tv Containment Policy in Southeast Asia CSPAN August 9, 2019 10:33am-12:06pm EDT
attacked in 2017 after an appearance by author charles murray on campus. >> at the end of your discussion with charles murray you left that room and went where and what happened? >> the fact of the matter is, i don't really remember much of it. i couldn't even tell you what door we went out. but we were taken out of the hall and confronted this mob of angry people. some of whom were in masks. they were shoving and jostling. >> sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. . american history tv's look at u.s. foreign policy shifts now to southeast asia. after world war ii, western powers hoped to foster anti-communist governments in the region. in his book "arc of containment"
wen-qing ngoei said that the united states was successful in the regional strategy. this is about 90 minutes. >> all right. everyone, i would like to call us all to order. good afternoon. and welcome to this afternoon's session of the washington history seminar historical perspectives on international and national affairs. i'm eric arnesen of george washington university and i'm the cochair of this seminar along with christian 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 the 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 for scholars and history and public policy program and the american historical associations national history center. we are in the ninth year of programming. approaching our big decade long celebration that will come next year. we meet weekly mostly on monday afternoons during the academic year. the seminar wants to thank a number of institutions that helped to make this seminar possible. in particular, the lepage center for history in the public interest and the george washington university department of history. we'd 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 that you may have picked up or outside of the door of this seminar. behind the scenes a number of folks worked very hard to make this seminar possible. and i would like to extend thanks as usual to jeff reagor the assistant director of the national history center. the public program and our two interns from the wilson center, kyle nichols and su young kim. thank you for your efforts in helping us to pull this off. i would 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'd like to ask everyone take out this device that you know you have in your bag and turn it to silent or vibrate so it doesn't go off in an inauspicious moment as the devices tend to do on a regular basis. all right.
all of that said, it's my pleasure to introduce today's speaker. wen-qing ngoei is assistant professor of history at the technological university. he completed his ph.d. at northwestern university and did postdoctoral work at northwestern and university. his book, "arc of containment: britain, the united states and anticommunism in southeast asia" is due to be published or rather released by cornell university press perhaps some time next month. and this book as you will see will argue that british decolonization intertwined with anti-communism shaped u.s. policy in the wider region and he's published essays in diplomatic history in 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. at and with that, we will hear about the "arc of containment." >> thank you very much. warm greetings to everybody from the tropics. thank you to the wilson center for the opportunity to share my work with you. it's a great honor to be here, thanks to christian, eric, the people behind the scenes. chuck crouse, jeff, and amanda perry who is not here. thanks for helping to make this happen. today i'll be presenting from my book "arc of containment." it will be out in may or april or may with cornell press and also i should say this it's available for 50% of the retail price at this time while stocks last up to the 1st of april. now, the book's goal is to recast the history of u.s. empire in southeast and east asia from world war ii through the end of american intervention in vietnam. it does so by tracing how british neo colonial strategies
combined with anti-communist across southeast and came together to the china and the chinese diaspora. now about the cover, what is it about? you see the cover of british helicopter and it's deploying what appeared to be troops to the borneo territories the border with indonesia. this happens with the confrontation of 1963 to 1966 and the significance of this will become clear. now, let me start off by also saying that my book is a response to what's been the dominant story of u.s. foreign relations with southeast asia. this picture will be familiar to many of us because they capture the story of the dominant story. you see the fall of saigon, the
decline of america and final ily abandoned by the humiliated, fleeing superpower. and there's south vietnamese, that are fleeing atop the -- and they're pushing off ships in order to make way for more evacuees that are coming on the choppers. the states of southeast asia were seen as a teetering dominance. so this came crashing down in april of 1975, it was preceded by cambodia. it was followed by laos. major historical studies of u.s. foreign relations focused on this ill-faced intervention of the united states in vietnam. accordingly they generalized that u.s. failure in vietnam is emblematic of the wider region. you have a general collapse of
western imperialism that's supposed to have happened in the face of indigenous nationalism. what about the broader region, what about the dominos that did not fall? what about britain which won the cold war battle and maintained the military institutions in malaysia and singapore for about two decades after the french withdrew from the region. indeed, what about the dominos that are typically consigned to the margins of u.s. foreign relations history and a global -- countries like malaysia, countries like singapore. don't we -- this is crucial, don't we lose the fundamental logic of interconnectedness in the domino theory if we can confine our attention to the disasters in indonesia. these are the questions that animated my research. and that took me back to 1954. when president eisenhower would propose the falling domino
principle in southeast asia. 1954 would probably be an important year, we'll find it familiar because that's when the french met terrific defeat to the communist led viet minh. eisenhower and his advisers got together at that time the french were already surrounded. the viet minh would strike and there was pressure on eisenhower to commit combat troops. according to the records eisenhower said, quote, with great force he could not imagine committing u.s. troops anywhere in southeast asia except malay ya. well at the time they were waging a war against the guerrilla fighters of a malayan communist party. london called it an emergency but eisenhower saw it in a much broader regional term. his speech connected this french war in indochina to the british
struggle in malayan and singapore to the korean peninsula. like the viet minh, the mcp had been the backbone of an anti-japanese resistance during world war ii. because the chinese population of what what ya was 40%, there was a level of popularity that these mcp fighters enjoyed. american officials looking at malay ya worried it would become a chinese state. and they worry too about singapore which was 78% ethnic chinese. in fact, the singapore affiliate had infiltrated chinese language, middle schools in the island as well as dominated a lot of the trade unions. by the mid 1950s in washington's eyes the situation in malay ya had gained ground against the mcp and sent the remains to the thai border. britain shrudely aligned itself with the anti-communist
nationali nationalists. and by 1957, malay ya gained their freedom from britain and it was headed by a fervently prince. he's referred to as the prince. helpfully, he won the leadership via the ballot box and he was popularly regarded as the father of malaya. he started to reach out to the united states. some of you may know what the flag looks like and it resembles america's old glory. this was by design and his choice. he called it the stripes of glory. within hours of independence he made a broadcast to america stating that malaya must tie up with the democratic world and then they rendered assistance to the british assistance services in a plot to topple the left
leaning regime in indonesia. which is why when they met in 1916, you can see they're quite happy. eisenhower was elated. of he was elated when the malayan visited the united states. he was a staunch defender of freedom. and in private what he said was malaya should pursue the creation of a regional anti-communist grouping that would be clearly indig -- indigenous just like the treaty of the organization. he said that they could exert terrific force to expand the communist influence in asia and with the encouragement he managed to do this by 1961. he formed precisely such a group with pro u.s. thailand as well as the philippines and this was called the association of southeast asia.
asa would lay the foundation for -- the southeast asian nations and that would include singapore and the three anti-communist members, malaysia, thailand and the philippines. all of the countries were ruled by conservative anti-communist elites and these would fully support u.s. intervention in vietnam. during the '60s and '70s they would tie up with the superpower and this is a wider pro u.s. trajectory, one that would ensconce the people's as well as the resources in the u.s. orbit by the height of the vietnam war. now what my book suggests that this story of the wider regions lost if we focused tightly on the fate of indochina. the failure in korea is important without being central. and a number of scholars judged that the u.s.'s humiliating
retreat is the end of an empire, my book considers the dominos that did not fall. these dominos transformed over time into studies for u.s. predominance in the region and this became an informal empire for america. the countries of clients and the create -- they created a new arc that enclosed the south china sea and circled china. that's why the book is called "the arc of containment." it reflects what u.s. officials had very early on from the outside of the cold war had been intending. the architect of nato saw asia as being part of a great crescent that connected japan to india. the creation of malaysia, all right, the peninsula of malaysia, singapore island and the borneo territories they believed that the creation of malaysia would complete a wide
anti-communist arc around the china sea. and nixon fantasized about going around the rim of china stretching from japan to india. this is the arc of containment but what is the base of this, what was the base of them pyre of -- this empire of former dominance? what was the connecting tissue in malaya and singapore to mesh across the region as well as u.s. objectives for southeast asia? in looking at the dominos that surrounded indochina, i argue that the connecting tissue was pre-existing local antipathy to a china and the chinese diaspora. throughout southeast asia, the european powers tended to deflect indigenous resentment away from themselves. they were menacing foreigners even though many had long
settled in the region. many had intermarried in malaysia and the philippines and for the europeans and the americans there's been a long history of anti-chinese prejudice which i won't go into here. as a result of that, the fact is that the brief supremacy of japan during world war ii as you can see in the middle with the propaganda posters with the much maligned octopus, it was treating the chinese as the yellow peril. whether it's threatening via immigration, the top left corner or threatening southeast asia via communist extension. crucially what the americans, the british and many conservative elites believed is that china that even when it was ruled by the chinese nationalists, especially so when it was dominated by the chinese communist party, they believed that china would use the diya sporic networks to expand the
influence. the chinese diasporas numbered 10 million. so british and u.s. policymakers often expressed their concern that the chinese were underlying loyalties to the "mother country." this is something that both officials on both sides of the atlantic used. the british called them a chinese problem, and imperial. the u.s. often used the phrase chinese penetration to refer to the problem. i published work on this. they argued the logic of interconnectedness comes from -- through its diaspora. this anti-chinese prejudice fueled the consolidation of power for southeast asia's national communists. local conservative elites tended to weaponize a widespread
distrust of the chinese populations. the resentment of ethnic chinese economic success, even though not all of them were prosperous. also the belief that ethnic chinese might serve subversive cause. knowing the anti-chinese sentiment with anti-communism during the cold war became the elite's path to power. so we turn first to the story of ian malaya. you have pictures of malcolm mcdonald on the far left, he was the uk commissioner general for east asia. next to him is the founder of the malayan-chinese association. next to him is the prime minister of malaya and the head of the united malays national organization. and finally you have a wounded fighter. some details about malaya. the ethnic chinese and malaya made up 40% of the population
and the mcp was 95% ethnic chinese. the affinity there, could not really be denied even though many of the chinese ethnic chinese in malaya were not full communist. there was a sense this group in some ways could represent them. especially in a malay dominated political system. the malay population tended to be antagonistic to the chinese. the mcp went on a reprisal campaign against many of the malays, accusing them of collaborating with the japanese. also, malaya was the single largest producer of rubber. it made america its largest customer. for the british, the question was how to do the decolonization of malaya so that it could extend british imperial presence in the country and defeat the mcp. the answer is what is termed nation building colonialism.
reordered colony. caught, sponsored local west-friendly leaders. usher them to the head of the independent regime. guarantee alignment with the former colonial ruler. u.s. policy in the philippines was similar. cultivating elites, maintaining massive basis, crafting trade treaties. one journalist called this dependent independence. now how did this come to pass in malaya? between the late 1940's to the 1950's, what malcolm mcdonald did with the rest of the british colonial authorities was remind the local nationalists who were anti-communist, if you do not get a durable, multi-racial accord going that turns on the malayan communists, we will never give you independence. so the impetus for malays who were ann ttagonistic to chineses
to get together. the political elites to get together. there was a great impetus to do so. malcolm mcdonald encouraged it at that time. he was not yet knighted. you can guess what he was knighted for. he came together with the group to create the alliance. what's ironic about the alliance political party is it was created the malayan chinese association, pure ethnic chinese, no others from different races would join this party. the united malays national organization, also pure malay. 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. this produced a multiracial coalition that appeared to be durable in the 1950's. that made the british confident enough to release malaya and give it its independence.
what's critical here is in the midst of doing all this, they whipped up anti-chinese sentiment in an anti-communist package. malcolm mcdonald took to the airways because radio malaya was popular in the peninsula as well as singapore. historians have shown a large number of malayans and singaporsingapor singaporians own radios. malcolm mcdonald would be visiting people by the radio to say there was a malayan communist party of chinese who are tyrants who would link up with the international communist movement. but, if you have patriotic love for maleah, then you, especially chinese, would turn against those fellows in the malayan communist party. did it work, this propaganda? by the time malcolm mcdonald was coming to the end of this radio broadcast campaign, malayans in
the service started to complain about the increasing number of chinese. they said don't trust these guys. right? the malayan communist party had also begun to complain, saying that all these chinese who joined in the fight against us are traders against the cause. there was some effectiveness. even more crucial was the time. by creating the chinese malaya association, being a prominent businessman being in the rubber industry, he was pretty much able to get all of the political grassroots leaders to line up and take on an anti-communist stance. one of the biggest things he said was that to be a good chinese is to be a good malayan. join in this anti-communist campaign. once this alliance came together, with others it was possible for the multiracial coalition to destroy the malayan communist party. the result, the final picture.
wounded in what is essentially an extermination campaign because, in fact, more mcp fighters were killed than even started the revolt in the first place. it was a huge extermination campaign. this was prosecuted by malayan's of all races. malaya rose to independence in this way. the mcps were crushed. the british allies became dominant. the fact is that the u.s. was very inspired by this. american diplomats were coming to the region and were inspired by the british tenacity and decolonization strategy. especially since other european powers were fading fast in the region. they watched the success and campaign against the mcp. u.s. diplomat john melby met with ma'am come mcdonald and called him the most constructive man i had ever met.
he brought to the u.s. a tract written where it was talked about the best person to catch the chinese bandit and the chinese thief is the chinese policeman. thinking back, to help british methods seem to be working in in the 1950s, john melby penned this in his report to the state department. it is time that we learned the trick of at least having asians fight asian battles. that yellow men will be killed by yellow men, rather than white men alone. it seuperfluous to even explain what this means, but the observation captures the heart of british neocolonialism in malaya. outside of malaya, this violent act committed against fighters, beheading them, one is a woman, one is a man. all of this was paralleled by anti-chinese policies. they were the standard fare of
southeast asian leets elsewhere. next to the royal marine commander, you have the thai leader. from the 1930s onwards, he started to crafted a thai identity. he drew on a notorious early tract that described the chinese as the jews of the east. what he went out of his way to do was to arrest and report chinese who were alleged to be chinese nationalist operators. he conducted a campaign to eject ethnic chinese from critical sectors of the economy. importantly, knowing this would just earn the ire of the chinese diaspora and china, he turned to the united states decidedly in 1950s abandoned thai neutrality, adopted anti-communism, became a u.s. client and enjoyed american military aid which entrenched
the high military elites for the time to come. they did so well into the 1950s mixing anti-nationalism and becoming a broad part of the united states. 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. indigenous nationalists targeted the chinese as greedy capitalists, infidels, aliens, collaborators with the dutch. indigenous chinese attacked chinese businessmen in the 1930s. and chinese economic activities were restricted and
some 100,000 ethnic chinese fled the country for fear of prosecution. i want to say this is a kissing cousin to what was happening in malaya, because during the emergency, the mcp campaign, some 40,000 ethnic chinese were deported from the country while the war was going on. isn't he a left-leading leaner? here the british role of colonialism will be crucial. but please hold on i will go over the brief detour of the long shadow british cast over the u.s. i mentioned earlier there was a tremendous american fascination about british counter insurgency. they obsessed about learning from it. this article came out in the reader's digest in 1962. he was the co-author of "the ugly american" that best seller.
this article praises the british for corralling some half a million chinese malayan's into camps. they were called new villages. they hide them off from mcp guerrillas. because of that, it was easier and easier for britain to track mcp fighters who are trying to acquire supplies from the new villages. they called it the wonder of the wall. this went beyond the reader's digest. the u.s. army was very fascinated with the malayan emergency, how the british had conducted counter insurgency, and in 1960 produced this, the handbook for the suppression of communist guerrilla and terrorist operations. it makes no secret of what the goal is, based on what the picture is there. what this handbook cited is that the british in malaya are the only other successful example
other than the american campaign against the rebellion in the philippines. 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 -- this is supposed to be an urban legend but many say he asked this -- he asked what will we do about guerrilla warfare. the kennedy administration was inundated with studies about the malayan rebellion and so on. basically, studies kept turning up inside the white house. it was in those early years, 1961 to 1963. the u.s. army would then get its hands on the british counter insurgency manual, it was called a.t.o.m., anti-terrorist operations in malaya. once it got its hands on it, it parcelled it out to its units
for doctrine formation. by 1961 the u.s. army had almost 70 nations as clients, and they drew heavily on the british model. this would grow throughout the cold war. the u.s. called it the transmission belt of counter insurgency knowledge. there was glee in the records that more and more countries would become clients to get this counter insurgency training. every year into the late 1960's, american policymakers demanded more and more studies of counter insurgency practices, and they kept going back to the british example. it would not stop. in 1962, rand corporation did another study. there were multiple reports about population control, how to use the air force. how to use the scouts. et cetera. about 600 pages of this. longer than my dissertation
and these would completed in september of 1964. soon after president lyndon johnson, the authorization of the fate of gulf of tomkin resolution to wage war in vietnam. it's hard to downplay how important it is. it's seeped in the silver screens. this movie from united artists is based on an australian novel called the durian tree. not an enticing movie title, so they retitled it the seventh dawn. starring william holden, slightly past his prime. it is about malaysia and the fight against the mcp. in the book, it is about an australian counterinsurgency expert who hangs around with the mcp and becomes the expert to
the british to help destroy the mcp after world war ii. william holman worked with the mcp and helped the british defeat the mcp. this is a movie from 1964. i watched it so that you did not have to. that's why, by the time we get to 1963, even though washington officials worried about the chinese population of singapore and were apprised of the fact that the singapore prime minister was struggling against those that were deemed extreme leftist, chinese chauvinists, the creation of malaysia and the absorption of singapore into a large federation with anti-communist malaya, that would snuff out those that one u.s. official called the singapore reds. 12 days after lee and the british incarcerated many of the prominent leaders of singapore's extreme left wing, kennedy said this about the creation of
malaya -- it's the best hope for security in that vital part of the world. further more, kennedy advisers had envisioned malaysia completing the white anti-communist arc that enclosed the south china sea. sekano did not enact many anti-chinese policies. he was pro-beijing. he was a supporter of the pki, the third largest communist party in the world. how this is connected to british colonialism? how is this connected? in 1963, he launched what he called the confrontation to crush malaysia, which was due to be formed in september of 1963. he opposed the creation of malays malaysia. he called it a british
neocolonial plot to encircle indonesia. he said that it was a colonial stooge in league with the british and singapore's military bases which were run by the british would be used against indonesia. even the "new york times" called malaysia a giant and mentioned might be a counter weight to aggression from the south. by the time the campaign of indonesia had started, you can see him at his exuberant best, was already on the move to make a case. he visited yugoslavia, burma, india, egypt all to plead the case for malaysia. he won over his former friends of sekano. egypt and india were especially friendly. yugoslavia apologized for criticizing malaysia. burma agreed that the federation of malaysia would allow small states like singapore to exceed. at the same
depicted on the cover of my book, british and malayan forces kept indonesian forces on the back foot. the irony is that the indonesian economy went into a freefall. also, indonesian diplomats, the point is for me to expand what is happening in the african continent, indonesian diplomats could not match what the team did in 1964. lee and a team of malaysians went on a 17-nation tour of africa to convince african leaders that sekano's aggression was unwarranted and that malaysia was the legitimate fulfillment of the self determination aspirations of malaysians and singaporeans. lee often found himself having many agree with him.
the leaders of ghana and ethiopia agreed and called him a hitler. what is critical is that the ivory coast and kenya agreed to support membership into the united nations security council. this helped lock in malaysian's legitimacy in the world body by early 1965. months before already in egypt, afro asian nations had condemned the anti-malaysian campaign. outflanked, sekano withdrew indonesia from the united nations. this is what he said in his memoirs of 1965. there was something else he did not see coming. the pro-u.s. indonesian army was trained and equipped by washington since the late 1950's. it was deeply anti-communist and
very distrustful of the pki. they only needed a pretext to seize power. it was a government in waiting and the pki rightly were worried about the army tripped up by trying to seize the initiative. they mounted an operation to sequester surkano, and then it almost became too easy for the army to make that bid for power. what did he do? he and his team utilized anti-chinese sentiment. mixed it into a deadly cocktail with anti-communism and blamed china for the pki's move. this powered the indonesian communist party. surkano already laid the foundations for this. he had only recently enacted discriminatory laws against ethnic chinese empowering officials to evict 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 coerced into leaving the country for china, a land that they did not even know. many were massacred. in 1967, diplomatic relations with beijing were broke. this was likely the greatest transformation in east and southeast asia in the 1960s. herein lies an important irony. it is in 1967 when this massacre occurs. here's the irony. just as the u.s. is committing combat troops to vietnam to prevent dominoes from falling to communism, much of southeast asia had shifted to the american orbit. as british influence waned following controversy, singapore followed malaya in gravitating toward the united states. he became one of the most
foremost apologists for the u.s. war in vietnam, and he allowed u.s. soldiers to come to singapore for r&r. that brought a minor spending boom. siding with the u.s. was beneficial. military procurements that singapore provided for the vietnam war amounted to 15% of singapore's national income. u.s. investment in singapore flowered thereafter, filling the yak y vacuum that britain would leave behind. the founding members of thailand, the philippines, singapore and indonesia in the right, and the u.s. trajectory of the region had become clear. did the americans downcast over their faltering efforts in vietnam even notice? that is why i put this picture up with president lyndon johnson. by august of 1967, president johnson announced that the u.s. had on its side, the great park arc of asian and pacific nations.
ie, the asean states, japan and south korea. he understood and in press conferences he said so that ann asian nations were suspicious of china. lyndon johnson argued that a reverse domino effect was in play and he was not 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. a valuable check against the common enemy, china. br breznev tried to collect a framework to the asean countries, but this fell flat. the asean countries were not interested in jumping on the soviet bandwagon. in 1969, the man responsible for the day-to-day running of chinese foreign policy expressed
frustration. he expressed frustration that china was encircled and isolated on most key policy issues. he would years later admit that the forces for containing china in southeast asia were more numerous than in any other area of the world. so combined with the destabilizing effects and rivalry with the ussr, china would have to accommodate to de facto u.s. and germany in the pacific. from outside the white house looking in, richard nixon in october of 1967 was trying to prove his foreign policy chops because he was going to run for president again. he articulated the same sentiments, writing in foreign affairs an article, he encouraged u.s. policymakers to look beyond vietnam for possibilities. it was a small nation, he said. it filled our minds put it did not fill the map. all around the rim of china were
u.s. allies. asian nations that saw the u.te about chinese expansionism. he described the long bout of pro-u.s. patients stretching from japan through southeast asia. a 3000 mile arc of indonesian islands to india, anchored by australia and new zealand. linked to the sea. it was a pivot asking for a pivot to a wider asia that describes 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 of my book. it was the arc of containment that went around the south china sea. it encircled china. the arc connected asean to u.s. allies in japan and south korea. take ourselves back. let's take ourselves back. in the early cold war, southeast
asian nations had been perceived as dominos tee s teetering towa communism. by the end, they had drawn closer to the united states and become stable regimes. this condition had been produced by british neocolonialism. the anti-chinese foundations of anti communist nationalism in southeast asia and the eagerness with which the u.s. sought to consolidate that advantage and build deeper military and economic relations with friends in the region. so the fact is that the anti-communist nationalists of the region had not cast off the colonial order. what they did was establish a new imperial system in collaboration with the u.s. to preserve the newfound independence. they did so during the cold war which i suggest is a bloody chapter in a much longer and continuous history of western imperialism in southeast asia. a transition phase between european dominated colonialism and u.s. and germany.
thanks very much. [ applause ] >> i think we have much to discuss. just a few ground rules. if you would wait until you get called upon and wait for the microphone to reach you. c-span is recording. we want people to hear this. please identify yourself when you get the microphone as well. let me start off with a basic question, if i could. it has to do with the lessons that the american policymakers drew from malayan counterinsurgency examples. you spoke about a few moments ago, it occupies an important chapter of the book. what strikes me is americans obsessed about the success the british had in -- suppressing himalayan communists. they want to apply this to vietnam.
they even import for a time sir robert thompson, a leading british counter insurgency specialist to advise them. yet in the end, you call this a fantasy. it is not a silver bullet. they do not replicate the example. how and why the americans get it so wrong? they do not replicate the village program. there is a lot that does not work yet they think they are following the guidelines. why did they get it wrong? >> there are various reasons, obviously, but one of them is that the americans found a way to the policymakers and convinced them that they were indispensable to u.s. policy in
south vietnam. the british understood that the south vietnamese leadership was actually not interested in the british model of malaya, but continued to persuade and represent to american officials that, in fact, it was the british model that was being applied. and the enthusiasm with which british officials spoke about their model even though it was not being applied convinced a lot u.s. officials that this would be the way to go and that they were winning the war and that the british model was being applied. one part of it was the british charm offensive on american policymakers. and british -- and u.s. policymakers willingness to go along with this because they thought something could be brought out of malaya and brought to bear inside vietnam. getting it wrong is the second thing i want to say. getting it wrong is a question of is it really applicable in the first place?
it is not clear that the malayan model was in any way truly redolent -- relevant to vietnam. there are numerous critics. they have said things like how that the malayan communist party did not have outside help the way that the strevietnamese communists did. they were a ragtag bunch to begin with. these are all true. it becomes a moot question after a while as to whether or not it is applicable, because it was never applied, and because the americans labored under the illusion that it was being applied over time. i would attribute that to a problematic anglo american relationship of wanting to learn from the british and thinking of them as the imperial example that they needed to get
cache of knowledge from. yeah. >> thank you. >> christian? >> thanks. great presentation. thank you so much for your inspired talk. i think this was probably the most dashing picture i had seen of breznef. i would like to ask you to just talk a little bit to us in the audience and the viewers out there about what kind of news sources led you to a new take on this history. in particular, were you able to get into non-western, non-us sources? thank you.
>> so, first of all i would have to say that the diplomatic records of countries like malaysia, singapore, philippines, thailand, you know, all of them, are pretty much not available. for various reasons which i will not go into here. when you don't get those to medical records, you ask yourself how can you get at some of these actors who create an important role who -- that do not necessarily turn up in official records. i was able to get a man's private fable that was not featured. they were not thought of in a foreign policy dimension. he has always been pictured and written about in a domestic story of race relations and malayan independence. he has always been featured and
written about in domestic stories of race relations and malayan independence. what i was able to find when i put it in the larger context of anti-chinese and anti-communist nationalism was that the things he did to drive a bargain with the u.s.-himalaya organization, these had much wider ramifications. i was able to get that out of his private paper. it was available at the institute of southeast asian studies, it was freely available for study but not tapped in that way. another one of those private papers was the foreign minister of singapore. what was crucial here was that as the u.s. was pulling out of vietnam, and as many policymakers are despairing, feeling disillusioned, singapore as well as malaysia are trying to persuade the united states to remain embedded in the region. that is what you can get from a lot of private papers. roger atnam, for example, goes to the asia society, to the american organization of businessmen, to the international press institute and basically he says can you really opt out of asia?
if you opt out of asia and opt out of the pacific, aren't you sort of opting out of world history? sort of cajoling, weedling, coaxing at the same time, and he says maybe the cold war is over because we pulled out of vietnam. why don't you do a second intervention and you can win the cool war. the cool war is economic investment, trade, something completely separate from any kind of imperialist misadventure. just trade with us. just invest in us. you will surely when the cool war. i get a lot of this exciting, stimulating words from southeast asians getting their agency because i use the things like private papers and the way they try to push their agenda. yeah. >> back here, against the wall.
>> steve coffey, retired diplomat. i would like to go back to the first question. if i understood your clear presentation, the reason -- the real reason for the british success in malaya and, in fact, sort of the premises it was based on was a political strategy of reconciling the -- the two communities. it appears that the united states overlooked that fundamental reality and 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 my first question is is my interpretation of what your thesis is correct? and my second question is do you see any contemporary application of this history? as we contend -- as the united states contends with the growing chinese power. >> yes. i think your interpretation is correct. what was ironic for me was finding that very often the studies of the british model paid close attention to the political solutions. the fact that the british were able to ally themselves with the appropriate anti-communist nationalists. they were able to reconcile the different races together. there was attention paid when the reports are being generated. the problem is what do we do with these reports so that we
can produce a general counter insurgency doctrine. what i argue and i think that is were a lot of debates will be, i argue that all of these many reports, the desire was to turn it into something that was modular, something that could be infinitely rep mrikreppl ishrep. instead of talking about the particulars, it was diluted into political accord. there must be some way to align ourselves with the anti-communist nationalists in that situation. the rest of it is techniques, techniques, techniques. there is a problem of diluting and they move from the multiple particularized reports into a general doctrine. i think that is part of the problem. with respect to your second question, i am a historian. i worry about policy today because i will probably be
wrong. what i would say is if we look at some of the surveys that have been done recently, you find that a lot of southeast asians still deeply distrust china. they don't see it as a benign power. a lot of ordinary southeast asians are trying to communicate to their governments about the belt and road initiative saying don't get into what they perceive to be an indebtedness trap. these economic networks are going to be problematic, they may even be malitcious. the thing i talked about earlier, about how southeast asians in many ways see chinese extension is him as anti-nationalist, i think that persists into today.
that distrust tells me something about how china maybe does not have the political capital that maybe people overlooked as a question. if you look at a problem of south china sea being militarized by many artificial a islands, that show of force, that sabre rattling, is a symptom of understanding the inadequacy of chinese political capital in the region. they don't have that with southeast asian politics. even though i would say southeast asian politicians are trapped in their own cycle of insecurity, worrying about whether they need to choose the united states or china. they're freaking out over the inevitability -- which i think is a myth -- but the inevitability of the rise of china. i think there are a lot of things that persist.
whether or not that can be turned into a doctrine, i don't know. >> over here. and then we will come back to this side. >> hi, glenn marcus, john's hopkins. just to follow up on that # question, robert thompson, did he give advice that was ignored? >> yes. so, the person who was in charge was the brother of xen. i think he only met him once or never met him at all ever. what he wanted was to adapt a french counter insurgency model that was used in algeria to the strategic hamlets. the genealogy comes from a french model because it's by a guy named roger trinquia.
it seems obvious it comes from that not new villages. so, yeah. robert thompson spent more of his time doing self-promotion. more self-promotion, more propagandizing. for american ears, there were more willing to pay attention to it. he only appeared to get the ear of xen. he performed the willingness to listen knowing that his american backers would pay attention and think he was open to advice. i don't think it ever got very far. yeah? >> on this side? >> i have two questions.
i'm thinking about what you said, if my understanding is correct, you explained the anti-chinese sentiment or anti-chinese nationalism, you blame them for the -- you responsible for the anti-china sentiment. to what degree should we [ inaudible question ] there are two cases, it's after the communists took over the power in cambodia and vietnam, you watch the chinese in cambodia, they are communists, not supported by the u.s. my question is about the war, you talked about the cold war, should the u.s. invest in these
countries. if it was without the u.s. military intervention in china, how would these countries have time and space to complete their nation building project? to develop the economy and the power. they are both oligarchs. [ inaudible question ] thank you very much. >> thank you for those questions. maybe i'll address the second one first about the buy-in time. you are right. in order to support american intervention in vietnam, they would say this is buying time forlt southeast for the southeast asian nations to consolidate, for them to become stable so they will not become victims of any kind of
communism. what i say in my book, if they needed any time at all, it was not 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 combat troops in '65 is that the majority of the regions peoples and resources reside within the u.s. orbit. what then does the buying time argument -- what role does it play? what i argue in my book is that it plays a role for fending off criticisms for just a very short while. maybe about 1 1/2 years and 2 years. during that time the deepening intimacy of american and southeast asian economies happen very quickly. i would not say they were in danger, i think the buying time argument was an attempt to fend off press criticism because the
[indiscernible] . >> i understand and i completely agree with you. that is why i said it was pre-existing that was part of my project, right? that if we continue the privilege the u.s. as the major actor and just completely monopolize the attention, then we will get stuck in vietnam in terms of our intellectualism. if you will go beyond vietnam, outside of what the u.s. is concerned with, but so many of those processes have such consequences that reverberate towards the prospects for u.s. power. so i totally agree with you. this pre-existing local antipathy operates on its own. the fact that the u.s. was able to take advantage of it has to do with the u.s. is not even central to a lot of this action.
for indonesia a lot of declassified documents show that when they were starting to roll that massacre machine, he was getting assistance from the united states, who knew very well anti-chinese prejudice was being weaponized. i would call that exploiting it, but you're right. >> right here, and then we will cross over here. >> i'm john martin, a public policy fellow here. your energy is infectious. that was a terrific presentation. it is they a reliable biography of robert thompson? >> robert thompson? no. >> or have you written it? >> no, i don't think so. i think what we get are the traces of self-promotion, so we get more myth than man.
it is a sham at the same time, so i think it is -- i don't know of it, and i didn't seek it out. >> microphone is coming. >> hello, chris mccray, so i'm british, and i think i know the mess that britain left behind in india because my grandfather wrote up the legalese for their independence, he had to put ghandi in prison, but by 1946, his final project was to write up the independence for that half of south asia, if you'd like. >> right. >> it's illuminating to hear your picture, of you'd like, of
the other half -- not just the islands and the coastline, but obviously we do end up with two huge populations, a fifth of the world in india, a fifth of the world in china. i wonder going forward, i know 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 have mainly spent my life researching what people want in southeast asia, and my impression is that there is more community based, and they don't necessarily like any of the national leaderships that they have sometimes inherited, they just want to get on with good stuff at the community level. i sometimes feel that we don't actually quite understand just what all the people want. if you would comment on that, or maybe i just completely misunderstand.
thank you any how. >> i don't know what the people want. i would be a politician if i knew. maybe what i would say is this, if there was something to do more of for the united states, it would be, i think, to stop confusing southeast asians as to where the u.s. stands, and i don't think it takes much effort to clarify where the u.s. stands. i think the problem is what is the trade war about with china? is the u.s. still interested in being committed to its southeast asian allies? what's going on with challenging the chinese navy artificial islands, does it mean you really want to stay or is it an ego competition or something
i think that clarity -- the reason why a bring it up, because with the soviets's -- or the southeast asians, they are saying we don't know whether the u.s. is truly committed, and i think this echoes the thing that east asians were saying in the 1960s and 1970s. the war is damaging american pride, it's hurting in terms of blood and pressure, so they don't have the guts, they don't have the determination, they'll leave. these are similar ethos there. i think it's the clarity that -- at least the elites are looking for it. clearly it seems even the non-elites are also looking for that as well. the survey suggests that even non-elites are looking for that, and that maybe in many ways parallels what the elites were looking for in the '60s and '70s. if there's anything that could help, it would be clarity as opposed to confusing.
yeah. >> right here. >> hi, yes. mike anderson, retired state department. could you comment as a historian, could you comment on how your fellow malaysians, indonesian young people are learning about history? are the schools doing much teaching of history or is it all kind of science, math and technology and english? >> there are singaporeans in this room. no i won't put any of them on the spot. is math and science a big focus? yes, it is. but is history part of the curriculum for middle school and 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 decolo
decolonizati decolonization. that will take the students between the time of 13, 14, 15, 16. so that chunk of their lives, history is something that -- you know, they kind of run away from. i'm hoping that my book coming out right at this time will be one of the sources that the curriculum draws on. that is what i understand from singapore. i can't tell you with great confidence what is happening in other parts of asean. i do know some of my ex-students have gone to teach in vietnam, for example. and when it comes to history, it's pretty quick. it's high-gloss. they go through it very, very -- they go through stuff very quickly. the importance really is the math and science. but that is just impressionistic. i can't tell you for sure what exactly the industries are doing. sorry. >> that sounds like american
universities today. this is all they're talking about. over here. >> joanne tutland. i'm from marymount university. thank you. a wonderful presentation. maybe you already said this, but are you saying there was a 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 political solution? i think there were so many steps along the way. i don't know if i can comment with tremendous confidence not being a vietnam war historian specifically, but from everything i understand, there were so many steps along the way where what seemed like the obvious thing to do was not done. right? like this is a majority buddhist nation. why choose die minority catholic politician to be the representative?
that seem to be a misstep that was useless. of course there were many other forces, and i'm sure that historians will tell me it is far more complicated, 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 is more a question of what steps along the way that were mistakes could have been steered away from. i don't know if you could save it, but -- >> it sounded like from what your argument was -- that's what i was thinking about during your talk, that this political solution you talked about in malaysia -- i kept thinking why wasn't that -- why did we go into vietnam then if this was so sulk sccessful with
other countries? >> i think the british lucked out by having really popular community leaders. so when it comes to that, they were fortunate. there were a lot of contingencies along the way. when they started out after world war ii, he had already done a lot of activism for like a malayan nationalism in the 1920s. but in 1947, he was very inspired by what was happening in india. and so he led a massive strike that shut down the malayan economy in 1947. and he did this in cooperation with malayan communists. so a lot of british officials were ready to blackball him for good. forgot about this guy. he's either too dumb to know he was working for the communists, or he is working with the communists and he doesn't think that's a problem. forget about him. but it took malcolm mcdonald to say can you give this guy a chance because he is popular in ways we can't understand. you have got to give him a chance. so he sort of forces the candidacy into the picture so
that other british officials who were trying to dismiss him incorporate him into the story. even malcolm mcdonald says i don't think he's exceptional wise, but he's really popular, maybe this is something that we can do. what i want to say about that malaysian model, the success was not in any way deterministic. it's not as if all the right decisions were made from the beginning. it's a bungle from one minute to the next. it's a lot of chances. but it's really a problem of a backward looking -- we go wow, it's so successful. surely there's something that -- some seed or germ that you can take out of this and put somewhere else. that's the attitude of counterinsurgency experts and planners in the u.s. what can we sort of distill from this, you know, package the lightning in a bottle and send it elsewhere. to me it's a risky train of thought because we then lose
sight of the accidental nature of some of this. right? to give you another example, he displaced the original founder of the united malays national organization by actually being very pro-malay. the original founder said can we please open up the membership of the united malays organization to non-malays, and they said you got to be kidding, off with his head. so that was the end of the guy who actually wanted to create a multi racial party to turn it into the united malayan national organization. so it became sort of confined only to malays, but he himself out of pragmatic reasons looked at the malayan chinese association and said we will win these elections if we do this
unity. and that pragmatic reason produce the alliance. contingencies, accidents, bungles, they produced success, and i think we spend more time going wow, what was the recipe, when, in fact, do you think the rise and fall of the 20th century and it's history and success is as attributable to the cold war and support as it is to the p.a.p. and the other domestic factors. how would you sift through the
factors? >> i done want to get into the trap of wage is more important and is there a factor you can isolate from everything else. the cop out answer is it was a combination of all factors. i don't want to disappoint you. i also want to say i don't think it was possible for the success of singapore to be as gigantic as it was without the cold war. however singapore had a running start. the british military bases in singapore until 1971 and sort of hand bases over to the locals, those bases and the number of people they were employing amounted to 20% of the country's income. there's a running start that is kind of pre-cold war and colonial but also local at the same time.
35% comes from military that is neo colonial and american empire. yes there's a lot of it in terms of its tree. it's able to do stuff because it's got low cost labor which in the textiles industry, the u.s. is getting quite irritated about this. sort of constantly trying to get singapore to raise its prices because textiles are coming in very cheaply. there's no doubt that is happening. that export driven growth is happening but it happens alongside this huge military complex. >> thank you very much.
the post that you put up of the william holden film contains a credit. could you say something about him and his role in the movie. >> okay. she's lady and she's the model. she committed suicide several years after this. the role that she plays is a kind of -- i'm now going to some kind of analysis and you are free to check out. she is kind of indefinable in terms of what her ethnic background is and she's the lover of william holden. there's this strange, awkward -- here is a local malaysian who is
in love relationship with william holden. there's a struggle. a huge love triangle between the british girl who is the daughter of the high commissioner and capicien for william holden's affections. >> what nationality? >> she's french. one of the striking scenes is her character with many other ethnic km ethnic chinese get on bicycles to protest and this whole army of bicycles come to the home and the reason why this is a big deal is because that's how the japanese came down the
peninsula. they were coming on bicircumstanbicycles. there are moments in this film. i feel some affection for it. it's overall not that good of a film. there are fantastic moments like that where i was like look at this bicycles. there's no doubt this is about something, something, something. now my lit arerary. >>.net get the impression we're going to all rush out to rent this tonight but thank you for watching it for us. >> would you talk about the chinese diaspora. i sort of sometimes, i was starting to hear echoes of some of the sentiments you sense
perhaps today. talk a bit about the role of the chinese diasporra and the relg to beijing and their role in terms of integration in these countku countries. >> what a lot of southeast chinese asians do is they look at the families that have been there for multiple generation, a southeast. part of that is the intermarrying. it's like indonesia, part of the philippines. you have so much intermarrying that it produces them. one of the things i did not mention was that he didn't speak
a word of mandarin at all. his family had been there since the 1700s. a whole group had been southeast asianized. they thrive under the colonial system. that's why a person would not have wanted a eed it governed party. once he began campaigning for the chinese association, they threw grenades at him during one of his speeches.
china took advantage of some of this. in indonesia, this is what contributed those worries of a fifth colony. china wanted to prove that beijing, not teipei is where real china is. they competed for the affections of chinese in the region. this worked strie eed striking . these are two different groups that are just like mentioned. one group that's been there a
very long time and had a deep interest in some persistence of the colonial system. another very recent group that were more susceptible and willing to be part of new order of be pro-china, serving china's interests and everything. diaspora becomes a problematic term. one thing i want to say about this is not as if u.s. or british policy makers are observers had no sense of the nuance. a lot of the times the reports say precisely that. here are some that have been here. they're not going to be the ones that jump on the band wagon. don't expect to have a vast trojan horse for china. that's a crazy way of thinking about things which is why u.s. policy was let's win over as many of the ethic nigh cheechin
can by making them love taiwan. the u.s. funneled a lot of fun in trying to build up cultural exchanges with taiwan. it's not as if it was a sense of a monolithic diaspora. >> on that note, i unfortunately have to draw this to a close. i'll invite you back next week to a different talk. withdraw may join us for a light reception immediately after the seminar. thank you to our audience for today's seminar.
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