Outposts of Empire: Korea, Vietnam, and the Origins of the Cold War in Asia, 1949-1954

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Outposts of Empire: Korea, Vietnam, and the Origins of the Cold War in Asia, 1949-1954

By Steven Hugh Lee
Mcgill-Queens University Press, 1995
295 pp. $39.95
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A careful, scholarly analysis of the development of Western policy in East Asia during the formative years of the Cold War. The author, a historian at the University of British Columbia, unfortunately says nothing about the wisdom of U.S. policy, an approach that is dispassionate to a fault. He is concerned instead with explaining what that policy was and the influences on its evolution. He argues that the concept of "empire by invitation" makes more sense in Western Europe than in East Asia, where political structures were less developed and where Americans played a critical role in fostering the emergence of indigenous anti-communist elites. His most important contribution is assessing the influence of Britain and Canada on the development of American policy. Both countries were torn between the fear of renewed American isolationism and the desire to place limits on an aggressive U.S. policy that might land them in a world war. This balancing act, in which American leadership was simultaneously encouraged and restrained, has not lost its relevance in the post-Cold War world. The care with which Lee treats this subject makes his work valuable not only to historians of the period but to those interested in the broader problem of cooperation among the Western democracies.