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Power and Primacy

A History of Western Intervention in the Asia-Pacific

A.B. Abrams

Today the Asia-Pacific region stands on the verge of major change, with centuries of western dominated regional order being seriously challenged and quite possibly nearing its end. The emergence of a potential new order dominated by regional rather than extra-regional powers - an «Asia for the Asiatics» in the words of Japan’s pan-Asian scholars - means it is now more than ever essential to understand the history of the current western-dominated system, the full implications should it continue and the nature of the West’s intentions towards the region.

This book undertakes the task of elucidating the complex and little-known history of western intervention in the Asia-Pacific, providing information critical to understanding contemporary developments

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Chapter 6: Vietnam’s Thirty Years of War

Extract

Chapter 6

Vietnam’s Thirty Years of War

The trouble is no one sees the Vietnamese people. They’re not people. Therefore it doesn’t matter what you do to them.1

— Telford Taylor, American war crimes expert, on the prevailing attitudes within the U.S. military during the war

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.2

— Martin Luther King Jr.

The Emergence of the Viet Minh and End of the French Colonial Era

Following the surrender of the Japanese Empire in 1945, Vietnam experienced three decades of war with Western imperial powers which sought to assert their dominance over its territory. While the outcome and several highly publicized events from the war are widely known, the underlying reality of the war, the Western powers’ motives for fighting and the conduct of Western militaries during their intervention are critical facts which remain little known.

Having been a French colonial possession along with Laos and Cambodia, collectively termed French Indochina, the Vietnamese had long suffered under foreign rule. It is highly indicative of the overall conduct of the French colonial administration that there were more educators in Vietnam before French rule was instated than after it left – with well under 10 percent of children having access to even a basic primary education (perhaps the lowest in the region – particularly when compared to Korea, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland). Any hopes...

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