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Solution in Indo-China: Cease-Fire, Negotiate
Excerpted from the March 6, 1954 Issue
“What we have here is a sort of gouvernement crépusculaire—a twilight government,” said the French colonel in charge of the Pacification Bureau in Hanoi. “In our own area we control the cities and major roads from daybreak till nightfall. Thereafter the Vietminh has the country to itself to levy taxes, attack our posts, and execute the ‘Vietnamese traitors,’ that is, the Nationalists who still profess to believe in victory for our side.” Such is the situation in war-torn Indo-China. After more than seven years of bitter fighting France has spent twice as much on the Indo-China war as it has received under the Marshall Plan for its own rehabilitation, and America has furnished much more military and economic aid—calculated on a per capita basis—than it ever gave to Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists.
Politically, the situation looks even more hopeless for the West. France has not succeeded in convincing the Vietnamese that it will make good its promises of full independence. At the same time the Vietnamese Nationalist government, by its accumulating psychological mistakes, has been divorced not only from the mass of the farmers but from its most promising military cadres. As long as the military situation had not too seriously deteriorated, and as long as the Chinese Communists were committed in Korea, the possibility of a political solution of the Indo-China conflict was pushed into the background by everyone concerned. Now, however, the French are obviously eager to stop the fighting in any way possible. There can be no doubt that the United States has already considered what course it would take in the event of the loss of Vietnam. It is certainly not by sheer coincidence that General Donovan, wartime O.S.S. chief, is now ambassador to Thailand.
If a cease-fire could be arranged, the most promising next step would seem to be the establishment of an intermediary government. The West would still have a number of trump cards in Indo-China which the Soviet bloc could hardly match. Massive economic aid might swing the balance, and substitute for the total loss of Indo-China in a creeping war the building up of a neutral regime.