Tag Archives: America

Vietnam V: Giap and de Lattre

Vietnam V: Giap and de Lattre
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 2:16:08
 
1X

I’m trying something a little different with these show notes, especially since, with that interim show about Kennan already done, I don’t have any other story I want to be telling apart from the cast. So I’ve got a couple of supplementary things and then all the audio credits, but just giving you the videos they’re from, along with some of the silent Pathé and French newsreels that give you a better idea of what this all looked like.

First up is a book you ought to get in any case and which would serve very well as an accompaniment to this show, reading along in it as the cast moves through the war. That’s Bernard Fall’s Street Without Joy.

Which you can find right here on Amazon.

Then we’ve got a scene from the most recent film made from Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, a novel about a British journalist and an American spy in Saigon as the US was getting involved in the French war. This one scene illustrates pretty well, I think, the isolation and the terror of the militiamen cooped up in the French watchtowers in Viet Minh territory.

And the maps:

This, by the way, is the one on my wall right behind my monitor:

And then we’ve got videos. Anything with audio is in the show, anything without it is not. Credit where credit’s due, and that’s right here below:

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Chomsky, Noam. For Reasons of State. New York: The New Press, 1970.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on a War. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fall, Bernard. The Two Viet Nams: A Political and Military Analysis. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Mus, Paul and McAlister, John T. The Vietnamese and Their Revolution. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Kennan and Cold War Policy

Kennan and Cold War Policy
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 1:10:38
 
1X

Like I said at the end of last episode, there were some broader Cold War issues that I wanted to talk about and some history that I wanted to churn through that didn’t quite fit into the framework of the longer shows. That’s because I want those longer ones to be narrowly focused on the French and the relevant US decision-making rather than a panoramic picture—otherwise they’d be six hours instead of three and we wouldn’t have gotten even as far as we are now.

Come next show, though, some of that decision-making on the US part is going to be inscrutable unless you’re already an expert on the period or unless you’re as anti-American as SFD appears to be and you don’t need to suss out the motives behind bad decisions coming from Washington. What this show is going to do is fill in those gaps in, hopefully, an hour, give or take.

So at the outset of the Cold War, which, if you’re being generous, began even before the end of the Second World War in Europe, there were two huge questions weighing on the minds of western policymakers, and on the minds of the men in London and Washington in particular. First: What is Communism? And second, what are we going to do about it?

With regard to Republican wrongdoing and the Trump Administration’s sustained attack on the civil service and the State Department in particular:

Trump Versus the Deep State

The Diplomat Who Quit the Trump Administration

How Rex Tillerson Wrecked the State Department

Vietnam III: The World at War

Vietnam III: The World at War
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 2:13:38
 
1X

Well, we’re making time now, and I hope that keeps up. I’ve got some interesting stuff to show you today. First is the cover image for the show. That’s Ho Chi Minh on the left and Vo Nguyen Giap on the right along with their American OSS Deer Team advisors, who we’ll hear a fair bit about this show.

Here’s another one of Giap and ‘OSS Agent 19’ along with their American advisors.

The OSS teams supplied and trained Giap’s burgeoning Viet Minh guerrilla forces and served as political liaisons between Ho and the US regional military headquarters in Kunming in China. They followed the Vietnamese freedom fighters all the way into Hanoi after the Japanese ousted the French and then surrendered in 1945.

Here we’ve got the OSS walking as part of the procession towards Ba Dinh Square on September 2, 1945, shortly before Ho declared Vietnamese independence.

This below is a closer shot of Ho making that announcement, or it purports to be. Either the framing makes it look like Ho is in a studio, versus on a stage in Ba Dinh, or Ho’s actually in a studio and this photo has nothing to do with the announcement in Hanoi that day. Either way, the old revolutionary’s announcing something.

Then we’ve got Giap and his fighters participating in a reception at the American villa in Hanoi after the independence day celebrations:

I cannot imagine what guys like Westmoreland must have thought when the Pentagon Papers came out, along with photos like this, of American officers and Vietnamese guerrillas saluting the US flag and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” together.

Speaking of the Pentagon Papers, another topic we’ll touch on this show is Ho’s numerous attempts to reach out officially to the highest levels of US government. The OSS officers in touch with him, I think, had an impression that he was trying to negotiate primarily through them, but Ho had a much savvier view of who really held the American cards. Here’s a page from the now declassified Pentagon study:

Another page I found pretty interesting (and while I wish I could, there is no way I can make any kind of thorough reading of the Papers. The volume that covers just the period of this show is 245 pages, and the total study has nearly fifty volumes. They’re all available through the National Archives’ site, and they are interesting on every single page.

McNamara had them prepared as an internal Pentagon investigation into how the war had gotten started and how it was going. He was well into his guilty phase by that point, when he’d personally figured out that it was a horrorshow from the beginning, and the study that became the Pentagon Papers was a kind of first step towards atonement, although he wanted them to come out after thirty years or so, not when Dan Ellsberg chose to leak them.

The first page of the first volume, which concerns the period we’re looking at in this show struck me particularly, because the guys writing it were using some of the very same sources that I am.

The thing I don’t like here is that, well, they dump all over Fall, but the argument that they eventually make is the same one that Fall makes both in Last Reflections and, in part, in The Two Viet Nams. Either way,  in my mind, pretty cool.

And last but never, ever least:

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Last Reflections on a War. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fall, Bernard. The Two Viet Nams: A Political and Military Analysis. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Logevall, Frederick. Embers of WarThe Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. New York: Random House, 2012.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Mus, Paul and McAlister, John T. The Vietnamese and Their Revolution. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

Audio Credits:

America Prepares for World War 2 | America’s Call to Arms | WW2 Newsreel | 1941. The Best Film Archives. YouTube.

D-Day Normandy Invasion: “Gateway to Victory” 1944 United News Newsreel. Jeff Quitney. YouTube.

Flying Tiger Newsreels. Bomberguy. YouTube.

France Surrenders / Terms of Surrender (World War II).  FasttrackHistory. YouTube.

Frances Wall Of Steel Aka France’s Wall Of Steel – Maginot Line (1938).  British Pathé. YouTube.

German Propaganda Films (1941). British Pathé. YouTube.

JAPANESE ATROCITIES / WAR CRIMES vs. CHINA / NANKING MASSACRE WAR BOND 77854. PeriscopeFilm. YouTube.

Original Pearl Harbor News Footage. The Atlantic. YouTube.

PEARL HARBOR NEWSREEL DECEMBER 7TH 1941 JAPS BOMB USA. PeriscopeFilm. YouTube.

Radio reports on the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (April 12, 1945). TheDaveMaybe. YouTube.

Review Of The Year (1938). British Pathé. YouTube.

US Celebrates Japanese Surrender (1945). British Pathé. YouTube.

World Faces Crisis As Japan And China Clash In Far East (1930-1939). British Pathé. YouTube.

World News In Review (1945). British Pathé. YouTube.

Vietnam I: Ancient History

Vietnam I: Ancient History
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 56:04
 
1X

Well, here we are folks. The beginning of the Vietnam series and very probably the end of SFD. We’re starting, literally, with the dawn of human history and carrying it all the way up to the 1700s. Like the folks over at Blank Check, we’re connoisseurs of context, and to get Vietnam right in a way that the Americans didn’t from 1946 to 1975, and in a way that even Ken Burns failed to get it in 2017, we’ve got to go way back.

It’s going to be a little tougher to get photos for this one, given that our big timeline begins around 2000 BC and gets more concrete around 221 BC, but let me try. First, though, if you want to get a visual for the cold open, there’s this.

You can just make him out there behind the microphone on the right, but that’s Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945, officially declaring Vietnamese independence. We’ll get more into this in the next show, but there were Americans in Ho’s audience, Americans that had helped him to fight against the Japanese, and, implicitly, against French designs on his country.

Then we’ve got the maps.

As always, click the image to bigify

This is your real basic relief map. The thing that I like about it, given that it’s modern, is that, as far as I can tell, the major roads it includes are somewhat like the road network that grew up from the end of the imperial period through the French colony and the war. Somewhat.

It gets really big, even after I cut out half the map

And here we’ve got a vintage French colonial map of Indochina, and you can see how they bundled Cambodia and Laos up with Vietnam, as well as the way they split Vietnam up into three distinct (and separately administered) regions: Tonkin up north, Annam in the middle, and Cochinchina in the south.

 

Here we’ve got a temple statue of a Hung King, one of the pseudo-mythical line of kings that ruled the Vietnamese from the time they came down from the highlands to settle the paddy land of Tonkin around 3,000 years ago until 221 BC.

This guy is Qin Shi Huang (“First Qin Emperor”) or Shi Huang Di (“First Emperor”), the man who ended the Warring States Period of Chinese history by uniting the disparate Chinese people under one government for the first time. He’s also the dude who had the Great Wall built and spent a lot of time drinking poisons like mercury in the pursuit of eternal life. He sent this dude to conquer Tonkin:

This is Zhao Tuo or Trieu Da, an officer of one of the southern Chinese kingdoms annexed by Shi Huang Di. He joined up, became a general, and took most of northern modern Vietnam.  When the Qin dynasty, and the empire Shi Huang Di had built, collapsed, Zhao Tuo declared himself king (and then emperor) of Nanyue or Nam Viet, comprising parts of southern China and northern Vietnam.

Chinese reconquest followed, and Vietnamese independence after that. Just like in the episode, though, we’re going to skip most of the intervening years because they’re not entirely relevant to us. By the eighteenth century, though, Vietnam was split between two powerful families, the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the south, with the Le Emperors nothing more than captive figureheads in the court at Hanoi.

Rebels from Tay Son village in Annam, fed up with the corruption of the Nguyen and the costs of their wars against the Trinh, Siam, and Cambodia, rose up to challenge the status quo. They wrecked the Nguyen, killing nearly all of the family, and then marched north and destroyed the Trinh. The last Le Emperor escaped to China and sought help from his imperial counterpart. That army of 200,000 the Tay Son also crushed.

The aforementioned Battle of Ngọc Hồi-Đống Đa

While all this was going on, though, the last surviving Nguyen scion, Nguyen Anh, had escaped to Siam, modern Thailand.

Just before his flight, Nguyen Anh met one Pigneau de Behaine, a French Catholic priest living in Vietnam. Behaine was looking for a way to secure a legal position for Vietnamese Catholics, and backing a contender for the throne seemed like a pretty good move.

Behaine sought help from his own monarch, Louis the XVI.

This Louis XVI

Louis signed the Little Treaty of Versailles, promising military aid in exchange for Catholic concessions, but the Revolution and his subsequent unheaddening (along with the opposition of the Irish, sort-of-also-American governor of French Pondicherry in India, Thomas Conway) torpedoed that plan.

Behaine raised his own money, munitions, and mercenaries in Paris by appealing to sympathy for embattled Vietnamese Catholics, and sailed back to Nguyen Anh. Because of a confluence of factors (somewhat covered in the show), Nguyen Anh was in the process of taking the country back from the Tay Son, a conquest he completed in 1802. Behaine didn’t live to see it though, having died in the defense of a fortress, like any normal missionary Catholic priest.

Nguyen Anh renamed himself Gia Long and founded the Nguyen Dynasty, which would last right up until the death of Vietnamese Imperialism in 1945. The country was re-united for the first time in over a century, and the new emperor’s rule was long and just.

Unfortunately, it also ended just a few short years before the French arrived in force, holding rifles this time, not crosses nor bibles.

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

 

Diminished US Power—A Conversation with Rob Morris

Diminished US Power—A Conversation with Rob Morris
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 1:56:09
 
1X

I’m getting back on track after my internet outage, and as promised, here’s a make-up of a sort for those last couple of weeks. This is the show that Rob and I recorded back in December, and which went up earlier this week as the December news show on Patreon.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is going to be the second-to-last news show, since I’ve got to just buckle down on the four or five plates I’ve got spinning already. The Patreon site will keep trucking, hopefully with some support, but from here on out, the only exclusive content will be whatever I can cook up that doesn’t fit into the normal podcast, rather than a regular thing.

I got a short story published yesterday, so that might be worth checking out. I’m the Michigan correspondent at 50 States of Blue, and I get paid based on pageviews, so you might add that to your bookmarks, at least if you live in the Mitten State, and I wrote one of the last pieces to ever appear on the Awl, which I’m pretty proud of. Everybody who isn’t Bruno, get on Twitter and talk to me about stuff.

SFD Short—Maintenance

SFD Short—Maintenance
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 27:19
 
1X

Well, my face isn’t totally unstuffed-up yet, but I think the nasal quality has dropped out enough to record, and I want my shows to hit the top of the week again.

Check out our Patreon!

Talk to me on Twitter!

This is the Isaiah Berlin essay

And this right here is the last chapter of the Myth of Sisyphus by Camus

SFD Short—Trickledown

SFD Short—Trickledown
News

 
 
00:00 / 27:01
 
1X

I have a whole new show all written up but between family stuff and, well, more family stuff, I haven’t been able to find a time to actually record and edit it here in Tennessee. Tomorrow, though, I’m on a plane, and I’ll be into Guadalajara and back to my desk by 5am EST on Friday.

This is my last news show (until Rob and I go up as December’s), and my last get-out-of-jail-free card, so expect real new content to be coming at you every week (and, after this Monday, when I’ve got a wedding, every Monday) for the foreseeable future.

It’s going to be so good to be back, folks. I hope you’re pumped for it too.

In the meantime, this is the best news piece I’ve put together, I’m pretty sure, and well worth hearing.

As per the show, here’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that really clinches the issue:

Saving the State Department—A Conversation with Rob Morris

Saving the State Department—A Conversation with Rob Morris
Talk for Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 1:26:52
 
1X

Hey folks,

This show’s coming to you on a Tuesday just because of that new job I mentioned and because Thanksgiving happened on a Sunday this year in Mexico. What I’d like to talk to you about now, though, is what’s going to happen to SFD over the next month or so. No big or particularly bad news. It’s just that I’ll be travelling through most of the month of December, and I don’t want to commit to having a show for you every Monday. What will happen is Patreon subscribers will get a news show both for November and December, and I’ve got a few ideas for shorts that will probably get done next month, so it won’t be totally dry.

The good news is that once I’m home visiting my folks in the US, I’ll be able to lay hands on some texts I haven’t been able to get here in Mexico, including the 10,000 Day War, which is probably the most thorough history of the entire Vietnam conflict out there. I’ll be reading the whole month and with any luck we’ll be hearing about the French misadventures in Indochina by January.

Continue reading Saving the State Department—A Conversation with Rob Morris

Iran VIII Part One: The War

Iran VIII Part One: The War
Iran

 
 
00:00 / 1:43:06
 
1X

Hey folks—

It’s explained in the show, but the tortured titling here comes from that I promised the last Iran show this week, and in what’s to me the most important sense, I delivered. It’s written, recorded, edited, all that. It’s just not up on the site. WordPress and my podcasting plugin don’t play too hot with massive files, and if I hadn’t cut this up, it’d be closing on 4 hours and much too large. So today we’ve got part one and a week from now we’ll have part two, with the show I did with Rob last Thursday after that and then who knows.

Down to business. We don’t have a whole lot of new characters to break in this show, if you can believe that, and the couple I ought to bring up will have a bigger showing next week, and I’ll leave them til then. But there’s still a war on, and what we need for that are maps.

Here we’ve got the map that I used the most in the production of this episode. All the important details are there. The relative size of our two combatants, with the full expanse of Iran revealed for once. You’ve got Turkey up in the northwest, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the USSR bordering Iran, with some idea of the politics and tensions that will grow up there as the Soviets invade Afghanistan in the 1980s. You’ve got the other Arab Gulf States nestled up against Iraq, the country they’ll be so doggedly supplying and aiding through the long eight years of this war. And you’ve got the Zagros Mountains, something that helps to explain at least in part why Saddam had such a hard time advancing beyond those little pink areas.

Continue reading Iran VIII Part One: The War

Lying in Politics

Lying in Politics

 
 
00:00 / 24:06
 
1X

Not a whole lot of news this time out. The title of the post is obviously drawn from the essay in Hannah Arendt’s Crises of the Republic.

Which we should all read, but if the point of this show is that politicians stopped believing the American public capable of argument and then dumbed us down to the point that we actually became incapable of argument, then I guess the point is also that as a rule, we don’t read Arendt or anything else that might explain what’s going wrong at the heart of us.

Happy Monday, folks!