While much has been written about President Obama’s recent tour of Southeast Asia, less attention has been paid to the simultaneous visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to the region. On November 15, during a stopover in Bangkok, Panetta reaffirmed the United States longstanding military ties with Thailand with a new agreement, the 2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance. The next day, the United States also reiterated its military ties with Cambodia during a meeting between Secretary Penetta and Cambodia’s defense minister, General Tea Banh.
In my new piece for The New Republic, I examine how the Obama administration relies on the Pentagon to serve as diplomatic interlocutor in Southeast Asia, and argue against U.S. military cooperation with the region’s most oppressive countries. You can read the TNR entire piece here.