Sutherland agrees, arguing that control of the villages was vital to the control of the Vietnamese people and that neither the French nor later the Americans were able to achieve this control. This is because of a lack of understanding of Vietnamese culture, but also because of a lack of language skills on behalf of the French. Only a small minority of French spoke Vietnamese and so communication and alliance with the villagers was made difficult.
Along with Frances lack of knowledge of Vietnamese society and language came a lack of experience in the local environment. There are historians who believe that all human history is a direct result of the environment in which certain societies develop. For example, Diamond argues that the differences in the innumerable environmental features of different continents and regions directly affect the trajectories of human societies. Frances lack of success in its attempts to restore its colonial rule in Indo-China (and the type of Vietnamese society which resulted from this) could bee seen as just such a case.
During the First Indo-China War the French were forced to fight in completely unfamiliar and rather hostile environments. Much of the fighting between Viet Minh and French forces took place in rural areas, which were quite often jungle environments. The jungle was wet and dense and home to all sorts of tropical plants and animals (and diseases) never before encountered by the French. Cantwell explains that movement through the jungles was slow and tedious for all soldiers. And describes conditions; disorientation prevailed and unexplained noises unsettled the emotions of soldiers. Malaria, dehydration and sunstroke were everyday risks.
This contrasts with the Viet Minhs relationship with their environment in that they were familiar with the jungle and in fact used it to their advantage by creating booby traps and hide outs a View More »