66 / 3) (#411)
by Skywise on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 09:10:53 PM EST
in 1941, the Japanese invaded Vietnam to set it up as a military foothold for attacking China. France, essentially, let them walk right in.
Yeeah... France essentially let them walk right in, because otherwise, Herr Hitler might raise their occupation fees... The statement is correct, especially from a Vietnamese standpoint. It demonstrated to the Vietnamese that France was beatable, and wouldn't defend Vietnam for their own interests. That led to the forming of the Viet Minh
I don't think France let anyone walk in; France had rather pressing domestic concerns (i.e. being fully occupied by Nazi Germany) and a slight shortage of resources for maintaining its colonies, to make an understatement.
Well, yes, the U.S. supported the Vietminh for a time so far as it was useful to its own ends. This is no more or less surprising than the U.S. supporting the Soviet Union in its offensive against the fascists. However, as can be exhaustively demonstrated through history, the U.S. had absolutely no interest in granting the Vietnamese any kind of self-determination. Ho Chi Minh finally came to that realisation while in Europe in the 1920s; he understood that Wilsonian "idealism" was another euphemism for colonial subjugation. He found an ideology of national liberation in Marxism-Leninism after becoming acquainted with Lenin's "Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions," but he adopted ML because he saw that only Marxist-Leninists were actually interested in liberation for the European colonies.
From MS Encarta:
When Japan surrendered in August 1945, Viet Minh units seized power in northern Vietnam and proclaimed the formation of an independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), with Ho as president. At this time Ho formally adopted the pseudonym Ho Chi Minh, which means "he who enlightens." But Ho's hope that his new government would be recognized by the victorious Allied powers was soon dashed. In October, French troops returned to southern Vietnam and drove Viet Minh and other anticolonialist elements out of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and into the countryside. With some reluctance, the United States recognized the restoration of French sovereignty in Indochina, but urged the French government to grant more autonomy to local political forces inside the country. During the next year Ho Chi Minh engaged in delicate negotiations with French representatives to reach a compromise agreement and avoid war. When those talks failed, in December 1946 Viet Minh troops attacked French units stationed in the DRV and the First Indochina War broke out.
This is an incomplete story. While the Allies defeated Japan, the partisan war waged by the Vietminh inside Vietnam had great successes of its own. In the grand scheme of things, it was relatively insignificant where defeating Japan was concerned, but to say that the Vietminh piggy-backed entirely on the Allied defeat of the Japanese is not correct. They fought tenaciously. As for the U.S. being at anyone's side on the question of independence, this is for post-war theatrics only.
I didn't say the Viet Minh piggy-backed their victory on the allied defeat of Japan... As you so eloquently pointed out above, like France, Japan had its own problems (y'know nuclear fallout) and weren't really in the mood to put up a fight for Vietnam. To be clear, the allies never fought in Vietnam, it was Ho Chi Minh's forces that did all the work and passed back japanese military intel to the US who PUBLICALLY THANKED them for their work.
This is true, but it just underscores my point: Vietnam was at the mercy of colonialists. The political spasms (internal to the imperialists) that gave way to American support of the French aren't really material here. However, it is of significant importance that the U.S. didn't reluctantly and unwillingly submit to this French blackmail, as you maintain.
I never once said that Vietnam wasn't at the mercy of french colonialism. Remember YOUR ORIGINAL POINT was that the US was in Vietnam to do anything but fight communism. The US isn't IN Vietnam yet and we're talking about FRENCH colonialism here. The US *is* already fighting communism but its taking an ideological position against Russia, and Vietnam is not even on the US radar... Yet...
One of the factors that immediately led the U.S. to increase its aid to France, though, was the immediate French proclamation that they have returned to Indochina to fight for the "free world" and against communism, to which the U.S. immediately perked up as far as aid is concerned. This is, of course, an affirmation of your statement that "President Truman sided with France as part of overall foreign policy of stopping all Communism (which led to the start of the Cold War)." If you want, you're welcome to believe that the start of the Cold War had anything to do with "stopping communism," but all and any historical evidence is not on your side. However, I don't think it is wise, for the time being, to delve into why this is so, in terms of the events in Europe.
Also, as it became obvious that the Kuomintang was doomed, the U.S. quickly came to see the French war in Indochina as a direct extension of its own interests, even if we accept, for purposes of discussion, that it was initially skeptical of the need for it. The U.S. was vehemently opposed to the idea that the French should try to negotiate some kind of settlement that would leave the north in Vietminh hands and the south in French ones. Such offers for peace negotiations were repeatedly extended by the Vietminh throughout the French-Indochinese war, but the U.S. quickly stomped on them in the form of intense pressure on France.
One of the more immediate reasons for this was the Korean War, of course. The conflict in Vietnam was of some interest to the Chinese, no doubt, so the U.S. didn't want to see a stable situation in Vietnam that would allow China to concetrate exclusively on its Korean front. No matter how rational you think this is, it is patently clear that Vietnam was a cog being tossed around by the U.S. already at this point in time.
Anyway, the point is that this had less to do with stopping "communism" than stopping various independent movements, which either painted themselves as "communist" or lent themselves to being painted as such. However, you seem to want to paint the Vietminh as some kind of gangsters that filed in to fill the WWII power vacuum; that's not really true. And considering the brutal oppression of Vietnam by the imperialist powers, Ho Chi Minh's tendency toward diplomacy and cooperation with the West is almost humiliating. Ho had been appealing to Great Powers and such to intervene in Vietnam and mediate some kind of improvement arrangement since the end of World War I, in 1919! (That, of course, is before he understood that the Great Powers had no interest in improving conditions in Vietnam, let alone its independence. Quite the opposite.) He tried again in 1945, as I mentioned, and also repeatedly extended the offer of a peaceful settlement to the French in good faith. Your spin on the Vietminh as uncooperative, rabid nationalist-communists is entirely erroneous.
Now, LATER, when the US is in Vietnam, they are fighting several different groups. North Vietnam, which wants communism and is enjoying Soviet support, and the communist run Viet Cong (NLF), who are allied with North Vietnam. Now, with 20/20 hindsight we can look back at the various records and see that the communistic support stopped at giving weapons... But in the day, it's fairly strong intel that you may be fighting a unified force. (Heck, it's what the US would do. So why not them?)
But that's in the future... what's going on in that time looks like this...
From MS Encarta Yearbook (France and French Colonies 1947):
In Indo-China, France had recognized the Republic of Viet Nam as an autonomous state of the Indo-Chinese Federation within the framework of the French Union on March 6, 1946. In order to settle in a practical manner the relations between Viet Nam and France, the old leader of the Viet Nam, Ho Chi Minh, who, although he had been trained in Moscow, showed relative moderation in his attitude in regard to political problems, went to France in 1946, and conferred with French authorities at Fontainebleau. In his absence, however, extremist elements, generally with Communist connections, led by the young and energetic Vo Nguyen Giap, gained the upper hand within the Viet Nam government.
France was obviously hoping to tap into the Vietnamese as a way of restoring their former (pre WW2) wealth and strength and were not anxious to give away the land. Definitely a colonialism action. But, again, the US is not involved at this stage.
When the Fontainebleau Conference failed, Ho Chi Minh signed with the French a modus vivendi intended to prevent an open conflict and bloodshed, until an agreement could be reached between Viet Nam and France. But, when he returned to Indo-China, he found that his prestige had been severely damaged by his failure, and that the Viet Nam's Executive Committee, the Tong Bô, was now under the influence of those who were in favor of resorting to force to secure their claims.
...[stuff about displaced japanese military officials still in Vietnam]...
The Ramadier government sent to Indo-China military reinforcements, which soon occupied strongly the main strategic points. But the French troops did not succeed in bringing the fighting to an end, and in eliminating the resistance of the Viet Nam's armed forces. In France, the Communists, both inside and outside the National Assembly, objected strongly to the measures taken in Indo-China by the cabinet.
A deadlock was reached in the summer. Many of the inhabitants of Viet Nam, particularly the wealthy, became increasingly alarmed by the more and more apparent link of the Viet Nam with Moscow. Everywhere, the farmers were longing for quiet and peace. Only a comparatively small group stuck to their uncompromising claims, but reducing that small group by force of arms would undoubtedly entail long, arduous and costly efforts on the part of the French. As the rainy season set in, the war operations dwindled to isolated murders and sporadic coups de main.
On September 10 the French High Commissioner, Bollaert, who had gone back to France to confer with the Ramadier government during the summer, made in Haidong a speech in which he offered, on behalf of France, to the Viet Nam absolute administrative autonomy within the French Union. The army and the diplomacy alone would be controlled by the French.
Shortly afterwards, a group of notables appealed to the former Emperor of Annam, Bao Dai, asking him to serve as an intermediary between the Viet Nam and France. Bao Dai accepted this request formally. The hostilities practically came to a standstill, and even though no complete understanding was reached, it is certain that complicated negotiations were secretly pursued between the interested parties until the end of the year.
However, note from the article that even the Vietnamese themselves were alarmed about Ho Chi Minh's links to Moscow.
That the US "stomped" on French efforts at peace is questionable itself. Eisenhower forced a peace with the Chinese by telling them to concede to a treaty or get nuked. China conceeded and Korea was restored to its original north/south division. Which means now France was in the same predicament if they had settled with the Vietnamese. Namely that the troops would've been reallocated to Vietnam. Didn't happen.
Now, you can also rationalize away that these were just poor freedom fighters tyranized by the evil US empire. But the world was scared enough that it allow Eisenhower to form the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization right after the French were ordered to withdrawal from Vietnam, whose primary motivation was to prevent the spread of communism.
Michael Parenti is *not* an historian. He's a political ANALYST. He's got a PhD in Poli-Sci, not HISTORY.
Otherwise, I'm not sure what you're arguing? That 3 diametrically and POLITLCALLY opposite White House Administrations couldn't agree on what the US was doing in Vietnam? (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson) Ok. You got it. Neither the Clinton Administration, nor the Bush Jr. Administration ALONE could pull off that trick with their respective wars. It doesn't prove your point. All of the statements still say that the issue was to stop communism in whatever form. You, yourself, point out that the Viet Minh were using soviet made weapons. What's the US supposed to think? They're not REALLY allied with Russia?
Truman is basically out by this point. According to the 9-power Geneva Agreements, which took place in 1954, not 1952, free elections were to be called by 1956. Eisenhower repeatedly denied free elections.
My bad... I misread the year from my notes. (Although I'll attempt to save face by saying that I still think the US was running by the Truman Doctrine playbook still...)
Regarding Ho Chi Minh's neutrality, it wasn't wildly believed. The guy said it all the time, but like Bush Jr. talking about going into Iraq for WMD, nobody believed it.
(Oh, and regarding Jacobo, I suggest YOU need to do some reading of non-progressive political commentators.)
In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, who had helped lead the 1944 revolt, succeeded Arévalo as president and turned the revolution more sharply to the left. Arbenz's most revolutionary act was the land reform law of June 1952, which attempted to take unused agricultural land from large property owners and give it to landless rural workers. The law was carefully written to avoid angering the powerful coffee planters, but it was aimed directly at the United Fruit Company's huge banana plantations. In 1953 the program approved the taking of 91,000 hectares (225,000 acres) of United Fruit lands, offering compensation that the company considered inadequate. More than 162,000 hectares (400,000 acres) of government-owned land was also distributed to rural residents. Meanwhile, Arbenz allowed the Communist Party to organize and included leftist labor leaders among his advisers.
I'll admit that's not a kosher thing to do, and it shows how easily the US can be manipulated... But it's hardly the US going after a democratic state.
United Fruit's propaganda campaign against the Guatemalan revolution influenced the U.S. government, which was fighting Communist forces in Korea and trying to contain Communist influence in eastern Europe and Asia. When arms from eastern Europe began to arrive in Guatemala in May 1954, the United States launched a plan to overthrow Arbenz, with the help of the governments of Nicaragua and Honduras. A group of Guatemalan exiles, commanded by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, were armed and trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Marine Corps officers. The group invaded Guatemala on June 18, supported by the CIA, which used radio broadcasts and leaflets dropped on the capital to create an illusion of a much stronger invasion force. The Guatemalan army refused to resist the invaders, and Arbenz was forced to resign on June 27. A military government replaced him and disbanded the legislature. The new government arrested prominent Communist leaders, and released some 600 political prisoners arrested under Arbenz. Castillo Armas became president.
Ho Chi Minh doesn't "flip the US the bird," he merely says that this substitution of one imperialist dictatorship for another is not satisfactory to him. (Incidentally, there was no joint French-American government that looked "roughly equivalent to the British Commonwealth of Hong Kong." I don't know where you're getting this nonsense from.)
No. Ho Chi Minh refuses to step down because he cares more about reuniting his people under his ideology than the US does. He, justifiably, "flips them the bird". There's nothing about substituting one dictatorship for another... except Ho Chi Minh's, or your own mind. And yes there was a desire on the US for France to establish a british commonwealth style government back in 1946, which is the paragraph in which I made that comment.
Ah, yes, that's Line #3 again: North Vietnam is the aggressor and the NLF is its puppet. Interesting, but if this were so, why didn't the U.S. stick to this line consistently from the end of the 50s toward the end of the Vietnam War? Prior to about 1964-1965, the official line was overwhelmingly that the NLF guerillas themselves are the insurgents. Only when the U.S. started the actual war did it have to re-organise its propaganda in order to include North Vietnam as "the aggressor," since that's convenient.
Well, that's simple enough. In the beginning, the viet-cong were loosely affiliated South Vietnamese insurgents. In the 10 years since the original puppet government was put in place, they got affiliated with the North Vietnamese (that's documented) who supported them.
Which is *WHY* (follow me here) the US attacked the North Vietnamese when the Viet Cong attacked them, because it was seen as a proxy assault.
What!? You've got to be kidding me. Russia never sent any forces to Vietnam! Ever! I don't know where you're getting this from.
misquote on my part.. I meant to say "Russian Military Support", but my brain synonimized it out as "Forces"
MS Encarta yearbook: 1965 - Vietnam
On the night of February 7, a Vietcong squad staged a daring attack on a U.S. air base near Pleiku in South Vietnam's central highlands, killing 8 American servicemen and wounding over 100. In retaliation, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered 49 American aircraft to bomb barracks and staging areas in North Vietnam which, a White House statement charged, were used for "supplying men and arms for attacks in South Vietnam." On February 11 the guerrillas killed another 23 Americans in a raid on a U.S. Army barracks in the port city of Quinhon. Once again the United States retaliated against the North--this time with a 160-plane raid. These Vietcong attacks and the U.S. ripostes unmistakably signaled an escalation of the war. And although President Johnson solemnly declared that the United States sought "no wider war," it soon became clear that the whole military complexion of the conflict had changed.
The gravity of the situation was underscored by two significant factors. First, during the initial U.S. air attack on North Vietnam, Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin was visiting Hanoi. Promising that Moscow would help strengthen the defense potential of North Vietnam, Kosygin offered to send Soviet antiaircraft guns, MIG jet fighters, surface-to-air missiles, and, presumably, Soviet rocket crews to man them. This raised the chilling specter of a direct confrontation between U.S. pilots and Soviet ground forces. The second factor weighing in the strategic balance was the danger that the Vietcong, having effectively established control over a majority of South Vietnam's villages, would make a serious bid to cut the country in half at about the 14th parallel by a major offensive during the monsoon season. To U.S. military strategists, then, the possibility of increased Soviet--and, perhaps, Communist Chinese--intervention was seen as a risk that had to be faced in order to stave off imminent defeat.
Regarding the US wanting peace:
MS Encarta 1964 Vietnam yearbook-
The Evolving U.S. Role.
Throughout 1964 the United States tried to make clear to the Communists that it was willing to wage war as well as to negotiate for peace in South Vietnam. President Lyndon B. Johnson said on February 1 that the United States would consider sympathetically the neutralization of both North and South Vietnam but not South Vietnam alone, as proposed by General Charles de Gaulle. This position was modified by Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who said on March 6 that the United States would consider the neutralization of South Vietnam alone provided that the Vietcong halted its military action and North Vietnam and China ceased their intervention and permitted South Vietnam to live in peace. On the other hand, Secretary of Defense McNamara let it be known on March 26 that the president was studying several courses of action, including the initiation of military actions against North Vietnam. On June 8 it was disclosed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had actually urged military action against North Vietnam.
So, in summary:
This whole discussion started from the claim that the US wasn't in Vietnam to stop communism, and was there for purely commercial reasons. Well, every evidence you or I have cited have NOT supported those claims, but in fact have supported the commonly known history. That the US went to Vietnam under a political ideology of quashing communism in any form, and got themselves into a quagmire.
And just to put your fears to rest, once the US left Vietnam, the North Vietnamese communists went to war with the South and took it over.
Do I support the US actions in Vietnam? No. But that's with years of hindsight behind us. Too much woulda-coulda-shoulda, if Vietnam was comfortably a Communistic country, who's to say that it wouldn't have been a staging ground to go after Hong Kong early, and then Japan next? If the US had been completely successful in Vietnam, would there have been the guilt and reflection of the American public to see our own hubris?
What I find most striking after researching for this discussion is that the US' creation of puppet regime's is not a recent construction. The similarities of Ho Chi Minh to Hussein or even Bin Laden are striking. (You'd think we'd have learned after Vietnam). Even more fascinating is that all countries of power and growth seem to use these techniques, making them something that is, I think inarguably, a typical power growth tool used by all nations for centuries.
No, that doesn't make it right. But I'm not sure how you grow and evolve beyond your resources otherwise... Or when somebody else is trying to grow and evolve into YOUR resources...
Sources: MS Encarta (yearbook entries are originally from Collier's Year Book and were published shortly after events occurred, and reflect the information available at that time.)
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