American Diplomacy in a New Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz | Go to book overview

6: UNITED STATES POLICY IN SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA

Myron Weiner

American policy toward South and Southeast Asia has been directed at achieving the maximum security of the area with a minimum of American commitments.

That the United States, since the close of the Second World War, should want to minimize its commitments in this area is quite understandable. While the countries of Southeast Asia, from Burma to the Indonesian archipelago, are rich in tin, oil, tungsten, rubber, and other resources of importance to the United States, the wartime loss of these areas to Japan clearly demonstrated that this region was not vital to America's security. Oil and tin can be obtained elsewhere. For rubber and many other resources there are improved synthetics. Stockpiles in some commodities increasingly make the United States less dependent, particularly on the assumption that any war of a global character is likely to be a quick one. And although India is one of the larger industrial powers in the world, its present production is low compared with that of Western Europe and the United States and the Western powers are in no way dependent upon India's goods. Neither South nor Southeast Asia is, therefore, essential to America's resource or military requirements. If anything, much of Southern Asia is a military liability. Southeast Asia is, as the French discovered in Indochina, indefensible. Guerrilla warfare in the jungles of Malaya, Indochina, and Burma has been difficult to overcome even by the most modern military technology.

The question which confronts us is not why American commitments in South and Southeast Asia are so small, but rather why they exist at all? The answer lies in two realms--in the changes which have occurred in the power balance of the Far East, and in the changes which have occurred within South and Southeast Asia since the war.

-173-

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