Re: Your reply to My Posting
I find your reply to my posting truly baffling. Regarding our use of Diem as our chief pillar of policy in SV, a reliance which I think showed America’s ignorance of South Vietnam and its population, you say: “What if our desired end in South Vietnam was not in the interests of South Vietnam?” You allege that: “while we may have wished (the South Vietnamese) no particular harm” that we had “interests that differed from theirs.”
You then claim that the best way for the U.S to advance its interests and military goals in SV was to pick for its chief policy instrument an unprincipled politician, Diem, who because he was willing to sell out the interests of his people, made it easier for us to accomplish our goals. Yet having a Saigon government popular with the SV people was not only important to our goals, it was basic. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said as early as 1959 that it would be “hopeless to build a South Vietnamese Army” without there being a “reasonably strong, stable civil government in control.”
The JCS made clear over and over that the abiding U.S. interest in SV was to have the Vietnamese people see us not as foreigners, but as liberators and allies. Diem’s corruption and unpopularity worked to undermine the U.S. military and other efforts. The money-grubbing and plundering of the bulk of his population made Diem’s government a chief Vietcong recruitment tool in the areas outside the cities. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also saw that losing support among the Buddhists and other SV sects would act to undermine U.S. counterinsurgency and military programs.
This is why the U.S. government constantly pressured Diem for government reforms. You cannot counter an insurgency except by a mixture of political reform and military action because insurgency is a political, not a military problem. But we never got any reforms of any kind from Diem. So we finally cut off funds for Gen. Nhu’s special forces, (Nhu was part of the Diem family,) and suspended shipments of tobacco, rice and milk under the commodity import program, which helped set in motion a coup which resulted in Diem’s bloody death, in a bloody which Roger Hilsman, a Kennedy advisor, said we had helped to promote.
If it is true, as you say, we had interests in SV that differed from” the SV people, then we intervened there under false pretenses, for our policy statements incessantly proclaimed to the American people and the world that our purpose for bring in south Vietnam was to stop that country from being a victim of communist aggression. So if you are correct, we lied to the whole world.
Regarding your assertion that the United States knew of tensions between Russia and China at the time of our SV involvement but ignored them in order to feed the needs of the U.S. military industrial complex, that assertion is absolutely contradicted by fact. As early as 1949, British intelligence told us there were nationalist differences between Moscow and Peking, which portended a serious weakness to be exploited, but when the Brits told the CIA officials, the CIA refused to listen. CIA operative Joseph E. Smith said knew of the rifts, but said there were hold-outs in the agency that saw the bilateral tensions as “a mammoth deception operation designed to catch us off guard.” One of the chief critics of this view of communist rifts was James Angleton. Smith in his memoirs, Portrait of a Cold Warrior, notes that the dispute over the Mosow-China rift was STILL going on as late as 1960 and that even then it was not accepted as fact by the top echelons of the agency. I verified this dispute in 1982 during several interviews I had with Angleton, who was still defensive about his role in negating any U.S. action based on it, saying lamely that in his judgment the intel “was inconclusive” and got very testy when I pressed him it. He of course was totally wrong.
Your concluding remark that the U.S. military complex wanted a war in Southeast Asia no matter what the pretenses sounds like a line right out of Marx. And is just as dated and just as incorrect.