Eisenhower and Cambodia
Diplomacy, Covert Action, and the Origins of the Second Indochina War
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Although most Americans paid little attention to Cambodia during Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency, the nation's proximity to China and the global ideological struggle with the Soviet Union guaranteed US vigilance throughout Southeast Asia. Cambodia's leader, Norodom Sihanouk, refused to take sides in the Cold War, a policy that disturbed US officials. From 1953 to 1961, his government avoided the political and military crises of neighboring Laos and South Vietnam. However, relations between Cambodia and the United States suffered a blow in 1959 when Sihanouk discovered CIA involvement in a plot to overthrow him. The coup, supported by South Vietnam and Thailand, was a failure that succeeded only in increasing Sihanouk's power and prestige, presenting new foreign policy challenges in the region.
In Eisenhower and Cambodia, William J. Rust examines the United States' efforts to lure Cambodia from neutrality to alliance. He conclusively demonstrates that, as with Laos in 1958 and 1960, covert intervention in the internal political affairs of neutral Cambodia proved to be a counterproductive tactic for advancing the United States' anticommunist goals. Drawing on recently declassified sources, Rust skillfully traces the impact of "plausible deniability" on the formulation and execution of foreign policy. His meticulous study not only reveals a neglected chapter in Cold War history but also illuminates the intellectual and political origins of US strategy in Vietnam and the often-hidden influence of intelligence operations in foreign affairs.
Prologue: Plausible Denial
A Shrewd Move (1953-1954)
Not a Happy Omen (1954)
Time for Further Maneuvers (1955)
Irresponsible and Mischievous Actions (1956)
Change from the Top (1956)
Many Unpleasant and Difficult Things (1957-1958)
Numerous Reports of Plots (1958)
A Shady Matter (1958-1959)
Stupid Moves (1959-1960)
Getting Along with Sihanouk (1960)
Definite Political Problems (1960-1961)
Epilogue: Forebodings and Potential Opposition
"Bill Rust has made it his purpose to dig deep for explanations of the origins of the American war in Southeast Asia. In Eisenhower and Cambodia Rust shines a penetrating light on the murkiest corner of all, the impact of American actions on the neutralist nation of Cambodia and its Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Rust's account considerably advances our knowledge of Eisenhower's and Kennedy's actions in Cambodia. No student of the Vietnam war can afford to miss Eisenhower and Cambodia." -- John Prados, author of Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945--1975
"Rust's books on the early years in Vietnam and Laos established him as the preeminent scholar of the period. Cambodia during this time frame remains overlooked. Thus the author's best book to date fills an important place in the literature. It is excellent scholarship written as always in the author's deft style." -- Joe P. Dunn, author of "I Have Done the Work": The Times and Life of James Hutchison Kerr
"William Rust, author of two recent definitive books about American relations with Laos, now explores US relations with Cambodia during the Dwight Eisenhower administration. This is a careful, impressive, well written and researched diplomatic history that highlights the administration's antipathy toward neutralism in the Cold War, which led it into ill-advised and self-defeating efforts to destabilize Prince Norodom Sihanouk's government. It will stand as the authoritative work for many years to come." -- Kenton Clymer, author of A Delicate Relationship: The United States and Burma/Myanmar since 1945
"Rust's brilliant account of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administration's attempt to leverage a recalcitrant Cambodian leader into a Cold War alliance reveals much about American diplomacy then and now. Extensively researched and exceptionally readable, this groundbreaking book discloses the often shadowy realities of what occurs when government officials from dissimilar cultures endeavor to bend each other to their will." -- Walter E. Kretchik, author of U.S. Army Doctrine: From the American Revolution to the War on Terror
"William Rust's engaging book contributes significantly to our understanding of U.S.-Cambodian relations, the origins of the Vietnam War, and the role of covert operations in American foreign policy during the Cold War. As he does in his other books, Rust relies on extensive archival research to craft a gripping and accessible narrative that brings to life the characters on all sides of this complex story." -- Jessica Elkind, author of Aid Under Fire: Nation Building and the Vietnam War
"Rust has mastered the art of reviving the past as he piles fact upon fact to recreate the political and military climate of the time." -- The VVA Veteran
"Rust offers a thoroughly researched history of the relationship between the United States and Cambodia during the Eisenhower years.
Rust is excellent in reporting on the process of American policymaking and how Sihanouk and the Cambodians reacted to American policy.
Rust tells a fascinating story filled with political and military intrigue and covert action." -- H-Diplo
"The meticulous archival document and oral history research make this study the epitome of diplomatic history, and it highlights the role of covert actions in the country. Despite the detail and intricacy of the rendering, Rust's deft writing and his development of the personalities involved make absorbing reading. The study broadens and deepens understanding of the complexity of the Indochina quagmire. It is essential for any serious student of the Vietnam War." -- Choice
"Rust has a keen eye for detail, and his research [...] shines a light on the complicated politics of Southeast Asia in the 1950s, including the region's political and military leaders and dissident groups, as well as US diplomats stationed there." -- Asian Review of Books
"We all know the horrific end of this story. Rust's masterful accomplishment is to illuminate the beginning, to trace the arrogance of the US determination to push Cambodia into the fires of the Vietnam War." -- London School of Economics Review of Books
" Eisenhower and Cambodia should not only be considered the standard work on US--Cambodia relations during this period, but it is also a highly useful text for understanding US foreign policy formulation during the Eisenhower years, Washington's often fraught relationship with its anti-communist allies, and the limits of covert action." -- International Affairs
"In William J. Rust's Eisenhower & Cambodia: Diplomacy, Covert Action, and the Origins of the Second Indochina War, new light is shed on an often convoluted segment of Cambodian history, describing detailed experiments in democracy, Cold War diplomatic maneuverings and a king obsessed with political power. Anyone interested in the complex and often violent birth pangs of post-World WarCambodia, its connection to the war in Vietnam and the rise of the Khmer Rouge will findRust's book of unparalleled appeal." -- Mekong Review
"Like his previous diplomatic histories of the United States' early efforts in Laos and South Vietnam, Rust's study of the Eisenhower administration's relationship with Cambodia is a valuable and compelling addition to our understanding of the roots of the Second Indochina War." -- Journal of Military History