As the new American grand strategy in Asia unfold, the US is taking a fresh look at some of its Vietnam era bases. In earlier posts we’ve seen how the strategy involves new US bases in Australia and Singapore, as well as a return to Cold War era bases in the Philippines. Today’s Washington Post describes how the US is also beginning to look at bases last used in the Vietnam War in both Thailand and Vietnam.Given the new and deeper US relationship with Burma/Myanmar that has developed in the last eight months, this adds up to the deepest engagement of the United States in southeast Asia since the end of the Vietnam War.The new American strategy involves dissuading China from seeking to dominate the string of states from South Korea to India by building a network of political and military relations in the neighborhood and encouraging the continuing development of regional groupings like ASEAN. But the goal of that strategy is not to block China’s economic rise or even to force a change in its government. America’s work in Asia cannot succeed until and unless China accepts an Asian order that protects the independence of all Asian countries and promotes their development and growth in partnership with the rest of the world.The strategy faces three important criticisms. One is whether it is too weak; another is whether it is too strong and the third is whether it has too many moving parts to work.Does the US really have the resources and the will to rally maritime Asia long term, particularly as China’s economic and military power grow? And on the other hand, will the steps the US has taken convince China that the US is out to contain and weaken it, leading to a deeper and more dangerous competition between Washington and Beijing. Finally, how will the US manage the inevitable tensions and crises as, for example, countries like the Philippines, emboldened by their new US ties, take a tougher line against Beijing?These questions are real; as we watch the new Asian strategy unfold in real time, we will see whether and to what extent the US is able to manage the inevitable problems to come.
US Eyes More Asian Bases