Date of Award
Master of Arts in History
Daniel H. Thomas
The Manila Treaty of 1954 was a unique event in the history of Southeast Asia. It provided for the creation of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Organization, the first joint alliance between Western powers and the newly independent nations of this region. These nations were the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and France. The problem was first to determine the reasons for the creation of such an alliance. There had been no plans for collective action since the dissolution of the old imperial defense systems following World War II. With the removal of colonial administrations during the early postwar period, a "power vacuum" resulted which found millions of Asians in small, unstable states having little means of self defense and unprepared to act collectively against massive threats to their integrity. The rise of a militant Communist China in the north prompted active concern for the security of these small nations. The Western powers themselves were anxious to retain the old prewar Open Door doctrines in this area and took steps to join with the nations of Southeast Asia in this comm0n interest. The defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu by the Communist Viet-minh created an atmosphere of urgency a~d resulted in immediate agreement for a mutual collective defense. The primary purpose of the resulting ManilaTreaty was to protect the nations of Southeast Asia against possible Communist aggression or subversion and to stabilize the areas facing a hostile Communist China, particularly in the Indo-China region. This feature of the Treaty was expected to provide the states of Indo-China an additional guarantee of security against violation of the Geneva Agreement if they requested such protection.
The next portion of the problem was to analyze the various positions taken against this means of collective security by the individual states which declined to join the compact. A review of the political and nationalist reactions of the neutral and Communist countries most closely concerned has helped to determine the source and nature of the widespread hostility to the Treaty. Next it was necessary to analyze the Treaty provisions and the organization, and then weigh SEATO's effectiveness against the series of political and military crises that have occurred in the Treaty area since 1954.
Location of the available materials used in this study constituted no problem, for most of the essential research had to be drawn from sources published by the governments involved. There has not been sufficient lapse of time for secret and private documents to have become available, so no final conclusions-•no definitive history-can yet be written.
The decade since the creation of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Organization has witnessed some challenges to the peace and security of this Asian area, but none has been considered of sufficient magnitude to call for the concerted military reaction of the Treaty organization. Although the insurgency now taking place in South Vietnam might be interpreted to be a potential threat to the Treaty region, SEATO has carefully avoided precipitous action and entanglement in this problem because of the internal political implications of the uprising. The organization's military domination by the Western powers has had some alienating effect on many Asians still sensitive to possible revival of colonialism in any form. Therefore, a broader base of Asian support and participation, with a corresponding dimunition of the Western role might strengthen the political effectiveness of the alliance. However, this study indicates that SEATO deserves credit for moderating, at least for a period, relations between rival states in the area, and continues to play an important role in the political stability of Southeast Asia.
Arthur, Charles Daniel, "SEATO's First Decade" (1965). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1428.