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  • Book Review by Kathryn C. Statler: Triumph Imagined.
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What cards did France have in dealing with the Americans and how skillfully did French officials play them? Considerable French agency is the main theme of the recent historical works on Fourth Republic France. It would have improved the book had Statler placed more attention on the opportunities and limits facing French diplomacy, and why France made certain choices over others. Statler also provides a relatively meager focus on internal debates in France. While she notes that political cracks began to appear in France over the Indochina War, she remains largely silent about the divisions that arose over other important issues.

We see little of the 2 Kathryn C. An assessment of French public opinion is also absent. Overlooking these domestic currents is unfortunate because they cumulatively roiled the waters of French foreign policy, which meant that France had to balance its Indochina policy along with a host of other pressing issues.

It would have been highly informative to see more of the trade-offs France was forced to make due to domestic politics. Domestic politics is not the only absence in the book.


  1. Replacing France (eBook).
  2. 1947–1950 in the Vietnam War;
  3. "Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam" by Kathryn C. Statler.
  4. Curiously, the voices of the military leadership of France and the United States are muted in Replacing France. It would have been interesting and informative to know more about the kind of advice they provided to their own governments. Indeed, Marshal Alphonse Juin was publicly censured for criticizing French policy. Although the book is accurately billed as a transnational history, it is primarily the story of U. The British make an occasional showing in the book, but not much more. Except for chapter five, one of the most valuable and interesting chapters in the book, we hear little about the viewpoints of the British, Chinese, Russians, and even the Vietnamese, as they put in almost token appearances elsewhere.

    In fact, Anglo-French relations were a key element of French grand strategy. And had this affair been resolved years earlier, France would have been free to focus greater attention on Indochina. Uninformed U. Was it due to poor U. Perhaps the blinkered vision of Eisenhower and Dulles prevented them from seeing things as they actually existed and instead how they wanted to see things. Some hard figures about the American and the French budgets would have gone far in helping Statler to make her case.

    Instead, we are told, for example, that American aid to France was increased or decreased, but rarely how much. Statler also neglects to state the size of the French defense budget and how much of it was devoted to the Indochina War. Despite these and other concerns, Replacing France is well written, strongly argued, and deeply researched. The book increases our understanding of a poorly understood but important subject. Along with Mark A.

    National Association of Scholars - Vietnam: Historians at War by Mark Moyar

    Historians who addressed American military performance accused the U. Nothing was said about the psychological impact on the enemy, enhancing the impression that the North Vietnamese did no wrong in sending hundreds of thousands of young men to die in countless military defeats in South Vietnam. A small but strong group of revisionist books emerged during this same period. Although a substantial proportion of their authors had doctorates, few had permanent academic appointments, and the only one of those who worked in a history department was employed in Britain, which has not been as badly afflicted by faculty politicization as the United States.

    Robert F. Turner, a Vietnam veteran and Hoover Institution fellow who later obtained a non-tenured position at the University of Virginia Law School, disputed the portrayal of the Vietnamese Communists as devoted nationalists in his book Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development. Krepinevich, Jr. According to the Krepinevich school, the United States focused on fighting a conventional war in the hinterlands because the U. After the appearance of his book, countless fashionable antiwar arguments stopped appearing in the articles and books written by those who continued to adhere to the antiwar orthodoxy.

    Since , the quality of scholarship, both orthodox and revisionist, has improved as more documentation has become available and scholars have been able to make use of previous discoveries. The orthodox history, however, has not ventured very far from the Halberstam-Sheehan-Karnow narrative. Much of that narrative has continued to evade serious questioning from orthodox historians, who have preferred to remain focused on a fairly narrow set of questions. Orthodox scholars have continued to assert that Vietnam was not strategically important without examining most of the relevant information that has become available.

    The areas that have received the greatest attention recently from orthodox historians possess considerable historical significance but relatively minor import in the orthodox-revisionist debate. Amongst prominent orthodox historians there is an ongoing debate over whether Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam had he not been assassinated. The most lasting orthodox contributions since , therefore, are books of even narrower scope.

    Although largely wrong about the big picture, these books provide some valuable small pictures. Ford, a former CIA officer, incorporated into his history documents that are not normally available to researchers. Austin State University went the farthest in challenging conventional views without chopping down the overarching tenets of the orthodox school. Some other valuable books have provided new insights into smaller matters while largely steering clear of the big points of disagreement between orthodox and revisionist historians.

    Of these, several of the best have incorporated important evidence from Soviet and Chinese archives to illuminate the roles of the Soviet Union and China. The recent revisionist histories, in contrast to some earlier revisionist works, have generally been backed by voluminous research, captured in numerous footnotes. Although not all of their authors are excellent scholars, they are generally more rigorous in their analysis than their orthodox counterparts, because they are so often challenged that they have become adept at anticipating and countering contrary assertions.

    Because experience has given revisionists a better understanding of the importance of wrestling with differently minded people, they have also been much more willing than orthodox historians to invite the opposing side to conferences they organize. Dommen had worked as a journalist in Vietnam and Laos during the war, but, as the length of his book indicates, he was closer to a scholar than a journalist by temperament, and after the war obtained a Ph.

    Having spent many years gathering information, including a considerable amount on the Vietnamese side, Dommen shot some sizeable holes in the Halberstam-Sheehan-Karnow account. He highlighted nefarious aspects of Vietnamese Communism that orthodox historians had missed or ignored, and concluded that Vietnamese nationalists like Ngo Dinh Diem offered a viable alternative to Communism.

    He was also among the first to note that the Buddhist protesters, whose charges of religious oppression crippled the South Vietnamese government from to , had fabricated evidence of oppression and were more concerned with gaining political power than religious freedom. McMaster, a highly distinguished U.

    Army officer who holds a Ph. Winters, a professor emeritus at the Georgetown University Edmund A. Dale Walton of the University of Reading offered strong challenges to the conventional wisdom, although they did less historical research than other revisionists because they were policy analysts by background rather than historians. As with orthodox historians, revisionists have tended to focus on select aspects of the conflict rather than covering the war holistically. In designing my recent book, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, — , I sought to fill the gap by analyzing every significant facet of the war, from military to diplomatic to political to social, and every country that had a significant influence on the war, of which there were many.

    La décolonisation et la guerre vécues par les populations du Viêt-Nam, du Laos et du Cambodge

    Because too few reliable histories had been written previously, I relied almost entirely on primary sources for information, which required much more time than the research for the average general history but also yielded many more discoveries than I would otherwise have found. Some of my research produced solid evidence for assertions that other revisionists had made previously but without supporting facts, for instance the commitment of Ho Chi Minh to global Communist revolution or the feasibility of severing the North Vietnamese supply routes through Laos, the so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail.

    Some of the most important discoveries involved the behavior of Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow during the war and its impact on what they later wrote in their best-selling books. In , unlike later, the American journalists in Vietnam generally favored U. In the fall of , Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow publicly derided the Diem government and suggested that South Vietnam would be better off if Diem were removed from power.

    Both South Vietnamese and American officials, they claimed, desired the ousting of Diem.

    Falling Dominoes: The Buddhist Crisis

    Their reporting relied heavily upon biased and dishonest sources, including two who, unbeknownst to the reporters, were Vietnamese Communist agents. Translated rapidly into Vietnamese, their anti-Diem stories were read by the Vietnamese elites, who mistakenly thought they were expressions of official U. These articles did much to convince both South Vietnamese generals and U. Instead of improving the war effort, however, the coup resulted in a dramatic downturn, for the new leaders were weak and purged huge numbers of good officers for their past loyalty to Diem.

    Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow now faced accusations that they had helped wreck the South Vietnamese government. They cunningly devised a defense that deflected the criticism and profoundly influenced everything they, and many others, wrote thereafter. The books by Halberstam, Sheehan, Karnow and nearly every other orthodox author concentrated on the period from the division of Vietnam in to the Tet Offensive of , providing minimal coverage of the years to Revisionists began fixing that problem in the late s with histories arguing that the South Vietnamese government grew much stronger during this period and that by the early s it had, with the help of the United States, wiped out the Viet Cong insurgents.

    In my first book, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey , I examined how South Vietnamese and American forces destroyed the insurgency at the village level, and showed that the counterinsurgency programs supported by the United States were not the exercises in indiscriminate murder of antiwar legend. Army and the CIA who also has a Ph. As American forces gradually withdrew, Sorley showed, South Vietnamese forces improved to such a degree that they were able to defeat a massive offensive by fourteen North Vietnamese divisions in the spring of —an event that orthodox historians have almost completely ignored.

    Kennedy sends helicopters and Green Berets to South Vietnam and authorizes secret operations against the Viet Cong. The South Vietnamese are overcome despite their four-to-one advantage and the technical and planning assistance of U. Eight people, including children, are killed.

    The Origins of American Involvement in Vietnam Between May 1963 and March 1965

    Between and , 12 different governments take the lead in South Vietnam as military coups replace one government after another. Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president.

    Two U. Meanwhile, China sends several engineering troops to North Vietnam to assist in building critical defense infrastructure. The same month, U. The six-day operation diffuses the Viet Cong regiment, although it would quickly rebuild.

    Scholarly Work

    Onlookers encourage him to release his month-old baby daughter, whom he is holding, before he is engulfed in flames. Both sides declare victory. The United States forces suffer some 1, casualties.