We Need Consistent Policy, Not Another Southeast Asia Treaty Organization

Article excerpt

Jonathan Last raises an important issue - the Clinton administration's lack of a consistent Asian policy ("Checking Chinese power in Asia," Op-Ed, April 21). Indeed, the only consistent thing in his whole foreign policy is inconsistency. One hopes Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will replace "ad hocism" with some definable principles and objectives.

However, Mr. Last's suggestions are curious. He details how the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) can be used more effectively than the Pacific Charter to confront presumed Chinese expansionism.

But SEATO was dissolved in 1977, mostly unmourned. It did little to fulfill its charter to confront communism. During the Vietnam War, SEATO was an odd irrelevancy. Even though SEATO members, including Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, fought beside us and the Koreans while the Philippines sent military civic action teams to help us, SEATO itself did nothing.

To create a new SEATO would be impossible for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the continuing rise of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - including communist Vietnam and soon-to-be communist Laos. …