A Glimmer of Hope for Vietnam
Friday, July 7, 2005*
By "The Cantankerous Yank"
and close friends who lost their country to brutal communist aggressors
in Vietnam 31 years ago, and having therefore intimate knowledge of the
subsequent suffering of the people of South Vietnam, I have long held as one
of my greatest hopes that one day Vietnam will metamorphose into a free
nation. It is a hope I have for all peoples Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a dream I share with Ronald
Reagan and George W. Bush and, I believe, with most Americans. Indeed, I
have chosen to dedicate my life to doing all that I can in pursuit of the
realization of that dream. But because of a personal connection, my desire
to see a free Vietnam is especially keen.
A street scene in Saigon.
Photo by Michael Workman. Source: World66.com
I was pleased,
therefore, to read in the July 4 issue of the Washington Times an assessment
by Honglien Do and John Carey (emphatically not to be confused with John
Kerry!) of the recent changes in the government of Communist Vietnam,
changes that they feel may hold some possibility of moving the country in
the direction of a more free, open and democratic society.
Honglien Do, like
many of my personal acquaintances, fled Communist Vietnam. John Carey
is former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. They wrote
that the naming of Nguyen Tan Dung as prime minister of Vietnam, and several
other recent appointments including a new chairman of the national assembly
and nine new cabinet members, is an encouraging development. They described
Nguyen Tan Dung and some of his associates as an economic reformers and hold
that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the news of the new leadership gives great promise.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Communist Party has a firm grip on politics in Vietnam, this sweeping
political change marked a watershed,Ã¢â‚¬Â they wrote. Since the end of the
Vietnam War in 1975, Ã¢â‚¬Å“hard-line communist leadership made that country a
backward, repressed, economically depressed failure.Ã¢â‚¬Â Although recent Ã¢â‚¬Å“more
enlightened thinkingÃ¢â‚¬Â has led to improvements in the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s economy, all
media in Vietnam continues to be controlled by the Communist Party Ã¢â‚¬Å“and the
people have no say in their leadership,Ã¢â‚¬Â the article states.
leadership is Ã¢â‚¬Å“potentially much more democratically-leaning,Ã¢â‚¬Â according to
the Washington Times article.
The authors ask:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Why should the United States care about the political future of Vietnam?
Precisely because, as President Bush has asserted time and again,
Ã¢â‚¬ËœDemocracies rarely wage war on other democracies.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â They also Ã¢â‚¬Å“tend to
cherish freedom Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ and generally enforce human rights.Ã¢â‚¬Â
There are other
signs of hope, according to Do and Carey. Ã¢â‚¬Å“People in Vietnam are restless
for change. This spring and summer, petitions demanding more freedom and
openness are circulating in the cities.Ã¢â‚¬Â People are said to be signing the
petitions Ã¢â‚¬Å“despite threats from the communist government.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Let us earnestly
hope that Do and Carey are right in their assessment of VietnamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new
leadership. It would be a wonderful thing to see the new leaders respond to
the peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s petitions by actually expanding freedoms and by beginning to
give the Vietnamese people a voice in their government. Let us hope that
these new leaders do not respond to a rising freedom-and-democracy movement
in the country with a Tiananman-type crackdown such as the Chinese
Communists did in 1989.
decades ago, we bravely attempted to secure the peace, freedom and democracy
of the Vietnamese people, only to fail,Ã¢â‚¬Â wrote Do and Carey. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Maybe enough
time has passed now to allow a great nation to extend the hand of peace and
reconciliation, and to encourage democracy by other than military means in
I share the
writersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ hope. I hope the months and years ahead will justify their
optimism. But I must add one thing: The question is not whether enough time
has passed to allow the United States to extend a hand of peace and
reconciliation and to encourage democracy by non-military means. This great
nation has always been willing to do so. The question is whether the
Vietnamese leadership is ready to relinquish tyrannical control and extend
political as well as economic freedoms to the Vietnamese people.
If the new
leaders of Vietnam have the vision and courage to take those steps, and to
lead their country into the family of free and democratic nations, what a
great thing that would be Ã¢â‚¬â€œ for the Vietnamese people, for the region, and
for the world. And what an example it would set for neighboring China! Also,
what a fitting (if belated) tribute to the 60,000 American soldiers and the
nearly two million South Vietnamese soldiers who sacrificed their lives more
than three decades ago fighting side by side in the cause of freedom. When
freedom does finally come to Vietnam, we will know, at last, that what those
brave soldiers were fighting for was indeed a worthy cause and that,
ultimately, their sacrifices were not in vain.
This article was originally published in
July 2006 print edition.