Today, on a trip to Hanoi, President Barack Obama lifted the arms embargo against Vietnam that has been in place for half a century. He framed the move as a step in the "lengthy process" normalizing relations between that nation and the United States—forty years after American troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1975.
Lifting the embargo is a sign that Obama is willing to cast off old "relics" of the Cold War and look ahead to the challenges of the twenty-first century, said Charles Sennott, executive director of The GroundTruth Project.
"I never like to celebrate when there's an announcement that there's a larger arms market out there," said Sennott. "This really does end a relic of the Cold War and harkens to a new struggle in Southeast Asia, which is how the United States is going to play a role in these emerging democracies."
The Administration also has one eye on China, a rising military power in the region that has begun to build up its forces on the small islands near Vietnam.
"Obama and his administration are basically trying to help the Vietnamese prepare to have some defense against the military build-up in China in that area of the world," Sennott said.
Sennott said the reconciliation—however belated—is important to keep in mind when thinking about America's wars today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Here you have a president meeting with Japan, our enemy in WWII, and Vietnam, our enemy in the Vietnam War," said Sennott. "It throws into relief these two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
"You have to imagine a time down the road where, just like there was a sit down with the Viet Cong, there's going to be a sit-down with the Taliban and eventually you can get through these things," he continued.
To hear more from Charles Sennott, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.