Lifting the arms embargo against Vietnam is a decision against human rights. The U.S. is already not trustworthy.
In the decision about the U.S. arms embargo against Vietnam, Barack Obama had to weigh strategic and economic interests on the one side and protecting human rights on the other. Up to now, the U.S. had justified the embargo with Hanoi’s authoritarian one-party system that is responsible for at least 100 political prisoners. By now lifting the embargo, Obama has voted against human rights — even if he tries to rhetorically hide it.
In the process, antagonism toward China full well played a role. In addition, Obama gave Vietnam’s government what they long strove for.
However, American criticism of human rights dealings might find an even less sympathetic ear in Hanoi in the future. That is bitter for persecuted activists. On the other hand, it is already ironic that the USA, of all countries, which immortalized itself with carpet bombing and the deployment of the poison Agent Orange in Vietnam, acts as the arbiter of human rights.
The cadre in Hanoi has long since caught on that Washington’s effort for human rights is tactical. That’s why they hardly yield. They have only once made an exception: In the negotiations about the free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hanoi agreed to the admission of independent labor unions.
We will probably never find out whether this was only tactical because Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two probable U.S. presidential candidates, have, of all things, both positioned themselves against the TTP, which will perhaps never go into effect.
The greatest irony of Washington’s policy in Vietnam is that despite the war, the U.S. is more popular there than it is in any other Asian country. Conversely, China is hated [in Vietnam] like nowhere else.
It is right for Obama, the first U.S. president without his own history from the time of the war, to travel there and build bridges. However, weapons are not suitable for that purpose.