Academic journal article Military Review

Why Vietnam Invaded Cambodia: Political Culture and the Causes of War

Academic journal article Military Review

Why Vietnam Invaded Cambodia: Political Culture and the Causes of War

Article excerpt

WHY VIETNAM INVADED CAMBODIA: Political Culture and the Causes of War, Stephen J. Morris, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1999, 315 pages, $29.95.

Why Vietnam Invaded Cambodia is a fresh treatment of Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in January 1979 by a 100,000-man multicorps mechanized force. The invasion led to the 10-year occupation by the People's Army of Vietnam.

Cold War realpolitik led the West to support the noncommunist resistance and China to support the genocidal communist Khmer Rouge in a protracted war fought from Thailand against the Vietnamese. The conflict ended only when UNTAC, the largest peacekeeping force in UN history, assumed Cambodia's sovereignty for two years before the June 1993 election.

Cambodia is a struggling democracy. Vietnam remains communist. Its leaders speak to academics sparingly, and its archives are certainly not open. Western readers accustomed to verbatim transcripts and diary entries will not find them in this book. Nevertheless, Stephen J. Morris capitalizes on contemporaneous reports, including summarized conversations between Vietnam's top leaders and the Soviet ambassador, submitted by the Soviet Embassy in Hanoi.

Morris gained unique access to Soviet Central Committee archives in the early 1990s. Access has since been closed to most westerners. His book paints the most complete picture yet of what motivated Vietnam's leaders. …

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