The Struggle for Indochina, 1940-1955

The Struggle for Indochina, 1940-1955

The Struggle for Indochina, 1940-1955

The Struggle for Indochina, 1940-1955

Excerpt

Since 1949, when Mao Tse-tung's victory in China raised the specter of Communist control over the whole of Asia, Indochina has been one of the critical points in the democracies' line of defense. It is the strategic gateway to Siam, Malaya, and Burma as well as to Indonesia, the Philippines, and even India. Since 1949, therefore, the affairs of Indochina have become a matter of increasingly urgent concern to the government and people of the United States, as well as to their European and Asian partners in the non-Communist world. This concern was strikingly expressed in August 1953, shortly after the Korean truce, when President Eisenhower in a major speech publicly called attention to the strategic, economic, and political importance of holding Indochina.

Even before the Korean armistice the situation in Indochina was grave. A Franco-Vietnamese war had dragged on nearly seven years, and there was still no end in sight. France, a pillar of the NATO organization in Europe, was slowly being bled white, despite substantial American aid. Notwithstanding their strong reluctance to relinquish any part of the French Empire, French politicians not only of the Left but of the Right were beginning to talk of a "negotiated settlement" in Indochina. A large segment of French opinion was demanding that France cut her losses and pull out of an unprofitable war. To such a retreat the United States was firmly opposed; but neither did it wish to send its own troops to Indochina.

Some saw a possible way out of the impasse by building up indigenous armies, with American equipment, to take over the major military load. But it still remained doubtful whether such a policy could bring victory unless the anti-Communist governments of Indochina were given the real independence which they never ceased to demand--and whether France would make the needed concessions in time. Even if she did, could non-Communist nationalists seize the psychological initiative from the Communists at this late date?

The signature of an armistice in Korea raised a new danger in Indochina but, at the same time, offered a new opportunity. Would Chinese Communist forces, released from Korea, strike again in a southward direction? Or did the ending of hostilities in one major battle area give hope that they might be ended in another?

Indochina had become a major international problem in which not only the United States and France, but also the countries of Asia were deeply interested; and many of them--Indonesia, Burma, and India in particular--saw the war primarily as the struggle of an Asian people to throw off the yoke of . . .

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