Chaos Theory and the Mayaguez Crisis
ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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The emerging science of Chaos may be applicable to sciences other than just those that are classical. Characterized by a non-linear notion that a small input can have a disproportionately large output, the phenomenon is referred to as the butterfly effect---the flapping of a butterflys wings in Hong Kong might effect the weather in New York. The effects are often seen in many sciences to include political science. The military has as a corollary, the for the loss of a nail effect. This non-linear phenomenon has occurred often in history---wars have been started because of some otherwise insignificant event. The phenomenon, however, has not been studied in detail as a relationship unto itself. Chaos Theory predicts that when circumstances are in a near chaotic state, the addition of another input, albeit however minor, can result in a major, wholly disproportionate output. The world and national situations in 1975 were uniquely unsettled and in some ways, unprecedenced, when a small Cambodian force seized a U.S. merchant vessel, the Mayaquez. Instead of handling the matter purely as a routine diplomatic matter, the U.S. responded with a combat assault within hours of the seizure. The crew and ship were recaptured. This paper explores the possibility that the response was due to more than just the seizure. It suggests that the political, social, and economic events that preceded the seizure may have significantly contributed to a feeling of crisis, and, in the jargon of Chaos Theory, became the almost intransitive event that precipitated the U.S. reaction.
- Government and Political Science