In This Review

Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961-1965: Britain, the United States, Indonesia and the Creation of Malaysia
Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961-1965: Britain, the United States, Indonesia and the Creation of Malaysia
By Matthew Jones
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 325 pp

This meticulous, fascinating study resurrects a major Southeast Asian crisis that was eventually obscured by the Vietnam War. When Indonesia decided in 1961 to use force to block independent Malaysia's inclusion of the British Empire territories of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo, the United Kingdom and the United States were faced with a challenge that was heading toward military confrontation. Washington was caught up in several dilemmas: it wanted to help the United Kingdom but not offend Indonesia, which was visibly gravitating toward the Soviet bloc. Several high officials in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations stated publicly that Indonesia was more important to American national interests than Vietnam. Taking advantage of new British and U.S. archival material, Jones documents the inner battles in London and Washington as both governments sought ways to check Indonesian leader Sukarno's ambitions without driving him into the arms of the communists. But in the end, of course, "Southeast Asia" became synonymous with Vietnam to Americans, who forgot that the Indonesian-Malaysian crisis came out better for the West.