Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Absurd Idea of an Alliance with Vietnam

Allying with Vietnam would be short-sighted and irresponsible.

Joshua Kurlantzick proposes a terrible idea:

More specifically, the United States should build on its comprehensive partnership with Vietnam and work toward a formal treaty alliance with Hanoi [bold mine-DL].

Let’s consider just a few of the reasons why this would be a huge mistake. The U.S. already has numerous security commitments in East and Southeast Asia, and it hardly needs to make another one. It is already difficult to pretend that U.S. isn’t trying to contain China, and an alliance wit Vietnam would destroy whatever remains of that pretense. A formal alliance with Vietnam offers the U.S. nothing but headaches, the ongoing absurdity of being pledged to defend a communist government, and an increased likelihood of direct conflict with China. Even if it didn’t come to armed conflict, creating such an alliance would increase regional tensions significantly and trigger more overt hostility from China.

From our perspective, an alliance with Vietnam would be worse than worthless. It would be actively harmful. In exchange for promising to defend Vietnam, the U.S. would get the opportunity to support Vietnamese territorial claims in disputed waters, and it would have the added benefit of being tied to yet another abusive dictatorship whose repression it would be supporting one way or another. On top of all that, it wouldn’t even make the region more secure. Beijing would react very badly to the creation of such an alliance, which would undeniably be directed against China, and it would probably expose Vietnam to more Chinese provocations and threats rather than fewer. Allying with Vietnam is the sort of short-sighted and irresponsible thing that people who hate realists think that realists would want to do.