The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Dien Bien Phu - hubris worse than Bush?

I've tried once or twice to get into the battle, but without much success.

To this very lay man, General Navarre's plan - relying for the success of such a heavily resourced and high prestige operation on air drops - seems like the definition of hubris.

One has, in understanding how the plan was ever implemented, to take into account the parlous state of French state institutions under the Fourth Republic - with which I was once more familiar than I am now!

On February 11 2003, I looked at how Eisenhower was saved from himself: he wanted to commit US air forces to supporting the French defenders, but a combination of Congressional leaders' caution and the niet of Winston Churchill's Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden nixed the idea [1].

It's the 50th anniversary of the fall of Dien Bien Phu on Friday - and General Giap (who, with Robert McNamara, is, I think, the only surviving principal of the Indo-China wars) has been putting himself about: an NPR audio, AP interview. French radio are making a day of it on Friday [2]

From the most cursory of searches, I get the sense that there is not that much online about the battle: in addition to links in the February 11 piece mentioned earlier, a 1991 paper An Analysis Of The French Defeat At Dien Bien Phu; a 1997 paper New Perspectives on Dien Bien Phu.

There have been 50th anniversaries of Indo-China War events since 1995, and precious little coverage, that I've been aware of. Now, the anniversary train moves onto Algeria, where the war starts up in November 1954. Rich pickings, history-wise.

  1. Probably Eden's main positive contribution to diplomacy. Otherwise, his contribution was negligible or deleterious.

    The critical US financial support for the war dated from not long after the loss of China.

  2. Beware: the quality of Radio France streaming is diabolically bad. The worst on the planet (well, of those I've heard).

    According to this AP piece, a military report in February 1954 forecast defeat, in time for the defenders to have been withdrawn before the worst happened.


As ever, Mr Google produces OT URLs that look promising enough not to let go unrecorded (most or all are PDF):

  • a paper on the supply of enclaves by air (discusses the Berlin Airlift and Khe Sanh, but not DBP, unfortunately);

  • another on Cold War Perspectives on U.S. Commitment in Vietnam;

  • a National War College paper on the history of Congressional oversight of foreign policy;

  • a paper Effective National Security Advising: Recovering the Eisenhower Legacy;

  • a paper French and English Nationalism: Comparisons and Contrasts which majors on colonial exploits;

  • a paper La place du renseignement dans la société française from the 1996 Revue de Défense Nationale;

  • a paper Finding the Middle: An Analysis of Johnson’s 1965 Decision to Escalate the War In Vietnam.

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