Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 11. 22 July 1970
Nixon & Cambodia
Nixon & Cambodia
Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, boys by the year two thousand. If present trends continue South East Asia could be completely ingulfed by the Communist onslaught.
When the United States became actively involved in South Vietnam they entered a quagmire. Now five years later they are trying to extricate themselves. The withdrawl of American ground forces compensated by greater Smith Vietnamese participation was a feasible plan, only two months ago. Recent developments in South East Asia have proved that Government troops independant of American forces are no match for North Vietnamese regulars. If American forces had withdrawn as planned there would have been no democratic countries in South East Asia surviving within two decades, for the pressure from Communist China would have been too great too resist. Nixons descision has committed America too involvement in South East Asia. What lies ahead will be either victory or defeat for there will be no honourable withdrawl.
Cambodia: sanctuary for Communists
Ever since it became too dangerous for the Vietcong too remain in their traditional hideouts in South Vietnam they had found sanctuary in neutral Cambodia. Indeed Cambodia was so safe for the Communists under the Sihanouk administration that they chanelled eighty per cent ladies and gentlemen, eighty per cent of their supplies through the Cambodian Port of Sihanoukville. Russian and Chinese freighters brought the supplies in, and they were then transported north over roads, built with American aid. Lightly armed Government troops found it impossible to defend Cambodias three hundred and fifty miles of ill defined border with South Vietnam, and Vietcong infiltration was never halted by Sihanouks policy of biased neutrality.
Sihanouk corrupt and cooperative with Vietcong
Prince Norodom Sihanouk was deposed by General Lon Nol, on grounds of corruption and willingness to cooperate with the Vietcong. A popular ruler the prince lent to the left and to the right when the occasion demanded. Perhaps his only fault was that he guarded Cambodia's neutrality too well.
American and South Vietnamese forces have entered Cambodia to block the supply lines and destroy the bases just inside Cambodia's border, which have allowed the Vietcong to prolong the Vietnam war for so long.
President Nixon was certainly influenced by his country's history. Its first defeat under his administration was more than he would acknowledge easily. If the Americans can defeat the Vietcong before the coming of the monsoon the Communists will be forced to retreat and those remaining m Cambodia will be denied the chance to resupply and reorganise. The ruling regime under General Lon Nol will also be able to consolidate its political position, and suppress pro-Sihanouk forces in the country, who have taken up arms with the Communists. If a victory is not won before the monsoon, Richard Nixon will become a two term president.
C.I.A. headquarters menaced
The conflict in Laos erupted on a large scale two months ago when Communist forces moved south in force from the Plain Jars. One Laotian Army base was overrun and another which served as the headquarters of the CIA was menaced. The very fact that the CIA is in Loas conclusively proves that the United States attaches great importances to this country and is further emphasised by the fact that the CIA finnances an army of ten thousand Meo tribesmen which operates independently of the government in Vientienne. Despite strong resistence from the Royal Laotian Army the Communists now control two thirds of Laos. At the peak of the crisis the Laotian Head of State Prince Souvahanna Phouma appealed to Thailand for aid. Relief arrived in the form of two battalions of Thai mercenaries, which despite the fact that the troops were mercenaries proved that Thailand is prepared to take action against Communist aggression.
There has been some accusation that Hanoi had prepared Cambodia as a noose to entrap America into further involvement, but events moved so quickly and Nixons decision was so unpredictable that I doubt, if even Hanoi would have had the audacity to gamble every advantage she had on further ensnaring America.
Will Nixon be a two-term President?
In their objective the Americans have failed, no strong resistence has been encountered and the Communist Vietnam War headquarters has not as yet been located. The monsoon has come two months before scheduled and hopes that the Vietcong would be repulsed are fading and without a victory Richard Nixon will not become a two-term President.
The Cambodian front is crumbling under pressure from the Communists and the only obstacle between the Communists and Phnom Penh are a few regiments of inexperienced and disorganized Cambodians. Their weapons were made in China and obtained under the Sihanouk administration and since his overthrow ammunition and spare parts are no longer available. Despite the fact that the Americans have turned over all captured weapons and ammunition there is still a dangerous shortage. To provide experienced leadership veteran Cambodian mercenaries have been flown into Phnom Penh but despite the provision of arms and advisers the Cambodian Army is still insufficient. At Saong it took three Cambodian Regiments who had air support, artillery and armour four days to capture positions held by no more than a hundred Communists.
The Vietcong tactics are the same as employed in Vietnam and Laos-they infiltrate in squads and then regroup behind their enemy's lines to attack in battalion strength.
The Communists could easily take Phnom Penh but it does not appear that they are prepared to go that far. For one they are not leaving caches of supplies as they advance and it is possible that they have overreached their supply lines. But they could be waiting to see if American troops are sent to reinforce the Cambodian line. Hanoi however under orders from Peking may take Phnom Penh if only to reinstall Sihanouk as the head of a puppet. His popularity could be the vital influence which the Communists need to gain support from the peasant population.
Some vital questions
The next few weeks will be vital to the security of South East Asia and questions now being posed may be answered. Will Hanoi be prepared to negotiate for peace? Will Thailand enter the Indo China War? And finally the most important question. How far will Richard Nixon be prepared to go to insure America does not become a Second Rate Power?
The answers to these questions will determine whether or not peace in South East Asia will be attained.
Scots College is a Wellington private school for the sons of gentlefolk. "A Scots boy," parents of prospective students are told, "has a great and honourable tradition to uphold, a tradition set and maintained by those who are now Old Boys of the School. He is expected to maintain this standard of behaviour at all times, in school and travelling to and from school. His dress, his bearing, his courtesy, his thoughtfulness, should mark him as a Scots boy." By way of introduction to the school, we print in the adjacent columns the text of the prize-winning speech in the intermediate section of the Scots College Public Speaking Contest this year. Grammar and spelling remain unchanged from the original. Four Salient Editors in the last five years were ex pupils of Scots College.