Review of "The Cambodian Wars: Clashing Armies and CIA Covert Operations" by Kenneth Conboy

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Title

Choice Reviews Online




CIA operations in Cambodia during the Cold War are little known and are often associated with the US war in Vietnam. Conboy, a prolific author on Southeast Asia security issues and former deputy director at the Asian Studies Center in Washington, DC, offers the first intensive examination of the role of the US (in particular, the CIA) in Cambodia during the Khmer Republic period (1970-75) and the Reagan and Bush presidencies (1981-91). Using extensive interviews with CIA veterans of the region and special forces officers who operated in Cambodia from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and other countries, Conboy vividly tells the complex and tragic story of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge, North Vietnamese operations in Cambodia, and the mayhem of the Democratic Kampuchea period. The author's significant contribution is placing these experiences in the broader context of the region's 20th-century history, giving readers an in-depth overview of Cambodia's violent journey from kingdom to colony, then independent state, through revolution and civil war, and as client state of the Cold War superpowers and Vietnam.