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Vietnam’s Strategic Thinking during the Third Indochina War


In summary, Vietnam’s Strategic Thinking During the Third Indochina War by Dr. Kosal Path contributes to the existing scholarship in three major aspects. First and most importantly, it challenges the conventional wisdom that Hanoi’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia was an irrational decision driven by the imperial ambitions of the Vietnamese political elites in Indochina, and that their paranoia spiraled because of Hanoi’s false belief that Beijing was instigating Khmer Rouge attacks on Vietnam. Archival evidence shows instead that the invasion and occupation were a calculated decision based on geo-political priorities and domestic imperatives at that time. Second, the book contributes to broader scholarship on the relationship between war and state-building by showing how Vietnam came to view war as a cure-all that would resolve its economic crisis and external threats to its territorial sovereignty and would solidify alliances. It thus reveals the link between economics and security, contributing to the existing scholarship on small states’ formation of alliances and war decision-making. Third, the book provides new insights into why Vietnam decided to engage in a costly regime change and nation-building in Cambodia and why these efforts failed to establish a loyal client state in Cambodia in the 1980s. For scholars who are interested in the Third Indochina War that engulfed the region after the fall of Saigon, the book provides a detailed historical account—a Vietnamese perspective—that fills a gap in the existing scholarship. More broadly, this book contributes to emerging scholarship on the shift in the Vietnamese political elites’ thinking from the doctrinal Marxist-Leninist ideology during the last decade of the Cold War to the reform and opening of the post-Cold War era.


Book Author & Speaker:
Dr. Kosal Path is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Master’s Program in International Affairs and Global Justice at Brooklyn College, The City University of New York. He received his doctoral degree in international relations from the University of Southern California and currently teaches about international relations, genocide, and human rights. He is the author of Vietnam’s Strategic Thinking During the Third Indochina War (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2020).

Dr. Christopher Goscha is Professor of International Relations at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). He teaches courses on Asian international relations and history as well as world history. He has recently published Vietnam. A History (2016, Basic Books) and The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First Vietnam War (2021, Princeton University Press).

Dr. Steve Heder has studied, worked in or taught about Southeast Asia and China since the early 1970s. He holds a PhD in Politics and has worked for the United Nations and various human rights organizations. He is currently a Research Associate at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the London School of Oriental and African Studies and a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Foreign Policy Institute. His particular research interests have included democracy, revolution, genocide and human rights.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the publications and through webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. The designations employed in the publications and through the webinars, and the presentation of material therein, do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. as to the matters discussed therein. The responsibility for opinions expressed in the publications and webinars are solely those of the authors or speakers, and the publication does not constitute an endorsement by The Center for Khmer Studies, Inc. of the opinions, views or issues discussed therein.


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