History was made as Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Laos. Over the course of the Vietnam War forty years ago more than two million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country in history. When the war finally ended and things supposedly returned back to normal, the United States never acknowledged its undercover operations in Laos and even today, many people have no idea that there was a secret war going on at the same time as the Vietnam War. But the violence and bloodshed didn’t end when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Years later, there are still unexploded bombs hidden throughout Laos that continue to kill thousands of people. Despite the fact that Obama did not formally apologize for the actions of the United States during the war, he did pledge to donate $30 million a year for three years to assist Laos in finding and dismantling those bombs.
Obama went on to discuss future relations between the United States and Southeast Asian countries. He spoke optimistically about being more engaged in the South China Sea, and supporting the rights of the countries trying to stop Beijing from colonizing that body of water.
My mom was born in Laos and her family was forced to flee the country during the Vietnam War. Reading about a subject so near to my heart really made me think about the relationships between powerhouse countries like the United States and much smaller, developing countries like Laos. In an event like this, America got out unscathed while Laos still hasn’t even recovered. It’s interesting to note some of Obama’s words: “Every nation matters. Bigger nations should not dictate to smaller ones, and all nations should play by the same rules.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, but are we really following through with it? Laos is a tiny, landlocked country that is still struggling to become a fully-developed nation. Monetary donations and humanitarian efforts are not enough. I would argue that much more needs to be done. If we want to believe that all nations really do play by the same rules, we need to put forth the effort to make sure this becomes a reality for countries all over the world.