LETTERS: by John BarichNews Weekly
Ted Serong (letter)
, November 30, 2002
Your article on Ted Serong (News Weekly
, October 19, 2002) reminded me of my visit to him in Saigon in August 1970. His grasp of intricate military and political issues was outstanding. Anne Blair in her biography of Serong (also reviewed by News Weekly
) documents all this.
Serong's involvement with Bob Santamaria is explained in her book, especially their work with the Pacific Institute - a group of dedicated anti-communists who published the magazine Pacific Community
to foster the emergence of an alliance of South East countries and Japan as a counter to possible Communist hegemony in the region.
She reported that, after the US withdrawal from Vietnam, Serong conducted some of his correspondence on Pacific Institute letterhead. She could have made more of the dedicated people who organised and belonged to the Institute - Chris Clark (son of the well known Santamaria supporter Colin Clark) and Frank Mount who was News Weekly's
Asia correspondent for years.
The possible development of such an alliance was part of the plan to give the region ten years to bolster itself against internal insurgencies and weaken the USSR and China by continual involvement in war. According to Blair, it was the leader of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Major General Cawthorn, to whom Serong reported in his first years in Vietnam, who asked Serong to give him ten years.
Blair's description of the last days of Saigon based on Serong's diaries is a most moving story. While the collapse of South Vietnam was inevitable once the US withdrew and its logistical support dwindled, it is often forgotten that the North Vietnamese were soundly beaten during the 1968 Tet and the Easter 1972 offensives. Serong's prescription for saving Vietnam was always small scale counter insurgency, not a technological war of attrition which seemed to appeal to the US generals.John Barich,