La nouvelle historiographie sur Ngô Đình Diệm et la Première République du Viêt-Nam

Depuis une dizaine d’années, les recherches sur la Première République du Viêt-Nam (1955-1963) de Ngo Dinh Diem se sont considérablement développées. Les études américaines cherchent à comprendre l’engagement américain et le départ de la guerre au Viêt-Nam. Elles réexaminent également le fonctionnement du régime et la personnalité du Président de la Première République. Elles s’intéressent aux conséquences de la chute de Diem (assassiné avec son frère Nhu le 2 novembre 1963) et au rôle des services américains auprès du régime sudiste.

De leur côté, les récentes études vietnamiennes ou témoignages de personnalités proches de Diem tendent à revaloriser le rôle de ce leader et de son régime auparavant fortement critiqués dans les mémoires du général Do Mau (1986), lui-même impliqué dans le coup d’Etat de novembre 1963.

Notons que deux nouvelle études américaines sont à paraitre en 2013 (Chapman et Miller).

  • Chapman, Jessica M., Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2013 (à paraître).
  • Catton, Phillip E., Diem’s final failure. Prelude to America’s war in Vietnam, Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, Modern War Studies, 2003, 312 p. See presentation ; book review by Edward Miller

Often portrayed as an inept and stubborn tyrant, South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem has long been the subject of much derision but little understanding. Philip Catton’s penetrating study provides a much more complex portrait of Diem as both a devout patriot and a failed architect of modernization. In doing so, it sheds new light on a controversial regime.

Catton treats the Diem government on its own terms rather than as an appendage of American policy. Focusing on the decade from Dien Bien Phu to Diem’s assassination in 1963, he examines the Vietnamese leader’s nation-building and reform efforts—particularly his Strategic Hamlet Program, which sought to separate guerrilla insurgents from the peasantry and build grassroots support for his regime. Catton’s evaluation of the collapse of that program offers fresh insights into both Diem’s limitations as a leader and the ideological and organizational weaknesses of his government, while his assessment of the evolution of Washington’s relations with Saigon provides new insight into America’s growing involvement in the Vietnamese civil war.

Focusing on the Strategic Hamlet Program in Binh Duong province as an exemplar of Diem’s efforts, Catton paints the Vietnamese leader as a progressive thinker trying to simultaneously defeat the communists and modernize his nation. He draws on a wealth of Vietnamese language sources to argue that Diem possessed a firm vision of nation-building and sought to overcome the debilitating dependence that reliance on American support threatened to foster. As Catton shows, however, Diem’s plans for South Vietnam clashed with those of the United States and proved no match for the Vietnamese communists.

Catton analyzes the mutually frustrating interactions between Diem and the administrations of Eisenhower and Kennedy, and reveals patterns in this uneasy alliance that have eluded other observers. He also clarifies many of the problems, setbacks, and miscalculations experienced by the communist movement during that era.

Neither an American puppet, as communist propaganda claimed, nor a backward-looking mandarin, according to Western accounts, Catton’s Diem is a tragic figure who finally ran out of time, just a few weeks before JFK’s assassination and at a moment when it still seemed possible for America to avoid war.

  • Hoang Ngoc Thanh & Than Thi Nhan Duc, Why the Vietnam war? President Ngo Dinh Diem and the US: His Overthrow and Assassination, Tuan-Yen & Quan-Viet Mai-Nam Publishers, 2001, 562 p.
  • Jacobs, Seth, America’s Miracle Man in Vietnam: Ngo Dinh Diem, Religion, Race, and U.S. Intervention in Southeast Asia, Durham, Duke University Press Books, 2005, 392 p. See the book presentation ; see the Roundtable on H-Diplo (pdf) ; and the book review by Nick Cullather (pdf). For other articles by the same author, see its own page at Boston College.

America’s Miracle Man in Vietnam rethinks the motivations behind one of the most ruinous foreign-policy decisions of the postwar era: America’s commitment to preserve an independent South Vietnam under the premiership of Ngo Dinh Diem. The so-called Diem experiment is usually ascribed to U.S. anticommunism and an absence of other candidates for South Vietnam’s highest office. Challenging those explanations, Seth Jacobs utilizes religion and race as categories of analysis to argue that the alliance with Diem cannot be understood apart from America’s mid-century religious revival and policymakers’ perceptions of Asians. Jacobs contends that Diem’s Catholicism and the extent to which he violated American notions of “Oriental” passivity and moral laxity made him a more attractive ally to Washington than many non-Christian South Vietnamese with greater administrative experience and popular support.

A diplomatic and cultural history, America’s Miracle Man in Vietnam draws on government archives, presidential libraries, private papers, novels, newspapers, magazines, movies, and television and radio broadcasts. Jacobs shows in detail how, in the 1950s, U.S. policymakers conceived of Cold War anticommunism as a crusade in which Americans needed to combine with fellow Judeo-Christians against an adversary dangerous as much for its atheism as for its military might. He describes how racist assumptions that Asians were culturally unready for democratic self-government predisposed Americans to excuse Diem’s dictatorship as necessary in “the Orient.” By focusing attention on the role of American religious and racial ideologies, Jacobs makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the disastrous commitment of the United States to “sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem.”

  • Jacobs, Seth, Cold War Mandarin: Ngo Dinh Diem and the Origins of America’s War in Vietnam, 1950-1963, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006, 220 p.

For almost a decade, the tyrannical Ngo Dinh Diem governed South Vietnam as a one-party police state while the U.S. financed his tyranny. In this new book, Seth Jacobs traces the history of American support for Diem from his first appearance in Washington as a penniless expatriate in 1950 to his murder by South Vietnamese soldiers on the outskirts of Saigon in 1963.

Drawing on recent scholarship and newly available primary sources, Cold War Mandarin explores how Diem became America’s bastion against a communist South Vietnam, and why the Kennedy and Eisenhower administrations kept his regime afloat. Finally, Jacobs examines the brilliantly organized public-relations campaign by Saigon’s Buddhists that persuaded Washington to collude in the overthrow–and assassination–of its longtime ally.

In this clear and succinct analysis, Jacobs details the « Diem experiment, » and makes it clear how America’s policy of « sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem » ultimately drew the country into the longest war in its history.

  • Miller, Edward, « Vision, Power, and Agency: The Ascent of Ngo Dinh Diem, 1945-54 », Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2004, pp. Pdf online at Viet Studies.
  • Miller, Edward, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam, Harvard University Press, 2013 (à paraître).
  • Moyar, Mark, Triumph forsaken. The Vietnam war, 1954-1965, Cambridge – New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006, 512 p.
  • Nashel, Jonathan, Edward Lansdale’s Cold War, University of Massachusetts Press, 2005, 278 p. (sur le conseiller de Diem à son arrivée au pouvoir)
  • Shidler, Derek, « Vietnam’s changing historiography: Ngo Dinh Diem and the America’s leadership ». This paper was written for Dr. Shelton’s History 5000, Historiography, in the fall of 2008: online article

 

Quelques études ou témoignages récents en langue vietnamienne :

  • Minh Võ, Ngô Đình Diệm và Chính Nghĩa Dân Tộc, California, Hồng Đức, 2008, 450 tr.
  • Minh Võ, Hồ Chí Minh, Ngô Đình Diệm và cuộc chiến Quốc – Cộng (Tâm Sự Nước Non 2), Diễn Đàn Giáo Dân/ Tiếng Quê Hương, 2011, 430 tr.
  • Ngô Đình Châu, Chính biến 1-11-1963  Tổng Thống Ngô Đình Diệm, California, Thằng Mõ, 2009, 330 tr.
  • Nguyễn Hữu Duệ, Nhớ lại những ngày ở cạnh Tổng Thống Ngô Đình Diệm, San Diego, cA, 2003, 270 tr.
  • Nguyễn Văn Lục, Một thời để nhớ. Những sự thật về cố Tổng Thống Ngô Đình Diệm và nền Ðệ Nhất Cộng Hòa, California, Nguyệt San Diễn Đàn Giáo Dân, 2011, 396 tr.
  • Nguyễn Văn Minh, Dòng họ Ngô Đình ước mơ chưa đạt, Garden Grove, Hoàng Nguyên xuất bản, tái bản lần thứ ba, 2-2004.
  • Phạm Văn Lưu & Nguyễn Ngọc Tấn, Ðệ Nhất Cộng Hòa Việt Nam, 1954-1963: Một cuộc cách mạng, Melbourne – Los Angeles – Paris, Center for Vietnamese Studies, 2005, 229 tr.
  • Văn Bia, Đời một phóng viên và những ngày chung sống với Chí Sĩ Ngô Đình Diệm. Hồi Ký của Ký Giả Văn Bia, Lê Hồng XB, 2001, 360 tr.
  • Vĩnh Phúc, Những Huyền Thoại và sự thật về chế độ Ngô Đình Diệm, California, Văn Nghệ, 1998, 482 tr. [réédité en 2006].