The colonial war between France and the Vietminh in Indochina started in 1946 and ended with the signing of the Geneva Accords in 1954. The United States provided the French government considerable logistic assistance during this period of time because of both the strategic position and abundant resources of South East Asia. During the Eisenhower administration, decision makers were convinced of the validity of the domino theory (i.e., a belief that held once Indochina fell, the rest of South East Asia would also fall into the hand of communist powers), and therefore U.S. assistance to France reached its maximum at this time. However, U.S. assistance couldn’t guarantee victory for the French on the battlefield. Indeed, the French government actually sought to withdraw from Indochina because the conflict was worsening. It was under such circumstances that the Geneva Conference of 1954 was convened. Amidst the general atmosphere of the Cold War, ending the war in Indochina through peaceful compromise and negotiations did not correspond to U.S. interests. Therefore, Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John F. Dulles endeavored to block this Conference from being held. After their failed attempt, U.S. policy toward the Geneva Conference switched to one of building a collective defense organization in South East Asia, in order to contain the spread of communism.
In this thesis, the author applies the rational model from decision-making theory as a framework for analysis. In particular, this thesis focuses on the exploration of the following hypothesis:
H: Although the holding of the Geneva Conference didn’t correspond to U.S. expectations, President Eisenhower still sent a delegation because he thought that such an action could provide a means of stopping communism from spreading in South East Asia.
In terms of structure, the first chapter provides the author’s motives, literature review, outlines of research theory, scope, rationale, and expected academic contributions. The second chapter discusses decision-making theory and the hypothesis stated above. The third chapter explores the background of the first Indochina war, the contents of the Geneva Accords, and U.S. preparation prior to the Geneva Conference. The fourth chapter focuses on the reactions between the participants at this Conference, especially on the U.S, Britain, France, and the People’s Republic of China. The fifth chapter uses a rational model to examine the decision-making process of the Eisenhower administration. The last chapter presents the conclusions of the thesis.
The thesis concludes with two main findings: (1) the evidence fits with the author’s hypothesis that President Eisenhower considered the Geneva Conference a means of blocking communism from spreading in South East Asia, and (2) the Conference spelled deterioration in the relationship between the United States and the Britain. After World War I, the U.S and Britain remained allies and cooperated with each other in international affairs. However, during negotiations at the Geneva Conference, because of different concerns, the strategies of the two governments led to opposite and confrontational positions, eventually resulting in rising tensions between the two nations. This underscores the fact that in international relations, national interests reigns supreme above all other considerations.