From the Vietnam War to an Indochina War

Courtesy Reuters

During the last week of April 1970 the Vietnam war became the Second Indochina War. On April 24 and 25 representatives of the four movements of the Indochinese Left convened at a certain spot in south China to seal an alliance that had been contracted many years before by three of the movements-the North Vietnamese Lao Dong, the Pathet Lao and the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF)-and to which Prince Sihanouk, overthrown a month earlier by the Cambodian Right, was now adhering in a conspicuously unconditional manner. The Indochinese revolutionary front thus came into being.

Five days later, President Nixon announced the entry into Cambodia of sizable American contingents backed up by South Vietnamese units. This operation, dubbed "Total Victory," was presented in Saigon as an attempt to wind up the war and be done with it. In this manner a strategy was defined which confuses the idea of victory with that of extending the conflict outside Vietnam. In the light of the disclosures made two weeks before by a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding American participation in the fighting in Laos, the conclusion is inescapable that on April 30, 1970, the United States embarked on what is now the Second Indochina War.

Thus Richard Nixon became the first Republican President to increase the responsibilities of the United States on that Asian landmass into which Washington's best strategists have so often insisted that no American army must ever plunge. And the operation was launched under conditions that the worst enemies of the United States might have hoped for. "We must have two or three Vietnams!" Ernesto "Che" Guevara had trumpeted in 1967 in the name of the worldwide revolution. And there they are, from Luang Prabang to Kep: two or three Vietnams, that is to say, the whole of that territory of Indochina which French colonization seems, in retrospect, to have put together to serve as the framework for a revolutionary undertaking-a framework that is more open to Vietnamese energies than the

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