Study notes on the conflict in indo-china (Aust syllabus)

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Conflict in Indo-China



1. Medical photographs of Napalm Burns

2. My Lai Massacre - over one hundred unarmed Vietnamese civilians

àOfficial army photographer - hidden camera

3. Secret Bombing of Cambodia - America uninformed

àRichard Nixon's November 1969 speech conceals illegal 8 month long bombing of neutral Cambodia

4. Deep revulsion felt by majority of Western intellectuals @ atrocities + manipulation of public opinion

= highly critical of US motives + strategy

5. Australia's role in Vietnam à refer to Terry Burstall

6. Internal politics of NVA/ NV àrefer to Bui Tin


Right Wing Interpretations

1. Conservative

2. See as war waged in defence of democratic values

àUS intervened to prevent communist oppression - authoritarian government

3. Blame war on North aggression

4. Argue war must be seen in context of communist attempt at global domination

àpart of the cold war

5. Blame media and anti-war movements for US defeat

6. See Pol Pot's excessive brutality as an expression of communist ideology

àArgue continued US intervention could have prevented such genocide

7. some concede US miliary strategies:

1. terrible consequences for civilian populations

2. counter productive to gaining support

ààgeneral implication that ends justified the means

Historians: 1. General William Westmoreland

2. W. W. Rostow

3. Michael Lind Vietnam: The Necessary War (1999)

Left Wing Interpretations


àNVA conducting a genuine national liberation struggle against US imperialism

àGabriel Kolko Anatomy of a war


àWar = tragic mistake of US policy

àStanley Karnow Vietnam: A history

3. Civil war - US no right to intervene

4. Not defending democracy - forcing despotic, unpopular dictatorship on SV

5. suffering caused by US tactics = unjustifiable

àAllied civilians all too frequently treated as the enemy

àBen Tre

6. Ease with which communist won after US withdrawal = evidence for lack of support for US-backed government

7. US Op. Menu etc. blamed for Horrors of Pol Pot Regime

àforced peasant support to KR

8. Cambodian Genocide = extreme form of racism + totalitarianism



1. Based on theories of Karl Marx

1. Ideal Social and economic system

àcreation of equality + harmony

2. Teleological evolution through series of revolutions àoverthrow capitalism

2. General usage defined communism as:

1. one party dictatorships

2. state owned economies

3. I/C communism influenced by dictatorial SU and Chinese communist models

Anti- Communism

1. during cold-war context = hyperbolic

2. fanatical opposition to perceived communist world-wide conspiracyx

àthreat to global survival of human rights

3. Often resorted to support of brutal dictatorships as a bulwark against communist threats

4. Many leftist historians equate US involvement to such extremist anti-communism

Economic Imperialism

1. One country's domination of a weaker one

àvia use of superior economic might

àArmed intervention (US)


1. Term "used dishonestly by both sides" (Dennett)

2. Democratic Republic of Vietnam

1. No free elections

2. Refused any opposition to main party (Can Lao)

3. Tolerated no dissent

3. Allies claimed defence of democracy

4. BUT government of "SV was as undemocratic as the government of NV and had much less popular support" (Dennett)


1. I/C removal of French occupation + exploitation = long violent process

2. "paved the way for later conflicts" (Dennett)

Key Groups:


1. Debate over extent of impact

1. Cohen (Historians;))

à"it wasn't the mainstream media that turned the public against the war"

àrather the force of anti-war movement and public consensus which changed the media

2. Hallin

àimages highly sanitised


3. Elegant...
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