Chapter 5

The Vietnam War Debate

1. Connecting with the 'The Australian'
2. Joining the Debate
3. Back to the PhD – economics and Japanese
4. The Sino-Soviet Dispute and A Book about China
5. Jim Cairns, and the Enclave Solution
6. Finding a Publisher

September 1965. After almost a decade in the bureaucracy I am out. At age 29 I have to try to make a new career.

But I was also now free to talk - about the growing horror of Vietnam, Canberra’s anti-China fantasies, and later about the amateurish Japan relationship, Canberra’s mistaken economic policies…..

Realising that freedom came much sooner than expected.

1. 'The Australian' Connection

I had got an introduction to Adrian Deamer, then the editor of The Australian - the national newspaper based in Canberra which a then mildly progressive Rupert Murdoch was trying bravely to create for an audience of only 7 million people in a nation the size of the USA.

In those days, The Australian was the one media voice of progressive good sense on Vietnam, and many other issues. Murdoch’s shift to the Right only came later, triggered largely by the problems he had with the leftwing print unions in Sydney and later in London.

Many have praised Deamer’s liberalism and intelligence, and I can only add to it. He and the managing editor, Walter Kommer, were more than happy to run the minor scoop I had given them, on how a ‘senior’ External Affairs official had resigned in protest against Australia’s intervention in Vietnam.

That report was picked by the agencies and run in a few newspapers abroad. But for most part the reaction was fairly muted.

I may have been the first Western diplomat to resign in protest against the Vietnam intervention. But in those early days most assumed the intervention would soon be over - that it would be impossible for the pro-communist forces in South Vietnam to resist the full weight of US power.

However Pravda took the news seriously (no doubt it had its KGB reasons). It ran a long, two column piece about how a ‘senior’ Australian diplomat had even in his Moscow posting days realised the immorality of Western intervention in Vietnam (how did they know that?) and had bravely decided to resign when confronted by the anti-communist beast in Canberra.

Needless to say, the Pravda intervention sent the ASIO people into fits. I heard later that these trusty guardians of Australian security had concluded that the Soviets may have prompted me to resign so they could use me as a tool to boost their global anti-US campaign over Vietnam!


Kommer and Deamer had encouraged me to write something explaining my Vietnam views. Entitled ‘Australia and the Lost War,’ and published half-page in October 1965, my article strongly criticised the US-Australian military intervention in Vietnam but stopped short of predicting its defeat.

I could see the similarities with pre-1949 China - the ease with which pro-communists forces could seize the nationalist cause when confronted with weak, corrupt, Western-backed and unpopular regimes

But like most others I felt the sheer weight of US intervention could win out in the long run. Even so, that did not excuse its crudity - millions would be killed in a bid to prop up the weak, unpopular regime in Saigon.

The article launched me firmly into the ranks of Australia’s nascent anti-Vietnam War protest movement – people whom in my conservative External Affairs days I would have avoided as a bunch of long-haired radicals. I even had an approach from the Sydney-based branch of the dreaded Australian Communist Party. And at Deamer’s request, I followed up with a series of articles on China and Russia.

None of this activism passed unnoticed in the government. I am told it led John Gorton, then minister of education, to query why the government-funded ANU was providing refuge to this anti-Vietnam War subversive.

I am also told that the ANU people decided to resist Gorton’s pressure. But that did not mean they approved what I was doing. Crawford, then the head of the Research School of Pacific Studies where I had my scholarship, pulled me in for a formal reprimand over my giving a course on Chinese history at the affiliated Canberra University College.

PhD scholarship students had to concentrate entirely on their studies he said. The implication – lay off the anti-Vietnam War activities - did not escape.

2. Joining the Vietnam Debate

Government and ANU pressure over Vietnam was not my only problem.

Within weeks of arriving at the ANU I was thrown into a life of total confusion. On the one hand I had to try to educate myself rapidly in the economics needed for PhD studies. I also had to start learning Japanese (I had already discovered that Chinese and Japanese were two very different languages).

Meanwhile I was being pulled around Australia to talk to anti-Vietnam War seminars.

On my talk trips to Sydney I also began to get to know some people from the Sydney ‘Push’– a group of libertarians who believed in free love and quite a few other human vices. They did much to broaden my still very narrow conservative outlook.

I had also joined the Canberra branch of the Australian Labor Party, thinking that there at least I would be among like-minded people. And among the left-wingers in the branch I did find support, especially from Bruce Macfarlane, the political scientist.

Bruce later was to go overboard in praise of Mao and Cultural Revolution China. But his generosity and vigorous personality helped carry me through a difficult period.

At the time the ALP was badly divided over Vietnam. On the Left were ideologues such as Bruce who would instinctively support pro-communist revolutionaries around the world. There were also the concerned activists – people like myself and the Quakers with no political bias but badly upset by the cruelty and immorality of the US intervention.

Opposed to us, however, was a powerful ALP rightwing, particularly strong in the Canberra and NSW branches, and which basically supported the US and the Vietnam intervention while sometimes mouthing criticisms of Canberra’s way of intervening in the war.

Then there were the pro-war, lumpen, ALP proletariat - workers and trade-union officials whose basic attitude was: ‘Kill the little yellow buggers up there before they get down here.” It was not a happy mix.

I came to respect highly the Quakers. With much effort they had prepared a booklet giving facts and opinions on the Vietnam war, including my own original article in The Australian. They were, of course, totally ignored by Australia’s dominant conservative media.

Another group was centered around a Melbourne magazine called Dissent edited by a very concerned activist, Leon Glazer. I was heavily motivated by one of Dissent’s cover pictures - a dozen of so unarmed young Vietnamese men in peasant clothing lying dead by a stream, with a group of smirking, heavily-armed US soldiers behind them.

A Run-in With 'The Bulletin.'

Glazer had asked me if I could write something for them, and by chance I could.

The Sydney-based magazine, The Bulletin, had under its very rightwing editor, Peter Coleman, just run a long piece by the equally rightwing commentator, Brian Buckley, flagellating the Left, and Dissent in particular, for their alleged failure to realise the dangers of global communism and China, especially over Vietnam.

It was an unusual article. Unlike the lazy, ‘bash –the- lefties’ style of Australia rightwing polemics at the time, the author seemed to have gone to some trouble to muster facts and dates to support his case, including even alleged Chinese plots to gain Afghanistan as an outlet to the Indian Ocean. It was especially contemptuous of the Australian Left for failing to realise the threat from Beijing.

But as I read the Buckley article more closely, I realised that much of it had been lifted, in part word-for-word, from a London Economist article only a few months earlier. The Economist in those days was also up to its neck in anti-leftwing vitriol over Vietnam and China.

In short, our ‘bash-the-lefties’ types were now into plain, old-fashioned plagiarism to cover the weaknesses in their own thinking and research.

And being fresh from Russia, I also realised that the anti-communist vitriol of the original Economist article was very similar to the wording of the anti-capitalist vitriol the Soviet ideologues were then using to lambast their own dissenters, in particular the author Victor Nekrasov who had urged a more sensible approach to the West and some understanding of the merits of the capitalistic system.

So I began my Dissent article first by noting the remarkable similarities between the Buckley article and the earlier Economist article. Some might suggest that plagiarism was involved, I said tongue in cheek, but in fact it was simply great minds thinking alike.

I then was able to take each of the anti-China, anti-Leftwing tirades in the Buckley/Economist articles and set them alongside their mirror images in the anti-capitalist, anti-West, anti-Nekrasov tirades then underway in the Moscow ideological rags. More great minds thinking alike, I was able to note.

If I say so myself, I think it was one of the best and more powerful articles I have ever written - pillorying equally the ideological biases of both sides and showing their mirror image similarities.

But did anyone in Australia realise those points? Not just the rightwing, but most of my leftwing and mid-road colleagues, could not even begin to grasp the idea that Rightwing ideologues in Australia could in any way resemble the Leftwing ideologues in the Kremlin.

Needless to say, the Bulletin were outraged; Coleman even threatened legal action. Why had I not bothered to contact him before I wrote my piece, he thundered. If I had done that he could have assured me that an attribution to the Economist had been cut by mistake from the original Buckley article.

He did not even bother to try to rebut the main thrust of the article, namely the mirror-image similarities of anti-communist Right and pro-communist Left ideologues.

As I found so often with the Right, both in Australia and elsewhere, their over-weening confidence that they alone are the repository of intelligence, goodwill and the truth remains unshaken, even after their policy disasters like after Vietnam. They wheel out Leftwing disasters like Pol Pot, Stalin etc., ignoring Rightwing equivalents; that all despots armed with a powerful ideology commit atrocities and that leftwing ideologies happen to be more powerful than most since they are usually created by earlier resistance to rightwing authoritarian regimes.

Confronted later with the fact that the Vietnam they had said was a puppet of China was in fact highly independent and basically anti-China, and that as a result they ended up killing a large number of the very people they later were to say they depended upon to help promote their anti-China strategies in Asia, they try rapidly to change the subject.

Tell them that they are as guilty of slavery to dogma and fantasy ideas as any of the Soviet ideologues they used to despise, and they will sulk for a while seeking yet another dogma to which they can cling - protection of Western values, confrontation with the ’terrorists’ (which they themselves have created), and so on.

The Economist has been a particularly good example of this unsullied confidence in action. But the Bulletin, both under Coleman and his equally virulent anti-communist successor, Donald Horne (he of the subsequent smarmy conversion to pro-Whitlam and other trendy leftwing causes), were not far behind.

More Vietnam Debate - AIPS

Thanks to the Dissent people and occasional anti-Vietnam talkfests, I got to know many of those active on the Melbourne front. Max Teichman of Monash University helped me greatly and introduced me to some of the denizens of the dreaded Victorian Left. Their zeal, and their hatreds, were impressive.

The Left in Sydney seemed much less motivated; many seemed keener on enjoying life rather than hunting down enemies and arguing foreign policies. The Push people were also anarchistic and anti-government, which made them fairly intolerant of all regimes, communist ones included. There was little sympathy for the plight of Vietnam revolutionaries.

John Barton’s newly-formed Australia Party tried hard to bring me in to support their anti-war position. But they were badly disorganised.

One of my darker moments was sharing the stage at an Australia Party rally in a Sydney suburb with Alex Carey, a genuine humanist who agonised even more than I over the Vietnam atrocity. He had dragged in a mountain of historical and legal documents –1954 Geneva agreements and others - to prove the illegality of the intervention. But before us was seated an audience of exactly ten - three old men, six housewives, and a dog.

I doubt if any of them understood what he was talking about.

The climax to all this activity was being asked by John Mant, then a conservative but concerned Sydney lawyer, to give a paper at the Australian Institute of Political Science annual conference in January 1967. The theme was ‘Communism in Asia – A Threat to Australia?’

On the threat side they had a strong array of well-known names - J.D.B, Miller, Owen Harries, Zelman Cohen and some flown in from the abroad, including that longtime US State Department subsidised, determindly anti-communist academic, Robert Scalapino.

On the anti-threat side there was just one combatant - me.

Once again I was on my own. Fitzgerald had declined my requests to help me make a joint presentation.

Much of the anti-China hysteria in Australia at the time was fed by the polemics of the Sino-Soviet dispute. Time and again the pro-Vietnam war faction would drag out one or other of Beijing’s fiercer statements accusing Moscow of ideological cowardice towards the West, and intone wisely how at the very least we had to take the Chinese at their aggressive word.

That, together with the grossly distorted view of the 1962 Sino-Indian dispute, had created the indelible image of an extremist Beijing far to the Left of the more moderate Western communists in Moscow, and eager to promote the war in Vietnam.

Normally when rightwingers (or leftwingers for that matter) get upset over yet another of their distorted world views one is happy to leave them to stew in their errors until reality finally catches up with them.

But over Vietnam this was impossible. The arrival of reality could take decades, if ever. How many people would have to die in the meantime? Their arguments have to be countered in the here and now.

As a counter-argument I had tried to get people to focus in on what exactly both sides were in fact saying in the Sino-Soviet polemical dispute. Both were simply dragging out different versions of Communist dogma to attack the other. Both remained just as Communist as the other. Indeed, by carefully choosing quotes one could easily prove that Moscow was the extremist and Beijing was the moderate.

A particular Canberra obsession at the time was Beijing’s vocal support for something called wars of national liberation, with the war in Vietnam seen as the forerunner. But Moscow was saying exactly the same about liberation wars. More importantly and unlike Beijing, it was backing up its words by helping those wars materially, especially in Vietnam.

I had begun this research into Sino-Soviet polemics while in Moscow, and had even sent off a paper on the topic to External Affairs, which had been kind enough to include it in the Department’s Digest of Dispatches circulated to embassies and others each month.

But I doubt if it influenced anyone. Ditto for the AIPS prestige audience assembled in Canberra. The image of Beijing as a communist monster plotting Asian takeover was too deeply ingrained to be shaken by a few quotes from obscure polemical documents.

I had wasted the chance to present the anti-Vietnam War case before an important audience. I should have concentrated on my sub-theme - a prediction that a communist Vietnam would be no more of a threat than a communist Yugoslavia.

It reminded me of Alex Carey’s dilemma in that Sydney lecture hall. Australia simply did not have the foreign affairs sophistication to handle detailed debate about Communism or revolution.

Peter Hastings of the Sydney Morning Herald, yet another of the ASIO tainted journalists able to mould Australia foreign policy opinion, managed to report in detail on every one of the pro-Vietnam War papers at the AIPS conference. He omitted only one - mine, even though I was the only one to give the other side of the debate.

The other big issue for AIPS was Beijing’s anti-Americanism. This too was dragged out constantly to prove Beijing’s inherent aggressiveness.

In those days to be anti-American in Australia was to be anti-God.
Few wanted to think about the reasons why a Beijing regime would want to be anti-American.

The Asian Languages Fiasco

The almost total non-reaction to my AIPS efforts, even among the Left, left me deeply depressed.

In desperation I had in my AIPS paper thrown in something about the scandalous lack of Asian language speakers in External Affairs. In those innocent, pre-Vietnam debacle, pre-Watergate days, the public assumed naively that the people at the top had the information and expertise to know what was going on. If they said China was dangerous then China was indeed dangerous.

The only way to counter this naivety, I thought, was to prove that the people at the top did not really know very much about what was going on in the world. They could not even speak the languages of the Asian countries they were warning us about.

External Affairs, still under Plimsoll, came back with a document in which anyone in EA who had ever claimed even a smattering of a local Asian language was listed as a fluent Asian language speaker. Hastings gave it publicity, finally mentioning that someone called Clark had spoken at the AIPS conference, and adding that in view of the EA document, Clark had obviously got it all wrong.

Deamer at The Australian was good enough to give me space for a rebuttal, and this time I was finally able to persuade Fitzgerald to lend his name. But the damage had been done.

Writing a Book?

Those were dark days.

Fortunately I was getting to know R. whom I had met earlier when she was doing part-time work at a small Civic Centre coffeehouse run by a Ukrainian lady with whom I liked to practice Russian. R's gentle femininity did much to calm a tortured soul.

Gradually I began to realise that if I was to present the anti-Vietnam War case properly, I had no choice but to confront the China question fully. And if I was to do that I would have to write a book.

It was no use quoting bits and pieces from past documents. Nor were occasional articles in The Australian or elsewhere enough.

In a book I could try to explain the full background to Beijing’s various foreign policy disputes - the Sino-Soviet dispute and the details I knew about the Sino-Indian dispute in particular.

With these things explained, Beijing’s foreign policy attitudes began to make sense, even during the mad days of Mao. They made sense because during the sixties foreign policy was run by two intelligent and moderate Chinese – Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping .

But how do you sit down to write a full-scale book on Chinese foreign policy when you are a PhD researcher still trying to get on top of advanced economics, and the Japanese language, and speaking to anti-war audiences, while collecting research materials for a difficult PhD topic - Japan’s direct investment overseas?

3. Back to the PhD

Fortunately some problems on the economics side of things were beginning to be resolved.

After a dreadful experience with a typical ANU theoretical economist delegated to teach advanced economics to PhD candidates (these people can fill an entire blackboard with figures simply to prove some obscure point of economic theory ) I was taken in hand by the ANU expert on trade economics, Max Corden.

Corden too liked economic theory. But by using graphs and diagrams, he could explain things so clearly, neatly and simply that finally I began to realise not just what the theories were about but also the logical beauty of economics as a science. It was a lesson that would help me later in getting to understand the Japanese economy.

Max was also a very moral person. He too agonised over the Vietnam War. But his mathematical mind was never able fully to grasp the bias and emotion behind so much of the policy debate.

He wanted to believe that if, as in economics, one simply set out the political variables in the right sequential order, the conclusions would automatically emerge, QED. But in foreign affairs there is little room for this kind of logical analysis.

Learning Japanese

With Japanese I had tried initially to plough through Japanese economic texts with the help of dictionaries and my knowledge of Chinese ideographs. I was getting nowhere very fast.

Soon I was forced to realise that I had no choice but to try to learn the language from the bottom up, as a living language. Only then could I use it for research.

I had discovered the same earlier with Chinese and Russian. To read a difficult language, you must reach a stage where, when you see the script, you ‘hear’ the spoken equivalent. Do that, and the meaning emerges naturally, as if you were slowly listening to someone saying the same thing.

The alternative is to try consciously to translate each word, and then try consciously to pull them all together into sentences which provide some kind of consistent meaning. That can be very painful and time-consuming.

But how to learn Japanese from the bottom up while still stuck in Canberra?

First step was to enroll for a course in the Japanese language department at the ANU. Second step was to leave the course three weeks later.

Our ‘teacher’ was a typically useless Japanese academic recruited at great expense from Tokyo. His main aim in life was to preserve his dignity as an ivory tower resident, improve his English, and convince us how remote, refined and impossible was the language we were supposed to be learning.

In years since I have met several former students from that ANU class. Like their Japanese equivalents learning English, few recover from the harm caused by bad teaching - especially when trying to learn a difficult language.

I decided quickly that did not need to be part of this fraud. I would begin to learn the language by myself, as I had begun to learn Russian four years earlier.

I found a rather nice Japanese woman, Mrs Crawford, married to a former Australian soldier who had been based in Japan. As with Mrs Gapanovich when I was learning Russian, each week I would ask her to tape-record a few very simple texts for me to study. I would listen closely and repeatedly to the tape over the week, check a textbook for the grammar and vocab, and then try to talk to her about the contents at the following meeting a week later.

Given the many other distractions in my life at the time I did not get very far. But it at least gave me a start with the language, something those poor wretches in the university class would never have.

Years later I would try occasionally to expose the scandalous way Chinese and Japanese were being taught at most Australian universities. But I was fighting windmills. The only result was to upset the academic establishment and be bombarded with angry rebuttals.

The poverty of much Asian language teaching in Australia at the time was a major reason for the poverty of Australian expertise and policy towards Asia, certainly compared with the US and even with Europe.

I wrote a long letter to Crawford when he was ANU chancellor, trying to warn him about the state of Japanese teaching at his own university. I got no reply.

4. The China Book, and the Sino-Soviet dispute

Meanwhile, I still had the much larger problem of what to do about explaining China and its polices to an Australian audience. Writing a book would require enormous time and effort, even though I had much of the material in my head.

R. was willing to help. But was that enough?

The turning point was an invitation from Lo Hui-min - a Chinese history researcher at the ANU - to give a seminar in the Asian Studies department.

Lo was 100 percent Chinese - he fretted constantly over the way I courted political reprisals by criticising government policies (in China, the key to survival had always been to keep out of the way of the people in power). But he appreciated what I was doing and wanted to give me a voice, at least within the university.

I chose the Sino-Soviet dispute as my topic. Finally I was motivated to start doing the homework I should have done much earlier, namely to try to nail down the origins of the dispute rather than concentrate on who said what to whom.

If the dispute was not ideological, as I had discovered, then what was it?

(See attachment to this chapter for my explanation)


Needless to say, my detailed analysis of the dispute went straight over the heads of most of the assembled ANU academics at the seminar. But Lo realised that I had dug up material of value. He urged me strongly to get it published somewhere, and I realised he was right.

(Some Chinese researchers have published similar material lately. But to this day, as far as I know, no one else in the West has done the detailed research needed to find the truth about the dispute. The conventionial China-watchers - Donald Zagoria, for example - with their one-sided studies of the polemics and an alleged Chinese unease over Khruschev’s sudden demotion of the Stalin icon as 'proving' the ‘aggressive China’ thesis, were long regarded as the experts on China for that period, and even later.

(The damage caused was enormous, as I explain later.)

But once again I was back my earlier problem: to explain the Sino-Soviet dispute I would have to give much of the background to China’s other foreign policy disputes, Taiwan especially. I would also need to explain the 1962 Sino-Indian dispute, then being using as crucial evidence of Chinese alleged aggressiveness.

All that would require a book, and the time to write it.

I put in an application to the ANU authorities for leave to do preparation. Crawford reluctantly approved a maximum of six months, with scholarship stipend suspended during that period.

(I should add that in four years at the ANU, Lo was almost the only person to take any real interest in my information about China, and that included almost all of the people in that wretched, ASIO-infiltrated, ANU international relations department.

(And that also included the alleged ANU expert on Vietnam and guerrilla wars - Hedley Bull - who contributed almost nothing of value to the Vietnam debate. I note that the ANU, sharing the slavish communist need for icons, even flawed icons, has named a building after him.

(In fact the only person in that department to show any interest in my EA information and the dynamic of guerrilla wars was an American, Hanno Weisbrod. His excellent work on US and Australian covert involvement in Laos in the early sixties never received the attention it deserved, even though it was crucial to the later US-Australian involvement in Vietnam.)

5. Jim Cairns, and the Enclave Solution

Meanwhile I was still trying to fight the Vietnam war outside the ANU.

I had got to know some people in the very leftwing Victorian ALP executive. Through them I had met up with Jim Cairns, later deputy Prime Minister in the Whitlam government and then the leading ALP voice of reasoned opposition to the Vietnam War.

Later in my dealings with Cairns I was to discover there was a sloppy, indulgent side to him, especially when women were involved. And that was long before the Morosi affair of 1975 which would lead to his political downfall.

But for all that his political views and arguments were clear and good. His book “Living with Asia” not only gave an excellent analysis of the dynamics of leftwing, anti-government insurgencies; it also included an excellent outline of the evolution of Soviet communism in the twenties and thirties.

That a self-educated ex-policeman from Melbourne could get to know in such detail the events of another age in a very foreign country on the other side of the globe was amazing. Yet even on the Left, and certainly not on the Right, he got little credit for this research.

His principled opposition to the Vietnam war would be written off as the typical way-out bleatings of an old-time leftie. The writing-off would be done by establishment academics proud that they had never sullied their minds with any serious study of Communism and its origins, let alone the dynamics of insurgencies and revolutions.

Through Cairns and the Victorian ALP executive I got drawn into ALP infighting more than I should have. But I was motivated by what as I saw as the urgent need to force a debate over Vietnam.

It was a race against time. The US military machine had the power to grind down the insurgents in South Vietnam, just as the British had crushed the insurgency in Malaya.

But unlike Malaya, where much of the war and the brutality were hidden, there was a good chance that with time people in the West would come to realise what was actually happening on the ground in Vietnam – that a genuine and very justified resistance movement was being suppressed with great cruelty to rescue a corrupt and incompetent regime in Saigon.

Some first-class journalists on the ground were beginning to report much of this in detail. I assumed, naively, that the soldiers and the officials involved with Vietnam must also be coming to realise the facts and be seeking a solution.

As well, I knew already how Australia earlier had played such a crucial role in encouraging Washington into Vietnam. By getting the facts of the war, and China, into circulation in Australia, there was a chance to change Australian opinion, which in turn offered a chance that Canberra could exert some influence on Washington.

Maybe we could even stop the war – if we tried a bit harder!

Fanciful thinking? Of course. For soon I was to discover in the clearest, and worst, possible way the impossibility of stirring any sensible debate in that intellectual and moral morass called Australian public opinion.

The Enclave Solution

Increasingly I was running into the favorite argument used by mid-road progressives:“it is all very well to criticise the war in Vietnam. But in that case you have to put forward an alternative. You can’t just ask Australia and the US to walk away from it all.”

They were right, in a sense. An alternative policy that preserved US face, and guaranteed the survival of the anti-communist Vietnamese, had to be put forward. And by chance I had worked out that policy. I called it the enclave solution.

I had long realised the role Taiwan had played in providing refuge for some worthy Chinese anti-communist thinkers and officials. I had got to know some (the father of Duan-Mu Chien Ming, my dear friend in Canberra, had been one).

While on the China desk in EA I had tried to point out the role that Taiwan could have played in moderating Beijing’s occasional lunges into crazy economic and other policies if only there was some contact and exchanges between the two sides.

Beijing’s fits of anti-Westernism could also be moderated if there was some guarantee the US would not try to use Taiwan as a base for attacks against China. Even better would be some guarantee that the US would not oppose eventual reunification with China.

Why not push this idealised Taiwan model as the answer in Vietnam?

The mechanics of it all would be more complex than for island-isolated Taiwan. But they were not impossible. It would begin with the West recognising that a civil war was underway in Vietnam, and that while it hoped Saigon would win out against its pro-communist enemies, the West would only provide as much support to Saigon as the pro-communists were receiving from outside sources.

Once it was clear that the pro-Saigon Vietnamese could not win out in their civil war against the pro-communist Vietnamese, the West would then say: we have no choice but to accept the outcome of a civil war fought on equal terms, but we cannot tolerate seeing the pro-Western, anti-communist Vietnamese forced to flee the country or being wiped out by their enemies.

To prevent this tragedy, the West would set up an enclave – some coastal territory where they would be protected from attack, where they could regroup, and where they could continue their pro-Western, anti-communist existence on condition they would not allow themselves to be used as a base for revenge attack on the victorious pro-Hanoi Vietnamese.

From then on the Western military intervention in Vietnam would be restricted to protecting the borders of this enclave. Meanwhile much of the money being used to prosecute the war would be diverted to help create a viable economy for the enclave.

Eventually it might even come to provide not just a haven for the deserving anti-communist Vietnamese. Like Taiwan (and Hongkong vis-a-vis Beijing) it would provide an economic and social model for the communist leadership in Hanoi almost certain to be bogged down in Marxist orthodoxy after their victorious civil war.

Would the pro-communist forces in Vietnam accept this? Almost certainly, I thought.

They too were tired of the war. They were suffering greatly. They would get to control the rest of Vietnam outside the enclave.

Provided there was some guarantee of eventual reunification, or of some kind of confederation, say after 20 years, they could feel they had achieved their objectives. War hatreds would gradually abate.

My first move was to try to sell the enclave idea to the ALP, then out of power in Canberra. I went first to Cairns who quickly realised the merits of this compromise solution.

But he said he would first need to try to sell it to the Victorian ALP executive. After that, he would try to have it endorsed as ALP policy.

Cairns did not even get to first base. I am told that at the end of his presentation to the Victorian executive, one of the more extreme leftwingers had sarcastically congratulated him on having outlined the government policy, and would he now kindly outline the leftwing policy.

I heard no more from Cairns for a while.


I decided to try another tack. An election was due later that year. The then Prime Minister, Harold Holt, was trumpeting his famous pro-Vietnam War slogan – All the Way with LBJ.

In advance of the election, LBJ, in the shape of US president Lyndon Baines Johnson, was about to descend on Australia to support to Holt's Vietnam intervention policies.

During his visit LBJ would also condescend to meet the ALP. But the then ALP leader, Arthur Caldwell, was getting nowhere with his calls for an unconditional withdrawal of Australian troops from this ‘dirty, filthy unwinnable war’… even if history was to prove him correct.

He would get even closer to nowhere if he just repeated this to LBJ.

Meanwhile Caldwell’s heir apparent and ALP foreign policy spokesman, Gough Whitlam, was just keeping his head down and saying nothing. He was leaving Caldwell to take the flak.

My idea was to get to Whitlam and persuade him of the merits of the enclave solution in advance of the LBJ meeting. Obviously LBJ would reject it. But the ALP could then go into the election saying it had put a moderate, compromise solution to Washington only to see it rejected out of hand.


My first problem was how to get to Whitlam, whom I had never met and who had little reason to know me. I got an introduction to John Menadue who was then Whitlam’s secretary.

Menadue met me cagily, but promised to pass on my proposal. I never got a response from either him or Whitlam. The ALP went to crashing defeat in the election.

The election over, I still wanted to do something about my idea. I leaned hard on Deamer to give me space in The Australian to publish it, which he did – almost an entire page.

But once again the reaction was minimal. There was a querulous letter from an ANU international relations academic who thought my idea flawed since the communists would never accept it and the enclave would be indefensible anyway.

As for the rest of the pro-war, pro-Saigon people I can only assume that they saw my compromise proposal as a sinister leftwing attempt to forestall the inevitable US victory.

It was, after all, only 1966 and almost everyone assumed a US victory was certain if the intervention and the killing continued.

Years later, after the US and its Saigon friends had lost the war, completely and humiliatingly, I tried to prick a few consciences by reminding our Vietnam hawks how much better things would have been for their anti-communist, pro-Saigon Vietnamese friends if they had been willing to consider a compromise solution.

But once again, no reaction. By definition, I guess, being a hawk means never having to say sorry or admit past mistakes.

Later I came to realise how important ‘enclave solutions’ would be for resolving other disputes, in the Middle East for example. But our strategists and ideologues believe all civil wars have to be fought to the bitter end with only one side (ours of course) being allowed victory and continued existence.

The rest have to be destroyed, of course, which adds greatly to the brutality and duration of those wars,

6. Finding a Publisher

Meanwhile I was plodding away with the manuscript of my China book, helped as ever by the unstinting and uncomplaining R.

My six months time limit from the ANU had quickly expired. I was eating into the time that I should have been using for my PhD work. And I still needed a publisher.

Some time earlier I had had an offer from Lloyd O’Neil, the energetic and very liberal-minded manager of The Lansdowne Press based in Melbourne. He was keen to help me get my ideas into print.

But Lansdowne usually concentrated on popular books –sport, nature, childrens’ tales. It was an unlikely place to go for a serious book on Chinese foreign policies. Even so, O’Neil seemed very keen to have the book.

As the writing progressed, my doubts grew. I was moving into some rather heavy academic territory. Could Lansdowne really handle that kind of book?

I decided I should check out first whether the ANU Press would be interested. They took one look at the emerging manuscript and fled. They were not into publishing polemical books, they said.

Later I learned that they had passed the MS to my dear friends in the ANU international relations department, who had lost no time in saying that this ‘leftwing, pro-Beijing tract’ was quite unsuitable for an academic publisher.

It was a serious setback. But around the same time I had had an approach from a rather slippery character called Peter Ryan running the Melbourne University Press.

I knew something about Ryan's rightwing views and various past involvements with Australia’s spy networks. But surely none of this would carry over to his management of a reputable university press, I thought.

I was wrong. Ryan had gone out of his way to tell me how much MUP wanted to put out a book on China and I had cooperated by giving the book a much stronger academic slant than I had planned for Lansdowne.

Ryan sat on the MS for months, by which time I was already in Japan. I then got an abrupt letter saying it was much too biassed to be fit for publication.

It was a bad setback. Fortunately I was able to contact O’Neil from Japan, who was still willing to publish. But there was no way sitting in Japan I could rewrite it as a more popular book. I never really recovered from the MUP setback, which was probably Ryan's intention from the beginning.

Once again, the Empire had struck back.

Japan was to become - had to become - the only way I could escape the nightmare I was facing in my native Australia.

Chapter 5 Attachment

Sino-Soviet Dispute Origins

The standard explanation for the dispute was that Beijing was upset by Khruschev’s famous 1953 condemnation of Stalinism. Beijing was supposed to want a return to hardline aggressive Stalinism while Moscow wanted something more liberal

From this it followed that the Soviets were the good communists; the Chinese were the bad - despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The good Soviets were having to contend with Chinese evil, our Communist
Bloc watchers insisted.

True, later documents confirmed that the Chinese were not very happy about Khruschev’s 1956 attacks on Stalin - icons are important in running movements. At the time Stalin and Lenin were the only communist icons available for use. So Beijing had to do something to keep the Stalin icon alive.

But this difference over Stalin was hardly likely to trigger a violent dispute lasting almost a decade.

Already in 1956 Beijing was showing some sensible pragmatism in its own domestic and foreign policies.

At a 1957 gathering of world communist parties, the Chinese had specifically endorsed Moscow’s leadership of the communist bloc. As late as January 1959, Mao Tsetung had sent an effusive message to Moscow praising Khruschev’s leadership of the Soviet communist party.

Most significantly in June, 1957, Beijing had thrown crucial support behind Khruschev in his life-and-death confrontation with the Moscow hard-liners - the anti-party group centered on Molotov. If Beijing was hard-line and anti-Khruschev from 1956, why was it going out of its way to help him escape attacks from hard-liners in 1957?

Beijing had also given some support to moderate Eastern European communist regimes confronting Moscow. None of this could support the thesis of a fundamentalist China determined to confront a soft-line Moscow.

But in that case what had triggered the dispute? And why had it become so vicious and intense? To find a causal factor, I decided to go carefully through the chronology of events between June 1957 and the early 1960’s when the polemics burst into the open. That narrowed the field of suspects greatly.

On October 15, 1957, soon after he had ousted his hard-line opponents - the so-called anti-party group - Khruschev gave Beijing a promise to help China develop nuclear weapons. It was a major show of gratitude for Beijing’s help against Khruschev’s opponents. There was even a hint, unlikely and distant though it appeared, of a Soviet nuclear backup if China ever faced a nuclear threat from outside, from the US presumably.

Khruschev had also endorsed the Chinese model of communist development - a major ideological compromise. Clearly this too was Khruschev’s way of saying thanks for the support he had gained from Beijing in June 1957.

But on June 20, 1959, the Soviets cancelled their nuclear agreements with China. Soon after they began open criticisms of the Chinese communist model.

Clearly the cause of the dispute had to be something between June 1957 and June 1959. What was it?

By careful elimination I ended up with just one event, unlikely and distant though it appeared. This was Beijing’s August 1958 confrontation with a US-backed Taiwan over the Offshore Islands in the Taiwan Straits.

Already while in External Affairs I had heard hints that the US, at a crucial period in the confrontation, had threatened use of nuclear weapons against China.

Meanwhile Khruschev had already begun his attempts to reach détente with the Eisenhower administration in Washington – attempts which began with the 1955 'Geneva Spirit' of detente, and culminated in the famous ‘Camp David’ meeting of September 1959.

Just three months before Camp David, Khruschev had cancelled his nuclear promises to Beijing.

In other words, the Taiwan Straits crisis had forced Khruschev to realise the full implications of his nuclear promise to China – that he would be committed to help China in a nuclear confrontation with the US at precisely the same moment that he was trying to ease nuclear tensions with the same US.

That this indeed was the origin of the dispute was confirmed in the subsequent polemics, where the theme of Moscow’s foolish willingness to trust and appease an aggressive US was a constant refrain in the Chinese statements.

In short, the dispute had little to do with one side being ideologically more moderate or more extreme than the other, or being more aggressively inclined than the other. It came back squarely to a clash of national interests, with Beijing locked into confrontation with the US over Taiwan while Moscow was trying to lock itself into detente with the US to put an end to the Cold War which was costing it so much.

Both had good reasons for what they were doing. But what each was doing was bound to antagonise the other.

Beijing’s openly avowed and highly personal dislike of Khruschev and the Soviets after June 20, 1959, was a result, not a cause, of the dispute.

At the time Beijing was making much of the fact that it did not fear nuclear war with the US; that it could lose much of its population and industry and still survive. This was immediately picked up by our hawks, and to some extent by Moscow, to prove Beijing's inherent adventurism.

But if you are threatened with nuclear attack, and you still have no way to retaliate with nuclear weapons, then all you can do to dissuade the likely attacker is say you do not fear nuclear attack.

Unfortunately this common sense was also not allowed to disturb the thinking of our simple minded dogmatists.