Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Truman supported Colonial French?

On page 17 of Ending the Vietnam War, Kissinger writes, “By the end of 1950, the Truman administration had decided that the security of the free world required Indochina, a French colony, to be kept out of Communist hands – which in practice meant bending America’s anticolonial principles by supporting the French war against the Communist insurgents in Indochina. Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson saw no other choice because the Joint Chiefs of Staff had concluded that the American armed forces were stretched to the limit by simultaneous commitments to NATO and to the ongoing war in Korea, and that none could be spared for the defense of Indochina – even if it were invaded by China.”


A European Leftist recently hinted that America was somehow secretly in favor of Colonialism because it supported the French in Indochina in the 50s. I suppose you can find Anti-American literature that says that sort of thing, that America secretly favors Colonialism, but would a reputable historian say that? Knowing human nature for what it is, I can’t say absolutely that no historian would pursue that line of argument, but he would either be ignored or hooted at by his peers for doing so. American isn’t America because of any ethnic identity. We are not ethnically “pure,” as Hitler pointed out. We are a nation of “mongrels.” What we do have is a set of documents, like promises, that we adhere to more or less. There is no “America” to overtly claim to favor Liberal Democracy while secretly favoring Colonialism. Our documents were formulated at a time when we were throwing off the Imperialist power that made us a Colony; so these documents are more anti-colonialist than they might have been if they were formulated later on. And the nature of the government created by the founding documents is such that no “Secret America” can stand behind the “Manifest America” and pull the strings. Oh yes, certain things have happened in small ways by a limited number of power brokers. I’m not saying that can’t happen, but if what those power brokers engage in is opposed to our founding documents, or opposed to what a majority of the people think those founding documents guarantee them, then they are on thin ice.

We have heard the anti-Americans say that power-broking Capitalists were secretly pulling the strings and getting America to do things that the bulk of the people were unaware of. Could that be true? I don’t think so. Our economy is suffering today because power-broking Capitalists pulled some strings, but these were strings of greed, not some Protocols-of-Zion-type conspiracy theory and not with any long-ranged goal, for what could such a goal be, and what segment of our society could have it? And if greed is the short-term goal, why would a huge, foreign-policy involved conspiracy be necessary? As we have seen recently, the capitalistic power-brokers were in it for themselves. Apparently if you are in the right group, you do have the ability to become very rich, but you don’t have the ability to force the government to support, for example, Colonialism. There was a time (see Max Boot’s Savage Wars of Peace) when the Marines were sent hither and yon to protect American investments, but even that was “short term” by conspiracy-theory standards.

And despite the invidious comparisons Anti-Americans like to make, comparing us to Nazi Germany is their favorite – they don’t compare us to Stalinist Russia because that failed state is still too close to their dream of a perfect state – we are too open a society for something like that to remain secret, even if some groups wanted to support French Colonialism. The reason given was that the Truman administration was afraid of Communism, not so much here at home, but internationally. George Kennan wrote a long telegram describing the danger and the Truman administration accept what that expert on the Soviet Union told them. Containment was urged, and containment was something the Truman administration could easily grasp. It was also something easily grasped by succeeding administrations. With “Containment” as the primary foreign-policy device for combating Communism in the world, other considerations became secondary. A nation might be a vicious dictatorship, but we were worried enough about the advance of Communism that as long as this dictatorship stood shoulder to shoulder with us against Communism, we could ignore other concerns.

France in the 50s might be seen as having national psychological problems. How could it not? It had endured a period of Vichy collaboration with Nazi Germany. How was it to get over that? And its leader, Charles De Gaulle might be seen as having severe problems of a different sort. France, for all the world, had gone over to the Germans during World War II, but De Gaulle said Vichy France was not the “real” France, that he and a few stragglers who had followed him to England, were the “real France.” Roosevelt thought De Gaulle was a clown; which didn’t bode well for French/American relations when De Gaulle, or his Gaullists were in power. And De Gaulle wanted back the glory that was France. In other words, he wanted to get back the French “Empire.” They rushed some troops to South East Asia, and though America hadn’t changed its view on Colonialism, they noticed that the French, in fighting for their Southeast Asian Colony were fighting against Communist insurgents. If it were merely a matter of helping France regain its colonies, Truman couldn’t have gotten away with providing support to France, but what the French were doing was fighting against Communism, even if they called it something else. We could if not in good conscience, bend our anti-colonial conscience enough, to support the French as long as they were in effect helping to contain Communism.


Perhaps some other anti-American will think “no, no. This is like adultery. If you have committed adultery once, you are an adulterer. You supported French Colonialism in the 50s and earlier you had your own Colony, the Philippines, so you are a Colonial power.”

I doubt that many in the world today, at least in the West, subscribe to a “Scarlet Letter” sort of philosophy in regard to foreign affairs. Even from a Christian standpoint it doesn’t hold up. Christ forgave the woman caught in adultery and the soundest theological interpretation of Christ’s view (in my opinion) is that he opposes “continuing” in objectionable behavior. He did forgive the woman caught in adultery, but he told her “go and sin no more.” “Forgiveness” is a principle in Christianity. The adulterer is no longer an adulterer for she has been forgiven. Her sins were cast as far as the east is from the west. They are remembered no more. If we remember them against her, then shame on us. We are falling short of the God’s view of the matter. And even if she were to weaken and commit adultery a second time, that wouldn’t unalterably condemn her. In Christianity, forgiveness remains if the sin is repented of. Were we like France or Britain who gloried in their empires? No. We felt guilty of our Philippine empire and repented of it. And even if some were to claim we committed Colonial adultery once again with France in 1950, we might squirm a bit and say, well in a way perhaps we did, but it was for the greater good, and besides, we didn’t enjoy it.

If one reads Fromkin’s A Peace to End all Peace, or Macmillan’s Paris 1919, one will learn that David Lloyd Jones and Clemenceau tried to talk Wilson into taking some of the “spoils” of the allied victory. “Spoils” would have meant “colonies,” but he refused. It did become convinced that various nations required some sort of “protection,” but he viewed this as a kind of nurturing, bringing these backward nations along toward eventual independence.

As a “disclaimer,” we should accept that in the diverse grouping of peoples we call America, we shall probably find every point of view that exists in the world, but the America that moves forward with an accepted Foreign Policy is the elected government that represents a majority view, and even here we see minority objections that carry weight. For a time, there was power enough in support the acquiring of the Philippines as a colony. But almost at once governmental guilt, noticing that we had broken, not merely bent, our anti-colonial policy, set in and we set about granting more and more independence.. The Philippines in 1916 became, perhaps, the pattern for the “protectorates” that Wilson approved in Paris in 1919. So if the anti-Americans want to scald a Scarlet “C” on the foreheads of any Americans, they must restrict their punishment to those Americans who urged the acquisition of the Philippines. Even when the retention of the Philippines as a colony was policy, it was not popular policy, and it was eventually repented of. By 1950 when Truman decided to support the French in Indochina, America’s anti-Colonial policy was firmly affixed in the American psyche. The American people needed to be convinced that what we were doing by supporting France wasn’t Colonialism but anti-Communism.

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