In the Shadow of Giants: The Major Powers and the Security of Southeast Asia

Friday, September 1, 1989

This volume surveys the economic, political, and security conditions prevailing in Southeast Asia and how those circumstances bear on the interests of the major powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China. Because each major power has interests in the area, the nations of Southeast Asia find themselves inextricably involved in the foreign policy initiatives emanating from Washington, Moscow, and Beijing.

Within Southeast Asia, the strains attendant on protracted war in Indochina and demanding economic development elsewhere have been enough to create destabilizing political tensions. The dislocation of populations, the erosion of familiar traditional patterns of collective behavior, the precipitate rise in expectations, an increase in population density, and a maldistribution of welfare benefits have been important factors contributing to the continuing regional instability. As Professor Gregor illustrates, those countries that have not opted for a Marxist alternative have been compelled, by the very nature of the complex and protracted crises in which the ASEAN nations are involved, to employ authoritarian forms of government to contend effectively with the resultant political unrest.

A. James Gregor discusses how the economics and politics of the region have increased in complexity since the end of the Vietnam War. He addresses the danger of instability in the Philippines couples with the possibility of U.S. access to bases in the archipelago. The possible success of a communist insurrection in the islands would further enhance the soviet military and diplomatic presence in Southeast Asia to the detriment of U.S. and Chinese interests.

The author illustrates that an increased Soviet military presence should weaken U.S. security associations in East Asia by threatening the integrity of the sea-lanes that supply Northeast Asia with necessary raw materials and possibly lead to the eventual domination of the West Pacific by the Soviet Union. Professor Gregor outlines the many policy choices that face the United States and evaluated their prospects for success.

Copyright 1989.