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International Relations Based on Fear

Whatever happened to Domino Theory? Way back in the 1950s, the world was recovering from World War II. News coverage was not as intensely 24/7 as it is today. Nevertheless, the world was still a nervous place less than a decade after the great war, with its aftermath still evident in many parts of the world. In 1954, when General Giap decisively defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu, US President Eisenhower brought forth the “falling domino” principle that had been accepted wisdom in foreign policy circles for several years. According to this theory, once Vietnam fell to the Communists, then the neighbouring countries of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand would fall like dominoes and also become communist.

Once Vietnam became Communist, other nations in Indo-China would fall like dominoes....

Once Vietnam became Communist, other nations in Indo-China would fall like dominoes….

The wisdom of hindsight shows that this did not happen. The North Vietnamese were merely fighting for their independence. They had no desire to become satellites of either Russia or China. The US wasted thousands of lives of its own young men (not to mention the terrible toll of Vietnamese lives) in a vain effort to stop dominoes falling. In the process, the US dropped over 2.7 millions tons of ordnance on neighbouring Cambodia, more bombs than the Allies used in all of World War II. This bombing gives Cambodia the doubtful distinction of being the most heavily bombed country in history. See this Yale University link for more detail. http://www.yale.edu/cgp/Walrus_CambodiaBombing_OCT06.pdf (short excerpt below).

The still-incomplete database (it has several “dark” periods) reveals that from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all. The database also shows that the bombing began four years earlier than is widely believed—not under Nixon, but under Lyndon Johnson. The impact of this bombing, the subject of much debate for the past three decades, is now clearer than ever. Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began, setting in motion the expansion of the Vietnam War deeper into Cambodia, a coup d’état in 1970, the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge, and ultimately the Cambodian genocide.

Fast forward to 2015. The current fear that ISIS, a cruel and aggressive Islamist group, will take over the region is unfounded. There are too many opposing interests, not least the Kurds, who will fight to ensure that this does not happen. Kudos then to President Obama for admitting that “we don’t yet have a complete strategy” for dealing with ISIS. This is an honest answer, for there is no cogent strategy to deal with this convoluted situation. The world should be thankful there is no new domino theory in place, no covert plan for “carpet bombing” the region based on fear of falling dominoes. Progress of sorts, perhaps.

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