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In their sprawling documentary of the Vietnam War, producer-directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick provide ample coverage of the personal stories of US and Vietnamese participants in the war and of some of the major battles. But their treatment of diplomatic, political, international, and other important facets of the war leave something to be desired. On several issues and topics, for example, they have failed to incorporate important elements of the latest research while also fudging and hedging historical issues that remain controversial today.
My major criticisms of their TV history are fourfold. Their treatment of the origins of Vietnamese anti-colonial nationalism and the First Indochina War – also known as the French War (1946-1954) – is sketchy. Their coverage of the emergence and evolution of the US antiwar movement during the Second Indochina War – also known as the American War (ca. 1954-1974) – is inaccurate, disjointed, incomplete, and fundamentally negative. Their narrative about the Richard Nixon phase of the war, as well as the Vietnam War’s denouement in 1975 under President Gerald Ford, repeats historical myths and misconceptions that have long been debunked. In particular, Burns and Novick mischaracterize Nixon’s and Ford’s policy goals, Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s diplomatic and military strategies, the fundamental issues at stake in the Paris negotiations, the purposes and consequences of the 1972 “Christmas bombings,” and the causes of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. In addition, they omit the baneful political legacy that Nixon fostered by blaming others for the US defeat in Vietnam.
Fifteen scholars on the editorial board of Third World Quarterly have resigned over the publication of a controversial essay, according to the their resignation letter. Their departures leave the journal, which publishes essays from the field of international studies, short nearly half of its editorial board.
The essay is by Bruce Gilley, a political scientist at Portland State University, and is titled “The Case for Colonialism.” It argues that the idea that Western colonialism harmed colonized countries and their people is largely exaggerated.
The resignation letter states that the essay was published without consulting the editorial board. It also says that Shahid Qadir, Third World Quarterly’s editor in chief, told board members in an email that the essay had gone through the journal’s required double-blind peer-review process, but that he did not provide copies of those reviews upon request.
The foreign secretary has been accused of “incredible insensitivity” after it emerged he recited part of a colonial-era Rudyard Kipling poem in front of local dignitaries while on an official visit to Myanmar in January.
Boris Johnson was inside the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in the capital Yangon, when he started uttering the opening verse to The Road to Mandalay, including the line: “The temple bells they say/ Come you back you English soldier.”
Kipling’s poem captures the nostalgia of a retired serviceman looking back on his colonial service and a Burmese girl he kissed. Britain colonised Myanmar from 1824 to 1948 and fought three wars in the 19th century, suppressing widespread resistance.
Johnson’s impromptu recital was so embarrassing that the UK ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Patrick, was forced to stop him. The incident was captured by a film crew for Channel 4 and will form part of a documentary to be broadcast on Sunday about the fitness of the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip to become prime minister.