Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 11. August 12, 1954
Geneva has not resolved any of the conflicts underlying the war in Indo-China, because they are not the sort of issues to which a conference can find an answer. The objective of the Geneva conference was to bring the fighting to an end; that it has done this, and so removed one of the flash-points for world war, has been our main concern. But for the people of Indo-China, and of Korea, the problem still remains.
We on our side of the fence took at there wars from the point of view of their potential danger to us end their possible threat to our security. But they started at local conflicts, over internal issues. The fact that we became involved in them, and thereby risked their letting off a general war, was due to our deliberate decision to intervene: the decision, in Korea, of the United States, with the subsequent backing of a majority of the United Nations; in indo-China, of France, with, since 1950. American support. Whether, in either case, the action of the Western powers was justified, either on grounds of law or of military security, is a matter of debate. The emphasis, in both cases, was at first on the legal aspect, and the need to maintain the rule of law; latterly the argument has veered round to our military and strategic security.
The majority of Koreans and Indo-Chinese, and of Asiatic peoples generally, have seen the wars in quite a different light. To them they have been civil wars, in which the Issues were political, social and economic. On the one side were ranged the forces of revolution, on the other those of reaction. In Indo-China it seems clear that without French intervention the Viet Minh would have long ago become the established government of the greater part, if not the whole, of Indo-China. As the only organised resistance movement under Japanese occupation it had in fact, at the end of the war, become the effective government, and was recognised as such by the allies. The complicated and unsavoury story of the break-down of negotiations between Ho Chi Minh and the French for the settlement of their future relations reflect little credit on the French. Had British policy in India been followed by France, these relations would certainly not have been worse than they are now, and they might well have been as mutually satisfactory as those between Britain and India. In any case, a tragic and useless war would have been avoided.
This, however, is not to say that without the intervention of the French there would have been no bloodshed in Indo-China, civil war was almost inevitable, as it was also in Korea, even without the artificial frontier there. Indeed, the basic conflict in both countries, as in China, has been an internal one, a conflict of interest, classes and ideologies. It is internal in the sense that the opposing groups belong to the same race and nation, and those who seek change as well as those who oppose it are thinking in terms of their own society. On the other hand these conflicts are International, or at least Asian, in the sense that similar clashes in more or leas clearly defined form are occurring throughout the East.
Paradoxically, it is the West which has inspired the revolutionary forces of Asia, both in the broadest sense and in the specific character of the movements. Not only did the West bring to Asia its conception of political and social reform, but the present leaders of Asian revolution, including Ho Chi Minn, were educated in Europe and acquired most of their ideas from the study of, and association with, the radical movement of Europe. And if some of these, again including Ho Chi Minh, took their advanced training, so to speak, in Russia, the Russian revolution in its turn had been directly inspired by Western thought, and its original leaders by their Western contacts and experience.