On the subject of Vietnam, many folks still have very definitive thoughts about that communist country. I for one have a personal reflection in that my older brother served there as a Marine Infantryman in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, and was wounded at Khe Sahn. My father-in-law also served in Vietnam as an Army Infantryman in the 23d American Division. So I was kinda paying close attention to President Obama’s visit to another communist country — too bad they don’t play baseball there (or dance the tango). And of course, Obama made a point of taking pictures in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh — a similar photo op as he had in front of Che Guevara.
But that wasn’t the only questionable thing — this is after all Barack Hussein Obama.
As reported by Fox News,
“President Obama lifted the decades-long U.S. arms embargo against Vietnam on Monday in an apparent effort to shore up the communist country’s defenses against an increasingly aggressive China – though he faced criticism that the move takes away U.S. leverage to press for human rights freedoms.
“Obama announced the full removal of the embargo at a news conference in Hanoi alongside Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. The president said the move was intended as a step toward normalizing relations with the former enemy and to eliminate a ‘lingering vestige of the Cold War.’
“The embargo was imposed in 1984. The United States partially lifted the ban in 2014, but Vietnam pushed for full access as it tries to deal with China’s land reclamation and military construction in nearby seas.
“Obama, in announcing the agreement Monday, said every U.S. arms sale would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis going forward. Vietnam has not bought anything, but removing the remaining restrictions shows relations are fully normalized and opens the way to deeper security cooperation.
“‘At this stage both sides have developed a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect,’ Obama said.
“U.S. lawmakers and activists, though, had urged Obama to press for greater human rights freedoms in the one-party state before lifting the embargo. Vietnam holds about 100 political prisoners and there have been more detentions this year.
“‘In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam — and (has) basically gotten nothing for it,’ Phil Robertson, with Human Rights Watch, said.”
The last American president to visit Vietnam was draft dodger, Bill Clinton, but my concern is once again it appears that having an exhibit in the Obama presidential library trumps all. I don’t think we should be giving away the kitchen sink without ensuring the dishes are clean.
Why not demand these communist countries, with whom we are “normalizing” relations, improve their human rights record. Unless, we are, as Raul Castro dictated to Obama, guilty of worse violations — after all Obama just stood there and allowed Castro to rant about the United States. Hmm, perhaps Obama could have brought attention to the fact that Cubans are showing up on our shores, not the reverse. And another point of order to President Obama — did we demand full disclosure and support to recovery for all POW/MIA issued from the Vietnam War?
Now, I’m a tad bit leery regarding seeing Vietnam as a bulwark with China. True enough, there have always been tensions between Vietnam and China, and they’ve fought their own conflicts. However, I’d want just a tad more assurance regarding Vietnam’s commitment. After all, they’re a communist country. Yes, I do want to see a buttress against China’s burgeoning hegemonic designs, but I’d prefer that to come from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines in the South China Sea area.
But there are some ancillary motivations and agendas for Obama and it relates to a recent story we shared Monday.
“Obama also made the case for stronger commercial and economic ties, including approval of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that is stalled in Congress and facing strong opposition from the 2016 presidential candidates. The deal, which includes Vietnam, would tear down trade barriers and encourage investment between the countries that signed it.
“Critics worry it would cost jobs by exposing American workers to low-wage competition from countries such as Vietnam.
“Obama and Quang earlier attended a signing ceremony touting a series of new commercial deals between U.S. and Vietnamese companies valued at more than $16 billion. The deals included U.S. engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s plans to sell 135 advanced engines to Vietnamese air carrier Vietjet, and Boeing’s plans to sell 100 aircraft to the airline.”
Clearly, Boeing has a great marketing executive and sales representative in Barack Obama – particularly in Iran and Vietnam. I don’t have any issue with the free market, but I do not agree with crony capitalism where government uses its influence and power for a specific corporation. American jobs, sure, but there are many folks who could use our economic support and a trade agreement. Now, I do have to ask, why hasn’t Obama visited Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, or Latvia, along with Moldova and Poland regarding stemming the threat of Russia? Just looking for some balance here folks. I’m just not ready to declare Vietnam as our friends.
Time will tell, but needless to say, these are the growing foreign policy issues with which a new administration will contend. Without a doubt one of the greatest eliminators of socialism and communism is a thriving free market economy where individual economic freedom and liberty abounds. Perhaps better opportunities will eventually erode the communist regime in Vietnam, but we must not give away the cow with the milk – seems like the Obama administration continues to lose leverage.
And I wonder which defense contractor will profit from military sales to Vietnam? Personally, I’d prefer complete accountability for our POWs and MIAs.
Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. During his 22-year career, he served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, receiving many honors including a Bronze Star. In 2010, West was elected as a member of the 112th Congress representing Florida’s 22nd District. He is a Fox News contributor and author of “Guardian of the Republic." Mr. West also writes daily commentary on allenbwest.com.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by Colonel Allen West on allenbwest.com.