Vietnam's Talk/Fight Strategy in play on Human Rights Negotiations
By Michael Benge*
September 22, 2013
For decades, the Vietnamese communists' negotiating strategy has been "Talk/Fight" -- first in dealing with the French, then with the U.S. during the Vietnam War, and now in the current U.S.-Vietnam Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. The "Talk/Fight" strategy is to engage their opponent in negotiations, stalling for time, all the while replenishing, repositioning, and resupplying their troops, as they gain ground and concessions. According to Ernest Bower, senior advisor on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "[t]he American government admires Vietnam's strategic thinking."
The TPP includes nine other countries besides Vietnam and is touted as a new-generation, high-standard trade agreement of the 21st century. The finalization and implementation of this trade deal would give a huge boost to U.S.-Vietnam economic relations, granting Vietnam even greater access to its largest export market -- the U.S.
While the State Department continues to meander and vacillate in its negotiations regarding human rights abuses, communist henchmen have ratcheted up the repression in Vietnam. As a distraction, the Vietnamese communists are playing the need-to-contain-China card, while seeking lethal weapons from the U.S., supported by both of Vietnam's major advocates -- Senator John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry.
American TPP negotiators are mouthing toothless concerns about Hanoi's ongoing gross human rights abuses, so one can assume that stipulations on the improving freedoms for the Vietnamese people will be incorporated into the agreement before it is approved. However, history shows that the Vietnamese communists have never lived up to any agreement with the U.S., so it is reasonable to expect the communist henchmen to go merrily on their way, continuing their repression, while thumbing their noses at the U.S.
The TPP is a done deal if one is to believe Scott Busby, the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, who recently stated in Falls Church, VA, "The United States and Vietnam continue to improve economic and trade ties, including through the Trans-Pacific Partnership ... free trade agreement."
Vietnam is a police state where one in six working people are employed either full- or part-time in the massive state security network.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose." (The more things change, the more they remain the same.)
Here are just a few human rights abuses committed recently by communist Vietnam:
According to its recent report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) said that Vietnam, under one-party communist rule, is expanding control over all religious activities, severely restricts independent religious practice, and represses individuals and religious groups it views as challenging its authority. "The Vietnamese government uses a specialized religious police force and vague national security laws to suppress independent Buddhist, Protestant, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai activities, and seeks to stop the growth of ethnic minority Protestantism and Catholicism via discrimination, violence and forced renunciations of their faith."
Internet freedom has gone from bad to worse in Vietnam as an online censorship law known as "Decree 72" went into effect this month, allowing people to post online only personal information. The new law punishes anyone who discusses current affairs or news sensitive to the life of the state. It bans bloggers and users of social media from quoting, gathering, or summarizing information from press organizations or government websites. In addition, internet providers are tasked with blocking stories that criticize Vietnam or that could endanger "national security." In 2013 alone, Hanoi has arrested more than 40 activists for these so-called "crimes against the state."
While the Obama administration vacillates, the European Parliament recently strongly condemned the violations of human rights and of freedom of expression, religion, and assembly in Vietnam, including the political intimidation, harassment, assaults, arbitrary arrests, heavy prison sentences, and unfair trials brought against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents, and human rights defenders. The condemnation included the "severe religious persecution" against Catholics as well as "non-recognized" religions such as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and the Protestant churches.
Ironically, Vietnam is bidding for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for 2014-2016.
White House Visit
As all eyes and ears are turned to President Obama and Syria, nearly everyone has forgotten Obama's White House meeting in July with Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang, and the ridiculous utterings of both men. Sang peddled the lie that the communist nation's founder, Ho Chi Minh, was a nationalist inspired by the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson. Sang and the other communist Vietnamese leaders adhere to Joseph Goebbels' "Big Lie" postulate -- people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one, and if you repeat it often enough, people will eventually believe.
Not to be outdone by his communist counterpart, President Obama agreed that the hardcore communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh was inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, as well as the words of Jefferson and our founding fathers. He went on to say that both countries share a mutual admiration for Thomas Jefferson and our founding principles.
Au contraire, mon président. The Vietnamese regime's creator was not Jefferson's God, but Ho Chi Minh himself, an unscrupulous Comintern agent paid by Moscow whose loyalty was only to the World Communist Movement. And our founding principles did not include the murder of tens of thousands our people, as did theirs. Rather than "all men are created equal," Sang's regime is closer to George Orwell's satirical allegory of communism in "Animal Farm," where some animals are much more equal than others.
*Michael Benge spent 11 years in Vietnam as a Foreign Service officer and is a student of South East Asian politics. He is very active in advocating for human rights, religious freedom, and democracy for the peoples of the region and has written extensively on these subjects.