[Marxism] The Vietnam Solution

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jun 5 09:05:08 MDT 2012

(I wonder when the people who raised bloody hell about Qaddafi 
being toppled will begin to turn their attention to Vietnam. To 
avoid flame wars, I am not going to mention any names.)


Nothing better illustrates the Vietnamese desire to be a major 
player in the region than the country’s recent purchase of six 
state-of-the-art Kilo-class submarines from Russia. A Western 
defense expert in Hanoi tells me that the sale makes no logical 
sense: “There is going to be real sticker shock for the Vietnamese 
when they find out just how much it costs merely to maintain these 
subs.” More important, the expert says, the Vietnamese will have 
to train crews to use them—a generational undertaking. “To counter 
Chinese subs,” the expert says, “they would have been better off 
concentrating on anti-submarine warfare and littoral defense.” 
Clearly, the Vietnamese bought these submarines as prestige items, 
to say We’re serious.

The multibillion-dollar deal with Russia for the submarines 
includes a $200 million refurbishment of Cam Ranh Bay—one of the 
finest deep-water anchorages in Southeast Asia, astride the South 
China Sea maritime routes, and a major base of operations for the 
U.S. military during the American War. The Vietnamese have stated 
that their aim is to make Cam Ranh Bay available to foreign 
navies. Ian Storey, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian 
Studies in Singapore, writes that an unspoken Vietnamese desire is 
that the Cam Ranh Bay overhaul will “strengthen defence ties with 
America and facilitate the US military presence in South-east Asia 
as a counter to China’s rising power.” Cam Ranh Bay plays 
perfectly into the Pentagon’s “places not bases” strategy, whereby 
American ships and planes can regularly visit foreign military 
outposts for repairs and resupply without the need for formal, 
politically sensitive basing arrangements.

A de facto American-Vietnamese strategic partnership, in effect, 
was announced in July 2010 at an ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in 
Hanoi, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. 
has a “national interest” in the South China Sea, that the U.S. is 
ready to participate in multilateral efforts to resolve 
territorial disputes there, and that maritime claims should be 
based on land features: that is, on the reach of continental 
shelves, a concept violated by China’s historic line. Chinese 
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi called Clinton’s remarks “virtually 
an attack on China.” American officials shrugged off Yang’s 
comments. Since then, the Obama administration has announced plans 
to rotate 2,500 marines in and out of northern Australia, declared 
that Pentagon budget cuts will under no circumstances come at the 
expense of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and announced the 
intention—events permitting—to “pivot” away from the Middle East 
and toward the Pacific. The United States sees the world as 
Vietnam does: threatened by growing Chinese power. The difference 
is that whereas the United States has many geopolitical interests, 
Vietnam has only one: to counter China.


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