Thursday, June 08, 2006

Rumsfeld's visit to Vietnam

Startling picture if you're old enough to remember 1968.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vietnamese Minister of Defense Gen. Pham Van Tra bid farewell after bi-lateral talks at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam, on June 5, 2006.

Imagine a Vietnam in 1968 united North and South under a freely elected National Unity Government including the Communist Party. That's what we have today in Iraq and didn't have in Vietnam. Had we had that, maybe we would have seen photo's like this decades earlier and avoided much of the war.

We've got the politics right in Iraq in a way the liberals Kennedy and LBJ, and the realists Nixon and Kissenger could never get right in Vietnam.

Here's from the Press Conference,

QUESTION: You talked quite a bit about Japan and how
[inaudible]. Your first trip you mentioned to us here was late ‘60s, in the middle of a very divisive war. Now you’re back in a little different circumstances. Can you talk a bit about that, and also--

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I actually came in ’65, ’67 and ’95.

QUESTION: Can you talk a bit about how it’s changed, what you’ve noticed about it. Are there any lessons for the divisive war right now [inaudible]? Down the future [inaudible] more friendly relationships [inaudible]?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Clearly the times I came here as a member of Congress in the ‘60s were totally different from when I visited in ’95. The visit today, the contrast, the changes that have taken place in this country are dramatic. I think the program they’re on to move from a command economy to a market economy is succeeding. I think they’re making progress with it. I think it’s visible. It’s tangible. You can feel it. And it has been a very successful government in that regard and program.

I think it ought not to be surprising, it seems to me, that the United States is
developing a very good relationship with Vietnam. Just as it ought not to have been surprising that we did so with countries that were engaged on the other side in previous conflicts, whether World War II or Korea.

[***]

QUESTION: When you said it ought not be surprising that the relationship with Vietnam is progressing the way it is. Did anything surprise you during this visit? Or did anything impress you?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I was and remain struck by the economic success that you can see and the activity and the change in this city in terms of its vibrancy and the energy you feel here. It is dramatic from 11 years ago. I don't know how long their economic program has been in place, but for the sake of argument probably 15 or 20 years. But it is bearing fruit. It is paying dividends. And anyone that was here ten years ago in Hanoi and saw it and compared it with today would be really struck by the change.

Thanks, folks.

1 comment:

romablog said...

There was supposed to be a reunification of Vietnam and nationwide elections shortly before the war. The South, with the backing of the US, stopped those elections because it was painfully evident the communist party was going to sweep the elections (and that's not just a left wing perspective- that's the accepted perspectives of scholars. You'd be hard pressed to find any sort of excuse for why the govt blocked elections). The US Govt couln't let free elections in Vietnam because our 'enemies' would have won a resounding victory. The US Govt can put together elections in Iraq because the people at the top know that the 'enemy' doesn't have the kind of national support it would need to dominate the govt, that the govt doesn't control that much at this stage of the game (eg. they're not allowed to take any foriegn policy actions or make any statements concerning external affairs), and that the people of Iraq aren't united enough to put together a strong, unified force within the govt.


Ps. Don't front on Kennedy. He supported having those elections.