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Foreign policy made (not so) simple-- Cambodia

When I learned that the factions currently struggling for control of Cambodia had inched closer to forming a coalition government and holding free elections, I was, needless to say, surprised and delighted. When I read that Prince Sihanouk, Cambodia's former king and the least trustworthy man in the universe, would unify rival groups, I was shocked. Cambodia, torn apart by civil war since the 1960s, ravaged in a psychotic bloodbath by the Khmer Rouge communist guerrillas in the 1970s, and conquered by the Vietnamese in the 1980s, appears to be approaching stability. Even the fighting between the Vietnamese-controlled dictatorship of Cambodia, and a coalition

of various non-communist, US-backed groups and Chinese-backed communist groups (including the Khmer Rouge) seems to be ending. Well, not really.

Along with the news that a popularly elected, democratic government would return to Cambodia came the information that the White House would continue funding two non-communist rebel groups in Cambodia. Here we go again. This decision is probably the correct one, as diplomatic initiatives often fail, and as military pressure in the right places always speeds the peace process in troubled lands. But, alas, if the United States is again to pick a side to fight on in this Third-World quandary, it should remember a few simple rules of engagement.

The Nine Intuitively Obvious Rules


Low-Intensity Insurgency Warfare

1. Get involved. If the United States fails to involve itself in deciding Cambodia's future, a Khmer Rouge return to power would be likely, dooming the nation to years of tyrannical rule.

2. Don't get involved. No matter what role the United States tries to play in Cambodia, Cambodians will view its participation with distrust, and chances are we will pick the wrong side, anyway.

3. Provide military aid to friendly rebels. The White House, when concerned that proposals for aiding rebels won't pass through the firey gates of Congress, often suggests the shipment of "non-lethal" or "humanitarian" aid -- which is fine and good unless the rebels actually have to fight.

4. Never provide military aid to friendly rebels. The United States recently discovered that the Cambodian non-communist forces it had been aiding had been sharing US weaponry with the Khmer Rouge.

5. Trust your friends. The United States must make a political commitment to an insurgency group if it hopes to have any influence on the group's leadership, and gain any stake in the country's government if the rebel group actually wins.

6. Never trust your friends. Most of the non-communist rebel groups in Cambodia have already entered into a military alliance with our friends, the Red Devils, and are more concerned with their own future than US interests.

7. Commit ground troops. If the United States does not commit several light infantry or airborne divisions into the area, its words will carry no weight.

8. Never commit ground troops in an Asian jungle war. 'Nuf said?

9. Never listen to political columnists.


Freshman Matthew H. Hersch is an associate opinion editor of The Tech.