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No hostility, but surprise and frustration

DISCUSSIONS | May 31, 2006

Thai Nguyen

1963 Nieman Fellow, Vietnam; retired, formerly an import-export consultant

I was in Vietnam last December and I was pleasantly surprised to see how friendly the Vietnamese were toward Americans. All the hostility that had been generated by the long years of the Vietnam War seemed to have vanished and after the recent state visit of Prime Minister Pham Van Khai, most young Vietnamese seemed to admire Bill Gates more than Ho Chi Minh!

However. below that general feeling of admiration and friendship toward America was hidden a certain sense of surprise and frustration at the bizarre way America as the world's superpower has been conducting its business in recent years.

Get close to the relatively well informed Vietnamese elite who had no fear to express their views and they shared with you their feelings of surprise and frustration about America. They wondered why the Bush administration, after the Clinton administration which had done so well for America by being cooperative with the rest of the world, suddenly acted so arrogantly and antagonized most of America's friends by invading Iraq, despite their strong opposition to such an unwise military adventure.

For Vietnamese who remembered the bitter experience of the Vietnam War, they could not understand how America could fail to learn the lesson of that controversial war to get involved again in another quagmire in Iraq, especially when there were so many other higher priority problems for the U.S to solve (for instance the growing Chinese global threat). Why did America have to waste so much money and blood in Iraq by creating for itself a headache which could have been avoided? Why Iraq, after the experience of the Vietnam War?

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