Date of Award

2008

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Advisor

Elizabeth McKillen

Second Committee Member

Ngo Vinh Long

Third Committee Member

Richard W. Judd

Abstract

At the height of the Cold War in 1967, five nations of Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) announced the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Although the turmoil taking place at the doorsteps of these nations heightened their awareness of the need for improved security, their stated objectives were economic, cultural and social cooperation. This study examines both the regional and global factors which gave rise to the creation and development of ASEAN, noting the particular influence of the United States and the three wars in Indochina on the development of the association. ASEAN as an institution allowed its members to improve interstate communication and working relations, providing regional stability and fulfilling the role envisioned by early American Cold War policy planners. As the United States involvement in Vietnam escalated in the 1960s, the pro- Western nations of Southeast Asia recognized the futility of American efforts and anticipated America's major withdrawal from the region. Realizing the increasing need to provide their own security, the pro-Western states organized ASEAN. The "fall" of Indochina in 1975, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia late 1978, and the refreezing of the Cold War in the late 1970s reaffirmed the need for ASEAN and offered new opportunities for assertive action as a player on the international scene. The Third Indochina War, which began with Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in late 1978, served to further solidify ties between ASEAN members. They learned to work together for a common cause while pursuing policies aimed at preventing Vietnam from consolidating its hold over Cambodia. The organization's diplomatic efforts played a large part in establishing a framework for a future political settlement, and in providing venues for negotiations between the Cambodian factions and their supporters. American assistance to the individual members of ASEAN and the continuing American support of the organization, helped transform the region. While fulfilling the hopes of early Cold War American foreign policy planners, ASEAN, in turn, played an important role in maintaining regional stability and easing the security burden of the United States in Southeast Asia.

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