Frum, Jennifer Lynn
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By the early 1960s, universities in the United States, particularly land-grant institutions, had assumed an important role in U.S. Cold War foreign policy. The basic land-grant ideal—that extending skills and knowledge could lead to greater social and economic development—was in keeping with prevalent U.S. foreign policy goals relative to the less-developed world. Included in the United States’ Cold War arsenal was significant economic aid, including technical assistance projects. U.S. foreign policy architects believed that this technical knowledge would generate economic development leading to stable, democratic nations more oriented towards the United States than China or the Soviet Union. By 1962, the United States Agency for International Development (AID) was funding $120 million in technical assistance projects carried out by sixty-two U.S. universities in thirty-seven developing countries. Southeast Asia’s strategic importance to the United States grew considerably after World War II. The region, including Cambodia, was viewed as a key line of defense against the perceived Communist menace and Soviet expansionist goals. In 1960, AID (then the International Cooperation Administration) contracted with the University of Georgia to improve Cambodia’s agricultural capacity by developing the programs and facilities of Cambodia’s National School of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Forestry. Over the next three years, ten University of Georgia faculty and staff served as long-term project advisors in Cambodia. As part of the project, twelve Cambodian students also attended and graduated from the University of Georgia in agriculture and forestry. The University of Georgia project in Cambodia provides important insights into the broader issue of land-grant university involvement in U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War. The Georgia project faced a number of challenges, including organizational and bureaucratic conflict between the University of Georgia and AID in Cambodia and a lack of buy-in on the part of the Cambodians. University officials believed that the land-grant model could assist Cambodia in developing a productive agricultural sector that would generate economic development leading to a stable, democratic Cambodia allied with the United States. These ambitions became a casualty of U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia and the realities of the Cold War as Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia in 1963 suspended all AID programs, including the University of Georgia’s project.