Ambassador Frederick Nolting's role in American diplomatic & military policy toward the government of South Vietnam, 1961-1963

by Shaw, Geoffrey D.

Abstract (Summary)
This work, entitled " Ambassador Frederick Nolting's Role in American Diplomatic and Military Policy toward South Vietnam (1961-1%3)," is concemed with the most salient years of American involvement in Vietnam. As United States Ambassador, Frederick Nolting was sent over to South Vietnam, in May of 1961. He had departed Washington with President Kemedy's instmctions to ameliorate the différences that had grown between the American and Saigon governments and thereby enact a diplornatic rapprochement. Relations had ken badly strained between Diem and the previous American Ambassadot, Elbridge Durbrow. This problem had arisen out of the fact that the Eisenhower Administration had discovereâ that Ngo Dinh Diem was not cornpliant to American direction. Ambassador Durbrow fomd that it was nearly impossible to carry out Washington's instructions in the presence of the Conhcian leadership of Diern, The politicai expediency of the Occident had reached a Cundamental impasse in the enigrnatic 'mandate of heaven' of the Orient. Attempting to discern the motivations of a leader not beholden to those political concems considered normal in the West dmve the Americans to distraction. Owing to profound qualities of character Ambassador Nolting was able to iwn American - Vietnamese relations in a more amicable direction. In the process of this dificult underraking, his respect and admiration for Ngo Dinh Diem began to grow, as he became more aware of the basic humility and decency of the Vietnamese leader. As with Edward Geary Lansdale, and others who took the tirne to get to know Diem, Nolting became a fast friend as surely as he became aware of the man's greatness. Ambassador Nolting's rapprochement and American policy werc undone not by the vast immutable forces of history but, instead, by the political will of powerful individuai Americans. W. Averell Harriman was pre-eminent amongst these men of power and he drove al1 before his will, including President Kennedy. This work carefully traces a docurnentary mil that makes manifest the fact that when President Diem confronted Hamiman over the latter's plan for making Laos 'neutral' he eanied the Arnerican's undying enmity. From that point forward, Harriman steadily undermined support for Diem. Ap Bac, the Buddhist Crisis, problems with the Strategic Harniets Program, and the pwported North - South Viemamese dialogue only aûded more fuel to the fire of Harrirnan's engine. Frederick Nolting stood in the way of this Hamiman direction and he was replaced as Ambassador. Subsequently, Nolting resigned fiom the State Department in 1964 in protest of what had taken place in South Vietnam. Regardless of the warnings hm the British experts on counter-insurgency warfare, regardless of the support for Diem coming hm other concerned Southeast Asian counuies such as Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and India, regardless of late-coming official French support for the Viemamese leader, and even regatdless of what their own experts in the field were telling them, the Kennedy administration succumbed to the will of W. Averell Hamiman. A classical tragedy ensued: Ngo Dinh Diem was murdered, aiong with his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, when they were driven fiom office in a Kennedy administration supported coup. As entirely predicted before the fact, by Ambassador Nolting and experts such as Sir Robert Thompson and William E. Colby, the United States then found that no other politically legitimate leadership existed in South Vietnam. The Kennedy administration had created a political vacuum, and they were then morally beholden to somehow solve the very problem they had created. This eventually resulted in Arnerican troops king sent to South Vietnam. Truly, "in order to solve a problem that didn't exist the Kennedy Administration created a pmblcm that couldn't be solved." DedIcated to the Memry of iwo Amerkan NobIemrn:
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Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1999

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