Vietnam under Diem

“It is certainly a can of snakes. I am reasonably accustomed to oriental government and politics, but I was not quite prepared for Diem … his surface travel through Saigon requires the taking-in of all laundry along the route, the closing of all windows, an order to the populace to keep their heads in, the clearing of all streets, and a vast bevy of motorcycle outriders to protect him in his dash … If Diem leaves town for a day, all members of his cabinet are required to see him off and welcome him back, although this involves less damage to efficiency than might be supposed. The political reality is the total stasis which arises from his greater need to protect himself from a coup than to protect the country from the Vietcong … The desire to prolong one’s days in office has a certain consistency the world around and someday somebody should explain this to the State Department, with pictures.”

– J.K. Galbraith in a letter to J.F. Kennedy. (reported National Times 1/7/1980)

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