Archives par mot-clé : Ngo Dinh Diem

La République du Viêt-Nam et les Ngô-Ðình. Suivi des mémoires posthumes de Madame Ngô-Ðình Nhu [parution]

RépubliqueDuVietNam_NgoDinh_MmeNhu[ndlr] Annonce de la parution des mémoires de Mme Nhu sous la forme d’un recueil édité par ses enfants Ngô-Ðình Quynh et Ngô-Ðình Lê Quyên (1959-2012). Ci-après présentation de l’éditeur.

À travers l’histoire de la « République du Viêt-Nam » au temps des Ngô-Ðình, ses bâtisseurs, et les événements meurtriers qui ont tenté de la détruire, c’est toute la vitalité de l’âme Viêt qui est en devenir comme l’exprime Madame Ngô-Ðình Nhu dans les mémoires inspirés qu’elle a dédiés à son pays. Ses enfants, Ngô-Ðình Quynh et Ngô-Ðình Lê Quyên, grâce à leurs archives familiales, nous permettent de comprendre la voie qu’ont voulu tracer les frères Ngô-Ðình pour que leur pays vive selon ses propres valeurs. Le cinquantième anniversaire de leur assassinat survenu le 2 novembre 1963 offre à l’Occident l’opportunité d’une large méditation sur les erreurs du passé.

Télécharger l’avis de parution des éditions L’Harmattan :

Harmattan_LaRepubliqueDuVietNamEtLesNgoDinh

Evénement lié à la parution : Présentation du livre « La république du Viêt-Nam et Ngô-Dinh suivi des Mémoires posthumes de Madame Ngô-Dinh Nhu » le 2 novembre 2013 à 16h à la Mission catholique vietnamienne (38 rue des épinettes, Paris 17ème). Vente et dédicace du livre.

Source : L’Harmattan

Sur le même sujet sur Mémoires d’Indochine : ‘Dragon Lady’ Memoirs Incomplete, 27/10/2012.

Ngô Đình Diệm, cinquante ans après (1963-2013)

NgoDinhDiem_2-11-2013Cinquante ans après l’assassinat du Président de la Première République du Viêt-Nam (1955-1963), Ngo Dinh Diem (1901-1963) et de son frère Ngo Dinh Nhu (1910-1963), des cérémonies de recueillement se sont déroulées un peu partout dans les communautés vietnamiennes exilées. Plus surprenant, un hommage non officiel a été rendu à l’ancien Président au Viêt-Nam même sous l’égide des Rédemptoristes de Saigon (voir vidéo en fin d’article). Ce court billet rappelle les principaux textes édités à l’occasion du cinquantenaire du coup d’Etat de 1963, témoignages historiques d’une époque révolue qui intéresse de plus en plus les historiens. Nous remercions le professeur Nguyen The Anh pour le signalement de la plupart de ces documents.

Billet mis à jour le 7/11/2013.

FG

Le témoignage de l’écrivain Nguyen Minh Can sous forme de réflexion sur le Viêt-Nam de l’époque dans son contexte asiatique et de réhabilitation pour l’ancien Président :

Tôi hồi đó đã phải nghe biết bao điều vu khống, xuyên tạc rất bỉ ổi, bây giờ nghĩ lại thấy « người ta » đểu cáng, nhỏ nhen, bẩn thỉu vô cùng! Nhưng với thời gian càng ngày tôi càng hiểu rõ cụ Ngô Đình Diệm hơn. Đó là một người yêu nước thật sự chứ không phải là con người lợi dụng lòng yêu nước của kẻ khác vì mục đích chính trị của mình, mà như vậy thì không phải là yêu nước thật tâm. Cái đáng quý của cụ Diệm là cuộc sống trong sạch, có thể nói khổ hạnh, Có người nói là cụ Diệm độc tài, cũng có thể là như thế. Nhưng anh thử  nhìn xem cái thời đó trong các nước châu Á lân cận VN, có nước nào không độc tài, chẳng cần nói Trung Quốc, Việt Nam, Bắc Triều Tiên làm gì, đó lũ độc tài man rợ nhất, mà ngay cả Nam Hàn, Đài Loan, Singapor, Mã-lai-á, Nam dương… không  đâu là không có độc tài cả, Những chế độ của các nước đó mà so với cái độc tài của cụ Diệm thì phải thẳng thắn nhận rằng độc tài của cụ Diệm nhẹ hơn nhiều, vì độc tài của cụ mà lại có bầu cử tương đối tự do, lại chấp nhận đối lập, chấp nhận một phần quyền tự do báo chí, tự do xuất bản, tự do lập hội… Tôi khen cụ đã tổ chức rất tốt cho việc đón nhận, tổ chức nơi ăn chốn ở và công việc làm ăn cho gần một triệu con người miền Bắc di cư vào Nam, đó là một thành tựu rất nổi bật, cố nhiên có sự tài trợ của Mỹ. Vì tôi so với việc CP miền Bắc đón nhận gần hai nghìn dân Việt ở Thái Lan trở về (theo lời kêu gọi của CP miền Bắc), mà người ta tổ chức đón tiếp, bố trí công việc làm ăn chẳng ra sao cả, bà con rất bất mãn, có người ném cả cái radio ra đường rồi hét to: « vì mày nói dối (ý nói nghe Đài HN) nên ta tin mà trở về, bây giờ cơ sự thế này đây! », co người thất vọng tự tử… Tôi tin rằng dần dần, chắc nhiều người sẽ hiểu về cụ hơn. Cái lễ tưởng niệm ở nấm mò của cụ có ghi là HUYNH và của em cụ có ghi là ĐỆ cho thấy đây là bước đầu của « tảng băng tan ».

Et le reportage de Kim Thanh sur la cérémonie de Portland :

TRONG NIỀM TƯỞNG TIẾC KHÔN NGUÔI
Mùa thu Portland có những cơn mưa bất chợt, lạnh hắt hiu, vừa đủ cho hồn buồn bã tìm về kỷ niệm và tình người. Như chiều nay, thứ bảy 2/11 –lễ Các Đẳng Linh Hồn (Fête des Morts). Tôi nhớ, ôi biết bao là nhớ, ba mẹ quý yêu đã lìa bỏ cõi trần từ bao thu rồi, nhớ những người thân gia đình đang nằm sâu dưới huyệt lạnh, nhớ những đồng đội thân thương đã gục ngã ở chiến trường xưa hay ngục tù cải tạo. Nhớ dung nhan và dư hương của một cuộc tình đã lỡ, chôn vùi trong một nghĩa trang nào xa lắc lơ bên phương trời cũ.
Cơn mưa bất chợt, tái tê. Như chiều nay. Tôi đến nhà thờ La Vang, NE Alameda Dr., cách vùng SE của tôi khoảng 30 phút, đúng 6 giờ khi Lễ Các Linh Hồn sắp bắt đầu, nhưng phải loanh quanh tìm chỗ đậu xe mất chừng mười phút, và xa trên bốn blocs, vì parking nhà thờ và dọc hai bên con đường dài chật ních, hơn thường lệ. Phải chăng giáo dân biết trước chiều nay sẽ có buổi tưởng niệm cố tổng thống Ngô Đình Diệm, như mỗi năm, nên đã đến đông hơn, mặc dù không có thông cáo trên các báo địa phương, khác với những buổi tổ chức văn nghệ dạ vũ, gây quỹ, từ thiện, hội thảo này nọ? Lễ tưởng niệm, như thế, sẽ diễn ra âm thầm, không gọi mời ai. Ngay cả danh tánh những người tổ chức cũng không được nêu. Chỉ chuyền tin cho nhau. Ai biết và có lòng mến mộ cụ sẽ đến, một cách âm thầm như cái chết thảm thương và cô đơn của cụ cùng với bào đệ, trong chiếc xe thiết giáp, một trưa nào, cách đây đúng nửa thế kỷ. Tôi biết, nhờ một người bạn gọi điện thoại báo cho.
Lire la suite : Nguyet San Viet Nam, Monday 4 November 2013.
BanThoCung_NgoDinhDiem
Cérémonie du souvenir à Portland © 2013 Nguyet san Viet Nam

Autres articles à lire en ligne ou à télécharger (pdf) :

  • Bui Ngoc Vu, « Ngô Đình Diệm – Ngô Đình Nhu, son épouse Mme Nhu, et les ambassadeurs des Etats-Unis à Saigon », 05/05/2013.

Lire la suite (pdf) : AEJJR

  • Bui Ngoc Vu, « Le feu vert américain et le meurtre du Président Diệm », Magazine Good Morning, 03/10/2013.

Les deux évènements majeurs de l’année 1963, la crise bouddhique en premier,elle-même agissant comme un catalyseur et favorisant l’arrivée du deuxième, le coup d’Etat du 1er novembre, ne font pas l’objet de ce document. Les récits détaillés de leur histoire sont maintenant très bien connus car bien des livres et de documents ont déjà été publiés à leur sujet. L’auteur du présent document s’est plus intéressé au contexte d’ensemble et aux dessous de l’histoire de la période entre le feu vert américain (le 23 août) et le déclenchement du coup d’état (le 1er novembre), en prenant comme source principale les documents américains déclassifiés et publiés sur le site officiel du Département d’État. Ceux utilisés pour cet article proviennent des volumes III et IV de FRUS 1961-1963 et sont référencés sous la forme [Doc n*. auteur. date]. L’article limité plutôt à une présentation des faits est une version simplifiée d’un chapitre d’un ouvrage à paraître, traitant plus complètement de la 1ère République du Việt-Nam.

Lire la suite (pdf) : AEJJR

 

Annonce d'une cérémonie en hommage à Ngo Dinh Diem organisée à Montréal © 2013 Thoi Bao
Annonce d’une cérémonie en hommage à Ngo Dinh Diem organisée à Montréal © 2013 Thoi Bao
  • Byron Williams, « 50 Years Ago, the Official Beginning of a Quagmire », Huffington Post, 02/11/2013.

This year has certainly been the year of 50th anniversaries. From the March on Washington to the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing to the upcoming JFK assassination, 2013 has definitely been the year of golden commemorations. November 2 happens to also fall into the category of 50th anniversaries, but this one is unlikely to garner much fanfare – South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated following a military coup.

Read More : Huffington Post

 

  • Chinh Dao, « Jean Baptiste Ngô Ðình Diệm (1897 – 1963): Thời Kỳ Chưa Nắm Quyền, 1897-1954 », Hop Luu, 31/10/2013.

Ngày 25/4/1961, Tướng Edward G. Lansdale–người được coi như hiểu biết rất rõ Việt Nam Cộng Hòa [VNCH]–viết báo cáo lên Thứ trưởng Quốc phòng Roswell L. Gilpatric, Chủ tịch Ủy Ban Ðặc Nhiệm Việt Nam [Presidential Task Force on Vietnam], về “No Din Zee’em” (Ngô Ðình Diệm) như sau: Ông ta lùn, mập tròn. . . Nhiều người không chú ý đến cặp mắt đen hay liếc trộm [snapping] của ông ta mà chỉ chú ý đến cặp giò vừa đủ chạm mặt đất khi ngồi. Tuy nhiên, ông ta không cảm thấy ngượng ngùng về chuyện lùn, và có vẻ rất tự nhiên chung quanh những người Mỹ cao lớn…

Lire la suite : Hop Luu

 

  • Lai Nguyen An, MỘT BÀI BÁO CỦA PHAN KHÔI NĂM 1935 VIẾT VỀ NGÔ ĐÌNH DIỆM, Viet Studies, 03/11/2013.

Năm 1935, khi Phan Khôi (1887-1959) đang làm Chủ bút báo Tràng An ở Huế, ông có viết bình luận nhân sự kiện Triều đình Huế, dưới thời vua Bảo Đại, đã có 2 quyết định liên quan đến Ngô Đình Diệm: cách chức, sau đó khai phục chức Thượng thư cho ông ta. Trong lời bình luận, Phan Khôi lưu ý đến các phương diện khí tiết của người làm quan và “tâm thuật” của sĩ phu trước các quyết định của triều đình. Bài này có in trong tập: Phan Khôi, Tác phẩm đăng báo 1935 /Lại Nguyên Ân sưu tầm, biên soạn/ Nxb. Tri Thức, Hà Nội, phát hành tháng 10/2013.

Xin giới thiệu cùng bạn đọc : Viet Studies

 

  • Ngô Đình Diệm, la mésalliance américaine, Le Point, 05/11/2013.

Le 2 novembre 1963, les États-Unis font assassiner leur allié vietnamien de très longue date et s’enlisent dans une guerre sans fin.

Lire la suite : Le Point

 

  • John Prados (edited by), The Diem Coup After 50 Years – John F. Kennedy And South Vietnam, 1963 National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 444

Read more : NSAEBB

  • John Prados, « Ngo Dinh Diem in the Crosshairs« , National Security Archive, 02/10/2013.

Read on :  National Security Archive

 

  • « Giáo dân ở VN viếng ông Ngô Đình Diệm », BBC Tieng Viet, 02/11/2013.

Ngày 1/11, hàng chục người đã công khai đến viếng mộ cố Tổng thống Việt Nam Cộng hòa Ngô Đình Diệm nhân 50 năm ngày mất của ông tại nghĩa trang Mạc Đĩnh Chi, Lái Thiêu, Bình Dương. Thông tin từ trang chuacuuthe.com cho biết buổi lễ có sự góp mặt của các giáo dân ở miền Nam và do cha Antôn Lê Ngọc Thanh chủ trì.

Lire la suite : BBC

 

Beverly Deepe Keever, Dangerous History of ‘Regime Change’, 23/10/2013.

Official Washington justifies military and political interventions in other countries under the theory of “U.S. exceptionalism.” But these “regime changes” often have unexpected results, as with the bloody coup d’Etat that removed South Vietnamese President Diem a half-century ago. On Nov. 1, 1963, a half-century ago, the South Vietnamese government that the United States had backed for nearly a decade was toppled in a military coup d’etat, an act of regime change approved by President John F.  Kennedy.

Read More : Global Research

 

Charles Trueheart, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem. The Opening Act ‘Sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem.’, Weekly Standard, June 10, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 37.

Fifty years ago this coming All Saints’ Day, the United States government concluded its patronage of Ngo Dinh Diem by dispatching him from the presidency of South Vietnam. His removal, in a U.S.-countenanced Vietnamese military coup, might have been less dramatic had President Diem not perished, with his brother and svengali Ngo Dinh Nhu, at the hands of junior Vietnamese officers entrusted with their safe exfiltration. But the coup’s consequences remained the same: a succession of keystone-kops military governments that finally settled on Nguyen van Thieu, who won elections and survived his own incompetence, and American impatience, even longer than Diem had.

Read More : Weekly Standard

 

  • Haydon Cherry, Review Essay : « Cauldron of Misalliances » (Edward Miller. Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 432 p. /// Jessica Chapman. Cauldron of Resistance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and 1950s Southern Vietnam. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013. 296 p.).

Read more (pdf) : Cross-Currents, Berkeley

Illustrations en couleurs extraites de Nguyen San Viet Nam.

_____________________

 

La célébration au Viêt-Nam :

 

For the first time, Catholics and others attended a memorial service for the president murdered on 2 November 1963 by his generals backed by Washington. A nationalist and patriot, he represented an alternative to Ho Chi Minh for many Vietnamese. So far, Hanoi has muddied (and tarnished) his memory.

Giai đoạn lịch sử đầy biến động tại miền Nam từ năm 1945 đến năm 1975 gắn liền với tên tuổi Ngô Đình Diệm – Tổng thống đầu tiên của chính quyền Sài Gòn. Khi tôi bắt đầu thực hiện loạt bài viết này, cũng là đúng 50 năm ngày hai anh em ông Ngô Đình Diệm và Ngô Đình Nhu bị nhóm đảo chính quân sự bắn chết, 1/11/1963 – 1/11/2013.

Le 1er novembre dernier, les communautés catholiques vietnamiennes partout dans le monde ont commémoré le 50e anniversaire de la mort tragique du président de la Première République du Vietnam, Jean-Baptiste Ngô Dinh Diêm, assassiné avec son frère Jacques Ngô Dinh Nhu, à Cholon, le 2 novembre 1963, lors d’un coup d’Etat fomenté contre lui.

Ngo Dinh Diem sur Mémoires d’Indochine :

Séminaire “Mémoires d’Indochine” 2013 : Séance 3

Année universitaire 2013-2014 / Master Asie Orientale Contemporaine (ASIOC) / Semestre 1

 

Mémoires d’Indochine :

Regards internes sur la décolonisation et la guerre

au Viêt-Nam, Laos et Cambodge

MémoiresIndochine2013ter

 

Séance 3 – Mardi 8 octobre 2013

« Naissance et affirmation de deux Viêt-Nam »

 

A travers une approche comparative, cette séance se focalisera sur la vie politique, culturelle et sociale au sein des deux Viêt-Nam après les Accords de Genève (juillet 1954), accords qui entérinent la séparation provisoire du pays au 17ème parallèle. Il s’agira de s’immerger dans les sociétés en révolution de la République Démocratique du Viêt-Nam (RDVN) sous l’égide du parti des Travailleurs du Viêt-Nam (Lao Dong) au Nord et de la Première République du Viêt-Nam (1955-1963) de Ngo Dinh Diem au Sud.

 

Extraits de textes à discuter :

  • BUI TIN, 1945-1999, Vietnam. La face cachée du régime, Paris, Editions Kergour, 1999, pp. 47-75 [+ dos de couverture].
  • DAVID LAN PHAM, Two hamlets in Nam Bo. Memoirs of life in Vietnam through Japanese occupation, the French and American wars, and communist rule, 1940-1986, Jefferson (NC), McFarland & Company, 2000, (réédition de 2008), pp. 79-108 [+ dos de couverture].

 Voir le Mémento personnalités de la séance 3 sur Mémoires d’Indochine.

Exposés oraux sur le Laos :

 

Pour aller plus loin :

  • Fall, Bernard, Les deux Viet-Nam, Paris, Payot, Etudes et documents, 1967.
  • Dommen, Arthur J., The Indochinese experience of the French and the Americans. Nationalism and communism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2001 (voir chapitres 5, 6 et 7).

 

Sources complémentaires

Sur la RDVN (Nord Viêt-Nam)

  • Boudarel, Georges, Cent fleurs écloses dans la nuit du Vietnam. Communisme et dissidence 1954-1956, Paris, Jacques Bertoin, 1991.
  • Goscha, Christopher E. & Tréglodé, Benoît de, Naissance d’un Etat-Parti. Le Vietnam depuis 1945, Paris, les Indes Savantes, 2004 (voir en particulier les chapitres de Judy Stowe, Shawn McHale et Nguyen Van Ky).
  • Hartingh, Bertrand de, Entre le peuple et la nation. La République Démocratique du Viêt Nam de 1953 à 1957, Paris, EFEO, Monographies 189, 2003.
  • Hoang Van Chi, From colonialism to communism. A case history of North Vietnam, New York – London, Frederick A. Praeger, 1968, third printing.
  • Marangé, Céline, Le communisme vietnamien (1919-1991). Construction d’un Etat-nation entre Moscou et Pékin, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2012 (voir chapitres 4, 5, 6).
  • Tréglodé, Benoît de, Héros et révolution au Viet Nam 1948-1964, Paris, L’Harmattan (nouvelle édition à paraître prochainement).
  • Turner, Robert F., Vietnamese Communism, it’s origins and development, Stanford, Stanford University, Hoover Institution Press, 1975 (voir chapitres 5, 6, 7, 8).

 

Sur la RVN (Sud Viêt-Nam)

  • Fitzgerald, Frances, Fire in the lake. The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, Boston – Toronto, Little Brown, An Atlantic Monthly Press Book, 1972. (nombreuses rééditions)
  • Hammer, Ellen J. A death in November. America in Vietnam, 1963, New York, E.P. Dutton, 1987.
  • Nghiem Dang, Viet-Nam politics and public administration, Honolulu, East-West Center Press, 1966.
  • Mme Nguyen An Tuan, Les forces politiques au Sud Viet Nam depuis les accords de Genève 1954, Louvain, Université Catholique de Louvain, Faculté des sciences économiques, sociales et politiques, nouvelle série n° 31, 1967.
  • Nguyen Thai, Is South Vietnam viable?, Manila, November 1962.
  • Scigliano, Robert, South Vietnam. Nation under stress, Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1964.
  • Shaplen, Robert, The lost revolution. The U.S. in Vietnam 1946-1966, New York, Harper & Row, Harper Colophon Books, 1966, revised edition.

 

Sur le bouddhisme social, au Viêt-Nam (1963-1966) et en Asie :

  • [Thich] Nhat Hanh, Vietnam. Lotus in a sea of fire, New York, Hill and Wang, 1967. Views on the situation in Vietnam by a Buddhist intellectual and Director of the School of Social Studies at the Van Hanh University at Saigon.
  • Nguyen The Anh, « L’engagement politique du bouddhisme au Sud Viêt-Nam dans les années 1960 », in Alain Forest, Eiichi Kato & Léon Vandermeersch (eds), Bouddhismes et sociétés asiatiques. Clergés, sociétés et pouvoirs, Paris, L’Harmattan, Recherches asiatiques / Sophia University (Tokyo), 1990, pp. 111-124.

Il y a cinquante ans, l’immolation de Thích Quảng Đức à Saigon

ThichQuangDuc2012Le 11 juin 1963, le vénérable Quang Duc (Thích Quảng Đức) s’immolait en plein coeur de Saigon pour protester contre la répression antibouddhiste du régime de Ngo Dinh Diem. L’événement fit le tour du monde à travers le célèbre cliché du journaliste Malcom W. Browne (auteur de The new face of war en 1965).

Cet événement à grande portée historique qui précipita la fin de la Première République du Viêt-Nam de Ngo Dinh Diem (1955-1963) fut-il réellement filmé par les deux réalisateurs italiens Gualtiero Jacopetti et Franco Prosperi ? Ils utilisèrent environ 7 minutes d’un tournage à Saigon pour un documentaire choc de série B intitulé Mondo Cane 2 (Monde de chien, juron italien). Réalisé le 30 novembre 1963, le film fut diffusé mondialement l’année suivante sous le titre Cette chienne de vie (ou Mondo Cane 2, l’incroyable vérité). Le court passage (env. 1’30mn) relatif à l’immolation de Thich Quang Duc (1897-1963) est filmé au ralenti sur un fond musical lancinant.

Selon la discussion engagée sur Wikipedia à l’entrée Thich Quang Duc la vidéo serait un remake, une mise en scène. C’est effectivement le cas. En effet, plusieurs détails diffèrent lorsque l’on compare la vidéo avec la série de clichés photographiques prise ce jour-là par Malcom W. Browne (position de Thich Quang Duc, place du bidon d’essence, pare-choc de la voiture, présence et rôle des policiers… voir sur la Galerie de Manh Hai). Même si d’autres aspects semblent concorder, il s’agit bien d’un remake probablement tourné dans un autre pays d’Asie du Sud-Est (Thaïlande?). Le film aurait d’ailleurs fait le tour des médias internationaux à place des images fournies par Browne. L’impact de cette reconstitution est si fort que sur la chaîne YouTube des abonnés vietnamiens semblent pourtant croire à l’authenticité de cet acte (voir par ex.). Si un-e spécialiste possède des informations complémentaires sur les conditions de ce tournage, nous sommes preneurs.

Quang Duc
Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street June 11, 1963 to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. © AP Photo/Malcolm Browne.

Les images du vénérable en feu, impressionnantes, ont poussé la chaîne You Tube a en réduire l’accès. Nous postons ci-après des extraits encore en accès libre. Attention, « Cette vidéo présente du contenu que la communauté des utilisateurs de YouTube considère comme inapproprié pour certains internautes« .

FG, 14/06/2013, version corrigée le 10/12/2013 après la mise en ligne de la galerie de photo de Malcolm Browne au mois d’octobre 2013 par Manh Hai.

 

 

Vietnam self-immolating monk sequence from Mondo Cane 2

 


Thích Quảng Đức par verso1

* * *

  • Une vive critique de ce « Docu menteur » lors de sa ressortie en double DVD (Neo Publishing) en 2007 : A voir à lire

Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam – Edward Miller

Miller_MisallianceNgoDinhDiem&US_2013[ndlr] Nous avions annoncé dans un court billet sur le renouveau historiographique dans les recherches sur le régime de Ngo Dinh Diem, la parution prochaine de l’ouvrage de l’historien américain Edward Miller. L’ouvrage est désormais paru chez Harvard University Press et, selon les premiers avis, se présente déjà comme une étude incontournable sur l’homme d’État, son projet de construction nationale et la Première République du Viêt-Nam (1955-1963). Présentation de l’éditeur ci-dessous.

In the annals of Vietnam War history, no figure has been more controversial than Ngo Dinh Diem. During the 1950s, U.S. leaders hailed Diem as “the miracle man of Southeast Asia” and funneled huge amounts of aid to his South Vietnamese government. But in 1963 Diem was ousted and assassinated in a coup endorsed by President John F. Kennedy. Diem’s alliance with Washington has long been seen as a Cold War relationship gone bad, undone either by American arrogance or by Diem’s stubbornness. In Misalliance, Edward Miller provides a convincing new explanation for Diem’s downfall and the larger tragedy of South Vietnam.

For Diem and U.S. leaders, Miller argues, the alliance was more than just a joint effort to contain communism. It was also a means for each side to pursue its plans for nation building in South Vietnam. Miller’s definitive portrait of Diem—based on extensive research in Vietnamese, French, and American archives—demonstrates that the South Vietnamese leader was neither Washington’s pawn nor a tradition-bound mandarin. Rather, he was a shrewd and ruthless operator with his own vision for Vietnam’s modernization. In 1963, allied clashes over development and reform, combined with rising internal resistance to Diem’s nation building programs, fractured the alliance and changed the course of the Vietnam War.

In depicting the rise and fall of the U.S.–Diem partnership, Misalliance shows how America’s fate in Vietnam was written not only on the battlefield but also in Washington’s dealings with its Vietnamese allies.

Edward Miller is Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College.

Reviews:

“A monumental contribution to our understanding of America’s misguided intervention in Vietnam. Great books advance knowledge as well as historical debate, and this is exactly what Miller achieves. Misalliance could easily be the best new book of the year.”—Larry Berman, author of Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr.

“An extraordinary book, brilliantly conceived and cogently argued. Miller transcends the scholarly and political polemics of Vietnam War literature, presenting readers with a fresh and original take on Ngo Dinh Diem and South Vietnam’s relationship with the U.S. Misalliance is sure to be greeted with widespread acclaim.”—Andrew Preston, author of The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, the NSC, and Vietnam

Miller rejects the simplistic and partisan interpretations that have dominated earlier accounts of America’s partnership with Vietnam. Misalliance will be not only a major advance in our understanding of Ngo Dinh Diem and U.S.–Vietnamese relations, it will fundamentally alter the direction of scholarship on the Vietnam War.”—Keith Weller Taylor, author of The Birth of Vietnam

“An exemplary work of research and scholarship. Miller dispels in definitive fashion the myth that Ngo Dinh Diem owed his appointment as prime minister of a nascent South Vietnam to American intercession or that he was ever a ‘tool’ of the Americans.”—Rufus Phillips, author of Why Vietnam Matters: An Eyewitness Account of Lessons Not Learned

Table of Contents:

  • Map 1. Indochina after the Geneva Conference of 1954
  • Map 2. The headquarters of militia commanders in southern Vietnam, 1954–1955
  • Introduction
  • 1. Man of Faith
  • 2. New Beginnings
  • 3. The Making of an Alliance
  • 4. Revolutions and Republics
  • 5. Settlers and Engineers
  • 6. Countering Insurgents
  • 7. Limited Partners
  • 8. Mixed Signals
  • 9. The Unmaking of an Alliance
  • Conclusion
  • Abbreviations
  • Published Collections of Government Documents
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

Réf. : Edward Miller, Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam, Harvard, Harvard University Press, 2013, 432 p.

Source : Harvard University Press

Nguyễn Khánh (1927-2013) : le général « barbichu » au destin pittoresque

Le général Nguyen Khanh est décédé le 11 janvier 2013 en Californie à l’âge de 86 ans. L’information a été divulguée par Nguyen Huu Chanh, le dirigeant du Parti du Peuple Vietnamien (Đảng Dân tộc Việt Nam) et fondateur du « Gouvernement du Viêt-Nam libre » (1995-2008), un gouvernement en exil dont Nguyen Khanh avait pris la tête en tant que « Chef d’Etat » en 2005. Ce militaire de carrière fut propulsé Chef d’Etat de la République du Viêt-Nam le 30 janvier 1964 à la suite du renversement de la Junte militaire qui avait elle-même renversée Ngo Dinh Diem, le Président de la Première République du Viêt-Nam.

Originaire de Tra Vinh, Nguyen Khanh naquit le 8 novembre 1927 et embrassa très jeune une carrière militaire. Diplômé de l’École militaire de Saumur puis de l’École Militaire Inter-Armes de Dalat (EMIAD), il devint officier au sein de l’armée nationale sous Bao Dai. En 1955, il participa à la campagne Hoang Dieu qui éradiqua les forces armées Binh Xuyen à Saigon-Cholon alors opposées à Ngo Dinh Diem. Il fut promu colonel (dai ta) pendant la Première République (1955-1963) puis gravit rapidement les échelons de l’armée après s’être chargé de la protection du pouvoir diemiste lors de la tentative de coup d’Etat militaire du 11 novembre 1960 à l’instigation du colonel Nguyen Chanh Thi. Ce fait d’arme lui valut d’accéder au grade de major-général, de devenir le chef d’Etat-major interarmées et enfin de commander le Deuxième corps d’armée de la RVN.

Le gouvernement « Dai Viet » de Nguyen Khanh en février 1964. On reconnaît de gauche à droite : Nguyen Van Thieu (2e), Do Mau, Tran Thien Khiem, Nguyen Khanh, Nguyen Ton Hoan, Nguyen Xuan Oanh, Phan Huy Quat et deux autres ministres. © Life

Comme de nombreux officiers supérieurs mécontents sous la Première République, il prit part au coup d’Etat contre Ngo Dinh Diem le 2 novembre 1963 à la suite duquel il fut promu lieutenant général. Cette montée en puissance au sein de l’armée l’amena à vouloir jouer un rôle politique après le renversement de Ngo Dinh Diem. Méfiant envers les officiers putschistes qui venaient de renverser le pouvoir diemiste, notamment Duong Van Minh jugé « neutraliste », Nguyen Khanh imposa un « remaniement » (chinh ly) de l’équipe de Minh en s’autoproclamant Président du Conseil militaire révolutionnaire et Commandant en chef de l’ARVN. La nuit du 30 au 31 janvier 1964, il mit aux arrêts les quatre généraux de la première junte (Duong Van Minh, Tran Van Don, Le Van Kim et Ton That Dinh) qui furent assignés à résidence à Dalat. Cependant, Duong Van Minh toujours très populaire, fut maintenu et c’est un triumvirat de généraux rivaux (Nguyen Khanh, Duong Van Minh, Tran Thien Khiem qui prit provisoirement la direction de la République) en de début d’année 1964. (voir photo ci-dessous)

Triumvirate giving press conference. Nguyen Khanh in civilian clothes, acting chief of state, Duong Van Minh, Commander in Chief General Tran Thien Khiem. © 1964 François Sully

Sur le plan politique, Nguyen Khanh poursuivit son épuration. Il évinça Nguyen Ngoc Tho, ancien Premier ministre et vice-Président de Ngo Dinh Diem, pour s’autoproclamer Premier ministre. Il fit appel aux chefs du parti Dai Viet, exilés ou en sommeil, pour organiser un nouveau pouvoir fort en lieu et place du vide créer par l’appareil diemiste. Cependant, également méfiant envers les ambitions secrètes du Dai Viet – ce parti revenant au pouvoir espérait fort s’y maintenir – il voulut au cours de l’année 1964 renforcer sa position de leader suprême de la République du Viêt-Nam. Le 16 août 1964, il prit une décision qui le mena à sa perte. Il tenta d’imposer la « Charte de Vung Tau », une disposition qui renforçait encore plus sa position à la Présidence (cumulant les postes de Chef d’Etat et de Premier ministre) et au commandement de l’armée. Il se heurta rapidement au refus de son cabinet Dai Viet ainsi qu’à l’agitation bouddhiste à Saigon et dans le centre du pays.

General Khanh addressing student mob in front of his palace. Saigon 25 Aug. 1964. © 1964 François Sully

Le 13 septembre 1964, ce fut au tour du colonel Huynh Van Ton, de confession catholique et d’obédience Dai Viet, de tenter le coup de force mais, faute du soutien espéré des autres généraux, il échoua. Les rivalités au sein de l’armée affaiblirent considérablement la République et agaça les Américains pendant que la résistance armée du Front National de Libération du Sud Viêt-Nam, le bras armé de Hanoi au Sud, renforçait ses positions. A Saigon, la réconciliation entre toutes les parties et clans (militaires, religieux, étudiants, politiciens) devient l’enjeu majeur de la survie de Nguyen Khanh qui s’appuya désormais sur ceux que l’on dénommait déjà les « Jeunes Turcs », les aspirants généraux Nguyen Cao Ky, Nguyen Chanh Thi, Le Nguyen Khang, Nguyen Van Thieu… Sous pression, il céda place à Phan Khac Suu au mois d’octobre 1964, un politicien respecté qui mit en place un gouvernement civil pendant une courte période pendant que Nguyen Khanh maintenait en tant que commandant en chef de l’armée. Nguyen Khanh fut d’ailleurs promu général à quatre étoiles (dai tuong / full general) par Phan Khac Suu en personne en février 1965. (voir photo ci-dessous).

The commander in chief of South’s Vietnam armed forces, Lt. Gen. Nguyen Khanh, receives his country’s medal of honor in a ceremony at the Gia Long Palace in Saigon. Pinning the award on Khanh’s uniform is Vietnamese Chief of State Phan Khac Suu. AP Radiophoto.

Le conflit au sein de l’armée n’en fut pas réglé (entre la vieille garde incarnée par Duong Van Minh et la nouvelle) pour autant et le 20 décembre 1964, les « Jeunes Turcs » imposèrent un nouveau gouvernement civil dirigé par Tran Van Huong qui rencontra très vite l’opposition bouddhiste à la suite d’une directive maladroite sur les affaires religieuses. L’armée intervint de nouveau le 27 janvier 1965 par un coup d’Etat « pacifique ». Il fut illustré par le retour de Phan Khac Suu comme chef d’Etat et la promotion de Phan Huy Quat, connu pour être affilié au « Dai Viet mandarinal » en tant que Président du conseil. Le 19 février 1965, Nguyen Khanh qui présidait le Conseil des Forces armées fut victime d’une nouvelle tentative de coup d’Etat. Celui-ci émanait du colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, catholique mais conservant des attaches avec le Nord et soupçonné de jouer un double-jeu voire d’être un agent du FNL infiltré, et du général Lam Van Phat, tous deux soutenus par le rigide général Tran Thien Khiem. Les « Jeunes Turcs » intervinrent de nouveau pour mettre un terme à ce jeu dangereux entre anciens militaires diemistes, anti-diemistes ou neutralistes en mettant définitivement fin à la prédominance de Nguyen Khanh. Ce dernier fut « délogé » par un autre jeune militaire ambitieux nommé Nguyen Cao Ky (1930-2011) en février 1965 et fut désormais astreint au rôle d’ambassadeur itinérant (le 25 février 1965), un rôle pratique pour l’évincer du pouvoir.

La couverture du Time le 7 août 1964.

Du côté du pouvoir politique, les jeunes chefs militaires Nguyen Cao Ky et Nguyen Van Thieu (1923-2001) décidèrent également de sceller le sort du gouvernement civil de Phan Huy Quat prisonnier des rivalités politiques internes entre le Dai Viêt et le VNQDD, les deux anciens partis nationalistes. Les manifestations de catholiques, de bouddhistes, d’étudiants rythmaient alors la vie de Saigon et tout cela devait cesser. Le duo « Ky-Thieu » écarta d’abord le général Nguyen Chanh Thi, en totale dissidence et qui faisait cause commune avec les bouddhistes, allergiques au pouvoir militaire, dans le Centre du Viêt-Nam. Mais, faute d’unification entre les différentes formations bouddhistes, le printemps de safran de 1966 fut rapidement écrasé. Pour revenir à une certaine stabilité et bénéficier du soutien américain, un processus soutenu de démocratisation du régime fut mis en place. Celui-ci fut organisé autour d’un calendrier électoral et la construction d’une nouvelle administration civile. Pendant ces trois années de tumultes (1963-1966), le FNL Sud Viêt-Nam, véritable bénéficiaire du désordre, se reconstitua.

Qu’advint-il de Nguyen Khanh après 1965 ? Son rôle politique éclair et controversé terminé, il rejoignit la France en 1966 puis les Etats-Unis en 1975 où il vécut en exil jusqu’à sa mort. Cette carrière ambitieuse faite de complots militaires ne lui porta pas chance. Sa vision d’un Sud Viêt-Nam conquérant prêt à reconquérir le Nord (Bac Tien et Oplan-34A) ne tint pas la route malgré l’espoir que cela pouvait susciter en 1965 avec le renforcement de l’intervention militaire américaine et le début des bombardements aériens sur le Nord. Son nationalisme outrancier anti-français d’abord puis anti-américain lui amena plus que problèmes que de soutiens. Surgi des rangs de l’armée de façon inattendue, surnommé le général « barbichu » (Tuong rau de), il reste une figure au destin pittoresque, improbable, dans la série des généraux de Saigon. Mais ce passage éclair dans l’histoire (janvier 1964 – février 1965) mérite beaucoup d’attention parce que révélateur des faiblesses intrisèques à la République du Viêt-Nam après l’éradication du pouvoir fort de Ngo Dinh Diem.

« Jour de honte nationale » manifestation nationale contre la séparation du pays dix ans plus tôt. Pantins en carton de De Gaulle et d’Ho Chi Minh aux côtés du pavillon Dai Viet. © 1964 Gilbert L. Meyers

Depuis 1965, on n’avait guère entendu la parole de Nguyen Khanh même en exil et, à notre connaissance, il n’a pas publié de Mémoires comme bon nombre d’officiers et de généraux de l’ARVN. Il a cependant  laissé un témoignage vidéographique en juin 2009 (voir Phong Van Tim Hieu). Il réapparut brusquement sur la scène politique des organisations en exil en 2005, soit 40 ans après ses déboires au Viêt-Nam. Il se rallia à la cause de Nguyen Huu Chanh, le responsable du Parti du Peuple et fondateur d’une organisation étiquetée « terroriste » en RSVN. Il faut dire que le « Gouvernement en exil » que Nguyen Khanh présida jusqu’à sa mort prônait de vive voix le renversement du régime communiste. Le journal de la Police populaire vietnamienne consacra en 2006 et en 2007 deux articles dénonçant les liens de Nguyen Khanh avec Nguyen Huu Chanh. Selon la BBC, le temps qu’il passa en exil fut involontaire car Nguyen Khanh après avoir quitté le Viêt-Nam espérait y revenir dans les années 1990 mais il en fut empêché. Ce qui explique peut-être sa reconversion dans un mouvement d’opposition radicale en exil. C’est d’ailleurs le Parti du Peuple du Viêt-Nam qui organisa ses funérailles le 19 janvier 2013 à Garden Grove en Californie (voir Nguoi Viet, 20/01/2013).

FG, 23/01/2013

Sources principales :

Nos informations biographiques reposent sur l’article de Wikipedia en langue vietnamienne très complet, l’article du 15/01/2013 de la BBC), l’article de Nguoi Viet Online du 13/01/2013, les deux articles sur le site de Thy Nga et Han Trinh sur le site Cong An Nhan Dan.com et les deux ouvrages suivants :

  • Lam Vinh The, Viet Nam Cong Hoa 1963-1967. Nhung nam xao tron, Hamilton, Ontario : Hoai Viet, 2010 / en langue anglaise : Vinh-The Lam, Republic of Vietnam 1963-1967. Years of Political Chaos, Hamilton, Ontario : Hoai Viet, 2010.
  • Mme Nguyen Anh Tuan, Les forces politiques au Sud Viêt-Nam depuis les accords de Genève 1954, Louvain :Université Catholique de Louvain, Faculté des sciences économiques, sociales et politiques, Nouvelle série n° 31, 1967.

Voir le texte des services de propagande de la RDVN qui démontrent qu’ils suivaient de très près ce qui se passait à Saigon : Hai Thu – Binh Thanh, Saigon à l’heure des coups d’Etat, Hanoi, Editions en Langues étrangères, 1964 (IAO, Fonds Boudarel).

Voir également la galerie de photographies dans les collections de Manh Hai : Tướng râu dê Nguyễn Khánh.

What Really Happened in Vietnam: The North, the South, and the American Defeat – by Fredrik Logevall

Northern nemesis: A Vietcong soldier taking part in the Tet offensive © 1968 (Getty Images / Agence France-Presse)

A pathbreaking history of the Vietnam War reveals that the Northern government was far more divided and discouraged than commonly believed. Yet the fact remains that the United States and its allies in the South always faced very long odds of success.

Fredrik Logevall is John S. Knight Professor of International Studies at Cornell University and the author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam.

 

[Review of Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War. An international history of the war for peace in Vietnam, Chapel Hill, University of Carolina Press, 2012, 444 p.]

This past Memorial Day, U.S. President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War with a speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. « Even now, historians cannot agree on precisely when the war began, » he said. « But if any year . . . illustrated the changing nature of our involvement, it was 1962. » It’s a debatable choice. The United States was already deeply involved in combating the Communist-led insurgency in South Vietnam in the late 1950s and before that had supplied and bankrolled France’s losing effort against Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary forces. Historians usually date the start of the Second Indochina War — what the Vietnamese refer to as « the American War » — to 1959 or 1960.

Still, there is no question that Washington’s military commitment deepened appreciably in 1962, as vast quantities of U.S. weapons, jet fighters, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers arrived in South Vietnam, along with thousands of additional military advisers. That year, the Pentagon set up a full field command called the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), and put a three-star general, Paul Harkins, in charge.

Journalists on the scene understood what was happening. « The United States is involved in a war in Vietnam, » began a front-page New York Times article in February by the venerable military correspondent Homer Bigart, who noted Washington’s « passionate and inflexible » support for South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and speculated that the United States « seems inextricably committed to a long, inconclusive war. » He quoted U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who on a visit to Saigon that month vowed that his country would stand by Diem « until we win. »

Victory never came. Despite the more than half a million U.S. soldiers President Lyndon Johnson sent to Vietnam, and the more than eight million tons of bombs the U.S. Air Force dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1962 to 1973, Washington could not achieve its core objective: to preserve an independent, noncommunist South Vietnam for the indefinite future. In January 1973, U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators signed a cease-fire agreement in Paris; two months later, the last U.S. ground troops left South Vietnam. Both the North and the South soon violated the cease-fire, and large-scale war resumed. On April 29, 1975, the South Vietnamese government collapsed, and Vietnam was reunified under a communist government based in Hanoi. By the time the fighting stopped, it had claimed the lives of three to four million Vietnamese, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and Laotians, and more than 58,000 Americans. Now, Hanoi’s War, a pathbreaking new book by the historian Lien-Hang Nguyen, illuminates the decision-making behind the North’s relentless resistance, helping readers better understand why the struggle lasted as long as it did and why all those people died.

 

THE RECKONING

For the past four-plus decades, scholars, journalists, and memoirists have tried to explain this bloody Second Indochina War: its origins, its escalation, its long duration, and its denouement. U.S.-centered accounts written by American authors have dominated the literature. Long before U.S. archives were opened, these histories reached a broad, orthodox view of the reasons for defeat, agreeing on several key points: that U.S. involvement was the product of ignorance about Vietnam and misplaced faith in the efficacy of U.S. military power, that the successive South Vietnamese governments after 1954 were authoritarian and unpopular, and that Washington therefore made the disastrous mistake of intervening in a civil war among Vietnamese in which the other side had the mantle of nationalist legitimacy. Although U.S. forces fought well, the war was ultimately unwinnable for the simple reason that no military solution could ever be had. The war had to be won politically or not at all.

Thus, David Halberstam’s hugely influential book The Best and the Brightest, which appeared in 1972, described how hubris and a belief that victory was inevitable pulled U.S. leaders, bit by bit, into the « quagmire » of Vietnam. And thus, Frances FitzGerald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Fire in the Lake, published the same year, argued that Americans foolishly blundered into another people’s history, in the context of which the United States’ military power was ultimately irrelevant. For Halberstam and FitzGerald, to talk of alternative U.S. strategies that might have worked was mistaken: no better option existed.

Other incisive early accounts also retain their value — those by Chester Cooper, Hans Morgenthau, Daniel Ellsberg, Paul Kattenburg, Joseph Buttinger, George Herring, and Bernard Fall, among others. The quality of these works suggests that first-cut histories, when carefully done, can stand up remarkably well over time, even as primary sources are declassified and other historians get to work. (A prediction: the same will be true of the early studies of the Iraq war.)

Nevertheless, the massive outpouring of scholarship on the war in the past 12 to 15 years has challenged the older interpretations and rendered some of them untenable. No longer can it be seriously argued, for example, as Halberstam and the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., claimed, that U.S. leaders stumbled blindly into a quagmire, step by step, until one day they found themselves in what none of them wanted: a land war in Asia. To the contrary, their eyes were wide open, and they mostly understood the likely ramifications of their choices.

Nor does the internal record show much evidence of hubris, at least with respect to the military prospects. From an early point, President John F. Kennedy and Johnson, along with their top aides, were somber realists on the war. Although they were hardly experts on Vietnam’s history and culture, they were not the ignoramuses many in the antiwar movement made them out to be; they realized that the United States faced long odds, even with a major military escalation. Privately (and only privately), they also on occasion admitted the impermissible: that the outcome in Vietnam might not matter all that much to U.S. and Western security.

The United States had made a commitment to South Vietnam, however, and Kennedy and Johnson saw no option but to maintain it. They found what their predecessors in the White House, as well as a long line of leaders in France, had found, and what President Richard Nixon would discover after them: that in Vietnam, the path of least immediate resistance, especially in domestic political terms, was to stand firm in the hope that somehow things would turn out fine — or at least, as in some high-stakes version of the game old maid, be handed off to the next in line.

 

REVISING HISTORY

New works have challenged the old orthodoxy on other points, as well. The question of which among the competing Vietnamese leaders actually had popular legitimacy — one of the most slippery concepts in political science — has gotten harder to answer in recent years, as scholars have reexamined the government of South Vietnam, especially under Diem, who took power in 1954. Diem, it is now clear, was an intelligent patriot who possessed a detailed vision for his country’s future. Some revisionist authors have extended this line of argument, alleging that the legitimacy of Diem as a Vietnamese leader matched or even exceeded Ho’s and that he was well on the way to victory against the insurgency when he was deposed and killed in a U.S.-sanctioned coup in November 1963.

That claim goes too far. Over time, Diem’s defects as a leader — his obduracy, his political myopia, his easy resort to repression — became increasingly obvious to the Vietnamese people. American officials were fully cognizant of these limitations but could find no one better, and so they stuck with him, their influence sagging with each passing year despite the regime’s complete dependence on U.S. aid. By most measures, Diem’s government was losing the war when he was overthrown, which is precisely why U.S. officials threw their support behind the coup.

With respect to the later phase of the war, it is now clear that things went better for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces after the Communists’ Tet offensive, in 1968, than earlier histories suggested. Vietcong forces were decimated in the fighting, and in the months thereafter, General Creighton Abrams’ « clear and hold » strategy of controlling patches of territory and defending their inhabitants (a change from the « search and destroy » strategy used by Abrams’ predecessor at MACV, General William Westmoreland) made indisputable progress.

But it remains unclear how lasting this success was; detailed, archives-based scholarly works on the war in the South during this period are only starting to emerge. Still, the existing evidence offers little reason to think that victory was within reach. For one thing, notwithstanding the heavy Vietcong losses during Tet, the Communists maintained the ability to carry out nationwide attacks, and indeed, for most of 1969, South Vietnam was plagued by so-called mini-Tets. Although these attacks never threatened to topple the Saigon regime, they indicated that the Vietcong was still a force to be reckoned with. Hanoi largely recovered from the Tet offensive by replacing southern forces with northerners, and men and supplies from the North continued to infiltrate the South.

Few senior U.S. officials at the time believed the military situation had swung unequivocally and permanently in their favor, much less that victory was close at hand. They understood that gains in the countryside in the aftermath of Tet were limited to certain areas and did not imply growing popular support for the Saigon government, which remained incompetent, authoritarian, and corrupt. The massive use of firepower deemed essential to clear and hold territory did not help win hearts and minds. Time and again, U.S. economic reports complained that South Vietnamese authorities were unable to collect taxes outside of a few urban areas and that the government was therefore unlikely to survive long without being propped up by Washington. The Communists, meanwhile, continued to collect taxes, replenish food supplies, and draft soldiers; in other words, they did all the things that a government controlling its territory ought to be able to do.

The North’s policy in these final years is the central concern of Hanoi’s War. Years in the making, Nguyen’s book is based on a range of Vietnamese-language materials, published and archival, although not records from North Vietnam’s Politburo and other high-level sources, which remain classified. It sheds much light on how leaders in North Vietnam approached the fighting and, especially, the diplomatic negotiations from the time of the Tet offensive to the signing of the cease-fire, in 1973. Without question, Hanoi’s War stands as a major accomplishment and one of the most important scholarly works to appear on this later, and relatively understudied, phase of the struggle.

 

THE VIEW FROM HANOI

The principal player in Nguyen’s story is Le Duan, the leading figure in the North’s hierarchy in the later stages of the war yet a shadowy figure in most histories of it. A native of central Vietnam, Le Duan got his start battling the French in the years before World War II, and Nguyen traces his gradual rise within the Communist Party throughout the 1950s. What emerges is a picture of a savvy and ruthless bureaucratic infighter whose worldview and strategic outlook took form in the crucible of the First Indochina War and who, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, along with his loyal ally Le Duc Tho, defeated everyone who challenged his authority.

A signal contribution of Nguyen’s book is how it reaveals how sharp the internal disputes were between the hard-liners, such as Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, who wanted to pursue an aggressive strategy of « total war » in the South, and the moderates, led by Ho and General Vo Nguyen Giap, who advocated a « North first » strategy of consolidating the Communist Party’s control in the North and working to reunify the country without resorting to large-scale war. As the Sino-Soviet split deepened and the insurgency in South Vietnam intensified in the early 1960s, Nguyen demonstrates, the opposing factions mirrored that schism: the hard-liners used Mao Zedong’s anti-imperialist exhortations to further their position, whereas the moderates embraced Nikita Khrushchev’s calls for « peaceful coexistence » to advance their cause.

Nguyen never explains precisely how and when Le Duan consolidated his control, no doubt because of the obvious handicap under which she operated: it’s hard to make definitive judgments on internal Politburo battles without access to Politburo records. At various junctures, Nguyen is compelled to speculate that Le Duan « must have » thought this or « probably » sought to do that. She refers to Le Duan’s « assumption of power in 1960, » but her own evidence suggests that it took until the middle of the decade for him to gain authority and that even then, power fluctuated between the factions and continued to do so through the end of the conflict. Ho, a strangely marginal character in the book, ceased to be a central figure in Hanoi’s decision-making process in the late 1950s, but he continued for some years thereafter to serve as an éminence grise in the inner sanctum and to play a crucial diplomatic role vis-à-vis Beijing and Moscow, a point Nguyen concedes but does not develop.

One also wishes she had done more to explicate her frequent assertions that Le Duan was intent on waging « total war » and « going for broke » against South Vietnam. To the contrary, it seems clear that both factions in Hanoi always hoped to avoid total war if possible; when they stepped up their military involvement after the middle of 1959, they did so carefully, the better to avoid provoking a large-scale U.S. intervention. In April 1965, as the Americanization of the war got under way, the People’s Army of Vietnam had four regiments in the South, totaling roughly 6,000 men — a sizable number, to be sure, but hardly a figure synonymous with « total war. »

The book leaves no doubt, however, about Hanoi’s fundamental determination to prevail. North Vietnamese leaders, whatever their disagreements about strategy and tactics, were wholly united in their commitment to reunify the country under their control, regardless of the cost. Thus, although Nguyen does not say much about U.S. and South Vietnamese decision-making in the early 1960s, her account gives little reason to believe that Washington strategists could ever have found a breaking point in Hanoi, whatever they might have tried.

Hanoi’s War adds a great deal to historians’ understanding of the planning and execution of the Tet offensive. Nguyen details the process by which Le Duan ordered the massive and coordinated attack on South Vietnam’s cities, which was intended to deliver a knockout blow to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and incite the populace to rise up and overthrow the Saigon-based government of Nguyen Van Thieu. She shows that Le Duan had to overcome the vehement objections of Giap, who believed the revolutionary forces were not yet ready to launch such a large-scale attack. (When Giap realized he would not get his way, he exiled himself to Hungary in protest.)

Ho, too, argued against a major assault on urban areas, as did the Chinese, who saw such a high-stakes attack as a repudiation of Mao’s strategy of protracted low-level warfare. The Chinese also feared it would increase North Vietnam’s dependence on Soviet aid and weaponry, thereby undermining their own influence in Hanoi. Le Duan’s gambit for a decisive victory failed — no uprising occurred, and the Saigon government survived while his own forces suffered huge battlefield losses — but he maintained his grip on power. And to skeptical colleagues upset about a military defeat, Le Duan could claim an important political result: the Tet offensive tipped U.S. public opinion against the war and toppled Johnson from power.

Most historians would agree with Le Duan that the Tet offensive was a major political defeat for the United States, and in hindsight, it is hard to see how it could have been anything else. As Nguyen shrewdly points out, however, Tet marked less of a turning point in U.S. policy than it might have, because the incoming Nixon administration reversed Johnson’s efforts in 1968 to stem the escalation of U.S. involvement in the war. « Like Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, » she writes, Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, « were confident that they could succeed where their predecessors had failed. » She proceeds to detail how the two men implemented a three-pronged strategy to regain the initiative in Vietnam — militarily, diplomatically, and domestically.

 

AN UNWINNABLE WAR

Nguyen makes equally insightful contributions concerning North Vietnam’s strategizing in 1972, illuminating the ways in which Nixon’s opening to China and pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union left leaders in Hanoi feeling squeezed. These U.S. policies spurred the North Vietnamese to launch their ambitious but only partially successful Easter offensive; Hanoi made modest territorial gains but neither ousted Thieu nor altered the overall military balance of power.

Regarding the negotiations that began in 1968 and ultimately yielded the Paris peace accords in January 1973, Nguyen exhaustively elucidates the twists and turns in the North’s bargaining posture. She demonstrates how the bitter memories of the 1954 Geneva Conference, which ended the First Indochina War and divided Vietnam, exerted a powerful influence on Le Duan and his colleagues. In 1954, Ho’s government had bowed to pressure from Beijing and Moscow to accept a lesser deal than the military balance indicated it ought to have. In 1972, Hanoi’s negotiators were determined to avoid that result and to set policy on their own. (Nguyen might have noted that their recollections were selective: in early 1954, Ho and Giap had had their own reasons for wanting a compromise. Their forces were battered and exhausted, and they also had to worry about the prospect of U.S. military intervention should the talks collapse.) The North Vietnamese were only partially successful in preserving their autonomy, as the Chinese and the Soviets again leaned on them privately to settle with Washington.

Nguyen’s study also details the fascinating ways in which the fractious Sino-Soviet relationship proved alternately helpful and problematic for North Vietnam’s leaders: they were adept at playing one patron off the other, but at times they were left marginalized, lacking support from either. In sketching these ties, Nguyen’s study lives up to its billing as « an international history of the war for peace in Vietnam. » Yet the subtitle implies a book with a broader scope than Nguyen delivers. Although the introduction promises a thorough treatment of South Vietnam and its leaders, the Saigon government emerges as a prominent actor only late in the drama. Likewise, Nguyen might have provided a fuller assessment of the government’s popular standing or of the larger state-society dynamic in the South.

When telling the U.S. side of the story, Nguyen relies mostly on published sources, including the State Department’s excellent Foreign Relations of the United States series and a select number of key secondary accounts. For the most part, her interpretations of Nixon and Kissinger’s policies track closely with those of previous histories.

Partly for this reason, it seems doubtful that this book will dramatically alter the ongoing debate in the United States about the war. Like the communist sources on the broader Cold War, works such as Nguyen’s that are centered on the Vietnamese revolutionaries enable analysts to continue the same old arguments — about the reasons the United States got involved in Vietnam in the first place, decided to fight a large-scale war there, and ultimately failed in its effort to preserve an independent, noncommunist South Vietnam — only with a higher level of sophistication.

On that basis, it may be said that Hanoi’s War offers limited support for revisionist analyses of the struggle, while still upholding the essence of the orthodox position. Nguyen makes it crystal clear that strategists in Hanoi made their share of misjudgments, bickered among themselves, and, like political and military leaders everywhere, acted partly on the basis of careerism and personal advantage. She leaves no doubt that the leadership faced periods of acute tension and uncertainty, notably in the aftermath of the Tet offensive, and at various points confronted serious morale problems, both in the armed forces and among the northern populace, as well as discontent among the intelligentsia.

Still, nothing in this book ultimately challenges the prevailing view that the United States and its South Vietnamese allies always faced very long odds in this war. Their adversary’s ruthless commitment, unshakable tenacity, and skillful fighting were, from start to finish, remarkable — as impressive as those of any combatant in the annals of modern warfare. The Saigon government, meanwhile, was crippled from the outset by three principal shortcomings that no amount of U.S. intervention could overcome: professional military inferiority, endemic corruption, and insufficient popular support.

Indeed, Washington’s involvement was part of the problem, for it presented the noncommunist nationalists in the South with an impossible dilemma: they couldn’t win without the United States, and they couldn’t win with it. Massive U.S. assistance was essential to defeating the insurgency yet killed any chance of gaining broad public backing. Bui Diem, a former South Vietnamese ambassador to the United States, would later write of this predicament: « Caught in the middle of these powerful forces, Vietnamese nationalists found themselves in a succession of precarious situations. In most cases they were forced to choose among unpalatable alternatives; often, indeed, they saw no choice at all. With their survival at stake they were forced to take refuge in a series of uneasy and uncomfortable compromises that little by little eroded their legitimacy. »

Perhaps this explains why, when the moment of truth came, the majority of officers, soldiers, and ordinary people were unwilling to defend South Vietnam to the death. In the words of General Cao Van Vien, the last chief of staff of the South Vietnamese forces, by the end, « the whole nation appeared to resemble a rotten fruit ready to fall at the first passing breeze. »

Source : Foreign Affairs, Review essay, November/December 2012.

Version intégrale à lire sur Viet Studies