For Cambodia, the war goes on. The latest episode has seen communist Vietnam's occupying forces overrun a major camp of noncommunist Cambodian rebels, inflicting few casualties but scattering thousands of refugees and penetrating Thai territory in the process. Among those even half aware of what has gone on in Cambodia, anger vies with frustration at the spectacle. The United States, political sponsor, and China, military sponsor, of this branch of the Cambodian resistance have protested sharply. But no one has a good idea how to end Cambodia's ordeal.
The difficulty lies here: Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 to fulfill a traditional Vietnamese imperial design. Only later did Hanoi, whose puppet in Phnom Penh is a former Pol Pot division commander, adopt the line that it had done a service by ousting the genocidal Pol Pot and that it was doing a further service by ensuring that his guerrillas did not return to power. Even so, by spending its dry- season offensive on the noncommunist guerrillas, Vietnam betrays its concern that they represent the real nationalist threat to its occupation.
To China, a traditional rival of Vietnam, it does not matter that the communist Pol Pot is a killer: it is enough that he is trying to pry the Vietnamese out of Cambodia. To Indochina's noncommunist neighbors, the United States and most other countries, however, the idea of helping restore Pol Pot is unthinkable. The neighbors (in ASEAN) and the United States encourage the noncommunist resistance in the hope that over time an alternative to Hanoi and Pol Pot can emerge.
Every year a large United Nations majority votes for a political solution involving Vietnam's withdrawal and Cambodia's choice of a free government. These resolutions remain paper. Vietnam runs Cambodia as a puppet state and appears to be colonizing it with Vietnamese. With a wary eye on its nemesis in Peking, Hanoi seems to prefer the imperial and strategic comforts of control to the promised benefits -- aid, regional acceptance -- of withdrawal. The resistance has yet to induce it to recalculate the costs.
Indochina is off the screen for most Americans. Officially, our government deals with Vietnam only on special humanitarian issues, like the MIAs. From time to time someone asks whether the United States should add military aid to its political support of the noncommunist rebels in Cambodia. Successive administrations have laid off, feeling that this is a burden best borne by others and that there is no taste in this country for another military involvement in Indochina. Meanwhile, Cambodia suffers.