The United States and Singapore, 1974–1980 : a diplomatic history
Ong, Glenn Kok Hui
Date of Issue2019-05-15
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
How did relations between the United States and Singapore develop after America’s 1973 military withdrawal from Vietnam? This dissertation argues that Singapore’s fears of American abandonment intertwined with Washington’s efforts to resist entanglement in Southeast Asia to shape bilateral ties between 1974 and 1980. Marshaling documents from the U.S. State Department, the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as memoirs and speeches of key foreign policymakers, this study engages with and contributes to a burgeoning corpus of works investigating U.S.-Southeast Asian relations during the Cold War. It shows that in the aftermath of America’s failures in Vietnam, Singaporean officials labored tirelessly to cajole their American counterparts to deepen U.S. economic ties with Singapore and Southeast Asia in order to forestall a perceived American abandonment of the region. However, under the Gerald Ford administration, U.S. officials diminished Southeast Asia’s relative significance to American strategic interests, and assessed that the present state of U.S.-Singapore relations were already sufficient to serve both countries’ needs. Thus, Washington proved unwilling to advance ties with a partner it already enjoyed satisfactory relations with and thereby risk entanglement in a region of secondary importance. During Jimmy Carter’s tenure, the U.S. embraced an optimistic view of America’s relative position in the Cold War, and elevated priorities like human rights and arms proliferation that Singaporean policymakers interpreted as further evidence of American retrenchment from Southeast Asia. Despite Singapore’s entreaties for increased American commitment to the region, the Carter administration’s sanguine outlook and its elevation of other priorities led U.S. policymakers to tread lightly in Southeast Asia to minimize the prospects of entanglement. An understanding of Singapore’s and Washington’s respective anxieties over abandonment and entanglement is crucial because this dynamic still endures in U.S.-Singapore relations; it is a product of the Cold War but has ultimately outlived it.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science::International relations