Harries, Owen
October 1968
Foreign Affairs;Oct68, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p15
This article examines the views of those who advocate ending the American military commitment on the Southeast Asian mainland as of October 1968. It is possible to discern, at least for purposes of analysis, three distinct viewpoints. There are those, like Lippmann, who accept that withdrawal will mean the domination of the mainland by China, or possibly by China and North Vietnam. How this conclusion will affect one's attitude to withdrawal is likely to depend on how persuasive one finds the arguments that the fate of the region is of no great importance in terms of international politics, and that in any case Chinese influence must prevail in the long run as a kind of geopolitical necessity. The first of these has already been examined. As to the second, it is open to the same decisive objection as the rigid, deterministic version of the domino theory: it asserts the inevitability of one particular outcome in a situation where there are too many variables to justify doing so. The more optimistic, who maintain that the independent states of Southeast Asia could survive an American withdrawal, may be divided into those who lay stress on maintaining an international balance of power and those who stress other factors. There are two versions of the balance-of-power thesis. In the first it is maintained that the offshore presence of the U.S. either in the form of the Seventh Fleet or of an island base or of some combination of the two could maintain a balance. In the second it is maintained that a purely Asian balance of power is possible.


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