This study will focus on a historical analysis of Vietnam and Cambodia. Although the main bulk of the report will be on Vietnam but Cambodia is also a major player in transforming Indochina to what it is known today. There will be four different articles that will be used for this review. All authors are foreigners and will take deeper look at Vietnam and Cambodia and hopefully do so with an impassioned and objective outlook.
The following list will contain the names of the four authors together with their respective work and they are: 1. Gary R. Hess – “ Franklin Roosevelt and Indochina. ” 2. Joseph R. Pouvatchy – “ Cambodian-Vietnamese Relations. ” 3. Alexander Woodside – “ Ideology and Integration in Post-Colonial Vietnamese Nationalism. ” 4. Christina Schwenkel – “ Recombinant History: Transnational Practices of Memory and Knowledge Production in Contemporary Vietnam. ” Introduction Indochina is probably a vague term for most Americans.
The closest they can come to understanding this part of the world would be to see it as a region that cradles two important nations – Vietnam and Cambodia. Now, that the name Vietnam was already mentioned there would be perhaps a greater number who will nod their head in agreement as to their familiarity with the subject matter. The proponent has to point this out because for most Westerners they base their idea of Indochina on secondary resources that may have made them dismiss this corner of the earth as especially troublesome and not worth mentioning.
Yet there will be others perhaps who may feint knowledge of Indochina; but when pressed further it will be revealed that they have a shallow understanding of the importance of Indochina in the history of Western Civilization and of the world in general. The limited knowledge of most Americans will most probably revolve around the fact that the United States used to send troops to Vietnam, in the same way that this nation is sending troops to Iraq in the early part of the 21st century.
But for those who are not interested in history their knowledge may only be miniscule and would probably consist only of what they learn watching war movies like Platoon or Rambo. For the avid historian this is pathetic but hardly surprising. Vietnam has become a symbol of a lost war; of a generation lost unable to reach its full potential. For those who may have a relative or a family member sent to the jungles of Indochina they will forever have a mental picture of a land wretch and condemned even by God. But nothing is farther from the truth.
This limited view of Vietnam and Cambodia is borne from the fact that only a few took time to understand the war torn land of the Vietnamese and the Khmers. The following articles will bring the reader to a deeper understanding and a fuller appreciation for Indochina. It will be discussed later as to how Franklin Roosevelt was able to see far into the future though a prophet or clairvoyant he is not. It just goes to show that his intellect and political acumen can rival the best statesman in the history of mankind.
The article written by Hess will be used as the foundation to better understand the next three articles. For the serious student of history these articles will serve as a guide to the inner-workings of Indochina in general and then Vietnam and Cambodia in particular. It is clear that the authors had a more noble purpose when they wrote their pieces. They are not simply trying to inform but they are actually hoping to lead the students into a deeper understanding of how Vietnam and Cambodia struggled for a sense of identity as well as purpose.
The rise of nationalism and the succeeding bloodshed that occurred as both nations tried to figure out the honorable and prudent way to deal with the radical changes that are occurring in the global stage as well as the rapid development of Asia. But when all is said and done, the rise of nationalism is a byproduct of many factors and that includes the failure of the West to do their part in creating a better world. After discussing the essential points of the following articles, the proponent of this paper will then explain the following ideas that came out of the collision between East and West: An explanation as to why America had to go to Vietnam in the decade of the 60s and send her finest young men to bleed and die in a foreign country; • The negative effects of colonization; • The struggle of both Vietnam and Cambodia with regards to wrestling back their freedom from colonial powers and at the same time work hard for self-rule and self-determination; • The reason why Cambodia is always one step behind Vietnam in almost anything from politics to economic progress; and finally • How the Western powers behave and negotiated their way out of a messy Indochina political turmoil.
Franklin Roosevelt and Indochina When Franklin D. Roosevelt led America to victory over the Nazi power in World War II, his reputation as a political leader and strategist remained unquestioned. There are those who considered him as one of the greatest American President this country ever had. But the article written by Hess revealed that there is more to Roosevelt than World War II because even as the war was raging on in Europe, Roosevelt had the foresight to begin laying the groundwork for solving problems in Asia, specifically in Indochina.
What Roosevelt has in mind was to institute a trusteeship, a fancy term for managing the affairs of Indochina until such time that the “ committee” deems it worthy for self-rule. One has to look at the timeline to fully appreciate what Roosevelt tried to do in Indochina. It was still 1940 when Roosevelt began to formulate a plan to rescue Indochina from the ineptitude of the French government. According to Hess, Roosevelt’s secret agenda began to show its form when in a 1942 political impasse between Britain and India, Roosevelt was active but preferred to work in the background. Yet in Indochina, which had its own complexities and about which Roosevelt, the state department, and the American public had scant knowledge, Roosevelt embraced a postwar plan” (Hess, 1972, p. 353). The fact that American had no claim over Indochina – it was under the sovereignty of the French – made it more interesting as to why Roosevelt took pains in helping this region. Hess had a point and he noticed the irregularity and he implied that at first it was a puzzle.
India is far more important to Indochina if one will consider the history and cultural heritage of India. Indochina on the other hand can be considered as just one of the many troubled places on the planet. But to create the framework of a postwar plan at a time when victory over the Nazis was not yet a certainty can only mean one thing – Roosevelt saw something really significant and yet could not figure out the best way to handle that revelation.
It turns out that Roosevelt was one of the first to understand the strategic value of Indochina and Roosevelt had this amazing foresight to see that the French are piling up one blunder after another and if they will be allowed to continue then the whole of Indochina will suffer. It will not be altogether wrong to assume that compassion and a deep commitment to human rights are not the only motivations that are driving Roosevelt. But if it can be proven that the former president is merely looking after the welfare of the Vietnamese and the Cambodians then he his legacy as a great American leader is more than assured.
Going back to the political aspect of the discussion, Hess was able to identify why Roosevelt was far too eager in his bid to remove France from the Indochina equation and he wrote, “ The collapse of the French resistance against Germany in 1940 convinced Roosevelt that France had become a decadent nation, which no longer deserved the status of major power” (1972, p. 353-354). But not yet, France is still a member of that “ super group” and within this group are alliances that were forged so that they can protect each others back.
There was a sort of a “ Superpower Club” and belonging to that elite cast are Russia, Germany, Japan, U. S. UK and last and unfortunately the least – at this point in its history suffering a decline – is France. His major problem is the British who will behave like a responsible old brother looking after its wayward sibling the French. Due to the fact that there are other members to this club Roosevelt had to tread carefully or risk offending U. S. allies. As a result he was not decisive enough on this issue.
At the onset, this is what Hess revealed, “ Even after Roosevelt’s views became known, the White House and state department continued independent course on Indochina policy. At the assistant secretary and divisional levels in the state department, uncertainty of United States postwar policy persisted, with only a faint awareness of the President’s plan” (1972, p. 356). The reason for Roosevelt’s hesitation to go full-steam ahead was revealed in a confrontation with the British on this issue.
When the United States presented their ideas on trusteeship, Britain’s top honcho did not like it one bit, “…Churchill interrupted, vehemently denouncing any possibility of interference within the British Empire. Roosevelt called an intermission, during which American officials decided to calm Churchill…” (1972, p. 363). From this point on Roosevelt became more ambivalent and yet he continued to work on his plan and until the end of his life Indochina was foremost in his postwar agenda.
When Roosevelt died before the end of Word War II, his trusteeship plans died with him as his successor Harry Truman deem it unwise to interfere with French plans. But there is another added complication, before Roosevelt’s demise he sent officers from the OSS (Office of the Strategic Services) to made contact with Vietnam’s top leadership and made them aware that they are working on a way for Vietnam to have its independence in the long run. When Truman took over and U. S. foreign policy shifted loyalties to France one could just imagine what the Vietnamese officials felt afterwards.
For his concluding remarks Hess was prudent enough to make the disclaimer that even if the trusteeship plan pushed through it was not an absolute guarantee to solve the Indochina problem. But Hess also saw the major potential of Roosevelt’s plan and so he adds, “ Looking back over the twenty-five years of bloodshed in Indochina since the end of World War II, a scholar can conclude that the trusteeship plan deserved more thoughtful consideration by the Allies and more vigorous advocacy by Roosevelt that it received” (1972, p. 367-368). And history indeed had validated Roosevelt.