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Markin, Terrence Craig 1996 The West Irian Dispute: How the Kennedy Administration Resolved that 'Other' Southeast Asian Conflict, PhD Dissertation, Johns Hopkins University.
    © Terrence Craig Markin, 1996. Use of any part of this thesis for any purpose must be acknowledged.


Few people may recall that for a period in the early 1960s, there was a Southeast Asian dispute outside of Indochina that appeared to reach the verge of large-scale war between a founding member of NATO and a major recipient of Soviet aid. But that was what occurred in the Netherlands-Indonesia dispute over West Irian, a matter that the Kennedy administration worried, if left unresolved, could 'force us out of Viet Nam.' Yet when the dispute was settled, interest in the affair fell so quickly that no comprehensive analysis of the successful mediation effort was ever conducted. The purpose of this dissertation is to provide such a study. In doing so, this dissertation draws on more than 300 previously classified U.S. documents, interviews with more than 60 people (including all of the participants of the peace talks still living), and research at institutions in the United States, Indonesia, and the Netherlands. From these sources, four themes emerge to shed new light on the resolution process. First, the long-standing assumption that the United States forced through a settlement by pressuring the Dutch to concede is incorrect. Second, Indonesia successfully used the threat of military action, under a policy it called konfrontasi, to intimidate the Netherlands. Third, the peace process can be understood only by considering the unusual actions of individual negotiators. Fourth, valuable dispute resolution strategies can be gleaned from the moderator's conduct of the talks. Throughout the dissertation, a number of other issues are addressed, including the impact of mixed signals sent by the parties, the principle of third party impartiality, and the role of the United Nations. This study, like the many books on the Vietnam War, helps to illuminate both American foreign policy and Southeast Asian affairs during the Cold War. In contrast to the scholarship on Vietnam, the West Irian affair also elucidates lessons in how to avert war through negotiations. Those lessons can be very valuable for moderators of upcoming disputes.


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