Last week was another slap in the face for all those still frustrated by this country’s failed, counter-productive and cruel economic embargo against Cuba. For all those who remain appalled that hard-line exile elements in South Florida still hold foreign-policy veto chips. The recent affront was occasioned by the White House welcome accorded Phan Van Khai, the prime minister of Vietnam.
Lest we ever forget, the Vietnam where 58,000 American GI’s died and thousands more were maimed. The Vietnam, which has a tainted human rights record and no free press, censors internet access and mocks religious freedom. The Vietnam that we’ve had formal diplomatic relations with for the last decade. The Vietnam that former President Bill Clinton visited in 2000.
And it’s the Vietnam that is buying four Boeing 787 airliners, valued at $500 million apiece, did more than $6.4 million in two-way trade with the U.S. last year and wants U.S. help in fighting HIV/AIDS and joining the World Trade Organization. Khai’s itinerary also included Boeing-based Seattle and the Redmond (WA) campus of Microsoft, which has an office in Vietnam.
Not only did President George W. Bush reiterate America’s position supporting Vietnam’s WTO application, but he accepted Khai’s invitation to visit Hanoi.
Vietnam, lest we forget, was once a key domino in America’s Cold War “containment” policy against Communism. That policy’s application in Southeast Asia brought down a president and proved tragically flawed.
Vietnam is a sovereign country and part of the global marketplace. We don’t have to like everything about it to do business with it. We fought an unnecessary war with it and shed a lot of blood over it.
We haven’t forgotten our fallen, but we’ve moved on. And we’ve learned. The Cold War is no more.
Except, of course, for that island atavism just south of Key West, where the learning curve long ago turned into a continuous loop.