Courtesy Reuters

Image and Reality in Indochina

Reexamining the 30 and more years since Indochina entered the agenda of world problems one is struck constantly by the curious mirages, the discordance between image and reality which seem to persist not only in American perceptions of Indochina but in the evaluations by other great powers and the Indochinese themselves of the actual nature and goals of U.S. policy.

We are all familiar with the "mirror image" phenomenon in which two rival powers tend to see each other in somewhat similar turns of threat, each mirroring the other's fears and expectations, thus often giving rise to self-fulfilling prophecies. The Indochina phenomenon is different. It lies in a distortion of perception in which one, two or more powers see a different sequence of events as being in progress, each one of these images having little or no resemblance to reality or to the image in the consciousness of the other powers. It strikingly reminds one of the classic Japanese story of Rashomon. An event, a series of events takes place. But exactly what were these events? To each participant it seems that a different thing has happened. We see the tragedy through the eyes of one participant after the other. Each vision is so different, so contradictory, that in the end we can never be certain of what it is that has actually transpired.

So it is with Indochina. I think that it is this diverse interplay of myth and reality, this inability at almost any given moment to find common understanding not only of motivation but of the nature of current evolutions which has placed resolution of the Indochina problem almost beyond the reach of even the most skillful diplomats.

For the United States this process began long, long ago. Even before our entry into World War II, President Roosevelt was??

The Americans saw in these relations a "natural" affinity between themselves and Ho's Vietminh. What did Ho see? Did he and his associates feel a kinship between their movement,

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