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The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans

This book describes how the Indochinese - Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians - have dealt with the French and the Americans since 1859. It is a story of Nationalism, Communism, and war in Indochina from the middle of the 19th century to the present. This is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand Vietnam and the people who fought against the United States and won. Since the United States "discovered" Vietnam in the 1960s and subsequently left that tortured land in defeat, hundreds of books and films and plays have been written or produced as we struggle to come to some understanding of what we did and who we fought. Only now, in the new millennium, are we beginning to approach some sort of closure. Arthur Dommen's succinct and magisterial study sets the Indochina wars--French and American--in perspective as no book that has come before. He summarises the history of the peninsula from the Vietnamese War of Independence from China in 930-939 through the first French military actions in 1858, when the struggle of the peoples of Indochina with western powers began. Dommen views the struggles of the Indochinese from their point of view.The book details the crucial episodes in the colonisation of Indochina by the French and the indigenous reaction to it. The struggle for national sovereignty reached an acute state at the end of World War II when independent governments rapidly assumed power in Vietnam and Cambodia. When the French returned, the struggle became one of open warfare with Nationalists and Communists gripped in a contest for ascendancy in Vietnam, while the rulers of Cambodia and Laos sought to obtain independence by negotiation. The withdrawal of the French after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu brought the Indochinese face to face, whether as friends or as enemies, with the Americans. In spite of an armistice in 1954, the war between Hanoi and Saigon resumed as each enlisted the help of foreign allies, which led to the renewed loss of sovereignty as a result of alliances and an increasingly heavy cost in terms of lives. These coalitions fought it out on various fronts, including the diplomatic, where questions of legitimacy assumed importance. Also, alliances shifted in the course of time, as when Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia joined the Khmer Rouge in a war against his former minister of defence.Meticulous and detailed, Dommen's telling of this complicated story is always judicious and cautious in its judgements. Nevertheless, many people will find his analysis of the Diem coup in chapter 7, itself as long as many monographs, a disturbing account of American plotting and murder. This is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand Vietnam and the people who fought against the United States and won.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The Arrival of the French (1859-1893) 2. Dealing with the French (1893-Aug. 30, 1945) 3. The Rise of Nationalist Feeling and the Suppression of the Nationalists (Aug. 30, 1945-Dec. 1946) 4. The Growth of Foreign Intervention (Dec. 1946-July 20, 1954) 5. The Crucible of Nationalism (July 20, 1954-1957) 6. The Decline of the Nationalists (1958-1960) 7. The Nationalists Struggle Against Great Odds (1961-1963) 8. Americanization of the War (1965-1968) 9. The End of the Non-Communist Nationalists (1969-1973) 10. The Party Center Triumphant (1973-1999) Conclusion

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This is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand Vietnam and the people who fought against the United States and won

About the Author

Arthur J. Dommen was Saigon Bureau Chief for United Press International in 1959-61 and for the Los Angeles Times in 1969- 71. He covered the first year of the Paris negotiations on Vietnam (1968-69). He is the author of Conflict in Laos: The Politics of Neutralization and of Laos Keystone of Indochina, and of numerous articles on the countries and peoples of Indochina.


" Dommen's book promises to be the definitive political history of Indochina during the Franco-American era... It will add considerable lustre to the list of the scholarly press that decides to publish it. I strongly recommend publication." --William M. Leary, E. Merton Coulter Professor of History, University of Georgia " ... the best available modern guide to what actually happened."--Asian Affairs, July 2003

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