Section IV - International Studies in Peace and Conflict
To what extent can it be argued that by the 1960s, Diem’s rule of South Vietnam had been successful??
By the 1960s Diem’s rule of South Vietnam was not successful. His policies were deeply unpopular, his regime was corrupt and based on a system of brutality, and nearly every sector of society opposed him. However, Diem was clearly successful in consolidating his rule and providing early stability to the regime when he first came to power in 1954. Ultimately, Diem was a failure as his rule determined that either Vietnam would become communist or face another war.
Diem was successful in establishing and consolidating his authoritarian rule. Diem took several measures to ensure the removal of individuals and groups who opposed his rule. This included the expulsion of coup plotters like General Hinh, the destruction of the Binh Xuyen crime syndicate and the attack on the religious sects like the Cao Dai. In 1955 Diem inaugurated a widespread Denunciation Campaign which limited communist influence in the south. This proved successful as 90% of Vietminh cells in the South were destroyed or forced underground. The rigged referendum of 1955 saw Diem replace Emperor Bao Dai as Head of State and the creation of the Republic of Vietnam. Diem also decided to refuse the nationwide elections in 1956 which could have resulted in victory for Ho Chi Minh. Diem was now in complete control of South Vietnam.
Diem’s early success was in part due to the solid backing from the US government. As McGehee asserts, what Diem had “was the complete support of Colonel Lansdale and all the money, manpower, weapons, training, propaganda and political savvy in the CIA’s covert-action war chest”. The economic situation in South Vietnam was booming as massive amounts of US aid continued to pour into the country. In early 1955 an aid package worth $322 million was granted. However, South Vietnam’s prosperity was superficial as it...
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