Skip to main content

We're fighting for the future of our library in court. Show your support now!

tv   Containment Policy in Southeast Asia  CSPAN  August 2, 2019 9:37pm-11:08pm EDT

9:37 pm
about her decision to challenge the saudi government span on women drivers. >> theory us -- for us the right to drive is more of an act of civil disobedience because women are not supposed to drive. we show that we are able, we are capable of driving our own life and being in the driver's seat of our own destiny but doing this act of civil disobedience. >> watch sunday night at 8 pm eastern. >> american history tvs look at u.s. foreign policy shifts now to southeast asia. after world war ii, western powers hope to stop the spread of communism, to vietnam. by fostering anti-communist governments in the region, and his book arc of containment, wen-qing ngoei argues the outcome of the war, the u.s. was largely successful in its overall regional strategy. the wilson center, in washington dc, hosted this discussion. it is about 90 minutes. >> okay everyone. i would like to call us all to
9:38 pm
order. good afternoon and welcome to this afternoon's session of the washington history seminar. historical perspective on international and national affairs. my name is eric, of george washington university, and i am the cochair of the seminar, along with christian f. ostermann who represents the wilson center. as you may see, we have c-span taping here today, so we would like to welcome those of you who are watching on your computers or on your television screens, and suggest that you visit our website to learn more about the seminar series and upcoming speakers here at the wilson center. the washington history seminar, is a collaborative effort of two organizations. the woodrow wilson international center for scholars, and the american historical association national history center. we are now in our ninth year of programming, approaching our big decade-long celebration that will come next year.
9:39 pm
we meet weekly, mostly on monday afternoons, during the academic year. the seminar at -- wants to think a number of institutions that help to make the seminar possible. in particular, the lepage center for history and the public interest, and the george washington university department of history. we would also like to thank a number of anonymous donors, whose contributions literally make possible, sessions such as this one and should you yourselves be so inclined to join the ranks of anonymous or not so anonymous donors, we would certainly welcome that. details about how to do so can be found on the back of the flyer you may have picked up or that is outside of the door of the seminar. behind-the-scenes, a number of folks worked very hard to make this seminar possible. i would like to extend thanks as usual, to jeff, who is the assistant director of the national history center, and
9:40 pm
the public policy program, and our two interns from the wilson center, kyle nichols, and kim. thank you very much folks, for all of your efforts in helping us to pull this off. i would also like to welcome dane kennedy, the director of the national history center, and roger lewis, the founding director of the washington history center. before we begin, i would like to ask everyone, to take out this device, that you know you have in your bag, and turn it to silent or vibrate, so it does not go off in an inauspicious moment, as these devices tend to do on a regular basis. okay. all of that said, it is my pleasure to introduce today's speaker, wen-qing ngoei , he is the assistant professor of history. he completed his phd at northwestern university, in evanston illinois, and did
9:41 pm
postdoctoral work, at northwestern and yale university. his book, the art of containment , britain, the united states, and anti-communism in southeast asia, is due to be released by cornell university press, perhaps sometime next month. this book as you will see, will argue that british decolonization intertwined with southeast asian anti-communism to shape the u.s. policy in the wider region. he has also published essays and diplomatic history, and 2017 and a prize-winning essay on the domino theory, that appeared in the pages of the journal of american east asian relations back in 2004. with that, we will hear about the art of containment. >> thank you very much. warm greetings to everybody.
9:42 pm
from the tropics. thank you to the wilson center, for the opportunity to share my work with you, it is a great honor to be here, thanks to christian, eric, the people behind the scenes. chuck, jeff, peter. and also, amanda who is not here. thank you for helping to make this happen. today i will be presenting for my book, arc of containment: britain, the united states, and anticommunism in southeast asia , the title is up there. that is the book cover. it will be out in may or april or may with cornell press and also, i should say this, it is available for 50% of the retail price at this time while stocks last up to 1 april. the books goal is to recap the history of the u.s. empire in south east and east asia, from world war ii through the end of the american intervention in vietnam. it does so by tracing how british new colonial strategies combined with anti-communist nationalism across southeast asia, and came together intertwining with pre-existing local antipathy to china and the chinese diaspora. it shows how this process ushered the region, from european dominated, colonialism, to the u.s..
9:43 pm
what is the cover about? you see the cover of a british helicopter, and it is deploying what appears to be troops to the territories, the border with indonesia. this happens during the malaysian indonesian confrontation of 1963 through 1966. as my talk progresses, the significance of this will become clear. now, let me start off by saying that my book is a response to what has been the dominant story of u.s. foreign relations, with southeast asia. these pictures will be familiar to many of us because they capture that spirit of the dominant story. you see the artificial state of the south vietnam, the decline of america and it is finally abandoned by humiliated fleeing superpower. you have a north vietnamese tank that is literally gate crashing the party. the south vietnamese that are fleeing, desperately, atop the cia office and u.s. personnel, are pushing helicopters off
9:44 pm
ships in order to make way for more evacuees that are coming on choppers. in the early cold war, u.s. leaders imagined the states of southeast asia as a row of dominoes, all in danger of falling to communism. the south vietnamese domino came crashing down in april 1975, it was preceded by cambodia, it was followed by laos. forest -- focusing on this intervention of the united states, in vietnam. accordingly, they generalize that u.s. failure in vietnam, is emblematic of u.s. failure in the wider region. and postcolonial southeast asia, therefore you have a general collapse of western imperialism that is supposed to have happened in the face of indigenous nationalism. so what about the broader region? what about the dominoes that did not fall? what about britain? which one it's cold war, and maintained the military institutions in malaysia and
9:45 pm
singapore, for about two decades after the french withdrew from the region? what about the dominoes that are typically confined to the margins of u.s. foreign relations history, and the global cold war? countries like malaysia, countries like singapore. don't we, and this is crucial, don't we lose the fundamental logic of interconnectedness? in the domino theory? that we confine our attention to the disasters in indonesia. these are the questions that started my research. that took me back to 1954. when president eisenhower would propose the following domino principle, to describe the interconnectedness of southeast asia, for many of us, 1954 will probably be an important here. we will find it familiar because that is when the french met terrific defeat to the communist led vietminh. at the beginning of that here,
9:46 pm
eisenhower and his advisors, got together at that time the french were already surrounded, there was anticipation that the vietminh would strike and there was pressure to commit combat troops. according to the records, eisenhower said with great force, he could not imagine committing u.s. troops anywhere in southeast asia except malaya. malaya? well at the time, britain and its local allies, in malaya, were waging a war against the guerrilla fighters of a mostly ethnic chinese malayan communist party. london called it an emergency, but eisenhower saw it in a much broader regional term. his inaugural speech in 1953, connected this french war, in indochina to the british struggle in malaya and singapore to the american commitment, and the korean peninsula. like the vietminh, these guys, the mcp have been the backbone of an anti-japanese resistance, during world war ii. because the chinese population of malaya amounted to almost 30% , there was some level of popularity that these mcp
9:47 pm
fighters enjoy. american officials looking at malaya, worried that it would become a chinese state. chinese state. they were to about singapore which was 78% ethnic chinese. the singapore affiliate, of the mcp had infiltrated chinese language, middle schools in the island as well as dominated a lot of the trade unions. but, by the mid-1950s, in washington's eyes, the situation in malaya, had improved suddenly. british and malayan forces had gained ground and remained to the border. he aligned itself with the anti- communist nationalists in malaya, which the americans admired. by 1957, malaya gained freedom for independence. from britain. it was hidden by a prince. you see them on the screen. of course in the records he is referred to as the prince.
9:48 pm
hopefully, he won his leadership, via the ballot box and was popularly regarded as the father of malaya. also, he remained very friendly with britain, and started reaching out to the united states. some of you may know what the malaysian flag looks like. you know it resembles america's old glory. this was by the prince's design and his choice. he called it the stripes of glory. within hours of independence he made a call to america stating that malaya must tie up its fate with democratic world. in 1958, malaya ... as well as the cia, in a plot, to top of the left-leaning regime of indonesia. which is why, when these two met in 1960, you can see they are quite happy. eisenhower was elected. he was elated when they malayan leader visited the u.s. eisenhower called up called him one of america's staunchest
9:49 pm
friends. highly in the cold war, and in private what he said, was that malaya should pursue the creation of a regional anti- communist grouping that would be clearly indigenous. the fact that the united states got involved just like the southeast treaty organization. he said malaya could exert terrific force to combat experience in asia. with his encouragement, he managed to do this by 1961. this was pro-u.s. time and as well as the philippines and this was called the association of southeast asia. they would lay the foundations, the association of south east asian nations. that would include singapore as well as indonesia and these three anti-communist members, malaysia, thailand, and the philippines. all of these countries would rule by conservative leads. these would fully support u.s.
9:50 pm
intervention in vietnam, during the 60s and 70s, they would pursue increasingly intimate ties, with the superpowers. supr powers. these were the vital moments of what was a wider pro-u.s. trajectory across southeast asia. now, what my book subjects is this story of the wider region is lost if we focus tightlyo on the faith. whereas a number of scholars judged the u.s. retreat from vietnam is the end of a short-lived american empire, my book considers dominos that did not fall. this dominos transformed over time and this became an informal empire of america that inclosed
9:51 pm
the south china sea and circled china. in fact, it reflects what u.s. officials had very early on from the out set of the cold war been intending. saw southeast asia as part of a great crescent that connected japan to india. the peninsula of malaysia, the singapore islands, they believed the creation of malaysia would create a wide anti-communist ark around the south china sea. the administration saw as it a great ark and nixon fantasized about a long belt of u.s. allies that went around the rim of china stretching from japan to india. this is the contapement.
9:52 pm
but what was the base of this empire of formal dominos? what was the connecting tissue for british colonialism to mesh with u.s. core objective for southeast asia. now in looking at the dominos that surround indo china i argue the connecting tissue was pre-existing local antipathy to china. throughout the colonial era of southeast asia european powers tend to reflect indigenous resentment away from their themselves. even though many had long settled in the region, many had intermarried in countries like thailand, malaysia and the philippines. and for the europeans and americans there's been a long history. and the brief supremacy of japan
9:53 pm
during world war ii which you can see the middle with the propaganda posters, in fact that was an interlude in the much longer history of treating the chinese as the yellow peril. whether it's threatening white civilization via integration in the top left corner or threatening southeast asia via communist expansion. crucially what the americans, the british and many conservative southeast asia elites believed is that china even when it was ruled by the nationalists and especially so when it was dominated by the chinese communist party, they believed china would use its networks to expand its influence. so u.s. and british policy makers often expressed concern the chinese had undermined loyals to quote the mother country, something both
9:54 pm
officials on both sides of the atlantic used. the british called them a chinese problem in imperial, a state within a state. and the u.s. often used the phrase chinese penetration to refer to the problem. i've published work on this and argued the very basis of the domino theory, the logic of interconnectedness comes from anglo-american in the region through its million strong fifth column. in varying degrees it fueled and local conservative elites tended to weaponize a widespread distrust of their chinese populations. the resentment of ethnic chinese economic success although to be very clear not all of them were prosperous and also the belief some fight serve personal goals. melding this sentiment during
9:55 pm
the cold war became the elites path to power. so we turn first to the story british colonialism in malaya. the prime minister of malaya as well as the head. some details about malaya, i alluded them earlier. the mcp was 95% ethnic chinese. the affinity there could not really be denied even though many of the ethnic chinese in malaya, there was a sense this
9:56 pm
group in some ways could represent them especially in a malay dominated political system. the malay population temded to be especially antagonistic. also malaya was the single largest producer of rubber and tin. so for britain it was the biggest earner and made america its largest customer. for the british the question was how to do decolonization of america so it could extend british appearance in america. caught sponsor local west friendly leaders. ushered them to the head of the independent regime, guaranteed alignment with the former
9:57 pm
colonial ruler. cultivating elites, main taking massive bases, crafting trade treaties to link the economies to each other. one journalist much later called this dependent independence. now how did this come to pass in malaya? between 1940s and 1950s what malcolm mcdonald did with the rest of the british colonial authorities was remind the anti-colonists if you don't get a durable multiracial accord going that turns on the malayan communists we will never give you independence. so the impetus for malayans who were an tignisting towards the chinese, there was a great impetus to get together.
9:58 pm
came together to create the alliance. what's ironic about the alliance political party is he created the malayan chinese association, pure ethnic chinese. no others from different races would join this party. the organization headed by the tanku, no others could join the party. and the alliance created by these two parties fought for interracial unity. interracial unity while keeping their parties racially pure. but this produced the multiracial coalition that appeared to be durable in the 1950s that made the british confident enough to release malaya and give it its independence. what's critical here. in the midst of doing all this they whipped up anti-chinese
9:59 pm
sentiment in an anti-communist package. quite a large number of malayans and singaporeians owned radios. if you have patriotic love for malaya then you especially chinese in malaya would turn against your ethnic fellows in the malayan property. did all this work, this propaganda? malays in the civil war had started to complain joining the efforts. they said don't trust these guys, right the commist party had also begun to complain saying all these chinese who joined in the fight against us are traitors against the cause.
10:00 pm
he was able to get pretty much all the political grass roots leaders to line up behind him and take on an anti-communist stance. one of the biggest things that he said was that to be a good chinese is to be a good malayan and join in this anti-communist campaign. it was possible for the multiracial coalition to go ahead and destroy essentially the malayan communist society. the results in that picture. because more mcp fighters were killed than even started the revolt in the first place. it was a huge extermination campaign. this was prosecuted by malayans
10:01 pm
of all races. and britain's chosen allies became dominant. the fact is that the u.s. was very inspired by this. american diplomats that were coming to it region and visiting and everything was really quite inspired by british tenacity and decolonization strategies especially since european powers were fading fast in the region. u.s. diplomat john meldy met with malcolm mcdonald and called him the most constructive man i have ever met. he brought back to the u.s. a tractor written by, talking about how the best person to catch the chinese bandit and the chinese thief is the chinese policeman. thinking back how british methods seemed to be working in
10:02 pm
the 1950s he penned this report to the state department. it is time we at least learn the trick of at least having asians fight asian battles. it seems superfluous to explain what this means, but the point is his observation captures the heart of british colonialism in ma ma malaya which allowed british power to persist. all these acts were parallel by anti-chinese policies. next to the royal marine commander you've got the thai leader. from 190s onwards he started to craft a thai identity and he drew on a notorious track
10:03 pm
written by the king that described chinese as the jews of the east. what he went out of his way to do is arrest and deport chinese activists. he conducted a thaiification campaign and importantly knowing that this would just earn the ire he turned to the united states decidedly in 1950, abandoned traditional thai neutrality, adopted anti-communism and became a u.s. client which entrenched the thai military elite for the decades to come. a philippine leader and his predecessors also turned ethnic chinese out of economic sectors and did so well into the 1950s mixing economic nationalism with anti-chinese prejudice and also
10:04 pm
being part of the prodder anti-communist campaign of the united states. now, indonesian history is littered with many examples of anti-chinese programs i would say more brutal than in the philippines and thailand but put simply it was us versus them mentality. in the 1930s chinese nationalists -- individual nationalists attacked chinese men, and some 100,000 ethnic chinese fled the country for fear of persecution. i want to say this is really a kissing cousin to what was happening in malya because during the emergency some 40,000 ethnic chinese were deported from the country while the war
10:05 pm
was going on. isn't he a left leaning leader? here the role is going to be very crucial. please hold on, i'm going to go on a brief detour of the long shadow britain cast over the u.s. i mentioned earlier there was a tremendous american fascination with british counter insurgency. they celebrated it, obsessed about learning from it. this article comes up in the readers digest in 1962. this article praises the british for corralling more than half a million chinese malayans into camps. these new villages made it easier and easier for britain and its malayan allies to track
10:06 pm
mcp fighters who were trying to acquire supplies from the new villagers. letters in this article called the new villagers the wander of the war. this occupation went beyond the readers digest. the u.s. army was very fascinated with how the british had conducted counter insurgency and by december 1960 produced this, the handbook for the suppression of communist guerilla and terrorist operations. it makes no secret what the goal is with the picture there. and what this handbook cited is that the british in malaya are the only other successful example other than the campaign against the peasants rebellion in the philippines. and so because the british are the only fading colonial power that somehow managed to do this, there's something to learn. jfk is said to have asked immediately after his inauguration.
10:07 pm
this is supposed to be an urban legend but many have reported he said this, he asked after his inauguration what are we going to do about guerilla warfare and soon enough the kennedy administration becomes inundated with studies. basically studies of counter insurgencies are turning up inside the white house in those great early years. the u.s. army would then get its hands on the british counter insurgency manual and it was called atom, anti-terrorist operations in malaya. by 1961, and this is moving really quickly, by 1961 the u.s. army had almost 70 nations its clients of its counter insurgency indoctrine training which drew heavily on the british model. this number continued to grow
10:08 pm
throughout the cold war. the u.s. called it its transmission belt of counter insurgeoncy model. every year into the late 1960s american policy makers demanded more and more studies of counter insurgency practices and kept going back to the british example. and it wouldn't stop, really. in 1962 the think tank commissioned by the state department had to do another study and this is multiple reports about food, control and population control, how to use the air force, how to use scouts, et cetera. about 600 odd pages of this, longer than my dissertation. these were completed in september 1964. soon after president linden johnson acquired the authorizization of the fateful resolution to wage war in vietnam. in fact, it started to seep into
10:09 pm
the silver screen. this movie is based on an australian novel called the durian tree. it sounds like not particularly an enticing movie title so they retitled it the 7th dawn. and it's about malaysia. now in the book it is about an australian counter insurgency expert and becomes an expert and helps the british to destroy the mcp after world war ii. it's william holden an american who against all historical information stayed back in malaysia and helped the british defeat the mcp. this is movie from 1964. i watched it so you did not have to.
10:10 pm
now, that's why by the time we get to 1963 even though washington officials worried about the chinese population of singapore and were very much apprised of the fact the singapore prime minister were struggling against those that were deemed extreme leftist chinese chauvinist jfk and his closest observers seemed to think that would stuff out those that one u.s. official had called the singapore -- 12 cay days after the british incarcerated many of the prominent leaders of the extreme left wing kennedy said this about the creation of malaysia. this is where we come back to.
10:11 pm
as i said he did enact many anti-chinese policies. also his power base demand on the massive political heft of the indonesian communist party so pki. this was the third largest communist party in the world. how is this connected to anti-communist, in 1963 he officially launched what he called the confrontation to crush malaysia which was due to be form in september 1963. now, he opposed the creation of malaysia. he said that the tonku was a colonial stooge in league with the british and the forces were going to be used against indonesia. even "the new york times" called malaysia and giant and mentioned
10:12 pm
it might be a counterweight to indonesian aggression to the south. but by the time the confrontation campaign of indonesia had started, he was already on the move throughout the nonallying world to make a case against sacano. he won over these former friends. yugoslavia apologized for ever criticizing malaysia. at the same time british and malayan forces rallied and fumed support to destabilize the country. the irony is that the indonesia
10:13 pm
economy went into free fall. also indonesian diplomats could not -- and i think this is little bit too small -- but it's explaining what happened in the afric african continent. lee and a team of malaysians went on a 17-nation tour of africa to convince african leaders that sucano's aggression was unwarranted and malaysia was a legitimate fulfillment of the self-determination as operations of malaysians and singaporians. what's critical here is the ivory coast agreed to support the united nations security
10:14 pm
council. this helped lock in malaysia legitimacy in the english body by 1965. outflank said sukarno withdrew. there was somethingenti else he not see coming. the pro-u.s. indonesian army was trained and equipped by washington and was deeply anti-communist and very distrustful of the pki, the indonesian communist party. it only needed a protext to seize power. the pki rightly worried about the army tripped up by the china seas initiative. they mounted an operation to
10:15 pm
sequester sukarno to protect him from the right wing army and it became too easy to make that bid for power. what did he do? he and his team utilized anti-chinese sentiment. they blamed china for the pki's move. the fact is sukarno had already laid the foundation of this. and he had only recently enacted discriminatory laws against ethnic chinese and officials to evict indonesian chinese from their homes if they were considered security threats to the country. while the massacre was going on with the indonesian army destroying the pki some 200,000 ethnic chinese were called into leaving the country for china, a land that they did not even know. many thousands of chinese along with the pki which was not
10:16 pm
majority chinese were massacred. so here in lies an important irony. remember this is 196 the massacre occurs. the important irony is just as the u.s. is committing its combat troops to vietnam to prevent dominos from falling to communism much of southeast asia had already shifted into the american orbit. now, as british influence waned following confrontation, singapore followed its northern neighbor in gravitating towards the united states. it became one of the foremost apologists for vietnam and allowed u.s. soldiers to come for rnr which brought a boom. military procurements that singapore provided for the vietnam war amounted to 15% of singapore's national income.
10:17 pm
u.s. investment in singapore flower flower flowered thereafter. by the late 1960s the founding members of asean, china, singapore, malaysia were firmly to the right and the overall u.s. trajectory had become clear. did the americans downcast their faltering efforts ipvietnam even notice? that's why i put this picture up with president lyndon johnson and lee. by august 1967 president linden johnson announced the u.s. had on its side, quote, the great ark of asian and pacific nations. ie, the asean states, japan and south korea. he understood and he said so that asian nations were suspicious of china. say saw communism as empty
10:18 pm
nationalists. linden johnson argued a reverse domino effect was already in play and he wasn't the only one that noticed. from '68 to '69 the soviet union admitted to american officials that the american predominance in the pacific was pretty much a fact and a valuable check, however, against, quote, their common enemy, china. the asean countries were not interested in jumping on this soviet bandwagon. in 1969 you can see who's responsible for the day to day chinese policy. it expressed frustration china was incircled and isolated by most key policies. the forces for containing china and southeast asia were more numerous than in any other area
10:19 pm
of the world. so combined with the destabilizing effects of the chinese culture revolution at home and rivalry with the ussr, chinese would have to accommodate to defect to u.s. and germany in the pacific. from outside of the white house looking in richard nixon in october 1967 was trying to prove his foreign policy chops because he was going to run for president again. writing in foreign affairs, an article entitled "asia after vietnam" he encouraged u.s. policy makers to look before vietnam for possibilities. vietnam is a small nation, he said. it filled the screen of our minds but did not fill the map. in fact all around the rim of china were u.s. allies. asian nations that saw the u.s. as a protector and were concerned about chinese expansionism. he described the long belt of nations as i said before stretching from japan through southeast asia, the 3,000-mile
10:20 pm
ark of indonesian islands to india and linked by the sea to the united states. basically it was a pivot, asking for a pivot to wider asia that described what i say is a more characteristic pattern of the region's path following the pacific war. what did they all behold? what did they see? they saw this map inside my book it contained a revolution of indo china and incircled china. so let's take ourselves back. in the early cold war, southeast asian nations by the end of the vietnam war they had drawn closer to the united states, they had become stable regimes with table leaders. the anti-chinese foundations of
10:21 pm
anti-communist nationalism in southeast asia so the fact is the anti-communist nationalists all the region had not cast off but what it did was establish a new imperial system in collaboration with the u.s. to preserve a newfound independence. and they did so during the cold war which i suggest was really a bloody chapter in a much longer and continuous history of western imperialism in southeast asia, a transition face between european dominated colonialism and u.s. and germany. thanks very much. >> i think we have much to discuss. just a few ground rules. we -- if you would wait until you get called upon, wait for
10:22 pm
the microphone to reach you. c-span is recording. we want people to be able to hear this. please identify yourself when you get that microphone as well. so let me start off with a basic question if i could. and it has to do with the lessons american policy makers drew from malayan counter insurgency example. you spoke about a chapter in more of the book. what strikes me is americans obsess about the success the british have in suppressing the malaysianen communists. they generated report after report, they study if they want to apply this to vietnam. they even import for a time sir robert thompson, a leading british counter insurgency specialist to advice them. yet in the end you call this a
10:23 pm
fantasy. it's not a silver bullet. they don't replicate the example, so how and why did the americans get it so wrong? they don't replicate the village programs of malaya and the strategic mamle strategic hamlets in vietnam. yet they think they're following the guidelines. so why do they get it wrong? >> well, various reasons obviously. but one of them is i think that the british found a way to charm their american policy makers and convince them that they were indispensable to u.s. policy in south vietnam. so the british understood like sir robert thompson understood that the south vietnam ease leadership were not interested in the british model of malaya but continued to persuade and represent to american officials that in fact it was the british
10:24 pm
model that was being applied. and the enthusiasm which with british officials spoke about the model even though it wasn't being applied convinced u.s. officials this was the way to go, they were winning the war and the british model was being applied. one part of it was the british charm offensive on american policy makers and u.s. policy makers willingness to go along with this because they thout something could be brought out of malaya and brought to bear. getting it wrong, though, is a question of is it really applicable in the first place? it's not clear really that the malaysianen model was in any way truly relevant to vietnam. there are numerous things that critics of that attempt to apply the british model have ticked off. it said things like how the
10:25 pm
malayan communist party didn't have outside help the way the communist party did. the communists were actually a ragtag bunch to begin with, not several tens of thousands the way the vietnamese communists were. now, these were all true. and i think it becomes a moot question after a while as to whether or not it was applicable because it was never applied, right? and because the americans labored under the illusion that it was being applied all the time. and i would just attribute that to the this really problematic anglo-american relationship of wanting to learn from the british and thinking of them as -- as the imperial example that they needed to get some cas cache of knowledge from. >> thank you. christian? >> thanks. great presentation. thank you so much for your inspired talk, and i think this
10:26 pm
was probably the most dashing picture i've ever seen of leonard -- so i'll have to track down that source. i'd like to ask you to just talk a little bit to us in the audience and the viewers out there about what kind of sources, what kind of new sources led you to a new take on this history? in particular were you able to get into nonwestern, non-u.s. sources. thank you. >> so the diplomatic records of countries like malaysia, singapore, philippines, thailand, all of them are pretty much not available for various reasons which i won't go into here. but when you don't get those diplomatic records then you ask
10:27 pm
yourself how can you get at some of these actors who play a very important role and exercise a great amount of agency but don't necessarily turn up in official records and so that's why i get this story. i was able to get his private papers that have not ever been featured in an international-lace. instead he's always been pictured about a domestic story of race relations and malayan independence. what i was able to find when i put it in that much larger context is the things he did to drive a bargain with the united states malaysian national organization these had much wider ramifications and i was able to get that out of his private papers. this was available at the institute of southeast asian studies, freely available for
10:28 pm
study but not tapped in this particular way. another one of those private papers was the foreign minister of singapore as well. and what was crucial here is as the u.s. was pulling out of vietnam and many of the policy makers are despairing, feeling very disillusioned and everything, singapore as well as malaysia and other asean countries are trying to persuade the u.s. to remain in the region. raja rat nam goes the asian society to the organization of businessmen to the international press institute and basically he says can you really opt out of asia? ront you opting out of world histories like a cajoling and weedling and incoaxing all at the same time? and he says so maybe the cold war is over because he pulled
10:29 pm
out of vietnam, but why don't you do a second intervention and you can win the cool war, and the cool war is economic investment, trade, something completely separate. of course this is fantasy. completely separate from any kind of imperial misadventure. just trade with us, invest with us and you will surely win the cool war. i get a lot of this exciting stimulating words of southeast asians, getting their agency because of these things like private papers and the way they try to push that agenda. >> back here against the wall. >> retired diplomat. i'd like to go back to the first question. if i understood your presentation, the reason -- the rael reason for the british
10:30 pm
success in malaya and the fact that sort of the premise it was based on was a political strategy of reconciling the two communities, it appears tat the united states overlooked that fundamental reality and really the lessons it took from that experience were a series of techniques. and it failed to pay any attention to the fundamental premise that had to be put in place if anything was going to succeed in vietnam. so that's -- my first question is my interpretation of what you're thesis is correct? and my second question is do you see any contemporary application of this history? as we contend -- as the united
10:31 pm
states contends with a growing chinese power? >> yes, i think your interpretation is correct. i think what was ironic for me was finding that very often the studies of the british model paid quite close attention to the political solutions, the fact the british were able to ally themselves with the appreciate anti-communist nationalists and reconcile the different races together, so there was attention paid when the original reports, you know, are being generated. but the real problem then becomes what do we do with these reports so we can produce out of these many reports a general counter insurgency doctrine. and here what i argue and, you know, i think that's where a lot of debates will be, here i argue that out of all these many reports the desire was to turn it into something that was
10:32 pm
modular, something that could be infantly helplicable and a huge amount of watering down occurred, and it got sort of diluted until there's to be a political accord. there must be some way to ally yourselves with the anti-communist, nationalists in that particular situation, but the rest of it is techniques, techniques. so i think there was a problem of diluting as they moved from the multiple particularlized reports into a general doctrine, so i think that was part of the problem. warpt to your second question, i worry about a lot of stuff, policy today. but what i would say is if we look at some of the surveys that institutes for southeast asian studies has done recently you'll find a lot of southeast asians
10:33 pm
still deeply distrust china. they don't see it as a benign power. saying don't get into what they perceived whether rightly or wrongly to be an indettedness trap. these inetworks are going be problematic, might even be malicious. the thing i talked about earlier about how southeast asians in many ways see chinese expansionism as anti-nationalist, as a potential infringing of their sovereignty, i think that puts us into today and that distrust tells me something about how china maybe doesn't have the political capital that that maybe people have overlooked as a question. i mean i suggest if you look at the south china sea problem of it being militarized by many,
10:34 pm
many artificial islands, artificial militarized islands, that shoal of force, that kind of saber rattling is i think a symptom of understanding the inadequacy of chinese political capital in the region, right, that they don't really have that kind of purchase with southeast asian politics even though i would say southeast asian politicians seem to be trapped also in their own new cycle of insecurity, worried about whether they need to choose and freaking out about the inevitably of the rise of china. so it is applicable? i think there are a lot of things that persist, whether or not that can be turned into a doctrine, i don't know. >> yes, over here. and then we'll come back to this
10:35 pm
side. >> john hopkins. just to follow up on that question, robert thompson, did he give advice that was ignored? >> yes. so the person actually in charge of the strategic hamlets was -- and i think he never met -- i think he only met him once or never met him at all ever. and what he wanted was to adapt a french counter insurgency model being used in algeria to the strategic hamlets. and the genealogy of strategic hamlets comes from a french model. it seems pretty obvious strategic hamlets comes from that and not from new villages. so he actually spent more of his time doing self-promotion i would say. more self-promotion, more
10:36 pm
propagandizing the validity of the british model. for americans that were more than willing to sort of pay attention to it. the fact is he only appear today get the ear of -- he in fact performed thingness to listen knowing that his american backers would probably pay attention and think that he was open to advice. the fact is i don't think it ever got very far. >> so i have two questions. first, so i'm thinking about what you said if i'm understanding correctly. anti-chinese sentiment -- so my
10:37 pm
question is what do you think we should attribute this sentiment to the in two countries -- investing in countries to compete with other forces. so my question is without the war and u.s. intervention in china how they can have the space to complete the project
10:38 pm
and only with u.s. intervention to achieve their goals to become modern nation states. thank you very much. >> okay, thanks for those questions. and maybe i'll address the second one first about the buying time. this is buying time for the southeast asian countries to consolidate so they won't be victims. what i say in my book is if they need it any time at all it wasn't much because the whole buying time argument is something that is happening from 1966, 1967 into 1969. as i've said the irony of american intervention with its combat troops in '65 is that the
10:39 pm
majority of the regions peoples and resources reside within the u.s. orbit so what then is the buying time argument, what role does it play? what i aurk in my book is is it plays a role for fending off criticisms for just a very short while, maybe about 1 1/2 years and 2 years. and during that time the deepening intimacy of american and southeast asian countries happens very, very quickly. i wouldn't say they were in danger in many ways, i think the buying time argument was an attempt to constantly fend off press criticism because the reality is very much of it was already towards the side of the u.s. to answer your first question, you're saying that in the vietnamese war as well as ethnic chinese refugees are being
10:40 pm
expelled. >> my question is because from -- these countries they want to complete the nation building project. they want to be a national identity for all populations. so anti-chinese sentiment around southeast asian countries --o it's not the u.s. intended to cultivate this but more the union sentiment for this strategy. >> it's a pre-existing local antipathy. that if we continue to privilege just the u.s. as the major actor
10:41 pm
and just completely monopolizes our attention, then we'll get stuck in vietnam in terms of our intellectual horizons. right, if you go beyond vietnam which seems very often to be unfolding with malayan and singporrian allies outside of what the u.s. is concerned with, but so many of those processes have consequences that reverberate towards the prospects for u.s. power and so i totally agree with you, this pre-existing local antipathy operates on its own effect the u.s. was able to take advantage of it has to do with the fact the u.s. is not even central to a lot of this action. and for indonesia specifically though i think a lot of the newly declassified documents suggests to us when he was starting to roll that machine he was getting assistance from the united states who knew very well. so i would call that exploiting it but to say it was actually
10:42 pm
from the very get go being able to cultivate it, you're right. definitely not. >> your energy is infectious. a terrific presentation. is there a reliable biography of robert thompson? >> robert thompson, no. >> or have you written it? >> no, i don't think so. i think that what we get are the traces of his self-promotion, and so we get more myth than man, that is self-evident sham at the same time. so i think it's really hard -- i don't know it and i didn't seek it out.
10:43 pm
>> so i'm british and i think i know the myth britain left behind in india because my grandfather actually wrote about the legalese for india's independence and initially he had put gandi in prison but by 1946 his last project was to write up the legalese with independence with that half of south asia if you like. so it's really illuminating to me to hear your picture if you like the other half of i mean not just the -- obviously we do end up with two absolutely huge populations, a fifth of the world in indiana and a fifth of the world in china, so i'm wondering going forward, i know
10:44 pm
you said you were a historian, but are there some things we shouldn't be doing next, some things we could be doing next? because i've mainly spent my life researching peoples -- what people want in southeast asia and my impression is that they're very much more so that the community hasn't necessarily like any of the national leelderships sometimes inherited, they just want to get on at the community level and i sometimes feel we don't actually quite understand this is what ordinary people want. >> i don't know what the people want. i'd be a politician if i knew, but maybe what i would say is this. if there was something to do more of for the united states,
10:45 pm
it would be i think to stop confusing southeast asians as to where the u.s. stands. and i don't think it takes very much effort to clarify where the u.s. stands. i think the problem here is what is the trade war about with china? is there u.s. still interested in being committed to its southeast asian allies? what's going on with challenging the chinese navy and the artificial islands? does it mean that you really want to stay or does it mean this is sort of like an ego competition or something like that? i think the clarity is -- the reason why i bring this up is because again with the surveys of southeast asians, what they're saying is we don't know whether or not the u.s. is truly committed, and i think that this echoes the kind of thing that southeast asians are saying in the 1970s and late '60s.
10:46 pm
the vietnam war is damaging american pride and it is hurting in terms of really blood and treasure, so they don't have the guts, they don't have the determination, so these are very similar, you know, ethos is there, and i think it's clooes at least the clarity the elites are looking for. and clearly it seems even the non-elites are also looking for that as well. the survey suggests even nonelites are looking for that and that in many ways parallels what the elites are looking for in the '60s and '70s. so if there's anything that could help it would be the clarity as opposed to the confusion. >> right here. >> yes, mike anderson, retired state department. as a historian, could you comment on how your fellow
10:47 pm
malaysian, singaporian young people are learning about history. are the schools doing much teaching of history or is it all kind of science and math and technology and english? >> is math and science a big focus, yes it is. but is history part of the curriculum for middle school or high school, very much so. i've already been asked by the ministry of education to be a consultant for the revision of the history textbooks because it's about the cold war in southeast asia and decolonization so that chunk of their lives, history is something they can actually run away from. and what i'm hoping also is my
10:48 pm
book coming out at just this right time will also be one of the sources that the curriculum, you know, draws on. so i would say that's what i understand from singapore. i can't tell you with great confidence what's happening in other parts of asean. i do know some of my exstudents forgone to teach in vietnam, for example. and when it comes to history, it's pretty quick. it's high gloss. they go through stuff very, very quickly. the importance really is, you know, the math and science. but that's really just impressionistic so i can't really tell you for sure what exactly all the ministries of education are doing. >> that sounds like american universities today, this is all they're talking about. yes, right over here. >> thank you for this very wonderful presentation. maybe you already said this, but are you saying there was a
10:49 pm
political solution for vietnam like there was in malaysia that we didn't need to go into vietnam? >> oh, well the what-if is so problematic, right? was there a political solution? i think there are so many steps along it way, and i don't know if i can comment with tremendous confidence not being a vietnam war historian specifically, but from everything i understand about it, there are so many steps along the way where what seemed like the obvious thing to do was not done, right? like this is majority buddhist nation. why choose the minority catholic politician to be the representative? that seemed to be a misstep that was -- of course there are many other forces that built-up to this and i'm sure historians of the vietnam war is far more complicated as to how this
10:50 pm
happened. but if you've got missteps of that nature i don't know if there was ever a good moment to rescue it. i think it's more of a question of what steps along the way that were that could've been steered away from, i don't know if you can see it but . >> i was thinking during your talk that to this political solution that we talked about in malaysia with the british, why wasn't that, i kept inking why did we go into vietnam if this was so successful. we see other southeastern asian countries . >> the british left out by having really popular community leaders so when it comes to searching they were very fortunate that when time started out after world war ii need already done followed up
10:51 pm
on nationalism but in 1947 he was inspired but what was going on in india but he led the massive strike that shut down the economy and he did this in cooperation so the british, a lot of british black called him for good. forget about this guy he's either too dumb to know that he was working with the communist or he is working with the communists and doesn't think it's a problem. but it took malcolm mcdonald to say can you give this guy a chance because he's popular in ways we can't possibly understand and so he sort of forces candidacy into the picture so that other officials who are already trying to dismiss him corp. rated into the story. i don't think he's up section only wise but really popular. so this is something we can do what i want to say for example
10:52 pm
is the success was not in any way deterministic it's not as if all the righdecisions were made gets a bungle from one minute to the next and a lot of chances . >> and this attitude in the u.s. is going, what can we take from this package delay. then send it out and because were going to lose sight of the accidental nature of this. so i can give you another example. what he did was he displaced the original founder of the organization by actually
10:53 pm
being very plover pro malaya. the organization -- it's one of those who said you've got to be kidding this was the end of the guy who wanted to create a multiracial party for the organization. he himself looked at the association and decided, i'm going to win this election and that then produce the alliance, and what i want to say is contingencies, accidents, bungles, produce success and i think we spend more time saying wow, what was the recipe what a bunch of mixup that we survived
10:54 pm
. it's something to think about . >> i have a question about singapore's history. just looking at the story that you are reading, to think that the rise over the 20th century is perhaps history and successes and is attributable to the cold war and your support and all the other domestic factors? how would you sift through the other factors? >> i think one of the things i don't want to do is getting into the trap of which is more important, the copout answer is to say it was a combination of all factors but i don't want to disappoint you.
10:55 pm
i also want to say that i don't dig it was possible for it wasn't as successful after the cold war. . >> military bases in singapore all the way in 1971 with the british pulling out and handing the basis over to the locals, those bases in the number of people they were employing amounted to 20% of the country's income. so there's a running start that is pre-cold war and also local at the same time, these people are drawing a lot of stuff in and with the vietnam war as part of this because war procurements to 15% of the national income .
10:56 pm
>> yes, there's a lot to export oil production in the economy and the trade it's able to do stuff because of low cost labor which in the textiles industry is getting quite irritated and that export driven and this huge military complex . >> thank you very much . >> the post you put up over the william holden film contains a credit --
10:57 pm
>> she's a lady in a model but the role that she plays but she's the representative of the idealized multicultural layer in terms of water ethnic background is and there is a strange awkward sure the local malaysian of indeterminate race some kind of malay and chinese and other stuff is in a love relationship between the british girl who's the daughter of the high commissioner and
10:58 pm
william holden's affections. it's very minor it's a marginal. >> this whole army of bicycles and armada of bicycles come to the british high commissioner's home covering their bells and the reason why it's a big deal is because that's how the japanese came down they were coming on bicycles. . so, there are four moments in the film but overall, it's not
10:59 pm
that good of film but fantastic numbers like that, look at these bicycles, there's no doubt and now suspends . >> i don't get the impression we will all rush out to rent this tonight but thank you for watching this for us . >> should you talk about -- i was starting to hear echoes of some of the sentiments you use, so talk a bit about the role of -- in this country in relation to doubleãand their role in the integration of this country . >> that's really important.
11:00 pm
what a lot of southeast asian historians do when they talk about chinese is they note this very broadly for a lot of families that have been there for multiple generations southeast asian eyes asian. intermarrying indonesia, popular in the philippines that they have so much intermarrying that it produces what we call -- that they have adopt did so many malayan customs that appear to be chinese and malayan that they are -- and they are anglicized chinese so
11:01 pm
that's why a person wouldn't have wanted a malaya that was governed by this party because as an out and out capitalists, as a non-chinese speaking chinese, there's no future for him and his family and sure enough want to begin campaigning for the chinese association it stilled his will to continue being pro-british this one group in the area for a long time and for a lot of recent immigrants, china took advantage of some of this of indonesia, this is what also contributed to the worries and china wanted to prove that beijing not taipei is where real china is and they competed
11:02 pm
for the affections and the affiliation of the chinese in the region. indonesia for example there were cultural exchanges, there were attempts to flood the chinese language schools of indonesia with a lot of propaganda. they looked at chile, striking fear into the hearts of the indonesian regime. this work because many recent immigrants who were ethnic chinese decided to not pick up citizenship and many went to china to become civil servants seeking indigenous leadership out. so there are two different groups to one group that's been there a long time and had a deep interest in some persistence of the colonial system and another very recent group that was more susceptible and willing to be part of what may have been considered the new order of being pro-china, serving china's interest in everything.
11:03 pm
so i think this is a simplification clearly to become a problematic term because it seems as if they are undifferentiated chinese and one thing i want to say about this is it's not as if the u.s. or british policymakers or observers have no sense of the nuance. the reports say precisely that, there are some who have been here and they will be the ones that jump on the bandwagon, you expect to be a vast trojan horse it's a crazy way of thinking about things, that's why u.s. policy was, let's win over as many of the ethnic chinese as we can by making them love taiwan. and, so, the u.s. funneled a lot of money into trying to build up cultural exchanges with taiwan could to make it seem as if they could be like a hub and the spoke and connected
11:04 pm
. so, it's not as if it was a monolithic chinese , there was a sense of nuance and that did influence the way they did the policy. yes . >> so, on that note, i unfortunately have to draw this to a close. i will invite you back when he's speaks on the book and handed the secret hidden costs and the decline of the american middle us. you may join us for the light reception immediately after the seminar and thank you to our audience for today's seminar. >> this weekend on book tv for saturday at 7:45 pm eastern in the took the public option,
11:05 pm
former policy director for senator elizabeth warren talks about the effectiveness of government involvement in promoting opportunity in a polity . >> a public option for broadband goes a long way in addressing the challenge of access while introducing competition into some of these concentrated markets. this isn't a pie-in-the-sky idea, chattanooga tennessee a city of 180,000 people, has had 1 gb download internet, extremely fast internet is a public option since 2010. and today, more than 100,000 of the people and businesses in chattanooga take advantage of the public option there . sunday at noon eastern in depth is live with author and historian leo edwards and at 9 p.m. eastern on afterwards, author michael malice talks about his first-hand account of the far right movement and the origin in his latest book the new right . >> there's no agreement across the subculture other than who the enemy is and what the
11:06 pm
nature of the enemy is. there are police states and those who are complete anarchists and you have those who are internationalists in the sense of i'm gonna be a citizen and in the sense that i don't own allegiance and there are very proud americans who will take the country back so there is very little agreement other than who you are again . watch book tv every weekend on cspan-2 . >> sunday at nine eastern on afterwards, author michael malice talks about his first- hand account of the far right movement and its origins in his latest book the new right . >> there is absolutely no agreement across the sub culture other than who the enemy is and what the nature of the enemy is. there are those who a favor an authoritarian police state and anarchists and those who are internationalists in the sense of i'm gonna be a citizen, and
11:07 pm
i don't own allegiance to a nation and those who are america first got proud americans who take the country back so there's a little agreement other than who you are again . >> watch afterwards on sunday at 9 p.m. eastern on book tv on cspan-2. american history tv continues now with a look at the cuban revolution. in the book, tony parity discusses fidel castro's childhood in the role of women and young people in the cuban revolution. the smithsonian associates hosted this one hour 20 minute discussion . tonight, we are pleased to welcome to the smithsonian, tony parity, australian born perch factual explore car travel writer and author of six books including napoleons private 2500 years of history, the grantor, a journey thh


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on