28 July 2019

How Britain stole $45 trillion from India

by Jason Hickel

There is a story that is commonly told in Britain that the colonisation of India - as horrible as it may have been - was not of any major economic benefit to Britain itself. If anything, the administration of India was a cost to Britain. So the fact that the empire was sustained for so long - the story goes - was a gesture of Britain's benevolence.

New research by the renowned economist Utsa Patnaik - just published by Columbia University Press - deals a crushing blow to this narrative. Drawing on nearly two centuries of detailed data on tax and trade, Patnaik calculated that Britain drained a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938. 

It's a staggering sum. For perspective, $45 trillion is 17 times more than the total annual gross domestic product of the United Kingdom today.

How did this come about?

Indian Army’s approach to electronic & cyber warfare is nowhere as evolved as China’s PLA


Both the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Indian Army acknowledge network-centric warfare as doctrinally important. But while organisationally and in command and control, the People’s Liberation Army has undergone significant reforms; the same is not true for the Indian Army. The latter is yet to fully acknowledge and recognise the complementarities between electronic warfare and cyber warfare.

Cyber warfare

Cyber warfare (CW) is defined as “attacks by a nation or quasi-national organisation on the software and data (as opposed to the 13 people) in an information system”.
Electronic warfare

Trump’s Hard Line on Pakistan Is All Bluster


U.S. President Donald Trump is meeting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House today. According to a White House statement, the two leaders will “focus on strengthening cooperation between the United States and Pakistan to bring peace, stability, and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict.”

That’s a striking contrast from Jan. 1, 2018, when Trump rang in the new year by tweeting angrily about Pakistan: “They have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. … No more!” But it’s indicative of how the tough line the administration once promised on Pakistan has turned out to be mostly bluster.

In the early days of the Trump administration, the White House certainly talked tough on Pakistan, vowing to apply more pressure to compel Islamabad to crack down on the terrorist groups on its soil that threaten and target U.S. interests and troops in Afghanistan. U.S. media reports, citing unnamed administration officials, said the White House was considering a variety of new pressure tactics. These included increasing the number of drone strikes in Pakistan and revoking the country’s status as a major non-NATO ally.

DOD Report on Afghanistan – June 2019

Every six months the Department of Defense provides to Congress a semiannual report entitled Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The report covers the events from the previous six months – in this case, from December to May 2019. The report states that the principal goal of the United States South Asia Strategy is to “. . . conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States.”

Currently the United States is engaging in a “fight and talk” approach with the Taliban. Negotiations have been ongoing for over a year and the report claims progress has been made. Apparently U.S. military leaders believe that increased military pressure, international calls for peace, and U.S. engagements with a multitude of governments and agencies are ” . . . driving the Taliban to negotiations.”

The Taliban: Barbarians at our gate

As the election season heats up in India, the nation's attention is fixated on internal issues like the economy, jobs etc. All this, while a perfect storm is brewing up in our extended neighbourhood.

I am referring to the ongoing talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban with Pakistan playing the role of facilitator.

All indications are that the US would like to end its deployment in Afghanistan and virtually hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban in lieu of an assurance that the Taliban will not permit Al Qaeda-like international terror groups to be based in that country.

This would fit perfectly into Donald John Trump's re-election campaign. What better plank than 'Getting the boys home' and ending the longest war fought by the US.

Trouble With the Facts When Trump Meets Imran Khan

by Alyssa Ayres

In retrospect, the president’s tweet last Thursday heralding the arrest in Pakistan of U.S.- and UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed should have been the first clue. Donald J. Trump proclaimed that the “‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks” [sic] had been found after “a ten-year search.” 

Pakistan’s Punjab police had indeed arrested Saeed, but his location was never in question, as he had been free and visibly public in Pakistan for some years. Those who follow South Asia wondered why the president tweeted this about Saeed, since it bore no resemblance to the facts, and no news report or briefing would have suggested that anyone needed a ten-year search to find him. 

July 2019 Issue VOLUME 12, ISSUE 6

In our cover article, Matt Bryden and Premdeep Bahra trace the evolution of the jihadi terrorist threat in East Africa over the last three decades. They argue that al-Shabaab’s January 2019 attack on the Dusit D2 luxury hotel compound in Nairobi, Kenya, “brought together three strands of al-Shabaab’s organizational DNA: its Somali provenance, its ideological affiliation with al-Qa`ida, and its growing cohort of trained, experienced East African fighters. The successful combination of these traits in a single operation suggests that al-Shabaab’s longstanding ambition to transcend its Somali origins and become a truly regional organization is becoming a reality, representing a new and dangerous phase in the group’s evolution and the threat that it poses to the region.”

Our interview is with Catherine De Bolle, the Executive Director of Europol, who previously served as Commissioner General of the Belgian Federal Police between 2012 and 2018.

What’s Really Behind China’s Falling GDP

The headlines grabbed attention: “China’s economy grows at slowest rate in nearly 30 years,” noted the Financial Times in a typical example. China’s GDP growth in the second quarter had slowed to 6.2%, the smallest gain since 1992, back when the country’s economy was first shifting into high gear. But the recent drop was not such a big fall from the 6.4% GDP growth rate of the first quarter, nor from the 6.6% rate for all of 2018. The big picture shows that China’s GDP has been falling for a number of years and the new number is just the latest in a series.

And while some analysts were connecting the sluggish growth figure directly to the current trade spat with the U.S., that’s not the central problem, according to experts from Wharton and Stanford University. Rather, the challenges to China’s economy are deeper, structural, longer term, and have been building for years. They include over-investment, high savings and modest, if growing, consumer spending, high debt and low industrial productivity.

China-Taiwan Relations

by Eleanor Albert

Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), is an island off the southern coast of China that has been governed independently from mainland China since 1949. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) views the island as a province, while in Taiwan—a territory with its own democratically elected government that is home to twenty-three million people—political leaders have differing views on the island’s status and relations with the mainland.

Despite the sovereignty dispute, the economic ties between the island and the mainland have thrived in recent years. Yet political frictions still shadow the relationship, and China and Taiwan have experienced a renewal in tensions under new leadership.
‘One China’ Principle

Beijing and Taipei sharply disagree on the island’s status. The PRC asserts that there is only “one China” and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of it. Beijing says Taiwan is bound by an understanding reached in 1992 between representatives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT) political party then ruling Taiwan. Referred to as the 1992 Consensus, it states that there is only “one China” but allows for differing interpretations, by which both Beijing and Taipei agree that Taiwan belongs to China, while the two still disagree on which entity is China’s legitimate governing body. The tacit agreement underlying the 1992 Consensus is that Taiwan will not seek independence.

China Releases Military White Paper, Disclosing Defense Spending

By Joyce Huang

For the first time in four years, China’s Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday released a white paper on the country’s overall national defense strategy, disclosing that, before 2017, its military spending accounted for 1.28 percent of its GDP.

The lengthy 27,000-word white paper, titled "China’s National Defense in the New Era," totals six chapters.

It is the first comprehensive white paper since the 18th National Congress of China Communist Party, held in 2012, and the 10th one since the Chinese government released its first defense white paper in 1998.

Some analysts said the white paper has demonstrated China’s efforts to regain international security narrative. Others, however, add that it’s nothing new, but more about repeating consistent Chinese narratives while its defense budget remains opaque.

Xi slogans

Exploring BRI at China’s Border with Russia

By Ankur Shah

This August, I will be departing on a 4,300 km expedition, tracing the length of the China-Russia border to locate, track, and document the progress of flagship and lesser-known Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure projects. Although this border region lies several thousand kilometers away from Beijing, it’s relevance and importance to China’s security, economy, and broader relations with Russia cannot be understated.

This project will supplement a 23,000 km expedition I undertook in 2017, driving from Venice to Beijing to gain a broad and global view of the BRI, with a detailed study of Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy on the ground. Through interviews with local stakeholders, from construction company managers to business owners, I will investigate what the BRI means for citizens living in a region of strategic importance to China and Russia.

This is an ideal time to travel the border: 2019 marks both the 70-year anniversary of Sino-Soviet diplomatic ties and, perhaps more crucially, the 50-year anniversary of the Sino-Soviet border war of 1969. Flash forward to today and both countries’ leaders and media claim that bilateral relations have never been better. By contrast, commentators in Washington maintain that Sino-Russian solidarity is, at best, an axis of convenience, suspecting that behind closed doors, the two countries have yet to escape their mutual distrust.

Rare Earths in the US-China Trade War

By Mercy A. Kuo

Rare Earths in the US-China Trade War
Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Ryan Castilloux – Managing Director of Adamas Intelligence, a Canadian independent research and advisory firm focused on strategic metals and minerals – is the 198th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” 

Explain the strategic importance of rare earth elements in U.S. commercial and military technology. 

From a commercial standpoint, the rare earth lanthanum is used in the U.S. to produce fuel cracking catalysts that break down crude oil into lighter hydrocarbons like gasoline, diesel, and kerosene. Similarly, neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium are used to produce high-strength permanent magnets that are critical enablers of electric vehicle traction motors, wind power generators, energy-efficient appliances, consumer electronics, and an ever-growing list of other modern technologies.

The US Scare Campaign Against China

By David Skidmore

A marker of mature statecraft is the ability to assess international challenges and devise appropriate responses with prudence, dispassion, and proportionality. Despite decades of global leadership, however, American diplomacy remains given to bouts of adolescent hysteria. These fevered crusades have produced some of the costliest mistakes in American foreign policy, such as the vast overkill of the Cold War nuclear arms buildup and the disastrous wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

This reflex has more to do with domestic politics than the realities of international competition. As political scientist Theodore Lowi observed, U.S. leaders routinely exaggerate foreign threats and oversell proposed solutions as means to free themselves from the shackles of democratic government.

China’s Emerging Security Partnerships in Southeast Asia: Current Trends and Future Prospects

By Prashanth Parameswaran

In recent years, even as China has criticized U.S. alliances in the Asia-Pacific, Beijing has also been working to develop its own new security partnerships in the region as part of its effort to shape the existing regional architecture. And while China continues to face challenges in doing so, in Southeast Asia in particular, Beijing has been making unprecedented inroads, from the holding of the first ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise last year to new arms sales to and institutionalized dialogues with Thailand and Malaysia. Though there has been scrutiny on individual manifestations of this trend, there has been a lack of attention to the systematic development of these partnerships, which could have great significance not just for Beijing’s own influence, but also the alignments of other countries like the United States and the wider regional security architecture.

Hun Sen’s Big Bet: Making Sense of China’s Second Overseas Military Base

By Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran

The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) and Prashanth Parameswaran (@TheAsianist) discuss recent reports that China is setting up an overseas naval base in Cambodia and the ongoing Vietnam-China standoff in the South China Sea.

Click the arrow to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here. If you use Android, you can subscribe on TuneIn here. If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review and rating on iTunes and TuneIn.

Xi Jinping wants China’s armed forces to be “world-class” by 2050

Over the past decade, the People’s Liberation Army (pla) has been lavished with money and arms. China’s military spending rose by 83% in real terms between 2009 and 2018, by far the largest growth spurt in any big country. The splurge has enabled China to deploy precision missiles and anti-satellite weapons that challenge American supremacy in the western Pacific. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, says his “Chinese dream” includes a “dream of a strong armed forces”. That, he says, involves “modernising” the pla by 2035 and making it “world-class”—in other words, America-beating—by mid-century. He has been making a lot of progress.

Organisational reforms may be less eye-catching than missiles that fly at Mach 5, unmanned cargo planes and electromagnetically powered superguns (all of which China has tested in the past year). Yet Mr Xi has realised that there is little point in grafting fancy weapons onto an old-fashioned force. During the cold war the pla evolved to repel the Soviet Union and America in big land wars on Chinese soil. Massed infantry would grind down the enemy in attritional battles. In the 1990s Chinese leaders, alarmed by American prowess in the Gulf war of 1991, decided to focus on enhancing the pla’s ability to fight “local wars under high-technology conditions”. They were thinking of short, sharp conflicts on China’s periphery, such as over Taiwan, in which air and naval power would be as important as ground forces. Mr Xi decided that winning such wars required changing the armed forces’ structure. He has done more in the past three years to reform the pla than any leader since Deng Xiaoping.

Abu Sayyaf Is Bringing More of ISIS’ Brutal Tactics to the Philippines

Michael Hart

Midday on June 28, a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint outside a military camp in the town of Indanan, on the restive southern Philippine island of Sulu. Moments later, a second bomb exploded. The attack killed three Philippine soldiers and three civilians, as well as the two bombers. The local military commander quickly blamed an ISIS-affiliated faction of Abu Sayyaf, the extremist group that has been active in the southern Philippines for decades.

Within hours, the Islamic State released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, marking the second time this year it has linked itself to a twin suicide bombing in Sulu. In January, double blasts tore through a packed cathedral in the town of Jolo, not far from Indanan, killing 22 worshippers. Authorities hoped that attack was an outlier, but June’s bloodshed has reignited fears over ties between the Islamic State and an Abu Sayyaf splinter group led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, a militant described by the U.S. State Department as the Islamic State’s “acting emir” in Southeast Asia and whom Philippine

Why the United States Won’t Launch a Ground War Versus Iran

In recent weeks we have seen numerous probing attempts and provocations in and around the Strait of Hormuz — whether false flags or actual events — intended to raise the profile of the US’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, and renewed US sanctions versus Iran. Iran is pushing the issue with the United States, and is apparently offering a sacrificial pawn on the board (or perhaps knight!) by seizing two British oil tankers alleged to be operating illegally in the Strait of Hormuz.

While it is too soon to predict how the United States and its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia (both sworn enemies of Iran) will react, let’s explore the reasons why any US reactionary response will be largely symbolic, even if that involves a token strike versus Iran.

Global alliances have shifted

FaceApp’s Russia Link Is the Latest Alarm in an Ongoing Digital Red Scare

By Alyssa Newcomb

Last week, in the epitome of an about-face, A.I.-driven photo editing app FaceApp went from trending on Twitter to a spot on the Democratic National Committee's "do not use" list in the span of just a few days. But the viral app isn't alone in falling out of favor with users. A variety of Russian-developed tech has set off alarms in recent years, leaving Americans to wonder how safe it is to give foreign apps and services access to their data.

Popular—and controversial—for years, FaceApp caught the eye of social media users again last week, and the app's ubiquitous old age photos also caused experts to take a closer look at the app's privacy policy. A furor broke out, and before the end of the week, the app made changes alerting users to how their data was being used.

But Democrats, still smarting after Russian hackers leaked emails from the DNC in 2016, aren't taking any chances with cybersecurity—especially when it comes to Russian apps. Last Wednesday, Bob Lord, chief security officer of the DNC, sent an email to campaigns, urging them to not use FaceApp, and to delete it if they already have. His email did not give a specific reason as to why the app might be a risk, other than a fear of the unknown.

"It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks," Lord says in the email.

The Criticality of EMP Protection Guidelines

By Peter Pry

President Donald Trump deserves America’s gratitude for his Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses, signed on March 26, 2019. This White House executive order, coordinated with all relevant departments and agencies of the U.S. Government, culminates 20 years of effort by scientists and strategists to protect the national electric power grid and other life-sustaining critical national infrastructures—for example, communications, transportation, business and finance, food and water—from the existential threat of a natural or manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

EMP threatens the foundations of modern electronic civilization that sustains the lives of millions:

Natural EMP from a solar superstorm could blackout electric grids and critical life-sustaining infrastructures worldwide.

Nuclear EMP attack from the high-altitude (30 kilometers or higher) detonation of a single nuclear weapon could blackout electric grids and critical life-sustaining infrastructures for much or all of the continental United States.

Non-nuclear EMP weapons (such as radiofrequency weapons), available to terrorists and criminals, can be used singly to pose localized threats, or in larger numbers to make a coordinated attack that could blackout the national U.S. electric power grid.

Corruption Is Corroding Democracies Around the World

The world is constantly reminded that corruption knows no geographic boundaries. In South Africa, former President Jacob Zuma is embroiled in an inquiry into whether he ran a patronage system that drained money from the country’s treasury. A money laundering investigation launched in Brazil in 2008 expanded to take down a vast network of politicians and business leaders across Central and South America. And U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been plagued by officials who have used their offices for private gain and been forced to resign.

The impact of actual corruption is devastating, whether it siphons money from public use or drives policy that is not in the public interest. The effects can be particularly pernicious in developing countries, where budgets are tight and needs are vast. The United Nations estimates that corruption costs $2.6 trillion in losses every year.



The situation in eastern Ukraine might best be described as “World War I with technology.” Venturing to the front line today, you would quickly learn the two greatest threats facing Ukrainian soldiers are snipers and Russian artillery. Unlike in 1915, however, soldiers on 2018’s “Eastern Front” receive text messages on their phones telling them their cause is hopeless and they must regularly attempt to avoid being spotted from an unmanned aerial vehicle.

The fighting in Ukraine during the past 2½ years provides great insight into the types of threats facing the U.S. Army today and sheds light on what a war with a near-peer enemy—or an enemy sponsored by a near-peer—would look like.

Over the past few decades, the landscape of potential threats the U.S. must navigate has diversified greatly. During the Cold War, the major threat, the Russians, was simple to conceptualize and the battle plan was well-known. Junior leaders needed to know their part.

Can Europe Become a Global Player?


As the nominee to serve as the EU's next High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell will have an opportunity to update Europe's approach to foreign policy. Chief among the challenges facing the bloc is to reassert its own sovereignty in an age of great-power politics.

BERLIN – The last five years have not been kind to the European Union’s foreign-policy prospects. A new great-power competition is shunting aside the international rules-based order, and aspects of globalization – from trade to the Internet – are being used to divide rather than unite countries. Meanwhile, the EU’s geostrategic neighborhood has become a ring of fire.

In the early 1980s, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, was able to choke off runaway inflation because he was afforded the autonomy necessary to implement steep interest-rate hikes. Today, the Fed is clearly under unprecedented political pressure, and it is starting to show.

Dangerous Liaisons: Russian Cooperation with Iran in Syria

The Issue

As tensions escalate between the United States and Iran in the Middle East, Russia is engaged in covert and overt cooperation with Iran in ways that undermine U.S. national security interests. This analysis of commercial satellite imagery at Tiyas Airbase in Syria indicates the scope and proximity of Russian and Iranian military ties. If Washington wants to contain Tehran and prevent further Iranian expansion, U.S. policymakers will need to increase pressure on Moscow to curb Tehran’s activities in countries like Syria.

Following a June 2019 meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Kyrgyzstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked that “relations between Russia and Iran are multifaceted, multilateral.” In characterizing the primary areas of cooperation, Putin noted: “this concerns the economy, this concerns the issues of stability in the region, our joint efforts to combat terrorism, including in Syria.”1 One example of Russian-Iranian cooperation is in Syria.

Boris Johnson Is the New British Prime Minister. Here's What That Means For Brexit.

By Adriano Bosoni

Boris Johnson's appointment as British prime minister increases the chances of a no-deal Brexit, but the government and Parliament still have plenty of options to avoid a disorderly exit on Oct. 31. The probability of a no-confidence motion to oust Johnson and try to avoid a hard Brexit will increase as the Brexit deadline approaches. Unable to bypass Parliament or reach a new Brexit deal with the European Union, Johnson could make the politically risky decision to call an early general election to break the legislative impasse.

Over the past three years, British politicians have tried a number of strategies to make Brexit happen: calling an early general election, negotiating an unpopular deal with the European Union, holding votes in Parliament over different exit options and asking Brussels to extend the deadline. All of these efforts have failed. Now, the governing Conservative Party has appointed former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as the new British prime minister, and he has promised to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union on Oct. 31 no matter what. The chances of a hard Brexit have increased now that Johnson is leading the United Kingdom, but a no-deal exit can still be prevented if politicians are willing to consider some radical options.

The challenge in securing critical information

By: Lindsay Gorman  

One decade ago, Cyber Command was born as a sub-unified command of U.S. Strategic Command with the mission of securing critical Defense Department networks from adversary incursion. Its creation codified a recognition that malign actors seeking to access, control, and exploit our information systems constituted a core national security threat and heralded a new domain of warfare: cyberspace. Cyber Command’s foundational charge to “ensure U.S./Allied freedom of action in cyberspace” is as vital today as it was 10 years ago. But the next 10 years will require U.S. cyber policy to confront a new challenge: to secure not only critical networks, but critical information — about everything and all of us.

The internet of things and future of connected devices promise an explosion of personal information to the tune of 175 zettabytes of connected data by 2025. As our homes, cars, appliances, wearables and factories come online, members of the connected population will have a data-producing interaction once every 18 seconds. Data generated by these interactions is already being used by internet companies for tremendous economic gain from targeted advertising-based business models.

What happened at the military’s biggest cyber training exercise to date

By: Mark Pomerleau   

When soldiers are preparing to deploy, they head to the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California. There, they can replicate an entire campaign during a two-week rotation against a world class force.

But in the cyber world, no such training environment exists. That means cyber forces train in ad hoc cyber ranges and are limited by the number of teams that can dial in. Moreover, there is no space to rehearse for an upcoming mission.

The Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE), managed by the Army, seeks to change all of that. PCTE is an online client in which members of U.S. Cyber Command’s cyber mission force can log on from anywhere in the world for training, either of individuals or of groups, and to rehearse missions.

Working through the agile development process, the Army is not sure what the finial vision for the persistent cyber training environment will look like.

'No doubt left' about scientific consensus on global warming, say experts

Jonathan Watts

The scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming is likely to have passed 99%, according to the lead author of the most authoritative study on the subject, and could rise further after separate research that clears up some of the remaining doubts.

Three studies published in Nature and Nature Geoscience use extensive historical data to show there has never been a period in the last 2,000 years when temperature changes have been as fast and extensive as in recent decades.

It had previously been thought that similarly dramatic peaks and troughs might have occurred in the past, including in periods dubbed the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Climate Anomaly. But the three studies use reconstructions based on 700 proxy records of temperature change, such as trees, ice and sediment, from all continents that indicate none of these shifts took place in more than half the globe at any one time.

Facebook’s Libra and National Monetary Sovereignty: A Tale of Two Monopolies

By Ibrahim Ludwick

The ongoing march of economic globalization is sometimes blamed for eroding the sovereign authority of nation states. Some even point to this process as the impetus for the wave of populism currently gripping the world. National political struggles are increasingly characterized as tension between nationalist and globalist forces.

This tension is unlikely to subside any time soon, especially considering that one of the last and most secure bastions of national authority and identity is now under siege- the national currency.

When British and American planners met at Bretton Woods in 1944 to discuss the post-war economic order, much of the debate centered around the nature of the currency regime. There were those, including John Maynard Keynes, who advocated the creation of a single world currency, the “Bancor.” Others argued in favor of adopting the US dollar as the de facto world reserve currency. The latter camp, unsurprisingly, was composed mainly of Americans.

In the Year of the Tiger

By Nathaniel L. Moir

The First Indochina War (1946-1954) appears to be an especially perplexing conflict. This was apparent after sitting through a pre-screening of episode 1 of Ken Burn’s documentary The Vietnam War at the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas in 2017. During the subsequent question and answer session with Burns, it was alarming to hear members of the audience express surprise concerning France’s role and defeat prior to American full-scale intervention in 1965. It was especially disappointing, since the audience consisted of mostly baby-boomers who lived through the Vietnam War-era. Professionally, it clearly demonstrated how much work historians have ahead of them despite the many outstanding books on the earliest stages of American involvement in Vietnam and the war between France and the Viet Minh that preceded American intervention. The historical background of the United States “Assuming the Burden” against communism, as historian Mark Atwood Lawrence described it, is certainly challenging. Not only does it demand an understanding of World War II in the Pacific and Europe, but it also entails understanding of French colonialism’s long shadow that extends well into the mid-nineteenth century.