Shaplen, Robert
April 1975
Foreign Affairs;Apr1975, Vol. 53 Issue 3, p533
The article presents the author's views on Southeast Asia. Thirty years ago, when I first traveled through Southeast Asia, there was everywhere an exhilarating atmosphere of political adventure and zeal. The conviction that justice was on the side of the rebellious and retribution the foregone fate of the outdated colonialists was infectious. Whatever the imperialist rearguard actions, however long they might last, it seemed apparent that these first stage fights for freedom would succeed, no matter how complicated and difficult they might prove to be or how disorganized the nationalist elements were. But with the exception of the North Vietnamese, guided by the almost metaphysical force and genius of Ho Chi Minh, the most experienced revolutionary leader in the region and at once the best trained Communist and most ardent nationalist, the Southeast Asian revolutionary movements soon revealed an increasing ideological factionalism and a lack of cohesive leadership. There were charismatic men, and highly educated and sophisticated Socialists, but they were passing figures on the historic stage. Except for Minh, there were no Titos, with whom he has often been justifiably compared and no other Communist figures who had the qualities of leadership and organization of European leaders, even those who were Soviet puppets.


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