Problems and Prospects of United States Policy in Southeast Asia

by Melvin Gurtov


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A survey of U.S. security interests in Southeast Asia over the next decade. The region is one of great instability and heterogeneity, and all Southeast Asia nations are in political and social transition. The expression of nationalism in neutral, leftist, or rightist directions, depends more on practical considerations than on doctrinal loyalties. The U.S. cannot expect to more than marginally influence these nations' political development. To adapt to these realities, and to enhance our flexibility in responding to changing conditions, the U.S. should adopt a posture toward Southeast Asia that upholds existing commitments but avoids further direct involvement. In the case of Taiwan, for example, we should slowly move toward a variant of the "two Chinas" solution. American withdrawal from Vietnam should be accompanied by assurances of continuing interest in the region and commitment to existing obligations. Widespread accommodation to communism by Southeast Asian nations is unlikely. (See also RM-5160.)

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