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Humanitarian Assistance

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My latest at the Diplomat examines the nexus of “smart” power and humanitarian assistance:

Such maritime assistance programs do not guarantee that the recipients will support the geopolitical aims of the United States in a high diplomatic sense; the friends we’re winning and influencing have their own interests, and in an actual struggle for power in East Asia would have their own reasons for supporting one side or the other. But let’s be frank; any program that “intends to provide up to $18 million in new assistance to Vietnam to enhance the capacity of coastal patrol units to deploy rapidly for search and rescue, disaster response, and other activities, including through provision of five fast patrol vessels in 2014 to the Vietnamese Coast Guard” also increases the combat capacity of Vietnamese maritime forces, as well as Vietnam’s ability to maintain a presence in areas that it contests with China. There’s surely a trade off between disaster preparedness and external defense, but a professional force with modern equipment can, for a time, become better at both.

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