Courtesy Reuters

New Tides in Southeast Asia

For THREE decades now, Southeast Asia has been the scene and cockpit of struggles among great powers. Can it now be moved away from this status- unenviable and totally unwanted by its peoples? Can one outline a picture of conditions there that meets the desires of Southeast Asians and is at the same time compatible with the basic interests of all the major powers? Are such conditions more realizable now than ever before? If so, how can one move from here to there, and in particular how, if they were made the ultimate goal, would this affect the play of the hand (in all quarters) in bringing the war in Indo-China to a conclusion?

This is the broad and proper way to frame the problem. Indeed, it is the one that fits any thoughtful definition of U.S. national interests. What we care about, and should have always defined as our objective, can be simply stated as "conditions for lasting peace" there-or for that matter anywhere else in the world. This real goal should be seen affirmatively and above all in terms of the aspirations of the 250 million people whose hopes and fears, however inarticulate and vague, define the true tides of the future.

Before trying to outline "conditions for lasting peace" in Southeast Asia, and certainly before making any judgment as to the possibility of attaining them, let us look at what has happened there in the last five years. The picture is wholly different from what it was in the spring and summer of 1965, when the culminating series of major American decisions in Vietnam was taken.

Then, the great-power forces within the area were seen in starkly bipolar terms: the "East Wind" of China was blowing strongly and thrustingly versus a "West Wind" which was pretty much American alone. Indonesia was tilted far to the left, almost wholly aligned with China, and engaged in a struggle against Malaysia and Singapore in which the British and Commonwealth defenders could only

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