Sunday, February 28, 2010

This is communism?

Arriving in Hanoi was a bit of a culture shock.

Bits and pieces of disinformation from the late 60s and early 70s kept popping into my head and conflicting with what we were seeing as we were processed efficiently through the airport, then whisked into the city in an air-conditioned SUV.

IMG_3433Huge corporate billboards with global brand names (Canon, Hyundai, Phillips...) rise from rice fields being ploughed with water buffalo. New homes and buildings are popping up everywhere. The streets are packed with motorbikes, bicycles, street vendors—but also a surprising number of very expensive cars with tinted windows. Mobile phones are ubiquitous, and web addresses figure prominently on many hotel and shop signs.

No faceless masses shuffling along to cavernous factories here!

The hawkish Red-fearing types in the US must be really vexed at how they lost the war and let the dreaded communist scourge spread into Vietnam—only to have it all become a hive of bustling capitalism only 30 some years later.

IMG_3438Is there a lesson here for the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? The cost of meddling was terribly high, and the hindsight view of French and American interference is not positive.

Where could Vietnam be today if all those resources had been directed positively to infrastructure and trade instead of as bombs?