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The Limits of Alignment

Southeast Asia and the Great Powers since 1975

John D. Ciorciari

Publication Year: 2010

The Limits of Alignment is an engaging and accessible study that explores how small states and middle powers of Southeast Asia ensure their security in a world where they are overshadowed by greater powers. John D. Ciorciari challenges a central concep

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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pp. v-v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

In writing this book I have benefited from the generous encouragement and guidance of many distinguished scholars. The book grew out of my doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford, where Yuen Foong Khong provided scholarly inspiration and wise counsel as my advisor. Between 2002 and 2004 I had the honor of being the Wai Seng Senior Research Scholar at the Asian Studies Centre at St. Antony’s ...

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-15

This book is about alignment politics in the Global South. By alignments, I refer specifically to agreements between two or more states to undertake defense-related security cooperation. In the pages that follow, I attempt to address a critical question for international relations theory and practice: how do the small states and middle powers of the Global South tend to align with the great powers in pursuit ...

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1. The Appeal of Limited Alignments

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pp. 16-55

I have claimed that DCs usually prefer to enter into limited alignments, tilting toward one or more great powers but stopping shy of tight, deeply embedded alliances. I have also argued that limited alignments are particularly likely today. This I begin with the premise that states generally prefer alignments they expect will deliver the greatest rewards at the least possible risk under conditions of strategic...

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2. Latter Stages of the Cold War

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pp. 56-91

During the latter stages of the Cold War, Southeast Asia experienced considerable tension and turmoil. The end of the Vietnam War brought only a fragile peace as superpower rivalry continued in the region, fanning the flames of ideologically laced local conflict. By 1979 an ugly new war erupted, pitting Vietnam and its Soviet sponsors against Cambodian rebels backed by China, the United States, ...

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3. The Post–Cold War Era

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pp. 92-130

Although limited alignments were common during the Cold War era, they have become much more dominant in Southeast Asia since the end of the Third Indochina War. As discussed in chapter 1, a number of related variables explain that change. Structurally, the United States has enjoyed clear primacy in power capabilities, particularly in the military area. America’s superior might has driven up certain ...

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4. Maritime Southeast Asia

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pp. 131-175

To explain why Southeast Asian states have usually pursued limited alignments since 1975, I argue that alignment preferences and policies can be best understood as efforts to optimize the risks and rewards of alignment under conditions of strategic uncertainty. I first introduce some crosscutting risks and rewards that have influenced governments in the region and then show how assessments of risks...

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5. The Mainland Peninsula

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pp. 176-210

The five states of mainland Southeast Asia—Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand—present a somewhat stiffer test for the hypotheses advanced in this book. It is more difficult to summarize their alignment strategies than the policies of their maritime ASEAN neighbors. All the mainland states save Burma were deeply embroiled in the Third Indochina War. Vietnam and Thailand formed...

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6. The Prevalence of Limited Alignments Today

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pp. 211-238

One reason limited alignments deserve careful study is that the practice is particularly common today. This chapter explains why Southeast Asian countries—like other states in the Global South—have had added incentives to pursue loose, flexible security arrangements in the post–Cold War era. I also discuss why that trend is apt to continue in Southeast Asia in the near term. Thus, where the last two chapters...

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Conclusion: Key Findings and Implications

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pp. 239-255

The importance of alignment politics of Southeast Asia and other regions of the Global South may become even more important in the future than they have been in the past. At the end of World War II, the countries of the Global South (including China) amounted to roughly 70 percent of the world’s population. They now account for more than 85 percent, and that figure is rising. As demand for ...


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pp. 257-283


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pp. 285-285


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pp. 287-309


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pp. 311-320

E-ISBN-13: 9781589016262
E-ISBN-10: 1589016262
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589016965
Print-ISBN-10: 1589016963

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 1 map, 11 figures, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 658043378
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Limits of Alignment

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Subject Headings

  • Southeast Asia -- Foreign relations -- 20th century.
  • Southeast Asia -- Foreign relations -- 21st century.
  • Great powers.
  • World politics -- 1945-1989.
  • World politics -- 1989-.
  • Alliances -- Case studies.
  • International relations -- Case studies.
  • National security -- Southeast Asia -- Case studies.
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