"In the 1950s the US was not prepared to lose the Second World War"
From a recent interview with David McNeill, on ZNet.
In the case of Indo-china, the US is a very free country; we have an incomparably rich documentary record of internal planning, much richer than any other country that I know of. So we can discover what the goals were. In fact it is clear by around 1970, certainly by the time the Pentagon Papers came out, the primary concern was the one that shows up in virtually all intervention: Guatemala, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Chile, just about everywhere you look at. The concern is independent nationalism which is unacceptable in itself because it extricates some part of the world that the US wants to dominate. And it has an extra danger if it is likely to be successful in terms that are likely to be meaningful to others who are suffering from the same conditions.
So in the former colonial world, the Third World and the south, the problem was what planners called the rotten apple that might spoil the barrel or a virus that might infect others. The virus is independent nationalism that seems as though it may be successful in terms that are meaningful to others that are suffering similar problems. That's a theme that goes through the entire documentary record and it was a concern in Vietnam. So the US, during the late 1940s, hadn't really decided whether to support the French in their re-conquest of the former colony or to take the path that they did in Indonesia in 1948 and support the independence movement against the Dutch. But the issue was: suppose Vietnam turns out to be an independence movement that is out of control. They knew it was not run by the Russians and the Chinese: that was for public show. It was clearly an independent nationalist movement which could turn out to be successful. So in the 1950s they became increasingly concerned that North Vietnam was developing in ways that could be meaningful for others in the region. A fully independent Vietnam could truly dominate Indochina, which could become an independent nationalist force, a rotten apple which would affect others: Thailand, Malaya, which was a big problem at the time, possibly Indonesia. They were deeply concerned about Indonesian nationalism under Sukarno, which was going off on its own independent course and was a pillar of the non-aligned movement. If this infection of independent nationalism spread the concern was it might ultimately lead to Japan -- the "superdomino," as Asia historian John Dower called it. Not that Japan would be affected by it but that Japan would be induced to, as they put it, accommodate to independent Asian nationalism in SE Asia, maybe spreading from Vietnam, Indonesia, China, which was by then a huge rotten apple. And if Japan were to accommodate to Asian independent nationalism and offer itself as the technological and commercial and financial and industrial center it would effectively have won the Second World War. The Second World War was fought in the Pacific phase to prevent Japan from establishing a new order in Asia in which it would be the center. And it would be an independent force in world affairs. Well in the 1950s the US was not prepared to lose the Second World War and so it took a nuanced position. It first supported Sukarno then quickly turned against him. In 1958, US President [Dwight] Eisenhower was supporting the break up of Indonesia. It quickly in 1950 decided to support the French in Vietnam. And it just goes on from there. You can go through the steps, but effectively this is what happened.
It's a very fine interview, in my opinion. Off-topic (as far as this blog is concerned) Alex Higgins and I are planning a website with rebutals of Chomsky's critics. Chomsky does some of his own rebutting in this interview, since McNeill asks him about (spurious) criticisms Christopher Hitchins and Johann Hari have made.