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America has a Moral Duty to Play Hardball with Hanoi
Bài của Richard M. Nixon

As communism gasped its last breath in the former Evil Empire, the West has moved toward adopting policies that help keep it alive in Vietnam. This is an appalling development. To normalize relations with and lift the Western trade embargo against the Communist government in Hanoi would give a life-support system to a regime that is engaging in aggression abroad and brutal repression at home.

Some observers argue that granting diplomatic recognition will foster economic and political reform. Others selfishly complain that the United States will lose trade and investment opportunities to Japan and Europe if we drag our feet in establishing new relations. These arguments are not only strategically unsound; they are morally flawed.

It has been a common practice for Western nations and particularly the United States to use the withholding of diplomatic recognition as a means to condemn the legitimacy of aggressive or regressive regimes, unless such a policy harmed Western strategic interests. In the case of Vietnam, no interest of the United States or the Vietnamese people would be served by bestowing the appearance of legitimacy on the international outlaws in Hanoi.

The reign of terror imposed on South Vietnam after its conquest by communist forces in 1975 was among the most brutal in history. More than 1 million South Vietnamese were sent to shockingly miserable prisons or rural work camps that made the Soviet gulag look like a five star hotel by comparison. In addition, an estimated 600,000 boat people perished in the South China Sea while fleeing Vietnam’s barbaric rule.

Even today, Vietnamese officials candidly amid that they have no intention of liberalizing the political system. After the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe of 1989, Hanoi launched a widespread crackdown on political dissent. Those who served in the South Vietnamese government or army – even their children and grandchildren – continue to be ruthlessly persecuted and discriminated against. As a result, refugee traffic is still all one-way: Thousands are willing to risk death to get out, and none want to go back.

Even after Vietnam’s withdrawal from Cambodia, its aggressive foreign policy remains unchanged. It still runs a puppet state in Laos, where chemical and biological weapons have been used against the Hmong resistance. It also maintains the fifth-largest military in the world and spends more than 15% of its GNP on its armed forced – three times the level of Western countries – despite the fact that its annual per capita income is only $130, one of the five lowest in the world.

Finally, the Vietnamese have been cynically obstructionist in resolving the case of the 2,273 Americans listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War. Western intelligence services know that Hanoi has more information about many MIAs who died than it has presented to American officials Instead of coming clean, Hanoi engaged in a cruel and macabre exercise of parceling out information and the remains of our servicemen bit by bit few years.

A regime like the one in Hanoi does not deserve and should not receive recognition as a member in good standing of the community of nations. If we recognize and provide economic aid to the communist hard-liners in Hanoi, we will break faith not only with the South Vietnamese who fought against them, but also with the 56,000 Americans who lost their lives and the 8.5 million others who loyally served in Vietnam.

Some might argue that it is inconsistent to isolate Vietnam while maintaining relations with China after Tien An Men Square. That is not the case. China is a major power whose actions affect American interests around the world. Vietnam is not. China’s Communist Party has a major faction, led in the past by Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, that supported political liberalization; Vietnam’s does not. Only in China is continued engagement the best strategy for fostering reform through peaceful change.

It is a critical moment for Vietnam’s Communist regime. With the imminent cutoff of Moscow’s $2.5-billion annual subsidy, Hanoi could become as vulnerable to the squeeze of the Western economic embargo as Poland was to the post-martial- law sanctions that ultimately forced Warsaw to open up the political system in 1980.

Vietnam’s leaders are neither philanthropists nor fool. They are tight-fisted totalitarians who will give up nothing without Western pressure. Our great leverage is normalization of relations and the economic benefits that will flow from it. If we do not get something upfront in return-free elections in Laos, demilitarizing Vietnam’s economy, terminating the persecution of former South Vietnamese officials, and a start to political reform in Vietnam – we will never get it out of Hanoi in the future. And if the Vietnamese refuse to budge, it is not in our interest to throw a lifeline to the flotsam of the wreck of the Soviet empire.

We have a moral duty to play hardball with Hanoi. When Congress recklessly cut aid to the an-communist South Vietnamese by 80% in 1975 and 1975, it doomed them to a catastrophic human tragedy. As we celebrate the defeat of the ideology of communist, we should commit ourselves to use the power that we have to try to force Hanoi to end its oppression of those who fought bravely with our troops in that same cause.

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