Special News Commentary The Chance for Peace in Vietnam

During the newspaper strike in New York The New York Review presents the following articles from the foreign press and from our own correspondents.


The effects of the war in Kashmir have not all been bad. The crisis has now brought about diplomatic cooperation between the United States and Russia at the United Nations. And it has shown that when confronted with a dramatic Asian problem involving China, Washington can act with a cool and prudent confidence. But reassuring as these developments may be for the future, they do not outweigh the enormous risks created by the situation in Kashmir, with its dangerous combination of Asian nationalisms and Communist strategies, its Soviet Hinduism and its Maoist Muslimism. If conflict spreads in this part of Asia, the situation could “escalate” beyond the control of the most clearheaded leadership. The Russians, Americans, and French now agree that the Chinese are hoping that the present disputes involving India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia will all eventually enlarge and interlock, advancing Chinese ambitions. To thwart this supposed Chinese plan, it is now all the more important to find a solution in Vietnam.

What is France’s position? From August 1963 onward, it seemed that France—i.e., General de Gaulle—wanted to be of help in arriving at a Vietnamese settlement. But at his press conference on September 9th, following the outbreak of the Kashmir war, De Gaulle made it clear that his views have changed. He now thinks that France can do no more than wait to join with the other Great Powers in a Vietnamese intervention that will take place in the fairly distant future. Nor does he still believe that a solution to the Vietnamese problem must come from the Vietnamese themselves. This is a distressing reversal of his policy of two years ago which was based on the very principles of “non-interference” by foreign powers and free determination by the Vietnamese, that he now renounces. The man who once argued against foreign intervention would now multiply the intervention by five. This is a strange disavowal, the death of a hope.

But it must be said that De Gaulle’s skepticism finds some justification in the apparent hopelessness of the situation. This can be summed up by the two words constantly reiterated by the members of the North Vietnamese delegation that visited Paris earlier this year at the invitation of the French Communist Party: Guerre Longue. The delegation’s visit was politically significant; one of the most influential members of the Hanoi Communist Party, Le Duc Tho, met with the “revisionists” of the party most loyal to the Soviet line. But the visit did not produce the results that might have been expected in view of the “understanding” attitude of the French authorities and the interest it had aroused among the Americans. It occurred during a period when Hanoi was stiffening its position, probably because the efforts of U Thant and the Algerian delegation at the United Nations to act as intermediaries between the…

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