Cold War Monks: Buddhism and America's Secret Strategy in Southeast Asia

Cold War Monks: Buddhism and America's Secret Strategy in Southeast Asia

by Eugene Ford


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The groundbreaking account of U.S. clandestine efforts to use Southeast Asian Buddhism to advance Washington’s anticommunist goals during the Cold War

How did the U.S. government make use of a “Buddhist policy” in Southeast Asia during the Cold War despite the American principle that the state should not meddle with religion? To answer this question, Eugene Ford delved deep into an unprecedented range of U.S. and Thai sources and conducted numerous oral history interviews with key informants. Ford uncovers a riveting story filled with U.S. national security officials, diplomats, and scholars seeking to understand and build relationships within the Buddhist monasteries of Southeast Asia.

This fascinating narrative provides a new look at how the Buddhist leaderships of Thailand and its neighbors became enmeshed in Cold War politics and in the U.S. government’s clandestine efforts to use a predominant religion of Southeast Asia as an instrument of national stability to counter communist revolution.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300218565
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 10/24/2017
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Eugene Ford received a PhD in history from Yale University, winning the Arthur and Mary Wright Prize for an outstanding dissertation in the field of history outside the United States or Europe.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 The Buddhist World and the United States at the Onset of the Cold War, 1941-1954 13

2 Washington Formulates a Buddhist Policy, 1954-1957 40

3 Thailand and the International Buddhist Arena, 1956-1962 65

4 Reforming the Monks: The Cold War and Clerical Education in Thailand and Laos, 1954-1961 104

5 Thailand and the International Response to the 1963 Buddhist Crisis in South Vietnam 146

6 Enforcing the Code: South Vietnam's "Struggle Movement" and the Limits of Thai Buddhist Conservatism 185

7 Thailand's Buddhist Hierarchy Confronts Its Challengers, 1967-1975 224

8 The Rage of Thai Buddhism, 1975-1980 256

Conclusion: From Byoto to Kittivudho 287

Notes 297

Selected Bibliography 347

Index 363

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