Our own strategic interest there is straightforward. More than half the world’s shipping traffic goes through a place where there could be a shooting war that could shut down the entire sea and deliver one hell of a shellacking to economies everywhere in the world. Our primary interest then, more than helping smaller nations resist China, is keeping the peace.
It might happen without us having to do much, if Vietnam were to feel that its ties to the US were stronger.
And there’s always the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.” Thomas Friedman described it in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree. “No two countries,” he wrote, “that both had McDonald’s had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald’s.” The theory is that countries that reach such a bourgeois state of development are less interested in waging wars than nations gripped by ideological lunacy. A nation with McDonald’s may very well go to war against warmongering creepjobs like Saddam Hussein, but against another bourgeois country? Not likely.
Friedman’s theory is perhaps too cute by half, but it has mostly held up over the years. It was nearly violated when Israel and Hezbollah fought in 2006. McDonald’s has franchises in both Israel and Lebanon. But the 2006 war was not fought between the sovereign states of Lebanon and Israel. It was fought mostly in Lebanon, but not against Lebanon, and Hezbollah, which detests and boycotts McDonald’s, started it. But the current war (can we call it a war yet?) between Russia and Ukraine seems to put the Golden Arches Theory to bed. Still, bourgeois economic integration generally makes armed conflict less likely, even if it isn’t fail-safe.