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Mr. Schwab argues that the best "counterfactual" (heavens I hate that word) outcome for Indochina would have been a veto by Washington in 1945 to the French return to a colony it had held for over a century. Whether we're supposed to or not every historian (at least those analyzing politics of any kind) engage in some kind of "what if" history. Obviously, however, caution is required. The "road not taken" must have been a road that was in existence or identifying turning points would be an idle exercise in wishful thinking. The modern story of Vietnam has had more of its share of historic routes that look like roads but on cursory examination prove to be short paths going nowhere. Keeping the French out of Indochina in 1945 is a perfect example. When examining this period it is crucial to remember that the US had no troops on the ground in Indochina at war's end. This area was invaded by the Brits and soon by the Chinese. For reasons of prestige and short-sighted domestic politics France demanded the restoration of its territories just as the other allied powers were having theirs restored. Britain (and for that matter France) knew that the imperial age was coming to an end, but was in no mood to hasten events. Washington, despite some serious misinterpretation by a few historians of some idle remarks by FDR (certainly no friend of France and its empire) was suffering a serious of task overload in the summer of 1945. Indochina was far down the list of matters concerning Truman and company. In any case, the Brits wanted the French back in: the French wanted the French back in: and, in short order, Ho Chi Minh wanted the French back in because that meant the Chinese were out. No way at that time or in the immediate postwar period was Washington going to publicly humiliate a wartime ally (the French contribution was significant by the end) just to bring "justice" to Vietnam. Washington fully supported decolonization in the immediate postwar period, but of an orderly sort, and certainly not done on American fiat. I suppose its feasible that Washington could have leaned on Paris in the months after the war to voluntarily make a rapid exit. As it was, France believed it was preparing Indochina for independence within the confines of a French Union. Thus I doubt any US pressure would have made much difference. As it was, the White House and State were absolutely dominated by "Europe Firsters": the restoration of French stability and confidence was a far more important goal than preventing what must have seemed a very hypothetical war of national revolution in future years. The establishment of a stable Europe was, after all, the most important task facing the US even in retrospect. (Think of the vital decisions being made with only cursory thought concerning Korea. Of course nobody in 1945 knew these decisions were vital.) America did badly on its road to war in Vietnam. The points at which America went forward when it should have gone backward (or vice versa) are important to identify. Clearly it's impossible to overestimate the importance of the cursed Korean War. And the list grows longer yet. However, chucking the French out of Indochina in 1945 was, at the time, not a serious policy option in the US whatever a couple of young OSS officers might have thought. Eric Bergerud Eric Bergerud; 531 Kains Ave; Albany, CA 94706; 510-525-0930