‘Blood­less War’ and Its 14 Mil­lion Dead

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by John Delury

Paul Cham­ber­lin here re­jects the con­ven­tional Cold War nar­ra­tive of a “blood­less” con­test be­tween the US and Soviet Union, “the long peace.” In place of that story, fo­cused on ten­sions in a di­vided Europe, Cham­ber­lin looks at Asia, broadly de­fined (from Korea to Le­banon), which suf­fered from ter­ri­ble vi­o­lence linked to the su­per­power strug­gle. Some 14 mil­lion peo­ple per­ished in re­gional con­flicts, civil wars and mas­sacres in Asia’s “Cold War bor­der­lands.”

Cham­ber­lin traces three broad phases of vi­o­lence. First, the decade af­ter the Sec­ond World War saw the Chi­nese Civil War, Korean

War and first In­dochina War. Sec­ond, from 1964 with US es­ca­la­tion in Viet­nam and shift­ing from East Asia to the “Indo-asian blood­lands” — the 1965 mas­sacre in In­done­sia, geno­cide in Bangladesh, the 1971 In­di­a­pak­istan War, and the ter­ror of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The fi­nal pe­riod erupts with the 1975 Le­banese civil war and fol­lows sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence along Asia’s rim­land, from the Soviet in­va­sion of Afghanistan to wars in the Mid­dle East.

Some con­flicts fit Cham­ber­lin’s su­per­power cul­pa­bil­ity the­sis bet­ter than oth­ers. And the link­age be­tween the phases, as well as ex­clu­sion of proxy war­fare from sub-sa­ha­ran Africa to Cen­tral Amer­ica, might in­vite chal­lenge. The book’s scope is formidable, and like any strong work of his­tor­i­cal in­ter­pre­ta­tion, it is likely to raise new ques­tions as it an­swers old ones.

Some con­flicts fit Cham­ber­lin’s su­per­power cul­pa­bil­ity the­sis bet­ter than oth­ers.

The Cold War’s Killing Fields: Re­think­ing the Long PeaceBy Paul Thomas Cham­ber­linHarper­collins, 2018, 629 pages, $29.99 (Hard­cover)

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