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American Perceptions of the Vietnamese

            Coming out of World War II, the government of the United States fostered an inflated view of its capabilities in foreign affairs. Once they had begun funding the French struggle against the nationalist movement in Vietnam, the Americans saw an imminent opportunity to possibly apply their own colonial model there, but "called upon the French or the Chinese for the raw intelligence information that informed their reports to Washington," (Bradley 94). Through these sources, the Americans could reaffirm what they had already wanted to believe about the Vietnamese people – that they were an "inferior and imitative little China [with] backwards political development.[lacking] traditions of indigenous governance," with French rule being an insult to that injury (83, 84). As a result of this, the Americans never fully appreciated the determination of the Vietnamese nationalist movement, and held out believing that they were a weak and ideologically malleable people, until efforts proved otherwise. .
             The American view of the Asian "other" largely affected American assumptions from the beginning, as they believed most Vietnamese were politically immature and lacking a sense of nationhood. As we can see from the beliefs of the American subcommittee, "the idea that indigenous political traditions or abilities might permit the Vietnamese to govern themselves in the postwar period was almost inconceivable," and this rested on "pervasive American assumptions of Vietnamese subservience and susceptibility to external control," (Bradley 89, 93). Mecklin proves this to be the case when he states how these beliefs were reaffirmed when the Americans had arrived there, since "among most of the ten million people of rural South Vietnam, terms like democracy, Communism, imperialism, and Cold War were meaningless," (Mecklin 4). Furthermore, Americans faced great difficulty in being able to communicate with the Vietnamese peasants, and believed that "[their] concept of [nationhood] was largely gone in the rural areas, much less of patriotism," (Mecklin 3).

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