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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.

War in Vietnam — A Critical Look At The

page 11

War in Vietnam
A Critical Look At The

Any North Vietnamese who reach main South Vietnamese battlefields do so by making a journey roughly equivalent to walking the whole length of the South Island of New Zealand.

A decisive invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam is simply not within the realm of the physically possible. Even moderate outside support of local rebellion must be regarded as highly problematical.

The caches of arms captured from time to time by the Americans or by mercenary forces are flea-bites, militarily speaking.

The cause of the revolt in South Vietnam was a social policy which conceded too much to the wealthy, and forced some of the very poor below subsistence level.

Western Aim

The Western war-aim is to smash the revolt with sufficient severity to ensure that smouldering rebellion in a dozen other poor parts of the world does not burst into open flame. Widespread rebellion of this sort could cause a crash in the somewhat unstable economy of the "Free World." The economic, political, psychological forces being exerted here are tremendous.

There is a report from the Viet-cong via Peking that the Saigon forces are actually able to kill less people now, in war, than they killed in "police" actions before the war had properly started. The truth of this report is inherently probable; but its "now" refers to the early months of 1965.

As direct American intervention increases, the situation will change. It seems clear that the Americans intend to exterminate the population in so far as they cannot subdue it.

Professional anti-Communists should be careful of the alternatives they force upon their fellow-citizens. In my considered opinion, World Communism has not for many years been guilty of anything approaching the Western action in South Vietnam, for selfishness, cynicism, savagery and stupidity. What is a man, who wishes to be fair and humane, supposed to conclude from this?

Will we be "taken over by Communism" if we do not "make a stand now?"


At the moment, this prophesy is behaving like all good prophecies in fable and legend: it is fulfilling itself through the frantic and largely unscrupulous efforts of the victim to ensure that it cannot fulfil itself. At the moment we are creating a Communist Asia so maddened with grief, fear, pain, outrage and all-too-understandable hate, that—if we go on like this— anything could happen.

All this is utterly unnecessary and entirely our own fault. There would be no danger if we could control ourselves. Implied in this self-control would be a normal posture of self-defence within our own national states and reasonably intelligent international economic and administrative policies.

Should we make sure by finishing off China with nuclear war-heads?

I am doubtful whether even the debauched Western conscience would willingly stomach this solution. If irresponsible leaders forced us into it, and we got away with it, we would face—across the radioactive ruins—a Soviet Union well armed, well organised, probably somewhat ahead of us scientifically, and forewarned that it has to do with an utterly depraved enemy.

(Actually we New Zealanders would probably not be concerned by this stage. It is a widely accepted war-games theory that the USSR would take Australasia off the board in exchange for China. I find this theory sufficiently logical to be probable. Not that it would matter much; for once this stage had been reached there would be very small chance indeed of anybody surviving much longer.)

Way Out

Is there a way out?

Of course there is—but the West will have to control the tremendous concentrations of private economic power which at present poison its consciousness and make a shambles of its thinking.

The socialisation of our economic life is about twenty-five times more urgently necessary now than it was in the 1930s—but on moral and mental grounds, not economic grounds.