The theory of the falling dominoes in Southeast Asia has been the subject of heated debate. Yet few sensible observers would deny that a settlement in Viet Nam will have a significant impact on the overall course of political evolution in the area and, conversely, that changing political conditions in Southeast Asia will affect the outlook for a permanent settlement in Viet Nam. Even in the shorter perspective, the chances of finding a stable compromise solution acceptable to the fighting parties appear greater when seen in the broader framework than when we view the problem in its strictly Vietnamese dimensions. For in the narrow context of the two Viet Nams there seem to be no conceivable alternatives which do not imply a significant victory for one side and a defeat for the other.
Despite the diverse ethnic, cultural and economic patterns in the small independent countries of Southeast Asia, where more than 100 million people live, political conditions are strikingly similar: everywhere tensions prevail and the interests of world powers clash.[i] The Viet Nam conflict represents only the most acute manifestation of the turmoil.
The main factors at the root of the Viet Nam crisis and the conflicting outside interests which have raised it to its present intensity are not Vietnamese alone but are features of the whole region. Everywhere, internal instability creates latent or open conflicts which the competing interests of the major world powers could escalate into international crises of the Viet Nam type. In fact, all the manifestations of Southeast Asian unrest since World War II-the Huk revolt in the Philippines, the insurgency in Malaya, the endemic insecurity in Burma, the war in Laos, the pre- insurgency situation in northeast Thailand-all arise from the same tensions. Historical circumstances have simply made Viet Nam the most extreme instance.
One principal origin of the local tensions is the combination of exacerbated nationalist feelings and unfulfilled expectations. A sense of national identity and patriotic pride have long existed in these lands
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