Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From Enemy to Friend

Famous blog babe Megan McArdle is bemused by the Russian spy ring that was recently exposed by the FBI. The best she can do is "In fact, the only parallel I can think of is the possibly apocraphyl allegation that during the Cold War, Soviet intelligence subscribed to the Village Voice for several years . . . in an attempt to find out about rural life in America. "

I commented:

A non-apochryphal version of the Village Voice story can be found in "From Enemy to Friend" by Bui Tin. Bui Tin is best known as the North Vietnamese colonel who accepted the surrender of the President of South Vietnam. But one of his earlier jobs was translating American magazine articles for consumption by North Vietnamese leadership.

He said that he was never able to get across to his superiors the insignificance of individual magazine articles, and the lack of influence by, say, the New York Review of Books on the Nixon White House. He was continually horrified to hear top leadership debating some article he had translated as if it were American gospel.
Bui Tin crossed the authorities in postwar Vietnam and found it advisable to move to France. The book is his FAQ, answers to the questions he's always asked about the Vietnam War.

One of the most interesting chapters is about the secret treaties between China and North Vietnam. China promised to help defend North Vietnam against attack by the US on a tit-for-tat basis. If the US attacked North Vietnam by air, the Chinese air forces would come in to defend North Vietnamese air space. If the US Navy shelled North Vietnam, the Chinese navy would intervene to stop the shelling.

Of course, China didn't do any of this. They just looked the other way and whistled tunelessly as their North Vietnamese friends went out on the limb and got pummeled. If you ever wondered, "What's more worthless than a treaty," the answer is "A secret treaty."

The book is short and a worthwhile read if you're interested in the history of the Vietnam War. If you can find it; it's currently listed as unavailable at Amazon.

No comments:

Post a Comment