Diplomats Without Honor

The momentous theme of “honor in foreign policy” presented by James Burnham in his incisive book, Containment or Liberation? (1953), will also be found pervading Geoffrey D.T. Shaw’s recent book of excellence, The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam (2015). Shaw’s book could, and should, now also evoke the memory and content of another searching and well-documented book, which was published exactly a hundred years earlier and during World War I itself, namely Francis Neilson’s How Diplomats Make War (1915).

Dr. Shaw’s recent book further elucidates—and should also fittingly recall—Marguerite Higgins’ own clear and candid and farsighted book, Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965), which was published not long before she died at the age of forty-five in January of 1966. And she was to die of a disease she had contracted in the Delta of South Vietnam. In September of 1965 she had departed for her tenth visit to Vietnam, and she was by then all too aware of many of the ill consequences of the perfidious conduct that was earlier and cumulatively practiced against President Diem and his brother Nhu, leading to their cruel slayings together on All Souls’ Day, 2 November 1963. Like Geoffrey Shaw, Marguerite Higgins was not herself a Roman Catholic, but both of them admired the character of President Diem and deeply understood his purposes, as well as the nature of his gathering enemies. Higgins even entitled her book’s Chapter 9 “Ngo Dinh Diem: The Case of the Misunderstood [Catholic] Mandarin.” Whereas she called Diem’s implacable and subversive Buddhist adversary, Thich Tri Quang, a “Machiavelli with Incense” (Chapter 2), who was later so treacherously to be given protection and asylum in the American Embassy by Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge.

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