In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Journal of Cold War Studies 3.1 (2001) 146-148

[Access article in PDF]

Book Review

The U.S. Naval Mission to Haiti, 1959-1963

Christopher Brady, United States Foreign Policy Towards Cambodia, 1977-92: A Question of Realities. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. 227 pp. $65.00.

Approximately half of this book directly addresses American policy toward Cambodia. Christopher Brady, a lecturer in decision-making theory and systems at City University Business School in London, is more concerned with determining the "simple mythological views" (p. 8) of the presidential administrations of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush. Brady writes: "The intention here is to example the realities of the principal actors and groups of actors through an analysis of their public utterances" (p. 10), and he uses Cambodia as a case study. He ironically concludes that Cambodia was a very minor issue in U.S. foreign policy--which, if true, would raise the question of whether the topic deserves book-length treatment. But Brady underestimates the extent to which Cambodia has seared itself into American memory.

Brady devotes a chapter to each presidential administration he considers. In each case, he begins by presenting brief overviews of the major actors (the "principate," p. 11) and their relative importance, categorizing them according to three levels of [End Page 146] influence. He then examines conflicts among these actors and follows with a lengthier section on the foreign policy that resulted, with particular emphasis on "the administration's reality." Only in this section of each chapter is U.S. policy toward Cambodia discussed at any length. The chapters also contain useful sections on "alternative realities," which examine the Cambodia situation from the viewpoint of other entities: the U.S. Congress, China, various Cambodian groups, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and (sometimes) the media, academe, and nongovernmental organizations. In sum, Brady suggests there is no objective truth on Cambodia, only various constructed realities.

The book's analysis of foreign policy decision making, and the roles played by key individuals, is often insightful. When discussing the Carter administration, Brady skillfully analyzes the schism (chasm might be a better word) that developed between the more idealistic and collegial secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, and the brash national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Vance believed that the Soviet Union was in decline, whereas Brzezinski was more alarmist. In the end Carter sided mostly with Brzezinski. The administration abandoned its nearly completed efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam (which Brzezinski saw as a Soviet puppet), condemned Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1978 (even if the invasion did remove the genocidal Khmer Rouge from power), and opposed the Vietnamese-installed government in Phnom Penh, the so-called People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). Brady thus points out that Carter, who proclaimed that human rights were the primary determinant of U.S. foreign policy and that the Khmer Rouge were the world's worst violators of human rights, ended up "implicitly siding with the Khmer Rouge" (p. 30). This, he says, was the result of the administration's flawed "constructed reality."

Ronald Reagan wanted to avoid similar rivalries in his administration, but he never fully succeeded in preventing bickering between the National Security Council and the State Department. Brady concludes that Reagan's foreign policy was long on rhetoric but generally cautious when it came to taking strong action, particularly military action. With respect to Southeast Asia, Reagan continued Carter's policy of demonizing the Vietnamese. As Brady puts it nicely, "The US saw a nation which had humiliated them chastising a despot [Pol Pot] they had denounced but had been unwilling or unable to remove. With their impotence again exposed the spiteful policy initiative should not have been a surprise" (p. 73). Like Carter, Reagan supported giving Cambodia's United Nations (UN) seat to the Khmer Rouge. In line with ASEAN, the administration began to supply arms to Cambodian non-Communist resistance groups, some of which were allied to the resuscitated Khmer Rouge. However, Brady does not...