Written in the days before Shawcross became an apologist for Murdoch and a biographer for the Queen Mother, this account of the causes and effects of the spreading of the Vietnam conflict into Cambodia is a devastatingly cool, but angry, look at how a major power can destroy a poor country for what? Tactical necessity? Hubris?
By launching first bombing, and then invading, the North Vietnamese strongholds on the Cambodian border many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American (and, lest we forget, Vietnamese) lives were saved. Unfortunately it also helped tip Cambodia into a civil war which claimed hundreds of thousands of Cambodian lives and paved the way for the eventual takeover of the Khmer Rouge who, with their obscene social engineering experiments (dreamt up in the Universities and coffee-shops of Paris), led to the deaths of 1 million ? 2 million? Cambodians. Oh, and it was illegal according to both US and International law.
Shawcross is in no doubt who was responsible: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Nixon gets a bit of a pass as he was, well, Richard Nixon, a delusional paranoiac, who felt he had to prove how `tough' he was both to himself and the rest of the world. Kissinger gets no such pass. Obviously an intelligent man, Kissinger was interested in himself and cared not a jot for others. From toadying to his boss, flattering reporters he thought might be helpful, to plotting against his `rivals', Laird and Rogers, and bullying his subordinates, Kissinger's main interest was Kissinger. The fact that his best-remembered saying is `Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac' tells you all you need to know about him.
My copy is the original and so the full extent of the `Killing Field' horrors was still to be revealed; also I understand there is an attempt by Kissinger in later editions to justify his actions. Good luck. An outstanding book which is, unfortunately, very hard to get hold of these days - worth the effort.