Aid Under FireNation Building and the Vietnam War

Aid Under FireNation Building and the Vietnam War

Jessica Elkind

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780813165837

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Abstract

Aid Under Fire explores American nation building and modernization efforts in South Vietnam during the decade leading up to the full-scale ground war.Beginning in the mid-1950s, American nation builders traveled to southern Vietnam, eager to help establish a permanent non-Communist state that would advance US interests in Asia.Ignoring the political concerns of the majority of the Vietnamese people, they supported the South Vietnamese government through a massive program of military, economic, and technical assistance.Based on American and Vietnamese archival sources, this book tells the story of how nation-building efforts were carried out and reveals in stark terms the limits on American power and influence in the period widely considered the apex of US supremacy in the world. This bookfocuses on the activities of the civilian aid workers who spearheaded US policies in South Vietnam.Confident in the transformative power of American models, these men and women were developmental enthusiasts who sought to reform Vietnamese institutions and garner support for the government in Saigon.However, like the government officials who recruited them, most aid workers lacked a basic knowledge and understanding of Vietnamese culture, history, and politics.As a result, they attempted to replicate political, economic, and military systems on the basis oftheir own experiences while displaying a willful blindness to the conditions and attitudes in Vietnam. By examining civilian aid workers’ role in implementing and shaping American modernization efforts in Vietnam, this book shows how nation building functioned—and ultimately failed—at the ground level.