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The Splitting of Vietnam in 1954 at Geneva
Page 6 of 6
World War II had was quickly shifting into what came to be called the Cold War, a war between Communist and Capitalist nations. The United States policy was to try to avoid being directly engaged in war, but to supply weapons and economic aid to its capitalist allies, including Chiang and France. Yet Ho and the Vietminh, at this point, did not even have the support of the international communist movement. The U.S.S.R. sent no aid of any kind. The French Communist Party supported French control of Indochina. [Karnow 152]
The intricate military and political maneuvers between the French and the various Vietnamese factions cannot be covered here. The crucial point for the U.S. war against Asia is that the U.S. lent economic support to the French, but not combat troops, during this period.
In 1954, after the Vietminh defeated the French at Dienbienphu, the various parties concluded the Geneva agreement. President Eisenhower had considered direct military aid to the French, but abandoned the idea as futile. The day after the fall of Dienbienphu, on May 8, 1954 the Geneva discussions began. The U.S. was represented at first by Secretary of State Allen Dulles, then by Bedell Smith, his Under Secretary of State. China (mainland, or Communist China) sent Zhou Enlai. Anthony Eden headed the British delegation, Georges Bidault the French. The Vietminh were represented by Pham Van Dong. Russia, Cambodia and Laos also were represented, as was former Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai. The French and their allies wanted only a cease fire, the Vietminh and their allies wanted independence for themselves, Laos, and Cambodia. [Karnow 197-200]
It turned out that Zhou Enlai’s China represented the balance of power. In the end the baby, Vietnam, was split down the middle. All parties agreed to a cease fire. All agreed that elections would be held to decide who actually would govern Vietnam. The French military would withdraw from the north, but could remain in the south. [Karnow 200-204]
The rules for the elections had not been agreed upon at Geneva. The Vietminh thought elections should be immediate and nation-wide, which would lead to their control of a united nation. The French figured on separate elections in the north and south, so that their Vietnamese allies would be able to hold on in the south. President Eisenhower was glad to have the issue off his plate. It would come back to haunt him and the United States of America quickly enough.
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