Being Libertarian Perspectives will serve as a weekly, multi-perspective opinion and analysis piece by members of Being Libertarian’s writing team. Every week the panel, comprised of randomly selected writers, will answer a question based on current events or libertarian philosophy. Assistant Editor Dillon Eliassen will moderate and facilitate the discussion.
Dillon Eliassen: On May 23, CNN.com reported “President Barack Obama announced Monday that the United States is fully lifting a decades-long ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam.” What are your thoughts?
Neil McGettigan: I have mixed feelings about this. Unlike some people who write for Being Libertarian, I find that in the jet and Internet age our national defense is no longer guaranteed by the distance of the oceans. Having allies is important, but to make this deal with a communist dictatorship without any demand for reform is a great insult to both the people that still suffer and to the Americans that suffered and died in a war they were told was for the people of South Asia. It shows the world that we only care about power and influence of the “Free World” we control. However, our increasing closeness to Vietnam isn’t a total betrayal. Vietnam is opening up to market reforms like China is. There has been progress but the US as the original revolutionary state has a duty to push for more.
I would also like to add that creating relationships where states rely on us for weapons is almost like a form of franchising that dates back to the Cold War. There is only Pepsi and Coke: the United States and Russia, the two superpowers with gigantic military industrial complexes. Because most of the world’s nations cannot build their militaries up on their own, signing up for the Global Franchise either with Uncle Sam or the Red Star makes sense, but over time it can lead to dependence and turn a nation into a client state. Worse yet, the US and Russia inadvertently get dragged into the conflicts created by their clients, e.g. the US becomes involved in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts because of our alliances with and arms sales to the Gulf monarchies.
Dillon: The second paragraph of the article reads “In a joint news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Obama said that the removal of the ban on lethal weapons was part of a deeper defense cooperation with the country and dismissed suggestions it was aimed at countering China’s growing strength in the region.” This definitely doesn’t pass the smell test.
Vietnam went Full Commie after Cuba did, and has been liberalizing its economy more and more than Cuba ever has and will so long as the Castros and their protégés remain in power. I also think Obama’s legacy could revolve around opening up diplomatic relations with communist states, to free their markets and put an end to blatant human rights abuses, but he should follow the Monroe Doctrine more and focus on Latin America.
Neil: The only reason we opened up with Cuba was to preemptively prevent Putin from building bases there. Asia is the future, it’s where most of the global development is happening. Also, we are more popular and trusted in Asia than in Latin America. The best way to rebuild our partnerships in Latin America is to give them space.
Dillon: This might be a topic for another Perspectives, but if Trump really wants to keep foreigners out, he would champion free markets in Latin America and the Middle East.
Neil: Absolutely. Immigration from Mexico has gone down as the economy there has improved.
Bric Butler: Increased diplomatic and commerce relationships with a country that’s slowly but surely liberalizing markets is great. Arms deals aren’t great but then again this is Vietnam, not the Middle East. So the stability of the Vietnamese nation relative to a lot of the Middle East nations that are highly unstable makes me more comfortable with it seeing as they probably won’t fall into the hands of anti-American forces.
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