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Replacing France

Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 392
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    Replacing France
    Book Description:

    Using recently released archival materials from the United States and Europe, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam explains how and why the United States came to assume control as the dominant western power in Vietnam during the 1950s. Acting on their conviction that American methods had a better chance of building a stable, noncommunist South Vietnamese nation, Eisenhower administration officials systematically ejected French military, economic, political, bureaucratic, and cultural institutions from Vietnam. Kathryn C. Statler examines diplomatic maneuvers in Paris, Washington, London, and Saigon to detail how Western alliance members sought to transform South Vietnam into a modern, westernized, and democratic ally but ultimately failed to counter the Communist threat. Abetted by South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, Americans in Washington, D.C., and Saigon undermined their French counterparts at every turn, resulting in the disappearance of a French presence by the time Kennedy assumed office. Although the United States ultimately replaced France in South Vietnam, efforts to build South Vietnam into a nation failed. Instead, it became a dependent client state that was unable to withstand increasing Communist aggression from the North. Replacing France is a fundamental reassessment of the origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that explains how Franco-American conflict led the United States to pursue a unilateral and ultimately imperialist policy in Vietnam.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7251-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION: The Franco-American Alliance and Vietnam
    (pp. 1-12)

    THE STORY OF AMERICAN INTERVENTION in Vietnam begins with an alliance—the sometimes ambivalent, often contentious, and almost always misunderstood Franco-American alliance. Paris and Washington clashed repeatedly over how to respond to the dual threat of communism and nationalism in Vietnam when the forces of the Cold War and decolonization collided there during the 1950s. When a colonial power leaves a former colony, the new state usually grapples with growing pains on its own. In this case, the South Vietnamese were never given the chance as the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration systematically replaced French control in South Vietnam with American...

  7. Part 1. Neither Communism nor Colonialism, 1950–1954

    • 1 Decolonization and Cold War
      (pp. 15-50)

      THE YEAR 1950 DENOTED not only the halfway mark of the Franco-Vietminh War but also a turning point in the French approach to winning the conflict. As the year began, the March 8, 1949, Elysée treaty, promising more independence to Vietnam, languished in the French National Assembly; the French military effort against the Vietminh remained stalled; and French officials bickered among themselves about whether or not to support Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai as a viable political alternative to Vietminh leader Ho Chi Minh. Up to this point, Paris had preferred to conduct the war without interference from its allies, but...

    • 2 A Death in March
      (pp. 51-84)

      AS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER PREPARED to assume the presidency, he and his newly appointed secretary of state John Foster Dulles discussed the “Indochina problem” on board the cruiserHelenain December 1952. Eisenhower and Dulles recognized that the current situation was the “most serious single problem of international relations” facing the United States because of “France’s weakness and the colonial aspects involved,” and the possibility that the “results of loss could not be insulated.”¹ Their concern demonstrated that the situation in Vietnam had become a considerable priority to the U.S. government. But the Eisenhower administration, like its predecessor, remained uncertain...

    • 3 Negotiating toward Geneva
      (pp. 85-114)

      AS A RESULT OF THE BERLIN CONFERENCE, France now had a political end in sight to more than seven years of conflict in Vietnam. However, its American ally was still focused on a military victory. Intra-alliance politics played an important role in dictating how France and the United States proceeded in the months leading up to the Geneva Conference and at the conference itself, demonstrating the fragility of allied solidarity. Designed to settle the Korean and Indochina conflicts, Geneva would be the first major test not only of East-West but also of West-West negotiations on Asian issues since Stalin’s death....

  8. Part 2. After Geneva, 1954–1956

    • 4 The Diem Experiment
      (pp. 117-154)

      THE DIEM EXPERIMENT BEGAN on July 7, 1954, when Ngo Dinh Diem took control of the South Vietnamese government. Initially, Diem inspired little confidence in the French, Americans, and South Vietnamese. Despite its misgivings, the Eisenhower administration welcomed Diem’s rise to power; the Mendès France government did not. The Franco-American relationship had become increasingly fragile during the Dien Bien Phu crisis and the Geneva Conference as leaders from the two countries vehemently disagreed about how to preserve a noncommunist South Vietnam. Both France and the United States desired the establishment of an independent and pro-western South Vietnamese government, but they...

    • 5 The Non-elections of 1956
      (pp. 155-182)

      THE SPECTER OF THE 1956 ELECTIONS posed the next challenge to French influence. Back in mid-July 1954, the weary conferees at Geneva had reached an agreement on all major issues except for the difficult problem of national elections.¹ The DRV refused to end hostilities until a specific date for all-Vietnamese reunification elections had been identified. As a result, point 14(a) of the cease-fire agreement between the French and DRV representatives (the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam) recognized a two-year interval before general elections “which will bring about the unification of Vietnam.” The only other mention of the...

    • 6 From the French to the Americans
      (pp. 183-216)

      WRITING SHORTLY AFTER THE Geneva Conference, French official Jean Chauvel optimistically averred that France would be able to “rein in American impulses” in trying to replace France in Vietnam since the Geneva Accords “did not allow new personnel or materials.” Chauvel proclaimed, “we are in Vietnam and the Americans aren’t. American financial and material assistance passes through France. Any change in this reality would certainly be considered an infraction to the accords. All American initiatives must pass French inspection and approval no matter if the Vietnamese government appeals directly to the Americans.”¹ How quickly it all changed. Perhaps the single...

  9. Part 3. War by Other Means, 1956–1960

    • 7 Maintaining a Presence
      (pp. 219-248)

      AS THEY WERE BEING “EVICTED” by the Americans in South Vietnam, the French struggled to redefine their relationship with Saigon and, at the same time, maintain a separate presence in North Vietnam. Paris found itself constantly trying to balance between Hanoi, Saigon, and Washington as it clung fiercely to one last bastion—a cultural presence in Vietnam. French officials faced major obstacles in this endeavor as the North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, and Americans sought to replace the French at every level. Although by 1960 the French had disappeared from North Vietnam, they had made a surprising comeback in the South,...

    • 8 Building a Colony
      (pp. 249-276)

      BUILDING A NATION IS HARD WORK; it is much easier to construct a colony. As U.S. agencies attempted to modernize and westernize South Vietnam while imprinting American values and culture on the Vietnamese population, the Eisenhower administration replaced the French colonial presence in South Vietnam with an American neocolonial one. The United States did not directly colonize South Vietnamese territory, but it certainly exhibited neocolonial behavior in the sense that Americans and American institutions took over former French functions at all levels of South Vietnamese society. Americans trained, taught, guided, and controlled in their search for a stable, independent, and...

  10. CONCLUSION: Replacing France
    (pp. 277-290)

    CHARLES DE GAULLE FIRST CALLED for the “neutralization” of Vietnam, whereby South and North Vietnam would resolve their problems without external influence, in the summer of 1963. President Kennedy angrily responded by questioning de Gaulle’s right to suggest such an action, noting that France had “neither armed forces, nor an economic aid program in Vietnam,” and that the entire burden was being “shouldered by the United States.”¹ True enough, but as the preceding chapters have shown, the reason France no longer had a military or economic presence was that Washington and Saigon had systematically pushed France out of Vietnam. The...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 291-346)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 347-368)
  13. Index
    (pp. 369-378)