The wars of postcolonial Asia, although often viewed by U.S. officials as struggles between Communist and non-Communist forces or between colonial powers and independence movements, were in fact far more complex and ambiguous in nature. The conflicts displayed some of the characteristics of civil war, brigandage, and ethnic, regional, and religious warfare. This article exams the experience of Phat Diem, a predominantly Catholic enclave in northern Vietnam, during the First IndochinaWar, to highlight the dynamics of these cross-currents of regionalism, nationalism, and religion. Ultimately Phat Diem's attempts to steer a middle course between Communism and French colonialism ended disastrously, but its story highlights several important but little recognized aspects of the war in Indochina and the nature of Asia's wars in the first decade after the end of World War II.

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