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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Foes and friends

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 01:45 pm

Frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't happened already — time for a closer U.S.-Vietnam relationship:

The United States has a curious history of forging particularly close relationships with countries with which it was once at war – just ask Germany, Japan, and the United States’ colonial parent the United Kingdom. Recent trends suggest that it is time for the United States to add Vietnam to that list. Officially Communist, Vietnam might seem like an odd partner for the United States. However, U.S. security interests in Southeast Asia, the clear preference of Vietnamese officials for closer ties, and the opportunity to improve governance and human rights protections in Vietnam should make a U.S. push for closer relations, an uncontroversial priority.

The top question to ask of any new international relationship is what interest it serves that would not be met otherwise. U.S. economic and security interests in Southeast Asia are immense, with over 60 percent of U.S. exports flowing throughout the broader Asia-Pacific region. Vietnam is strategically located next to the Southeast Asian trade choke points and the South China Sea. Given China’s role as both a top trade partner and frequent geopolitical rival of the United States, its reliance on shipments of oil and other goods through the South China Sea only magnifies the area’s importance.Yeah. Germany. Japan. The United Kingdom. Old enemies are new friends. That's just the way the world is. New enemies and threats and needs pop up, so new alliances must be forged, ancient wounds healed. Old allies can become new enemies, too. Look at Russia. Hell, we backed Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran war. Those who say war never solved anything get it partly right. It has never solved everything in the long run. People going into war like to say its because of an existential threat, but usually it's about trying to find a messy solution to current worries.

All this can either make you take the philosophical long view or the bitter personal view. You might be bitter if you're a young soldier who has just come home from fighting an enemy you might think your country. will cozy up to later. You might be philosophical if you're an old soldier whose war is far behind him.

I'm an old soldier, so I'm able to look at the larger perspective. When I read about John McCain going back to Vietnam, I thought, well, that's it. If he can get over what he went through there enough to go back, anybody can get over that stupid war. I've thought about going back myself. The white-sand beaches and jewel-blue water of Cam Rahn Bay as they appeared to us on the plane bringing us in-country still rank as one of the most breath-taking scenes I've ever seen. And there's an old, French-era hotel in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, where — well, it was a hell of a long weekend.

"The top question to ask of any new international relationship is what interest it serves that would not be met otherwise." That seems to me to be the most important point of the article. In other words, "What are we getting out of it?" President Obama's relaxation of U.S.-Cuba relations wasn't objectionable on philosophical grounds; economic sanctions usually don't have the effect we want, and they end up punishing mostly the downtrodden people we're supposed to care about. But he didn't seem to get anything for it. He gave away everything without demanding anything in return, which seems to have been his foreign policy approach in general.

Donald Trump is supposed to be a savvy businessman who knows, above all, how to make a good deal. Maybe he can get a human-rights guarantee out of the Communist regime.

Old enemies become new friends. When we face a new threat, we have to make the best alliances we can. Sometimes the best we can do is make a deal with a devil in order to fight off a bigger devil.

Is that still true? Is there any conceivable threat that could make us feel the need to partner with the Islamic extremist terrorists of ISIS and al-Qaida? They aren't just fighting us because they want territory or treasure. They are fighting us because they despise everything we stand for and want to wipe us off the face of the Earth. And what threat could they possibly face that would ever make them see us as allies? Aren't they the ultimate existential threat a far as the West is concerned?

Or do I sound just like every other war monger who has ever made an excuse to keep the carnage going?

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