Sean Fear : How South Vietnam Defeated Itself

[ndlr] Article intéressant de la série Vietnam’ 67. Un regard sur la politique intérieure de la République du Viêt-Nam à la suite de la déflagration du Têt 1968.

In the early hours of Jan. 30, 1968, the first Communist rockets struck provincial capitals across South Vietnam. A nationwide ground assault followed, and by morning the next day, much of the urban South was besieged, including Saigon’s radio station, the South Vietnamese military headquarters and even the American Embassy. What local papers dubbed the “Year of Sand” — referring to the ubiquitous sandbags appearing in front of the nation’s doors and windows — was well underway.

In the United States, the attacks, which came to be known as the Tet offensive, are remembered as a psychological turning point, the moment when President Johnson is said to have lost the faith of CBS broadcaster Walter Cronkite — and by extension, the public at large. Indeed, though Communist forces suffered substantial losses in manpower and morale, the contradiction between American officials’ buoyant promises and weeks of astonishing televised carnage was never reconciled. But Tet’s political impact in South Vietnam proved equally significant, and no less critical, in determining the outcome of the war.

Still routinely mischaracterized as an American client regime, South Vietnam was home to millions of fervent but factionalized anti-Communists, mostly concentrated in urban centers and provincial capitals. Reacting to the shock of Tet, they set aside longstanding quarrels and rallied in a rare display of solidarity. But the outpouring of constructive energy following the Tet attacks was hastily squandered. Instead, President Nguyen Van Thieu used the opportunity to undertake naked power grabs, compromising the constitutional basis on which his legitimacy was premised, and driving even the most dedicated anti-communists to despair. Post-Tet resolve succumbed to cynical resignation, while military confidence and commitment eroded.

As a result, a moment that could have been a turning point for the country became the beginning of the end. When the government finally surrendered to Communist tanks in April 1975, the South’s political fate had long since been sealed.

Lire la suite : New York Times (23/02/2018)

Illustration « à la une » :A family fleeting fighting in Saigon in 1968. ©Tim Page/Corbis, via Getty Images