As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. George M. Kahin
Unless a representative of the NRA let his feet in according equal status the conference will certainly fail. National Educational radio presents as we see it Vietnam 68 a series of appearances of noted spokesman presenting their various views on the war in Vietnam. As we see it Vietnam 68 was conducted over a period of five weeks last spring on the campus of Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Under the sponsorship of the Miami University Student Senate because of the time period that elapsed between the time these discussions were presented and the president these speeches should be taken to represent the views of the speaker at that time. Nevertheless even with current events concerning the South-East Asian area these speeches represent valuable background on the Vietnam situation. The speaker for this program is Dr. George M.. K. in one of the country's outstanding authorities on Southeast Asia. Dr. Caine is the author of several books
on Southeast Asia. Director of Cornell University Southeast Asia project and most recently co-author of a book titled The United States and Vietnam published last year speaking in as we see it Vietnam 68. Here is Dr. George Kagan in. Atlanta. I understand that I'm the last of a long line of speakers except for those who will discuss the draft when it was evening and I suppose it's appropriate therefore that I should and this had been my thought in coming here to draw together some of the strands that I think have to be run together and confronted it one is going to be realistic about our future in Vietnam and I
would suppose I could begin by observing that the Tet Offensive. Has clearly been a revelation for a great many Americans and also a great many of our congressmen. Crystallizing doubt that they'd had before bringing them to question even more. We heard a range of myths and illusions which this administration is nurtured. Perhaps I should say parenthetically that though it's true that I am a member of the East Asia advisory council of the State Department that that council includes some people who don't go along on. Foursquare certainly with the administration there's a range of the opinion which is represented there.
And perhaps by the time I concluded this will be more understandable to you. With regard to this shattering of the illusion that I mention I think one has to immediately really observe that despite this the disparity between reality and fiction remains much starker than most Americans realize. I'd venture to say the picture that most Americans still have despite his mood awakening a few months ago is so distorted so far removed from actuality as to make it extremely difficult for them to accept any realistic approach to negotiation.
And I would submit that unless the American public is permitted to appreciate the situation as it actually avowed as it now exists that they cannot be expected to associate themselves with the kind of realistic adjustments that are a prerequisite to any peaceful settlement yet now. Unfortunately the more the administration has become mired down in Vietnam the more it has obscured reality in order to make its position more acceptable to the American electorate. In doing this it is gone so far as to assert that one country is to let what is basically a civil war. It was a case of outside aggression an unpopular narrowly based military oligarchy in
Saigon and list the support of it with your THE it was the at least people. That the National Liberation Front Viet Cong if you will is a political non-entity without significant popular backing. That Southern leaders of the National Liberation Front are nothing but puppets manipulated from Hanoi and finally that a communist regime in Hanoi energized by a nationalism that is powerfully anti-Chinese that it is subservient to Peking. Deception usually is there more the principle. When do you cut off the American public from reality and dust from the possibility of accepting those steps which must be taken if a negotiated settlement is to be achieved.
In this situation our maximum range of concessions governed as they are by fictitious political conditions or conditions that simply don't exist under those conditions they can provide no basis for us that so long as the American public continues to be misled by the myth that the present administration has Louison us we nurtured that public cannot be expected to count on. The minimum concessions necessary to achieve a compromise which is the essential basis for any negotiated settlement. Now I like to refer to some of those like concerning Vietnam which I believe are essential both to understanding the predicament in which we are now and in helping us
find our way out. First of all there remains the fundamental aspect of historical perspective which the administration may choose to regard a lot or a little there but which is very much alive in the minds of our adversaries. In the first place that is a single country and it is we who made it to. I think by now given the number of lectures that are on the war mind you must be familiar with the basic elements of the Geneva agreement to which strangely enough are present sometimes indicated he would be willing to return. You recall that those agreements stipulated that the country should not be divided but the 70 parallel was in no sense to be regarded as a political boundary and that through national elections scheduled for 1956 two years after the Geneva
conference the United Vietnamese government was to be a stamp. Since there's been some tendency on the part of the administration spokesman to question the minds of the framers of the Geneva conference as to what they had in mind the question whether they were really serious about elections and that boundary not being political All right let me refer you to Anthony he cochairman of the Geneva conference just last week unequivocally reconfirmed and make quite explicit that the Geneva powers are very definitely expected that those elections would be held as was a governing Amstrad aeration of the conference. And that the 17th parallel would not constitute a political bomb. We may choose to disregard that historical fact
but it is there. You recall that instead of helping to ensure that the Geneva agreements were carried out of the country united the United States in violation of the pledge which we made in Geneva not to accept the agreement. We refused firmly to subscribe but our spokesman said We would not accept any violation that we did undertake to establish a separate status. And we did undertake to assist the 17 be transformed into a political boundary and that's when Today it is asserted that we are in Vietnam in response to the request of its legitimate government let it not be forgotten that the state of South Vietnam is primarily our creation and that we chose
and will build up the government that invited us in to protect it. A spokesman of the administration you'll find often dismissed this rather central fact by pointing out that a large number of states have accorded diplomatic recognition to the Saigon government. Of course diplomatic recognition by a group of states whose foreign policies are aligned with the US does not in itself ensure political legitimacy. After all in 1950 we and France were able to introduce to induce more than 30 assorted states around the world to recognize a Saigon government headed by branches of it. Die doing this some forty years before Trent finally undertook at Geneva to transfer the assent to all the essential attributes of self government. To bow ties regime
during that four year period was only as an chill attribute to government remain very firmly in French colonial and yet it was a recognized government. There is I submit an even more dangerous deception that must be overcome if the American people are ever to move on to a negotiated settlement. This is the best nourished the most in black a belief held myth of all owes this essential to the overall rationale of the war on which this administration will lie. This is the assertion that our military intervention in softly at now was undertaken to repel outside aggression. Of course I want to accept the fact that it is a fact that the Geneva agreements provided for a single Vietnam.
It hardly makes sense to speak about side aggression because it is the Vietnamese themselves who are involved and what has happened is that one party in a civil war which was initially confined to one part of the country has now drawn support from its friends in the other half of that country. And I think of when one recalls that is that it is perhaps more understandable why it is that if we do want to pursue the road to a peaceful settlement we will never get the Vietnamese from Hanoi to negotiate with it if we insist upon treating them as aggressors aggressors and then inside of what they have some reason to regard as their own country. But even if one insists as our administration does a blunt viewing Vietnam and two countries it is I think interesting to compare the relative amount of military intervention in the
course of the term military intervention is more acceptable to the administration than the term aggression. That's a term that it insists be reserved only for what North Vietnam. By mid 1962 when American ground forces in South Vietnam had been increased from the Geneva limit of six hundred eighty five men that's what was permitted under the terms of the Geneva agreement had been increased to more than ten thousand sixty two. At that time the total number of armed Vietnamese would move south of the seventeenth was approximately 9000 and as far as we know all of these guerrillas were Southern returning. You'll recall that under the terms of the Geneva agreement there was a regroup and under that recruitment the Viet Minh forces those OT men were obliged to go north of the
70 carillon about 100 of them went north. It was a similar exit on a larger scale from north to south. Let me refer you to Senator Mansfield who testified in the 1966 report to the Senate on Southeast Asia that Hanoi introduced a substantial number of armed personnel into the cell only after the United States had already intervened there with larger forces if it don't. When we began our major escalation in South Vietnam in early 965 just about three years ago there were then isn't a tremendous field is noted approximately 400 North Vietnamese soldiers in the south. Who were then about one hundred forty thousand southern Vietcong but as far as outside Northern Vietnam these members of the North Vietnamese army
only 400 today. There are in South Vietnam about 10 times as many as many American soldiers as there are soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army. There are in fact approximately as many American supplied and financed South Korean soldiers insult Vietnam today as there are North Vietnamese troops. Insistent on upholding this myth of aggression from the north prevents us from accepting the insurrection in the south for what it is what it actually is a civil war rooted in the south launched by Southerners and primarily sustaining life. I would submit to you that it is very likely that when a generation from now
any reasonably objective historian. Undertakes to describe the events that we've been living through these last few years that if you use the term aggression he will be inclined to refer to the actions which are Washington rather than Hanoi is responsible. Will you acceptance of this proposition that the initial cause of the conflict in Vietnam is aggression from Hannah rather than a civil war causally rooted in the south. This leads on to a second deception. Because and I might add current that equally that if you want to speak about a domino theory and it applies very well to the series of deceptions that have been perpetrated on the American public
you're not over one you're likely to not go over the whole range of. With respect to the second deception. Because if the administration is not to undermine its specious rationale for military intervention it must be consistent and insist that the NLF and get on are mirrors subservient news agency and. It has to do that because to recognize and deal with the NLF the Vietcong would in for our recognition of one of the basic political facts of life in Vietnam namely that the NLF exists and that it is the major organized political and military force in the south
and did use it to the American military operations large. If we are serious about working out a settlement relating to this. We simply cannot deal with Hanoi over the head of the NLF an NLF which is in fact our major adversary if a.a were to try to do this it would lose whatever political influence it has over the NLF and certainly the NLF would not accept any such procedures. Perhaps I should add that equally that last August I had a long talk you know and with the former secretary general of the NLF and still the top leaders of the organization. This is that our insistence upon seeing
the NLF and the sea had gone is politically rooted in the north rather than in the south if you will as mere agents of Hanoi. This has made any realistic approach to a negotiated settlement almost impossible. Because any such settlement has to be clearly with our major opponent the Vietcong and its political organisation the National Liberation Front. We have thus created a fiction which blocks the road to peace. Now while it's perfectly true that our massive intervention in the South has made the National Liberation Front and more dependable and away from military support it is as true today as it was three years ago when our combat forces first landed that
Saigon is far more dependent upon the United States than the National Liberation Front is on hand. There is no shadow of doubt that all North Vietnamese and American and Korean troops were to start were to leave Vietnam but the NLF could overwhelm and displace the Saigon government and its armies within a matter of weeks. This brings me then to another method one where the administration's credibility has probably been most badly eroded but which nevertheless continues to govern American policy. This is that the Saigon government legitimately represents the South Vietnamese people. There has in fact been no possibility for the establishment of a
genuinely representative government in the south because we have not permitted one do we have heard. We have counted only governments who cared to prosecute the war. And what you're prepared to do so basically on our terms prohibiting any Vietnamese government from coming to power and unless it is dedicated to our proposition that a separate anti-communist day must be maintained in the south and the southerners willing to compromise with a National Liberation Front be excluded from government. Now Actually there have been a good many opportunities for giving the Vietnamese people a greater voice in their government particularly as was true after the fall of the road in Vienna November of 1963.
But in each case the Johnson administration is numbed come down squarely on the side of the militant anticommunist extreme right wing e manifestly a very small minority of the South Vietnamese people but a group prepared to support the Johnson administration's policy. This has an enormous significance with the present situation and what we can do now and yet not. By our adamant refusal to countenance participation in government by myself. Yet when we as leaders who advocated peace BT settlement through compromise and through accommodation with the NLF. By doing this we have automatically removed from the possibility of political leadership. Those men most representative of
most South Vietnamese who have not yet joined the NLF. The vast middle group unwilling to accept the continued killing and destruction which must result from any unrelenting effort toward a military solution. But who are at the same time unwilling to follow the NLF. Unfortunately this middle group is today very much smaller than it was a year ago.
American policies have ensured that its base will be progressively eroded in the major erosion came in the spring summer of 66. When we back General keys government not just diplomatically not just politically not just economically but with military force to put down the borders in the first corollary and intervention. Incidentally opposed by General low and Marine Corps commandant. But he was overruled like that in your life. With that we destroyed most of the noncommunist administrative infrastructure of the entire first floor area by the northernmost provinces of the South. Yet now and with that we made the task of our Marines impossible.
With regard to this middle group then as a consequence of these policies today it is not only lost much of its earlier organizational strength but it is numerically a great deal smaller a significant part of its membership. During the past two years having joined the NLF the shift which has been of course rapidly accelerated during last couple of months. To make this picture even more and promising most of those leaders of the stature of this middle group who still refused to support either of the two polar extremes in either the Saigon military or the NLF they have been during the last month jail like Gen.. Q And are in jail today. Our last major opportunity for relaxing me
political polarization that I described and forgiving the leaders of this middle road an opportunity to give political representation to all following many times that of the existing Saigon leadership that came in the elections of last fall. And if we had not permitted the Saigon military leadership to control that electoral process as tightly as it did then a reasonably representative government would have emerged a new leadership which might have commanded substantial popular support and been able to check the celebrating drift toward the standard of the National Liberation Front. It is I think pretty revealing that despite the tight screening of candidates and a number of other irregularities attending those
elections despite that two thirds of the folks officially registered constituted a repudiation of the military leadership which we were so anxious to keep in power. Perhaps as an aside. I might make mention of the attitude of the Saigon military leaders and towards the water. What are their expectations with respect to the continuation of American sacrifices in Vietnam. This was made all too clear to me about a year ago in Saigon in a long discussion which I had with one of the top generals in the junta. A man incidentally regarded by American
embassy officials and by our State Department as politically the most sophisticated general in the group. And what struck struck me in talking with him and with other Vietnamese military leaders whose was their confident taking for granted that American troops would remain on in Vietnam to provide them with the military he'll leave bearing them. None of the fighting against it he had it on for as long as a generation. This was matched by their candor in disclosing an appalling lack of confidence in their own ability to compete politically with the NLF even behind an American military shield. Let me quote to you exactly what this man said to me. We are a third very weak politically and without a strong political support of the population which the NLF care.
- As we see it: Vietnam '68
- Dr. George M. Kahin
- Producing Organization
- Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- For series info, see Item 3509. This prog.: Dr. George M. Kahin, director of the Southeast Asia Project, Cornell U.
- War and Conflict
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Producing Organization: Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
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Identifier: 68-28-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. George M. Kahin,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 23, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-vd6p454r.
- MLA: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. George M. Kahin.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-vd6p454r>.
- APA: As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. George M. Kahin. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-vd6p454r