‘Bloodless War’ and Its 14 Million Dead
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)