The Embers of War, by Fredrik Logevall is about the Franco-Vietnamese conflict from 1945 to 1954 and the subsequent American takeover of the anti-communist crusade in Southeast Asia. My takeaways from the book: 1. the United States repeated all or many of the same mistakes that the French had made that led to their failure. The U.S., I guess, assumed that they could simply do things better than the French. 2.) Much of the U.S. decision making was driven by McCarthyism and the fear of being labeled as “soft on communism” and perhaps of “losing Vietnam” in the same way that the Democrats were accused of losing China. 3.) The U.S. consistently failed to recognize or acknowledge the nationalistic aspect of the struggle of Ho Chi Minh’s forces that were, at least at first, stronger than the communistic aspects. U.S. leaders saw only monolithic communism with Moscow calling all the shots. Even with the example of Yugoslavia, they couldn’t accept the possibility of a nationalistic, communist movement. Ho Chi Minh had repeatedly over decades sought assistance from the western democracies. He only turned to the Soviet Union and China after being rebuffed by the West. After that, both the Soviet Union and China had better things to worry about than a small country in Southeast Asia. The U.S.’s monolithic Communist bogeyman did not exist.
What would have happened if the U.S. had extended a helping hand to Ho Chi Minh?