The Lotus Unleashed

The Lotus Unleashed: The Buddhist Peace Movement in South Vietnam, 1964-1966

Robert J. Topmiller
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Lotus Unleashed
    Book Description:

    During the Vietnam War, Vietnamese Buddhist peace activists made extraordinary sacrifices -- including self-immolation -- to try to end the fighting. They hoped to establish a neutralist government that would broker peace with the Communists and expel the Americans. Robert J. Topmiller explores South Vietnamese attitudes toward the war, the insurgency, and U.S. intervention, and lays bare the dissension within the U.S. military. The Lotus Unleashed is one of the few studies to illuminate the impact of internal Vietnamese politics on U.S. decision-making and to examine the power of a nonviolent movement to confront a violent superpower.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7248-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Vietnamese Buddhism as a Political Force, 1963–1965
    (pp. 1-32)

    In May 1963, a group of students in Hue, South Vietnam, marched through the city carrying Buddhist flags in defiance of a recent order by President Ngo Dinh Diem. South Vietnamese security forces soon confronted and fired on the demonstrators, killing eight young people. Buddhists throughout South Vietnam reacted with indignation to these killings, leading to a series of protests against the government.

    Led by their charismatic leader, Thich Tri Quang, Buddhist leaders in central Vietnam dreamed of bringing a social revolution to Vietnam. They wanted to eradicate poverty and injustice while bringing compassion and succor to the masses of...

  5. 1 Origins of the Buddhist Crisis of 1966
    (pp. 33-52)

    In February 1966, GVN and American leaders met in Hawaii to strengthen ties and plan ways to defeat the Communist insurgency. While the conferees saw this as a milestone in U.S./GVN relations, many Buddhists viewed the meeting with horror because it would assuredly mean increased fighting. Thus, they decided to risk everything in a desperate challenge to end the conflict before it grew even larger and more uncontrollable. They centered their strategy on a demand for democratic reforms as part of their larger plan to end the war and expel the United States. While Buddhists equated democracy with peace, U.S....

  6. 2 Conservative Backlash
    (pp. 53-70)

    Responding to Lodge’s pressure to settle the crisis, Ky flew to Danang on April 5 to resolve the impasse. Yet, despite the presence of four battalions of ARVN, including paratroopers, riot police, and South Vietnamese Marines, he found himself confronted by the Struggle Force, augmented by rebellious ARVN troops who threw up roadblocks and made clear they would fight GVN efforts to free the city. After a tense confrontation between his marines and the Struggle Force, Ky realized he lacked sufficient power to defeat the insurgents and wisely negotiated a political solution.¹ In a face-saving measure, Ky met with Chuan,...

  7. 3 Confrontation in Danang: U.S. Marines and the Buddhist Struggle Movement
    (pp. 71-92)

    Buddhist protests in central Vietnam during 1966 placed U.S. forces in an awkward position that, in time, raised serious questions about the U.S. role in South Vietnam and laid bare a simmering debate between U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army over American strategy in the conflict. For the U.S. Marines of the Third Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF), the rebellion in Danang came at a particularly delicate time. In the midst of rounding out their command and control structure in I Corps and initiating new tactics to confront local guerrilla units more effectively, the marines stood at the end of...

  8. 4 American Reassessment of Its Role in South Vietnam
    (pp. 93-120)

    Throughout the Vietnam War, Washington constantly affirmed its support for representative government in South Vietnam. The United States, however, never could complete the process, for fear that exposing popular attitudes could terminate the American position in South Vietnam. Washington followed a consistent course during the war: despite their rhetoric about the need for elections in South Vietnam, American representatives consistently urged GVN leaders to choose order over democracy. Nevertheless, the United States remained committed to a return to civilian government, since the existence of the military dictatorship proved increasingly embarrassing as it attempted, with growing frustration, to convince people around...

  9. 5 Resolution
    (pp. 121-142)

    Ky’s May 15 attack on Danang caught the Buddhist leadership by surprise. Sure that he would soon fall from power like the string of dictators before him, and trusting American guarantees that no more attacks would be launched against the Struggle Force, Buddhist leaders had underestimated Ky’s staying power and the new level of American commitment to a stable GVN.

    Probably no one received as big a shock from the assault on Danang as Thich Tri Quang. With assurances from Lodge that the United States backed the GVN-Buddhist agreement on elections, the Buddhist leader suffered a severe jolt when he...

  10. Conclusion: The Movement Defeated?
    (pp. 143-152)

    In the end, the Vien Hoa Dao saw its three-year campaign to end the war and protect the politically powerless citizenry of South Vietnam turned back by the police and military power of the GVN and the United States. Despite a brief period of self-doubt on their part, U.S. leaders soon increased American troop levels, resulting in more violence and greater distress for the Vietnamese and American people. Thus, Buddhist-inspired instability led to greater U.S. hegemony over the GVN and to an escalation of the fighting in a way that resulted in one of the great human tragedies of the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 153-186)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-202)
  13. Index
    (pp. 203-215)