HO CHI “MINH CITY, Vietnam — For nearly half a century, Margot Carlson Delogne had grieved over her father’s death. She battled alcoholism, wore a missing-in-action bracelet and deeply resented the Vietnamese who shot down his plane in 1966.From Our AdvertisersNow she stood at the end of a long table in a conference room here, facing six Vietnamese men and women who had lost parents in the same war, fighting for the other side. It was her fourth such meeting in eight days, and the emotional toll was catching up with her.“We wondered if our coming together would open old wounds, or if any of us would be angry or sad all over again,” she started. Then she began to cry. “We have been sad,” she said, “but we have found no anger.” ”
Archive for 2015
“In May, I visited Vietnam and met with university students. After a week of being love-bombed by Vietnamese, who told me how much they admire America, want to work or study there and have friends and family living there, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “How did we get this country so wrong? How did we end up in a war with Vietnam that cost so many lives and drove them into the arms of their most hated enemy, China?”
It’s a long, complicated story, I know, but a big part of it was failing to understand that the core political drama of Vietnam was an indigenous nationalist struggle against colonial rule — not the embrace of global communism, the interpretation we imposed on it.The North Vietnamese were both communists and nationalists — and still are. But the key reason we failed in Vietnam was that the communists managed to harness the Vietnamese nationalist narrative much more effectively than our South Vietnamese allies, who were too often seen as corrupt or illegitimate. The North Vietnamese managed to win (with the help of brutal coercion) more Vietnamese support not because most Vietnamese bought into Marx and Lenin, but because Ho Chi Minh and his communist comrades were perceived to be the more authentic nationalists.”
Post-Katrina, Vietnamese Success Why did one community recover so well? nytimes.com|By Mark J. Vanlandingham
What I missed in this academic piece, is an appreciation that the Vietnamese are used to floods and rebuilding. That is a part of their environment in Vietnam.
“Within the last two years, Vietnam has become the United States’ largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, with two-way trade totaling $35 billion last year. That trade is projected to grow to $57 billion by 2020.”
This writer thinks that the US should not demand too many concessions from Vietnam in exchange for more trade. The arguments for increasing relations with Cuba apply here. More successful exchanges with the West will move the Viets more than bullying by the US. Our mutual interest in containing China should make most smaller issues recede.
Last night, I watched again the movie, Last Days in Vietnam, which I’d just seen two weeks earlier at a Yale South East Asia Association viewing. Great documentary film, very painful, and yet uplifting. The North Vietnamese communists won, but as this piece below reflects, now they have to govern, and keep the hearts and minds of a new generation, while the population of Vietnam, like much of the world, has quadrupled. Vietnam has grown in population from 20 million to 80 million in just forty years.
“THANH BINH, Vietnam — I drove out through a watery landscape, the rice paddies shimmering, watermelon being planted in muddy fields. There were ducks on the canals, graves and shrines in the light green rice fields, the dead among the living, not hidden but recalled daily. Women in conical hats pushed bicycles over rickety wooden bridges. The breeze was warm, the viscous coffee sweet. Cafes set with hammocks, some advertising Wi-Fi, offered sugar cane juice pressed through small hand-cranked mills. Everything felt liquid, soft, fluid here in the Mekong Delta, an aqueous microclimate.
Yes, the dead among the living: four decades gone by since the war, the bombs and the napalm — twitchy young Americans at the other side of the world wondering what menace lurked in this lush vegetation. America mired in the mud of an unwinnable war.
Now, if anything, the Vietnamese wonder whether the United States military would protect them against the Chinese, if it ever came to that. The temporary enemy has become a partner of sorts against the eternal enemy. Annual trade between Vietnam and the United States has soared from a mere $220 million in 1994 to $29.6 billion in 2013.”
David Lindsay: My favorite comment regarding the piece below on the success of farming fish in Vietnam. Numerous commenters insult the Vietnames health standards, and low wages as dangerous to us.
New York Yesterday
Um – just to chime in: The minimum wage in Vietnam is $114-$146 USD – the variance reflects cost of living differences dependent upon location. The average income in Vietnam is currently $148/mo. in Ho Chi Minh City, $145/mo. in Hanoi – reflecting that the majority of Vietnamese earn minimum wage. Thus a $220/mo. income is considerably greater than the average Vietnamese worker earns.
Some commenters have questioned the quality of the fish – in 2001 a group of U.S. catfish farmers and processors traveled to Vietnam on a fact-finding mission. “We thought we’d find them growing fish in polluted water and processing them in crude plants,” says one processor who went on the trip. “But that’s not what we found. We came back scared to death.” The Vietnamese operations were vastly better than what we had expected.
Eco tourism, or Ecologically focused tourism, is coming. Necessity is mother of invention.