Professor John Greene at Cazanovia College, explains that American flirted with passivity at the same time that the barbaric government of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge was becoming ever more aggressive. The bloodthirsty thugs who took illegitimate control of Cambodia's government had not only proved that they were willing to murder millions of their country's own citizens, but they had also captured an American ship, the Mayaguez; they assumed that America's lessened posture, in the wake of its humiliation in Vietnam, meant that the United States would not dare to defend itself:
This was not the first hostile action of the new Khmer Rouge government in the weeks following American withdrawal from Cambodia and Vietnam. Ten days prior to the Mayaguez incident, they had seized and released several Thai fishing boats; eight days earlier, they had fired on a South Korean ship and unsuccessfully attempted to board her; six days before, several South Vietnamese craft had been confiscated, and five days before, a Panamanian ship had been stopped and detained for thirty-six hours. Nor was it the first seizure of an American commercial vessel. Over the preceding twenty-three years, Ecuador had seized twenty-three vessels and had beaten and shot at numerous American crews. Rather than react in a hostile fashion, previous administrations had paid fines to secure the release of the ships.America had turned onto a dangerous path: allowed pirates or hostile regimes to capture our ships, and then paying ransom money to get them back. This pattern of activity only encourages more piracy and more attacks on our ships.
To change this pattern would require boldness. President Gerald Ford is the leader who decided that America should stop taking abuse and stand up to protect the lives and freedom of its citizens.
Mere hours after the capture of the Mayaguez, President Ford ordered the U.S. Marines to land on a small island owned by Cambodia, and at the same time ordered the Air Force to being bombing over Cambodia. Quickly, the Khmer Rouge released both the ship and its sailors.
President Ford had demonstrated that he would take decisive action, and that he would not allow Americans to be bullied. The United States gained, or regained, some respect among the nations of the world.