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Download Born a Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia epub

by Charles T. Cross

In this absorbing work, a thoughtful career diplomat provides a perceptive, sometimes controversial overview of the intense U.S. connection with East Asia in the twentieth century. Part memoir, part diplomatic history, Born a Foreigner traces Ambassador CrossOs personal odyssey as a boy born in Beijing to missionary parents, a teenager under the Japanese occupation of North China, a Japanese-speaking marine corps officer in WWII, and as a diplomat posted to sensitive areas around the world. Always, CrossOs assessments of U.S. policy and policymakers are reflective, fair, and judicious. CrossOs authoritative and invaluable account of his Vietnam experiences as chief of CORDS in I Corps (1967D1969) adds significantly to the literature on the Vietnam War. He provides unique detail on the Tet Offensive, the earlier negotiations on Laos, the Geneva Conference, and Averell HarrimanOs diplomatic style. Equally significant is his discussion of the pacification program in I-Corps. He describes the subtle interplay among the U.S. and Vietnamese military, the American civilian authorities and the Vietnamese people, and their varying attitudes toward each other and the war itself. Covering the long sweep of historical events in Asia from revolutionary China in the 1920s and 1930s to the full normalization of Sino-American diplomatic relations in 1979 and the aftermath in Taiwan, where he was the first director of the American Institute, CrossOs memoir will thoroughly interest anyone seeking an insiderOs view of U.S. relations with Asia.
Download Born a Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia epub
ISBN: 0847694690
ISBN13: 978-0847694693
Category: Other
Subcategory: Social Sciences
Author: Charles T. Cross
Language: English
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 27, 1999)
Pages: 304 pages
ePUB size: 1548 kb
FB2 size: 1300 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 892
Other Formats: mbr lit mobi lrf

I bought this book because it mentions my grandfather, who was a well known and much loved foreign service officer before his death this year. I wound up being absolutely enthralled as I read it!! I'm now planning on buying copies for the whole family so that they too can get a better feel for how he spent his life.
Charles T. Cross's, Born a Foreigner presents an intimate look into American diplomacy in Asia. "Chuck" Cross was born in Beijing to American missionary parents, and lived there until he left for college just before World War II. In Marine intelligence in the war, Cross was in the major battles in the Pacific theater, including Saipan and Iwo Jima. After the war and after graduate school at Yale, Cross entered the Foreign Service. Posts starting with Taiwan quickly followed each other: Indonesia right after its independence, Hong Kong, Washington, D.C. during the McCarthy era, Malaya just before independence, and London. From there he was assigned to Vietnam, then back to Singapore as ambassador (1969-1971), Hong Kong as consul general (1974-1977), and finally as the first director of the American Institute in Taiwan. To my mind, Cross's memoir makes two special contributions. First and foremost is his love for China, from his youthful school memories, to when the Marines first entered Peking in the fall of 1945 at the end of the war, to his view of China through the eyes of an American diplomat. As he says, "being born a `foreigner' in China carries with it a lifetime load of...attitudes, affections, possibly even insights, which I have taken from country to country in Asia." Cross's personal story of his relationship with China gave me new insights into this complex country. A second contribution is Cross's experience and view of Vietnam. Here is a wholly different perspective of our role in that conflict than I, in my twenties in that era, got from the media of the 1960s and 1970s. Cross presents no pat answers to the right or wrong of our involvement. As a senior officer at U.S. headquarters in Danang for two years, including during the Tet Offensive, Cross's assignment was to help strengthen the South Vietnamese people so they would be more resistant to the Vietcong. The `pacification' program worked hamlet by hamlet to help the people defend themselves, aid in establishing schools and hospitals and to provide relief for the massive number of refugees. Meeting corruption among the district chiefs and political crosscurrents in headquarters, Cross, at the end of his tour there in 1969, assessed their work as "making slow but real progress against the VC." From his base in headquarters, Cross participated in many briefings, explaining his broad views of military and political strategy, but not softening the realities of the war. Looking back on his time in Vietnam, he wrote that never again did he become so emotionally involved with a country and he "began a process of thinking back and forth about Vietnam, which has continued to this day-drawing conclusions and then rejecting them, looking for new and different meanings, finding none...." In 1972, Cross was a "diplomat in residence" at the University of Michigan and experienced first hand the student views of the war, and in the 1980s taught a course on Vietnam at the University of Washington, a subject that most professors did not care to touch. Yet Vietnam has affected all U.S. policy since: Now wars must be short, have clear objectives and predefined endings, must use high-tech firepower from the air to avoid American casualties, and above all, must have public support. Throughout the book, Cross recognizes his wife Shirley's role in their diplomatic assignments as well as her independent accomplishments in teaching wherever they went. In this memoir, Cross has accomplished a remarkable feat of telling the story of American policy through their experiences without boasting. A self-deprecating sense of humor, modesty, and balance come through chapter by chapter and give abstract U.S. foreign policy a human face. I recommend it.
Missionary Kids (MKs) have been an important part of my life. My Godfather grew up in China-the son of a missionary MD. My father served on a mission board for over 30 years and missionaries were regular visitors in our home. Generally speaking I have found that while MKs occasionally have problems adjusting to the "we are the only important country in the world" attitude so common in USA, their cross-cultural childhoods usually give them a worldview that is uncommonly sophisticated and nuanced. So I began reading "Born a Foreigner" with high expectations because it was written by the son of missionaries to China.

Unfortunately, not all MKs turn out sophisticated and nuanced. Charles Cross evidently decided that the best way to leverage his childhood experiences was to join the Foreign Service and become what can only be called a professional Ugly American. For example, in the late `60s after losing a bunch of debates while defending the USA's actions in Vietnam, he abandoned his family and a cushy post in England so he could become a part of the "pacification" effort. "Pacification" in Vietnam was a program of assassination, torture, and concentration camps that provoked howls of outrage from virtually every sentient being on the planet. Not surprisingly, almost all the official USA documents on the subject are STILL classified. But does Cross express any regrets about his contributions to massive human rights abuses? Not at all. He does note disapproval from his mother but mostly he decries the lack of pacification's effectiveness.

When Hannah Arendt covered the trial of Adolf Eichmann, she was struck by the "banality of evil." Somehow, between professional wrestling and James Bond flicks, we have come to believe that the bad guys are at least interesting. Wrong! Cross's book proves that evil is not merely banal, it is arrogant (he implies that passing a few difficult course at Carleton or Yale are enough to qualify a person to make life-and-death decisions for the yellow folks on earth) clueless (he writes how astonished his missionary aunt was that some of her Chinese students joined the Communist Revolution) and totally lacking in curiosity (he was posted in Indonesia in the period immediately after de-colonialization and all he can write about is the difficulty of getting good servants, the lack of air conditioning, the unruliness of the mobs, and the poor conditions for playing tennis.)

The most that can be said for this dismal memoir about a wretchedly lived life is that it could have been could have been longer.