Everybody who protested against the Vietnam War in the 1960s must be so proud today to know that the last vestige of that terrible conflict is now behind us:
President Obama lifted a decades-long American arms embargo on Vietnam on Monday and touted a new friendship with the United States’ former enemy.
“Just a generation ago, we were adversaries and now we are friends,” Obama said during a news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang 41 years after the end of the Vietnam War.
Well, OK, maybe only those ex-Vietnam protesters who later went on to work for arms manufacturers are proud. But that’s still something.
I genuinely don’t know what’s more perverse here. Is it the idea that the only way America and Vietnam can fully embrace each other as friends and allies is if Vietnam is allowed to receive a whole bunch of swankily lethal American-made weaponry? Or is it that the reason for denying Vietnam our weapons today (the Vietnamese government’s wretched human rights record) is far more compelling than the reason for America going to war against North Vietnam was 50+ years ago (scary Communist hordes are coming to get us)?
Can it be both? Let’s go with both.
What would be great would be if we could just talk about the lifting of America’s arms embargo on Vietnam for what it is–a chance to give those arms manufacturers some more business and a component of Washington’s regional strategy to contain China. We don’t need to pretend that enhancing the Vietnamese military’s war-making ability is some kind of grand gesture for world peace. That’s a bit too Orwellian for me, thanks all the same.