Vietnam recently opened two new areas to exploration for the bodies of American soldiers missing in action. Madame Nga says Vietnam has "actively worked with and supported the U.S. in finding the MIAs during the last 20 years," but notes that on the Vietnamese side "about 3 million MIAs remain to be found." She also says "there are more than 3 million Vietnamese known as victims of Agent Orange ... while thousands of hectares of land are contaminated with dioxin." She adds her appreciation for money provided by Congress to help victims and clean land, but she says more is needed.
As in many other one-party states, the Internet remains a powerful counterforce to managed information. The U.S. Embassy provides, and the government mostly allows, an information center where students and others can log onto iPads and search for information that is often counter to the government line.
The old guard remains suspicious about American objectives, seeing economic and political liberalization as a strategy to achieve among the Vietnamese people what America failed to in pursuing their "hearts and minds" in the war.
Professor Carlyle A. Thayer of the University of New South Wales, an expert on Vietnam, said recently, "Vietnam is motivated to keep the U.S. engaged in Southeast Asia, and the South China Sea in particular, as a balance to China," which claims some territorial rights in conflict with Vietnam and is a formidable economic and military power on its northern border.
Vietnam is in transition, and it is unrealistic to expect too much progress too quickly. Considering where it was when the U.S. left in 1975, the country appears to be inching in a positive direction. Those Americans who died here left behind the seeds of democracy, capitalism and a desire for prosperity and freedom. Whatever one's view of that war, it can be said they did not die in vain.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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