Monday, February 27, 2006
Amazing Things One Learns on C-Span
First, it was a talking point in favor of continuing the wartime alliance into peacetime, serving to make the US more sympathetic to resisting a likely re-colonization attempt by France.
Second, Vietnam and China were long-time rivals. While no one could have predicted in 1942 that Chiang would lose hold on power, Vietnam doubtless wanted a big power guarantor even if the dark horse Chinese communists came to power.
But... yeah. Things could have worked very differently if Luce, Nixon, and Madame Chiang hadn't been so mad as to wreck the United States as part of preventing the Chinese people from determining their own future. One can imagine the US sanctioning a democratic/ nationalist/ Euro-socialist regime in Hanoi in exchange for ports and military aid. Ho was enough of a pragmatist to realize that independence was worth more than ideological attachments to Marxism.
The effects could have been huge, because the window of opportunity for communism began to close with the blocade of Berlin and then Khruschev's disclosure of Stalin's crimes less than a decade after the end of World War II. Korea might never have happened. The Cold War itself could have begun with the US having laid down such clear markers for self-determination that guys like Castro would never have considered communism as a viable alternative.
As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
However, I have to dispute your chararacterization of this as "common knowledge."
A Google search on "Ho Chi Minh" and "Agent 19" comes up with 61 hits, some of them not actually containing the search terms in text (a more inclusive search, using "Archimedes Patti" instead of "Agent 19" comes up with 461 hits). To put this in context, the absolutely unknown "Charles Utwater" gets 173 hits, while Dahr Jamail gets half a million.
Even the hits one gets are a little ambiguous. One I came up with, a biographic sketch written by Stanley Karnow, seems to have been included only because there are pointers. In text, I can't find any reference to this.
Even more to the point is this example:
One thing Ho Chi Minh wanted at the time was recognition of the Viet Minh as legitimate representatives of the Vietnamese. Instead, in addition to our advisory role and a few weapons, the OSS gave Ho Chi Minh an official appointment as OSS Agent 19 and a code name of "Lucius." Closer examination of this collaboration by several scholars shows that few documents apparently passed among the two sides or between Ho Chi Minh and the OSS headquarters in Kunming. It is important to remember that President Franklin Roosevelt's death came February 12, 1945, before the Deer Mission started.
The implication is that the title of Agent was honorary and only occurred in the last days of the war. Odom didn't mention Ho Chi Minh casually.
Anyway, thanks for your comment. I will do my best to make sure that what was uncommon knowledge becomes more common.
More blogs about politics.