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We now present Cambodia - What now, What next series of six broadcasts produced for WRVR by students at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The first in the series is titled Indo- Cambodia: Defense or Invasion? Now here's Mark Estrin, executive producer of Cambodia -What Now, What Next? [Mark Estrin:] Music of Cambodia largely unchanged for eight hundred years. [music] Cambodia's musical destiny has long been that of a crossroads of the great civilizations of Asia. The Chinese, Indian and Javanese Empires. [music] n- Now Cambodia is a crossroads of a different kind. The latest
theatre in which the United States' show of strength in Southeast Asia is playing. On April 30th President Nixon announced to the nation that he was sending American combat forces into Cambodian territory. The president's announcement climaxed a month in which Cambodia had begun to appear more and more frequently in the news. In early April, stories began to filter in that South Vietnamese forces have been reported fighting in Cambodia. At this time, the US position was reported to be that Cambodian sovereignty had to be preserved and respected. That position was soon to change. On April 23rd, at the request of Premier Lon Nol the US gave Cambodia a cache of weapons allegedly captured from communist forces in Vietnam. Then, on April 25th, came an official proclamation that the US regarded Cambodia as having been subjected to a foreign invasion of a neutral country. On April 28th, as bipartisan
opposition to aid to Cambodia was expressed by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State William Rogers said that the president had the authority to give Cambodia at least some arms and military aid without congressional approval. And then came the Nixon television appearance of April 30th. Reaction to the intervention in Cambodia was immediate. At universities across the country the call went up. [inaudible chanting from crowd] Reaction within Congress was almost as intense and potentially much more far reaching. Many senators and house members caught by surprise by Nixon's televised speech soon rallied behind the claim that the intervention in Cambodia had violated both national and international law. Steve Friedman examines the legal questions raised by the move into
Cambodia. [Friedman]: is America's military expansion in Southeast Asia constitutional? This issue has generated heated remarks by critics of the war. [Critic]: We're at war in violation of our international commitments and we're at war in violation of the Constitution of the United States. Article one section eight of the Constitution specifically provides that only Congress has the power to declare war. No president has the right to send American boys to their death on a battlefield in the absence of a declaration of war. Those words might have been spoken in May 1970 by any number of congressmen opposed to US intervention in Cambodia. They were in fact spoken in August 1964 by then Senator Wayne Morse in opposition to US intervention in South Vietnam. The question of the constitutionality of our military action in Southeast Asia has for the most part remain dormant, smothered in dusty law books brushed off now and again and a half hearted way. But now, as
a result of President Nixon's sudden controversial movement of troops into Cambodia, the legal issues are being revived, the US Constitution re-explored. The matter in question is the separation of powers written into the Constitution by the founding fathers. Article one, section eight gives Congress the power to declare war, to raise and support armies and navies, and to make rules for the government and regulation of land and naval forces. But Article two, section two explains that the president shall be commander in chief of the army and navy. Where did the powers of the commander in chief end, and the powers of the congress begin? Republican Senator Charles Percy of Illinois recently told a group of students in Washington that he sees a clear line of demarcation of powers. [Percy]: The constitution is very clear in that it's intent and purpose and expressions are that only the Congress can be, can declare war. That should mean to go into war. The President is clearly the commander in
chief. Once we're in a war, I think they assume, then you have to let someone run it. But the commander in chief has used that authority, as President Kennedy did, to get us into the war in Vietnam by ordering 16,000 forces, and Lyndon Johnson by putting 45,000 training forces. Senator Percy's argument has been echoed by Tom Ferrer, an associate professor of law at Columbia University who served in the Justice Department under President Kennedy. Ferrer indicates that he too feels the president has exceeded his powers. [Ferrer]: I don't think many reputable constitutional lawyers are prepared to take the position that the President can engage in a major extended military operation without the approval of the Congress. On the other hand, it's probable many would conclude he had the power to engage in some small scale military operation simply because he has.
Our presidents have been exercising military force without consultation or approval of the Congress for - virtually from the inception of the Republic. In this case, we're clearly talking about a major war, and if one were to conclude that the President could engage in a conflict of this dimension without consultation with Congress, then the Constitution, the most explicit provision in the Constitution - that Congress shall have the power to make war - will have been amended without going through the traditional procedures for amendment, and that seems wholly unacceptable, ought to be unacceptable, it is unacceptable. But others feel that President Nixon may have the legal authority for sending troops to Cambodia. Lewis Henkin of Columbia University is a noted educator and lawyer who has served in both the United Nations and the US State Department. Henkins says that the President can look toward the actions of Congress as backing for his decision to enter Cambodia. [Henkins]: I think the decision to make war
rests with Congress, but I think Congress has given the President the authority, both in the wide scope of the Tonkin Resolution and in passing appropriation acts with full knowledge of what the money's being used for. The debate then centers on this question: Has the President usurped the right of Congress to declare war and regulate armies, or has Congress in effect waived its right by turning over its powers to declare war to the President? The Tonkin Gulf Resolution was adopted by both houses of congress in August 1964. Through the resolution, the United States declares that it is prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force to help defend Southeast Asia. Former Supreme Court Justice and UN ambassador Arthur Goldberg feels that this resolution makes criticism of the Cambodian intervention difficult. [Goldberg]: Part of the problem is the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. I have always thought that that should be a priority measure to get that resolution repealed. It's a joint resolution of the Congress, sweeping in it's terms, and I think it should never have been enacted. Only if I recall only two senators voted against it, and I think it ought to be repealed.
Professor Henkin indicates that Congress may have to take more positive action than just repealing the Tonkin Resolution if it wants to end the War. [Henkin]: Congress could pass a resolution calling on the President to terminate the war and that would be the clearest expression of the body which has the final authority to decide war or peace. If they do anything less than it will require interpretation of what the action of the Congress means, as well as what it is the president might do without congressional authority. By which I mean, if you take away the Tonkin Resolution, the President might still argue that he has some presidential authority in the absence of the resolution. Or perhaps that he has authority to continue what he was doing and that disengaging is not something which Congress can impose on him by fiat. If you just withhold appropriations you are also doing a less than clear act. But if Congress
calls, resolve by both houses of Congress that the president shall put an end to the war, that is congressional authority and I think it would be binding on the President. There is little question that Congress could undeclare the war if its members so desire. In this respect, a formidable battle appears to be shaping up within Congress. Tom Ferrer of the Columbia Law School indicates that if there is a major struggle developing, he would welcome it. [Ferrer]:I certainly hope there is and I think in this case those are not barren hopes, those are very plausible hopes. These hopes lie in a number of resolutions now before Congress aimed at limiting or ending the war in Indochina. They range from preventing further expansion of military actions in Cambodia and Laos, to ending all US military involvement in Southeast Asia. In recent conversations with students at his Washington office, Republican Senator John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky suggested congressional action is probably necessary to change the President's authority because in Cooper's
opinion, Nixon's action may not have been unconstitutional. [Cooper]: You can't say flatly its a violation of the Constitution. The Commander in Chief, in time of war, has got large powers and if he claims he does something to protect the troops, once the plan has been made its very hard to overturn. I don't know how you can overturn except to do something to end the troops... have them being there. The more forcefully worded amendments do not stand much chance of passage and even the weakest proposals face strong opposition in the House but increasing numbers of congressman feel they must take some action as Arthur Goldberg believes they should. [Goldberg]: I am very much for Congress asserting its proper role in this area. Constitution says that a Declaration of War must be made by the Congress. The Constitution also says that Congress controls the purse of the country. I would hope that Congress, which by the way, and I think most people in Congress would agree, has been too slow in asserting its constitutional responsibilities, will now assert
it. And I think it will have a most salutary effect if Congress does this. Professor Ferrer asserts that Congress should reserve the power to send US troops into foreign countries under its right to declare war. [Ferrer]: There's something terribly grave psychologically about the act of declaring war. I think it'll be much more difficult to move incrementally into a conflict if a formal declaration were required. I think it for that reason it would be more consistent with the intention of the founders. I think that they recognized that the declaration of war is the gravest occasion in the nation's life. They evidence this, a, by giving the power to declare war to Congress, they evidenced it in addition by requiring that appropriations for the war effort could not be for a period longer than two years so that the President couldn't simply run away with it as commander in chief and
enlarge a war or engage in a different kind of struggle that had been authorized and so on. Some observers feel that the whole matter of congressional versus presidential authority should be settled in the US Supreme Court. But Lewis Henkin believes that the court would not be willing to rule on the issue. [Henkin]: Constitutional questions can get to the court only when they're brought in an actual case and usually it requires a private party who has standing, that is he has a direct personal interest in the result. If such a party appeared and he challenged the question, challenged the authority of the President, now the court might still not hear it because there is a view that this would be a political question. Remember that the issue that we're talking about is not the scope of governmental authority to impinge on individual rights, which is the kind of question the courts will usually not avoid, but rather a distribution of power between two branches of the federal government, where Congress, as far as I'm
concerned, has the full authority to decide, in this case, what that distribution is, or more accurately, to decide what the action shall be, and I'm not sure why the court would feel impelled to resolve that issue if Congress itself is unwilling to clearly resolve it. It appears therefore, that if the question of who steers this nation's military policy is to be answered, the response will come from Congress. Right now, the executive branch controls the throttle that determines how quickly or how slowly the war will proceed, how extensive or how limited in its range will be. Congress must soon make clear whether it wants to go along for the ride and continue down the same road or whether in fact it plans to move the President out of the driver's seat. This is Steve Friedman, now back to Mark Estren. [Estren]: While Congress debates the constitutional question, the matter of international law is also coming under close inspection. By its nature, international law is a hazy system
complicated by the countless treaties international organizations and power blocks that form its basis. But Columbia's Tom Ferrer believes that President Nixon has sidestepped what system there is. [Ferrer]: International law to begin with has been wholly ignored in the case of the Cambodian situation. At least the Johnson administration always went through the forms. It always claimed that it was acting legally and I think that's important. It shows some respect for a legal process, some respect for the opinions of the peoples of the rest of the world. The Nixon administration has showed utter disrespect and disinterest. It talks about law and order at home, it warns other nations of the world to respect international order, but it shows utter contempt for law in its foregin adventures. Ferrer also notes an irony in the Cambodian affair. For years, Cambodia has claimed to be a neutral country despite the fact that Prince Sihanouk did not try to stop
communist forces from using Cambodian territory as sanctuary before the Lon Nol government took over. Thus, says Ferrer, Sihanouk failed to live up to a neutral countries obligation not to harbor foreign belligerent troops. [Ferrer]: We might have had some justification for moving into Cambodia to root out the sanctuaries while Sihanouk was there, because he was not meeting his obligations as a neutral, arguably. But when Sihanouk is gone, a new government emerges and it starts to meet its obligations as a neutral, obviously, the justification for invading ceases to exist. Lewis Henkin, who had served at the United Nations, and is an authority on international law, says the whole question might be avoided. [Henkins]: One possible argument which would resolve it all is the United States was acting with the consent of the Cambodian government, and that even if this consent wasn't given expressly, because it was at least acquiescence, and it was
certainly ratified after the fact. But Ferrer says that consent after the fact isn't the same as agreement with the action. [Ferrer]: There's no doubt that the President would have had a fairly strong, at least a plausible legal argument, if he had first obtained the permission of Cambodia. But he didn't. And now he says that it's been ratified by Cambodia. Well, I would analogize that to the situation in our own domestic law where I beat you to a pulp. And then at the end of the beating, you say, smiling through your tears that "I ratify what you have done". Well that doesn't prevent the police from arresting me and charging me with aggravated assault, because this is an offense against the whole community. It's an offense against good order. And I would argue hence that whatever the Cambodians may do now, after we're already in there, after it's a fait accompli, they cannot ratify any movement of troops, aggressive movement of troops across their border. So the crisis in Cambodia is a legal as well as a political
one. Many people feel that the powers of the legislature and the responsibilities of this nation in the world community must, in the light of that crisis, be redefined. Yet no re-evaluation of our worldwide responsibilities can stop the fighting now going on within Cambodia. Legal arguments may prevent future Cambodian actions, but this one is here to stay. How long it will stay is uncertain. President Nixon claims that all US troops will be out of Cambodia before July 1st, a time limit which may, in any case, be necessary because July marks the height of the monsoon season. But there may be other reasons for a quick withdrawal from Cambodia, some of which can be found by studying the country itself. One brigade commander in Cambodia has been quoted as saying. "The fighting will probably turn out to be much the same as in Vietnam. It's the same terrain, the same enemy, and the same us." Well it's the same us and arguably the same
enemy. But it's not the same terrain. And that, plus the other unique aspects of Cambodian culture may bear directly on the length of the Cambodian operation and on its success or failure. Michael Stearns reports on the land and its people. [Stearns]: Cambodia occupies about the same land area as the State of Missouri, but the seven million Cambodians are about two million more than Missouri's population. Most of the Cambodians belonged to an ethnic group called the Khmers. The Khmers comprise some eighty-seven percent of the Cambodian population. They are mostly peasant rice growers. Among the other thirteen percent of the Cambodian population are three noteworthy minorities: the French, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese minority is a diverse group. Some of them hold government jobs, while others have a strong grip on the fishing industry. They're called Vietnamese, but most of these people, some three hundred thousand, have
never seen Vietnam. Their families have been in Cambodia for many generations. They are clannish, and a lot live in ghettos due to the refusal of the Khmers to integrate the Vietnamese into Cambodian society. There has generally been a live and let live relationship between Khmers and the Vietnamese, despite a lingering hostility dating back hundreds of years. The Khmers have a royal family with lineal threads going back to the Angkor period of a thousand years ago. This generation's limb on the family tree is Norodom Sihanouk. He became king in 1941, when Cambodia was under French rule. In 1953, Sihanouk declared Cambodia's independence. He tried to rally public support, working from a temporary headquarters about a hundred and fifty miles northwest of Phnom Penh. The stratagem worked, and the French were forced into negotiations that led to complete independence in 1955. In that year, Sihanouk abdicated the
throne and became chief of state while retaining the title of prince. From 1955 on, Sihanouk concentrated on Cambodia's internal affairs. He assumed a neutralist role in the disputes that brought war to Laos and Vietnam. About five years ago when the North Vietnamese started using the Hồ Chí Minh trail through parts of Cambodia and Laos, Sihanouk left them alone. His attitude seemed to be 'you don't bother me and I won't bother you'. The prince knew the North Vietnamese were there but didn't say anything publicly, not until last year when he was affronted by the sommunists. Sihanouk always preferred to tour the land and talk to the people rather than staying in the capital at his desk. Once he was motoring through one of the eastern provinces when he found the road blocked by a communist patrol. The armed men prevented Sihanouk from driving into the village ahead and the prince was irritated. Returning to Phnom Penh, he publicly announced that North
Vietnamese troops were on Cambodian soil. From then on, the live and let live relationship deteriorated until Sihanouk began to fear for Cambodia's security. In January of this year, Sihanouk's health was deteriorating and he went to France for medical attention. Back home, the communists were becoming more active militarily. The government was left in the hands of the prime minister, General Lon Nol. On March 18th, Lon Nol lead a parliament-endorsed coup which toppled the Sihanouk regime. Sihanouk had permitted the Vietnamese minority to live in relative peace within Cambodia, but four weeks after Lon Nol seize power, an Associated Press correspondent reported that he had seen the bodies of four hundred Vietnamese floating in the Mekong River, apparent victims of one of several alleged massacres. It thus appears that Lon Nol has awakened the dormant Khmer hostility toward the
Vietnamese. This puzzles American scholars on Cambodian affairs such as Stanley Higginbotham of the Southern Asia Institute of Columbia University. [Higginbotham]: What exactly the motive of the Lon Nol regime in stirring up anti-Vietnamese feelings has been, I'm not at all clear. But partly, I think, a sense of, it's been necessary to get the population mobilized into recognizing the threat of Vietnamese expansionism in Cambodia. This has been a traditional threat and a traditional fear. While Lon Nol is trying to mobilize popular support for his young regime, the man he ousted is competing for that support. Sihanouk is working at long range, as he did seventeen years ago, this time from Peking, more than a thousand miles away. The fact that the prince found exile a successful political tactic once before is seen as especially significant by
Professor Higginbotham. [Higginbotham]: There's always been in Cambodia a strong tradition of leadership in exile from the provinces. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't go back and attempt to rebuild, put back together the components of the political party which he built during the 50's and 60's, which has been the only even marginally effective kind of political organization in the country. Now that Lon Nol seems to have picked up support, he is showing a willingness to cooperate with the American military objectives in Southeast Asia. The primary goal, as defined by President Nixon, is to protect the integrity of South Vietnam from further communist attacks. The move of US forces into Cambodia is seen in a different light by Professor Higginbotham. [Higganbotham]: The United Stated has always been most concerned with Cambodia's foreign policy and not with Cambodian internal politics. And this has led us to believe that
the overthrow of Sihanouk would be a good thing. Because this would change, as indeed it has, Cambodian foreign policy. I think many elements within the government, certainly within the American military, have been delighted by the fact that Sihanouk has been overthrown by much more western-oriented Cambodian leadership. But I take quite the opposite view, that in the long run, this is going to be disastrous for the American position in Indochina. This means there were there was an element of power in Cambodia, capacity at the national level to act, to maintain a coherent nation, this I think has pretty well disappeared. Whereas Americans have generally been pleased by the coup, I think that its the beginning of the end for Americans in Indochina. Should Professor Higginbothoms' predictions come true, the United States government may finally realize that what it has been doing in Southeast Asia has been fruitless. If the government
comes to this conclusion, which many Americans have already reached, some of those outmoded ideas about Southeast Asia will have to go out the window. This is Michael Sterns, and now back to Mark Estern. [Estern]: The uncertainties as to the value of the Cambodian intervention and the impassioned and sometimes violent reactions which that intervention has provoked within the US have led some observers to wonder just what factors led to the Nixon decision. Many critics allege that Nixon consulted only Attorney General John Mitchell and one or two other advisors before making his decision. And some of those critics, such as former President Kennedy's assistant secretary of state for far eastern affairs Roger Hillsman, have very definite opinions about the value of the advice the president received. [Hillsman]: What Mr. Mitchell knows about Cambodia, I bet you could put in a thimble. The second show in the series 'Cambodia: what now what
next?' will delve into the process which led to the decision to move American troops into Cambodian territory. Tonight's broadcast was prepared by Steve Friedman, Ann Sherwood, and Michael Stearns; executive producer Mark Estern. [electronic music] This program was produced at the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University for the public affairs unit of WRVR, New York.
Cambodia - What Now, What Next?
Episode Number
Into Cambodia: Defense or Invasion?
Producing Organization
WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
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The Riverside Church (New York, New York)
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Episode Description
An introduction to the Cambodian Campaign in the Vietnam War.
Series Description
A series of programs discussion Cambodia.
Recorded at Columbia University
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Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Politics and Government
Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Campaigns--Cambodia
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Executive Producer: Estrin, Marc
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station: New York, N.Y.)
Publisher: WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Speaker: Morse, Wayne L. (Wayne Lyman), 1900-1974
Speaker: Percy, Charles H. 1919-2011
Speaker: Goldberg, Arthur J.
Speaker: Henkin, Louis
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The Riverside Church
Identifier: cpb-aacip-fdbdf15aa4b (Filename)
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Chicago: “Cambodia - What Now, What Next?; 1; Into Cambodia: Defense or Invasion?,” 1970-05-24, The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “Cambodia - What Now, What Next?; 1; Into Cambodia: Defense or Invasion?.” 1970-05-24. The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: Cambodia - What Now, What Next?; 1; Into Cambodia: Defense or Invasion?. Boston, MA: The Riverside Church , American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from