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Book Reviews

MAOIST PEOPLE’S WAR IN POST-VIETNAM ASIA.


Thomas A. Marks, Series Editor. Studies in Insurgency and Terrorism No. 1. White Lotus Press: Bangkok, Thailand, 2007.

by: Leonard Le Blanc

Thomas Marks has spent more time in the proverbial chow line than most people have in a career. An iconoclast and raconteur of first magnitude, Dr. Marks has given an impressive overview of selected vignettes of insurgency and counter-insurgency in post-Vietnam Asia laced with numerous personal experiences and actual field insights. Most interesting is his chapter on Thailand’s successful counter-insurgency efforts in the 1970s and 80s.


Dr. Marks is no armchair warrior ‘wanna-be’. There is no question he is right on the proverbial “cutting edge” of a number of the worlds’ insurgent operations. As one of the leading experts in the military specialty, his use of copious footnotes, references and highlights in espousing his professional viewpoint on recent and on-going ‘People’s War’s strongly buttresses his contention that there is no “One-Size-Fits-All’ solution.


What is impressive about the book is its readability, depth of research and common-sense conclusions. Dr. Marks does not delve into dry, mundane theoretical aspects of counter-insurgency. Instead he strives to provide a real front-row seat to the action while skillfully dissecting what is going right in these counter-insurgency operations and what is going very wrong.



THE AESTHETICS OF POWER: ARCHITECTURE, MODERNITY, AND IDENTITY FROM SIAM TO THAILAND.


Koompong Noobanjong. Studies in Contemporary Thailand No. 19. Series Editor: Eric Cohen. White Lotus Press: Bangkok, Thailand, 2013.


Thailand HistorySince the late 19th century Western, mainly American, architecture has adhered to Louis Sullivan’s ‘form follows function’ dictum. In general, most buildings were raised to meet utilitarian or practical concerns. However, Thailand’s architecture reflects a more subtle formula: that buildings reflect the power, prestige and aesthetic dictates of the power brokers who commissioned these public edifices to be raised. The simple dictates of functionality were not primarily considered in Thailand due to political, cultural and historical factors.


It has been said about Thailand many times: “Nothing here is as it seems.” The most important aspect involved in the design and construction of these Thai buildings was the sense of ‘kwampenthai’ or ‘Thainess’ - the one critical factor of national, historical and cultural identity. The book details the evolution of architectural development from the mid-19th century as European, most notably Italian, designs were fused with traditional Thai designs. Additionally it shows how various political objectives were achieved through architectural changes and the evolution of these forms as Thai architects gained experience and confidence. As these political objectives changed so did the buildings that reflected those new realities.



KNIGHTS OF THE REALM: THAILAND’S MILITARY AND POLICE, THEN AND NOW.


Paul Chambers, Editor. White Lotus Press: Bangkok, Thailand, 2013.


I worked on a large telecommunications net project for the Nigerian Army in the 1970s. We used to joke it would only be used to plan coups. I got the exact same feeling after reading this book. The author delves into the finely-detailed nexus of social, military and business connections that the Thai Army, and to a lesser extent the other services, has in wielding political power since the 1932 revolution. Since then the military has played an outsized role in the nation’s political governance and direction. The minutiae of these relationships is so detailed the author lists each military class these power brokers attended. The author points out almost all U.S. aid during the Cold War was used for political and social repression. However it is widely claimed much of the money was quickly diverted to high-ranking officers Swiss bank accounts, so this viewpoint is erroneous. Although the Thai Police is mentioned to a minor extent, the book focuses more on their business-oriented pursuits and dealings and in support of the Thai military’s political domination of the country.