The streets of Hanoi would have been empty when Kamala Harris was there last week. The city’s five million people are under lockdown as Vietnam, which has the lowest vaccination rate in Southeast Asia, grapples with the spread of the Delta variant. Events in Afghanistan increased the scrutiny on Harris, a potential future president with relatively little foreign policy experience. The tour of Singapore and Vietnam was her second foray abroad as VP. When she went to Guatemala and Mexico in June, she was criticised for telling would-be migrants not to attempt the journey to the US, and for deflecting questions about why she hadn’t visited the US-Mexico border by saying she’d ‘never been to Europe’ either.
General Vo Nguyen Giap, who led the Vietminh against France and the People's Army of Vietnam against the United States, is 100 today. 'It has always been hard to see in the colourless Ho Chi Minh and his bookish general Vo Nguyen Giap the towering military geniuses of their reputations,' Murray Sayle wrote in the LRB in 2002, 'but there is no doubt about their patriotism.' Here's an extract from Sayle's account of the battle of Dien Bien Phu:
For some time now, China has been growing increasingly aggressive toward its neighbours. This newly confident foreign policy, a shift from a decade of charming other nations in Asia, has been most evident in Beijing’s demands that other nations recognise its sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. In recent weeks, Beijing has insisted that Vietnam stop exploring for oil in the waters and delivered a blunt warning to any outside powers – i.e. the United States – not to intervene in any disputes over the Sea. Chinese vessels have cut the cables on Vietnamese ships, and China has stepped up its seizures of Vietnamese and Philippine boats, in a major breach of maritime protocol.
In distant, inhospitable climates, military forces often struggle to provide Close Air Support to dispersed detachments of troops on the ground. CAS involves aircraft hanging around at low altitude, close to the action, for a long period of time, to protect ground troops from such threats as enemy tanks and artillery by blowing them up. Cutting-edge fighter planes are no good for it as they quickly run out of fuel, can’t loiter long at lower altitudes and aren’t well enough armoured. The problem, which Nato is experiencing in Libya, isn’t new: the US faced it in Vietnam.