As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements, we would do well to recognize the importance of history, and in particular Cambodia’s military history, for the region and the world. Cambodia’s history should be recognized as a national resource to inform the country’s strategic development, influence, and leadership in the ASEAN region.
Military history has been described as the research of war and the analysis of victory and defeat; however, it also encompasses much more. Military history covers a range of topics from the rise and fall of regimes to the transformation of countries, and how humanity repeats and/or learns from its mistakes. Cambodia’s history is filled with unique lessons for the country, region, and world.
Cambodia was a significant crossroads in the Cold War struggle between ideologies, political systems, and foreign policy agendas. The history of Cambodia that led up to, and comprises part of, the history of foreign interventions in the region demonstrates how critical the country is to regional security, and the region’s security is to global security. Further, the mass atrocities, war, and deprivation that colored so much of Cambodia’s history in the latter part of the 20th century provide important lessons on the conditions that precipitate and result from instability, war, and genocide. Cambodia’s history is an illustration of the human spirit as much as a lesson in the depths of human depravity.