VN – America’s Communist ally of choice?


"The decision to lift the arms trade ban, which followed intense debate within the Obama administration, suggested such concerns outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and Washington would lose leverage for reforms.

Obama told a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully and not by whoever "throws their weight around". But he insisted the arms embargo move was not linked to China.

"The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam," he said. Obama later added his visit to a former foe showed "hearts can change and peace is possible".

The sale of arms, Obama said, would depend on Vietnam's human rights commitments, and would be made on a case-by-case basis."  Reuters


I know the Vietnamese people quite well having lived among them at the village level without benefit of five-star hotels and fancy restaurants.   I respect their cleverness, style, work ethic, etc.   They will make a valuable ally in the growing contest with China that we and the Chinese seem embarked on.  A dozen Vietnamese divisions armed with American made weapons and manned by the descendants of those whom I and many on SST once fought to the death would be a potent force and something the Chinese would have to reckon with as possible enemies.  Is that a good thing?  Maybe …  Maybe …  But, would China as a friendly country not be a more worthwhile friendly force in the world?  China is hugely larger and stronger than Vietnam and always will be.

There is little reason to prefer one over the other as a "friend."  Both are run by single party Communist autocracies.  In neither is there an independent judiciary or press.  The record of respect for anything that could be called human rights is abysmal in both countries.  The Han Chinese long ago conquered Tibet and are there engaged in massive cultural imperialism.  Their treatment of the Muslim Uighurs in west China is equally bad.  In Vietnam the Communist government has persecuted every ethnic, non-Vietnamese minority that can be found in the country, and there are many of those.    The Vietnamese language word used for describing all these minorities is "moi."   This means "animal," roughly.

The Vietnamese Communists have long been a romantic attachment of the American and European Left.  Obama must be pleased to have the opportunity to befriend the government in VN.  He looks pleased in the photograph, the Vietnamese president, not so much.  pl


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74 Responses to VN – America’s Communist ally of choice?

  1. Mark Pyruz says:

    With respect as always, Colonel, highly unlikely by means of American support that SRV military forces can and somehow would be turned into a “super-ARVN” against PRC.
    PRC defense ties to SRV remain in place.
    Have to grudgingly admit, SRV is pretty damn clever at playing off world powers. During the Vietnam War, they played off USSR and PRC for competing assistance, and now during South China Sea dispute they appear set to play off USA and PRC for competing assistance.

  2. charly says:

    “peace is possible” while selling arms

  3. turcopolier says:

    Mark Pyruz
    The Vietnamese and Chinese hate each other at the most basic level. have you forgotten the border war between them fought in the 80s? We are attempting to develop a coalition of powers in the western Pacific to contain China. Every blandishment will be offered to include VN in that. We will see how much the Vietnamese communists like our money. pl

  4. turcopolier says:

    Mark Pyruz
    “super-ARVN” implies that the ARVN was an instrument of US power. If you think that you do not understand what the relationship was. The ARVN was never under US authority and was always very difficult to deal with. pl

  5. mbrenner says:

    The Tonkin region was controlled by various Chinese states beginning with the Han for the first millennium of the Common Era. At that time, the region encompassed most of Vietnamese populated territory. The Ming Dynasty briefly invaded in the early 15th century but was repulsed. Other than that, a bit of meddling on and off in factional politics. No idea how vivid these historical memories are.
    It is noteworthy that the Chinese historically had little interest in empire building for its own sake. The slow expansion to the North and West was the extension of wars against the barbarians and involved sparsely populated areas for the most part. Ruling alien peoples was not their cup of tea. They demanded instead deference and tribute.
    Not sure whether they’d accept our providing high-grade political entertainment as adequate tribute.

  6. hans says:

    I tutored Vietnamese immigrants in English for a couple of years in the 1980s and I can affirm that they hate the Chinese. The reaction was so emphatic I was completely startled by it. To characterize it for those who haven’t seen it I would call it homicidal hatred it’s so white hot. They weren’t big on Khmers either I discovered after trying to merge two classes.

  7. LondonBob says:

    About 1.3bn Chinese, in China, with another 50m overseas. China will be the world’s sole hyper-power, and not just dominate East Asia. I suppose one could waste a lot of men and treasure to try, and fail, to stop that inevitability, as Britain did with Germany and their inevitable domination of mainland Europe. Wiser would be to take the approach Britain did with the rise of the US, accept it and work with it. Best the US elite focused on the many domestic issues they act as if are not there, and use the legacy benefits of being the world’s sole superpower to the the people’s benefit.

  8. turcopolier says:

    Typepad HTML Email
    Yes. Very xenophobic. PL

  9. Matthew says:

    Well, at least the President didn’t say “shared values.”
    Some of our Thought Leaders appear to belief that any action taken by the Russia or China–and not authorized by Washington, D.C.–is dangerous. See

  10. BraveNewWorld says:

    >”suggested such concerns outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and Washington would lose leverage for reforms.”
    Does the US even pay lip service to human rights any where other than Syria/Iraq where they prefer the the human right record of AQ to either government? If you can joyfully sell weapons to the KSA, Qatar and the other GCC goons and thugs I don’t see any problem with selling them to Vietnam or really even North Korea at that point.

  11. TonyL says:

    The Vietnamese word “mọi” means “indigenous”, “primitive” people.
    Not in any way related to animal. It’s a condescending term, in the same way the word “indian” was used.
    Vietnamese people have a prejudice agains Chinese, because of the thoudsand
    year colonialism. Not because they are xenophobic.

  12. ” The record of respect for anything that could be called human rights is abysmal in both countries. ”
    Perhaps, but not as abysmal as our own. If you score the 30 paragraphs of the UN Declaration fairly, you’ll see that China’s human rights record is now (and since 9/11) better than our own.

  13. turcopolier says:

    That’s funny they iused to tell me that the Montagnards were like animals and they called them “moi” in the same breath. if the Vietnamese prejudice against the Chinese is about the history of colonialism by the Chinese why do the Vietnamese despise the Montagnards, Khmer, Lao, etc.? I have known cases of Vietnamese women nurses pulling intra-venous lines out of Montagnards in the night saying afterward that these people did not deserve to live. You can BS people who were not there but it won’t work with me. pl

  14. turcopolier says:

    I looked at your site “In Praise of China.” It seems clear that you are a PRC government activity. We will welcome a voice like that on SST. Please don’t pretend to be American. pl

  15. Brunswick says:

    From what I have read, it’s more or less the “ususal” reasons:
    – Colonial use of divide and conquor,
    – past histories of conquest
    – skin colour, language, education
    – tribalism
    – “being” different.
    I was reading a history of the pre-Division “migrations”, and found accounts of deep divides and animosity between the Southern Catholics, and the Nothern Catholic refugees, both of whom hated each others guts, and how that animosity persisted right up to the fall of the South.

  16. Bill Herschel says:

    They’ve already got as much of our money as they want. Shoes, for example, are made in Vietnam.!our-network/c1ltf
    This is all about military expansion. 50,000 troops in Japan. For what?

  17. Jimmy_W says:

    Historical note that there used to be many ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam, in the south. The 70s/80s Boat People were many of them ethnic Chinese purged out of Vietnam. The eviction of the ethnic Chinese was part of the pretext for the Sino-Vietnam war.

  18. turcopolier says:

    Yes. There were ethnic Chinese everywhere. Cholon was the Chinese quarter of Saigon. I knew many people from there. pl

  19. turcopolier says:

    I think it is a bit much to blame the mutual ethnic and religious animosities of the peoples of Indochina on the French. These peoples are quite capable of acting that way on their own just as analogous people do in the ME. the European colonial powers did not make the Shia and Sunni hate each other. tey did not make the Turks oppress the Kurds, etc. To think colonialism is responsible for local evils is to hold really severe paternalistic attitudes towards these peoples. pl

  20. Brunswick says:

    The French were not the “first” Colonists in Vietnam.
    The broad range of languages and physical characteristics of the various “peoples” of Vietnam show that.
    The long history of basically “feudalism” into the post war era of course, would not help the cause of “equality”.
    There are some researchers who claim that the South Asian trend of “anti-melanism” is a product of Colonialism. The treatment of amerasians would suggest that those researchers are “wrong”, and that possibly the researchers who suggest it’s a product of status, ( not working outside), may be “less wrong”.
    France’s long policy of managing “Vietnam” as Tonkin, Annam and CochinChina, and holding the Tribal Confederations, (Hmong, Montegenard, Tai, Khymer, Tay, Mu’ong, Nung, Hoa) as separate from the Kihn, ( Vietnamese) didn’t help much.

  21. different clue says:

    They would accept our natural resources . . . ALL of them . . . as adequate tribute. In the long run, the ChinaGov sees America as one of its Overseas Tibets. That’s what we have to prevent from happening.

  22. turcopolier says:

    Well, IMO the tribal minorities needed to be protected from the Vietnamese and the policy of separately administering these populations was altogether good, but then I was adopted by the Stiengan and Mnong Gar peoples. The Vietnamese would not have and will never accept these other peoples as equals. IMO the same policy in Syria was needed to protect the Alawites from the Sunnis. The present war in Syria is not the result of that policy. it is the result of the bloody mindedness of the Saudis and the neocon/R2P crowd. pl

  23. Brunswick says:

    Being Canadian, married to a Metis woman, living in a S’eptuwimuk majority area still dealing with the afgermaths of the Federal Government’s “protection” of the First Nations, and the continual Federal/Provincial Treaty/no Treaty fights, I am aware of the double edge sword that “protection” entails,
    and the French program in Vietnam was not to create a “nation”.

  24. Uncle HO once washed dishes in Paris. The U.S. continues as the world’s largest arms proliferator, nuclear and conventional. When will any President level with the American people on this trade and its related “blowback” a term utilized by deceased Chalmers Johnson and others.
    Oh well, perhaps HRC and the Donald are blowback for other errors of American leadership.
    Study closely the 1999 Presidential Commission report to Congress studying WMD proliferation and headed by John Deutch.

  25. TonyL says:

    Correct spelling: separate from the Kinh.
    “There are some researchers who claim that the South Asian trend of “anti-melanism” is a product of Colonialism. The treatment of amerasians would suggest that those researchers are “wrong”, and that possibly the researchers who suggest it’s a product of status, ( not working outside), may be “less wrong”.”
    True. It’s a “status” thing. Mostly in the thinking of conservatives, that amerisans are of a lower class because they are children of GIs and women who married them for money. They need helps just like other minorities do.
    I think Col Lang experience was with only a segment of the population. The soldiers or nurses at the front line thought they must show their toughness. The Vietnamese treats minorities as 2nd class citizens, but I don’t think “hate” or “despise” is accurate at all.

  26. Harry says:

    Enlightening. And your comment on alawites in Syria is very helpful. It was the impression I came to but I am not well briefed. Since the Israelis know all this well, it is disturbing how little they value their neighbors lives – assuming their lobbying was a significant factor. It was also short sighted. When this is over they may find they share borders with an exceptionally efficient Arab military in the SAA not too mention the battle hardened Hezbollah.
    You would think their nukes would calm their nerves.

  27. turcopolier says:

    The Israelis care not at all for their neighbors whether Palestinian or outside what they feel is Eretz Israel. pl

  28. turcopolier says:

    “Despise” is exactly the right word with regard to the Vietnamese attitude toward the tribals. “Hate” was used by me with regard to the Vietnamese/Chinese attitudes toward each other, not with regard to the Vietnamese attitude toward the Montagnards, tribal Khmer, etc. Get it straight if you are going to quote me. pl

  29. turcopolier says:

    The tribal peoples in VN may have VN passports but if you think that the ethnic Vietnamese think of themselves and the tribals as the same you are living in cloud cuckoo land. The French created what is now the state of VN when they combined the disparate regions of Tonkin, Annam and Cochin China into one governable entity. To think that they would have seen their purpose in VN as being to create a “nation,” i.e., ONE PEOPLE from the various ethnic Vietnamese groups plus the tribal non-ethnic inhabitants of VN is an interesting but unrealistic notion. The drive to acquire colonial possessions in the 19th Century had a number of facets but creating “nations” was not among them. pl

  30. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    I liked to joke that Vietnamese-Chinese relations share the same characteristics of mutual fraternal love as do Russian-Polish ones, only more so.
    While the Chinese found that joke kind of funny (the pretty small sub segment of Chinese that have an understanding of Russian-Polish relations that is), nationalist Vietnamese did not. “Fraternal? They are completely different, our languages are not related at all! Russia sometimes did good things for Poland, China was always the enemy! What eternal shame that we proud sons of the South never sacked a Chinese capital, the brave Poles actually managed to invade Russia on occassion”.
    Something else worth keeping in mind with that comparison is the following: It is not very hard to get a Russian say good things about Polish culture, classical music etc. the reverse is a bit more difficult, but not that tough either. Try getting Chinese to say good things about Vietnam, or vice versa.
    Concerning the specifics of minority disdain:
    Well, I think you need to make a difference between the various Montagnards and the Khmer as well. The Khmer used to be an empire, one that iirc pretty regularly fought Dai-Viet/Dai-Nam. In a way, a Viet would see a Khmer as “hostile/alien” but more or less “equal”. A montagnard from that pov. is not equal, he is simply inferior. Of course, not all Montagnards are created and treated equally, and if you add the Cham people as Montagnards (who used to be an empire as well) it gets more complex.
    Laotians are somewhere between “rival” and “colonial subject” on the spectrum. Thai are pure rival.
    With the Khmer, there is also the legacy of the Khmer rouge, their atrocities, including on Vietnamese soil, their running behind the skirts of the Chinese when Vietnam retaliated (which made them despised rather then feared) and the refugee waves (including into Vietnam) that they caused.
    Something to keep in mind is that you were in Vietnam during a massive crushing war. This is, generally speaking, not a time that brings out the best out of people. All wars feature resource deprivation, and generally increase clannishness because individuals band together based on clannishness/ethnicity etc. to gain access to resources. Dehumanizing those not belonging to the clan/tribe is a necessary ingredient for this. Removing IV tubes is basically a one sided resource war between 2 persons. “Save medicine for my own tribe, fuck everyone else”.
    Such things are universal features of mankind, and not in any way exclusive to Vietnam or South East Asia.

  31. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    Amazingly enough, some of my Viet friends in Germany remarked that being in Germany, it was the first time they saw Hmong/Montagnards as “Vietnamese” because everyone else in Germany was/is way more different to them then the Montagnards were.
    Germany is kind of curious because you had communist refugees in East Germany, some boat people and AVRN refugess in West Germany, and they pretty freely intermixed after the German reunification.

  32. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    As far as despise goes, from what I get, the despise is progressively evolving into a (very patronizing) “oh, our little montagnard brothers in need of our fatherly guidance, we will eventually make proper Viets out of them” attitude. In a way that is progress.

  33. turcopolier says:

    You obviously have a stake in this discussion of Vietnam and Vietnamese society. Tell us about it. I expect that you are probably Vietnamese or part Vietnamese. In fact the Vietnamese look down on people of mixed race as do the Chinese generally. The race mixing itself is thought to be unacceptable. Obama himself must be an interesting sight for them. In the period of the 2nd Indochina War (ours) there were people of mixed race in Vietnam who were holdovers from the period of French colonial rule. Some were part Vietnamese and part white and others had African blood as a result of the presence of French colonial troops from Africa for many years. These people had no real place inVietnamese society. The Eurasian women were often quite beautiful. They could be seen every day at the “Cercle Sportif” club in Saigon inhabiting the bar or lounging aroud the pool. They were all someone local’s mistress or simply prostitutes. They were in that position because of what can only be described as Vietnamese racism. You can imagine if you like that Vietnamese society was a utopia in which the Vietnamese would have inhabited a “peacable kingdom” if not interfered with by the foreigners but that is just a delusion that is probably widespread in the Vietnamese diaspora. BTW the tribals were all out in the countryside, especially in the mountains. If that is what you mean by “the front line” that is where the Vietnamese and the tribals were in each other’s presence. pl

  34. Degringolade says:

    Tony: In the long ago, I worked with the Hmong (speaking Mong Njua was one of my odd skills that the big green machine taught me).
    Try telling one of the Hmong that the Vietnamese aren’t xenophobic….I’ll wait here for you

  35. bth says:

    Two items:
    1. The cost of light manufacturing is reportedly now lower in Vietnam and the Philippines v. China.
    2. I wonder if there is an intelligence sharing component with the US/Vietnamese arrangement?

  36. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That racialism also imbues Korea and Japan.

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Unless China can assimilate the principles and practices of the Platonic Academy – developed over the last 2500 years in Europe – they will likely not escape the middle income trap; or at best will be were South Korea is today – in my opinion.
    There is a vast gulf between copying what others have created – say the atomic weapons – and to create something truly new – like the ability to tap into the Dirac Sea and freeze air over an entire city.

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You asked: ” why do the Vietnamese despise the Montagnards, Khmer, Lao, etc.?”
    Because men require inferiors to feel good about themselves.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I recall reading a piece buy that WWII war orphan who was rescued by US soldiers – Art Buchwald – decades ago in Iran. He wrote it as another political parody, inspired by the stories current at that time in the world press regarding a number of Japanese soldiers who were still fighting WWII in the jungles of the Philippines.
    He began his parody by writing about a lone US soldier who was discovered, years after the end of the Vietnam War, to be still fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. His parents go there to persuade him to give up and come back home.
    I do not recall much except snatches such as these below:
    – Son, you need to come back.
    – No, I am fighting for what the President (Nixon) said….
    – Nixon is not the President anymore.
    – I am fighting against godless Vietnamese…
    – Vietnamese are not our enemies any more, they are exporting transistor radios…
    Besides Buchwald’s prescience, I wonder was that war necessary?

  40. turcopolier says:

    No. US participation in that war was as Voltaire wrote, “worse than a crime. It was stupid.” We were lured into that war by another hysterical misreading of developing history by the Borg of that time. i.e., “the best and brightest.” pl

  41. turcopolier says:

    It was a rhetorical question. pl

  42. mike says:

    “moi” if my memory is any good meant “savage”. And from my experience Colonel Lang is correct regarding Viet ethnocentrism. The mountain people of the Central Highlands were also referred to as “muoi” or “dark-skinned” (can’t remember the diacriticals and cannot find my old Anh-Viet dictionary), perhaps TonyL can translate it correctly.
    A.I.Schmelzer is also right saying that not all Montagnards were treated the same. The Muong, Meo, Tho, and T’ai people of the mountainous areas of North Vietnam were treated differently. But they supposedly had a cultural level as high as lowland Viets. Plus the fact that Ho and Giap needed their support as Viet Minh base areas were in their territory. How Ho won them over I don’t know as those people for centuries had hated the lowland Viets. I can only surmise they hated the French more??? Several NVA divisions were primarily made up of those mountaineers. The 316th was such a division and it was one of the most gung-ho both at Dien Ben Phu and 31 years later at the fall of Saigon. The 325th was also largely made up of northern mountaineers, they participated at Khe Sanh and overran Lang Vei, in 75 they took Danang.
    The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Viet-Nam during the early 2000’s was a mountaineer minority. But there were some literary insinuations that he was the bastard son of Ho Chi Minh and a Tho girl, so perhaps he was accepted on that basis??? Ho of course was a lot more cosmopolitan than your average Viet as he had spent his youth in Paris, Marseilles, London, Harlem NY, Moscow, Canton, Shanghai and Kunming.

  43. turcopolier says:

    Yes. In SVN the Montagnards fall into two groups ethnically, the Mon-Khmer and the Malayo-Polynesians with the first group being much more primitive. I don’t know much about the T’ai peoples of North Vietnam. There are also other stocks up near the Chinese border who are interesting. I had a counterpart who had been a Viet Minh and then had defected to the French. He was a big man about six foot tall. He was one such. (Tho maybe) To work with the Mon-Khmer Montagnards it was necessary to teach them such concepts as time, measurable distance and numbers. pl

  44. Colonel Lang,
    Among other things, it was Walt Rostow and his ‘stages of economic growth’.
    This tended to assume that a Western model of ‘modernisation’ could be indefinitely replicated elsewhere.
    I also suspect that – like Fukuyama – Rostow treated the more untowards elements of ‘modernisation’ in European history (and also American – that small matter of a civil war) as ‘teething troubles’.
    So, if you helped the Vietnamese through the ‘teething troubles’ stage, everything would be fine.
    Time and again, what appears to be a purely secular ‘social science’ turns out to be a kind of secularised theology. And time and again, precisely because of this, it leads to very bad predictions.

  45. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    I may be wrong, but as I remember stuff from conversations (this is second to third hand) my grandfather (was at that time responsible for helping foreign, mostly mosambiquan and Vietnamese, students to not fail in the GDR) basically described the Northern Montagnards in the following way:
    1: To an extent, they were a pretty martial “highlander” culture. They were mostly excluded from positions of power during various Chinese dominated, or Vietnamese Imperial eras, but were to a certain extent represented in the armed forces. This was also partly because they were to poor to bribe themselfs out of conscription. Due to their “martial” pursuits, these people got around and were themselfs somewhat more cosmopolitan and well, more “worldly” then lets say the Hmong. The Hmong, well, I was once dating a pretty germanized Hmong, but I had serious difficulties understanding her family at all, and I am pretty sure this was mutual. Making proficient soldiers out of them well… I dont envy the guy with that assignment.
    2: French colonial rule did, to an extent, show the northern montagnards that the normal Viets arent that different from them after all, compared to the huge difference towards the French.
    3: French colonial rule also reduced the previously proud northern Viets to subjects, this humiliation made them less arrogant towards northern Montagnards. Especially since resistance against the French were something the northern mountain tribes were better at then the Nguyen dynasty.
    4: During Hos period, the communist were pretty big on using minorities, and opening pathways to power for them. There apperantly was even some “Korenizatsija” equivalent (but only for some). A big thing was that communist Viets could be quite humble regarding “their” montagnards. The northern mountain tribes care immensely about prestige and Ho himself was supposedly really really good in flattering them when neccessary. The Soviets also played a role. Some of the northern montagnards dont like the Chinese very much, and allying the with USSR (also known as the big, really big, blob on the map conveniently located in a position to threaten China) was a “no brainer” to them. Moscow also offered some “appellatory functions” for communist Montagnards who had problems with specific Viet policies. In a way, this was seen as a way to temper overbearing Viet attitudes.
    5: Viet racism increased with the US american war entry (“why the fuck are they even bombing us? What did we ever do to them? Some minority must be to blame!”), at some point, North Vietnam switched from being communist first and nationalist second to being the over way round. This made the North Vietnamese leadership more appealing to ethnic Vietnamese who werent communist, but of course reduced their success with minorities. Apparently, some of the Vietminh also flipped out trying in vain to make communists out of the Hmong (also not an enviable assignment. If you think teaching a Hmong measurable distances is hard, try to teach them the concept of the means of production), but I digress.
    6: As a pretty imperfect analogy, Vietnam is the UK, the Viets are englishmen, northern Montagnards are Scots, southern montagnards are Irish, and we are in 1840 or so.
    7: There isnt much transvietnamese Montagnard solidarity btw. some of these groups hate each other more then either hates the Vietnamese.

  46. A.I.Schmelzer says:

    To somewhat different degrees though. Imho, you can (now, I dont know how it was decades ago) get by in China as a mixed raced provided you father (its nearly always a male foreigner and a female native) culturally assimiliated towards Chinese culture.
    Not so in Korea (let alone North Korea. Possibly the worlds most racist nation), Japan is not a fun place to be mixed blood as well.
    I think that I got quite lucky, being half German half Russian in Germany is completely unproblematic, being half German half Russian in Russia is pretty fun as well if you do it right.

  47. turcopolier says:

    A.I Schmelzer
    I never had anything to do with NVN Monagnards. USSF in SVN worked mainly with Djarai, Sedang, Rhade, and other Malayo-Polynesian tribes. I just happened to develop a relationship with the Stieng and Mnong Gar because they were in my area in Phuoc Long Province.

  48. mike says:

    A.I. Schmelzer
    Your Opa’s description of the northern Montagnards makes sense to me.
    The Hmong were badly treated by the DRV. Mainly because of their recruitment by the French and Americans, they were perceived as traitors and a security risk. But I suspect that the communist aversion to religion had a lot to do with it also.

  49. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I was going to add this to Babak’s comment above, then noticed that you already brought this up.
    The Chinese are, in their own way, far more cosmopolitan than Koreans, Japanese, or Vietnamese, since there had never been a clearly defined “Chinese” ethnic the way Koreans, Vietnamese, and the Japanese have been. If you look close enough and abide by Chinese “culture” (defined broadly), people can and do get by. (Ethnic Koreans in PRC shock South Koreans by simultaneously being “cultural” Koreans, i.e. speaking Korean and knowing the correct mannerisms, yet being very loyal Chinese citizens for example. Kinda unsettling to my mother’s people, who left China in 1946, since, apparently, back then, Koreans in China hardly ever interacted with their Chinese neighbors and may even have been even more given to ethno-nationalism than the Koreans in Korea proper.) Of course, the Chinese don’t abide by those who don’t “do” Chinese (which bodes very poorly for the distinct cultural minorities–e.g. Tibetans), even if they don’t care too much whether you “are” Chinese (at least compared to their ethnonationalist neighbors.)

  50. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Colonel, here are some soft, but sincere, questions:
    1. Did you sample the native cuisine in VN? How did you find it?
    2. There are, or were, many VN restaurants in Northern Virginia. Some, in my personal experience, offered really excellent food (for example, the Hanoi grilled pork and spring (or summer?) rolls at the “Queen Bee” which once graced the “Little Vietnam” on Wilson Blvd. in the Clarendon district of Arlington, conveniently and no doubt coincidentally just across the street from a major DIA facility :-). Was such good food typical of the VN cuisine, or an exception, like “The Inn at Little Washington” is in America?
    Just wondering, and thought you might not mind taking a break from addressing military issues and ethnic differences.

  51. Ralph Reed says:

    Nukes give States a tremendous case of blue balls that motivate all sorts of overcompensation and strategic myopia. Dial-a-payload will help I’m sure.

  52. TonyL says:

    Col Lang,
    Yes, I am Vienamese, one of the boat people who got out of VN after 1975. I grew up in VN during the war but never was in the military. I came back a few times to visit, after US and VN had established diplomatic relationship.
    IMO, everything you and A.I.Schmelzer said about Vietnamese culture and its people attitude about foreigners, and in particular, Chinese, are all generally accurate, except for a few subtle points regarding the true feeling of the “Kinh” towars the minorities or the mutual distrust among Vietnamese and Chinese . The Vietnamese people are generally ethnocentric, but don’t hate or despise “the others”. Except during war time, everything was in chaos, not what it seems to be. Certainly, I never heard or seen the kind of racism that to the degree of the KKK against the blacks, for example. Actually, the term “moi” was no longer used during the 70s, the more popular term was/is “đồng bào thượng”. It litterally translates as: people who came from the same embryo and live in the highlands 🙂 It came from Vietnamese mythology that all people who live in the land were born from the same mother. A few of my friends in school were from the tribes from the highland. That “moi” degatogary term was not used among the youths in VN back then in the 70s, ever.
    I think you will be pleasantly surpirsed if you ever travel to the VN in present days. You’ll be held in high esteem and feel welcome as a former Green Beret and an American. The youths in VN don’t really know anything about the war, except for occasionally seeing or hearing a slogan.

  53. TonyL says:

    My appology, Col Lang. You are right. I was not paying enough attention and have mixed them up.

  54. turcopolier says:

    You may be reacting to the statement about VN food that I put on my FB page yesterday. I loathe VN “cuisine” and always did. I have an aversion to nuoc mam (fermented fish sauce). I find the smell revolting especially when it is used in cooking. I lived in the little town of Song Be in Phuoc Long province for a year (1968-69), not in a compound but in a two story house out in the middle of the town. This town was surrounded in enemy controlled territory near the Cambodian border. To defend the house I had a guard force made up of former ARVN soldiers who were ethnic Chinese. These men had been wounded out of the ARVN but not so badly as to be unable to be good guards. they, too, disliked VN cooking and they cooked for me, my headquarters staff and themselves out in the back yard. It was Cantonese, quite delicious. One of the troops had been a restaurant chef before he was drafted into the ARVN.
    So, we ate well. There was a US Army “Landing Zone” (base) about five miles away.. The US Army’s field supply system pushes supplies including food to the front. it does not await demand. The infantry at LZ Buttons was in the field most of the time eating field rations and so the Class A ration food kept arriving by air and piling up in the troops’ absence. I was asked by the logistics people at LZ Buttons to let them give me food before it reached it “eat by” date. So, every few days a truck delivered army rations to my door. Produce, eggs, fruit, canned meat like Pullman style hams. as I said we ate well. The CORDS advisory team at the other end of town had a mess and we ate there at times just to show we were part of the group but the enemy had the distressing habit of shelling the mess at meal times so it was always a bit of a gamble to go eat with them. I had to eat VN food if people invited me to their homes, but have gotten really sick doing that a couple of time. I got a really bad case of amoebic dysentery after a feast of duck blood gruel and boiled duck feet. You chew on them as though they are an ear of corn. I also acquired Hepatitis Type B that way. I was the head of the part of DIA that is in that funny looking building at Clarendon. On one occasion a couple of my people dragged me to one of those restaurants for lunch. As I sat staring morosely at a bowl of Pho in front of me, the proprietor came and sat next to me. after a few minutes, he said “you don’t remember me, Thieu Ta?” (major) I said to him, “I did not, lieutenant, but I do now. I am glad you got out in one piece.” It was a heartfelt reunion, but I still do not like the food. pl

  55. mike says:

    I never met any Cham as they were mostly down around Nha Trang and I was stationed further north. But I saw much of their ancestral Champa culture near Hoi An and along the shores of the Song Thu Bon. I was fascinated.
    BTW your name, mariner, is apt for one interested in the Cham people. Long before many of them fled upriver towards Cambodia from the Viets they were known as lords of the sea. The body of water now known as the South China Sea was once known as the Champa Sea. They ruled the Spratly Islands now claimed by China, and they had even colonized a small slice of Hainan. They were definitely not Montagnards, they were more like Vikings than mountain people.
    The Champa maintained an independent kingdom in south Viet-Nam up until 1832. That dovetails with what I was taught years ago that much of what is Viet-Nam south of the 17th parallel has been Vietnamese for a shorter time than the eastern seaboard of the United States has been American.

  56. jld says:

    and the TPP are unlikely to be enough to counter the PRC. A deeper, more beneficial economic relationship will be needed.

    Uuuh… Eeeeh???
    Do you mean the TPP is meant to be beneficial to the local economy and populations and as such an instrument for “countering” the PRC?
    Could you elaborate?

  57. mike says:

    KH –
    Watch out for those spring rolls! I also came down with a severe case of amoebic dysentery when in country which I attributed to a Viet spring roll that I chanced when I got tired of the ham&lima c-rations. Probably not a factor in Virginia though. Eat hearty. Unlike the Colonel I love Viet pho noodles with fresh mint leaves and indulge every time I get to Seattle.
    And nuoc mam isn’t half bad if you can get by the smell. Didn’t the old Romans also have a fish sauce, from which came Worcestershire sauce in old England?

  58. different clue says:

    I read the old Roman fish sauce was called garum.

  59. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is a story by Stansilaw Lem in which the leaders of a planet were trying to evolve a race of amphibian people. To that end, the entire planet had been flooded and people lived their lives half submerged in the water so as to develop into amphibians.
    The depth of the water varied based on the prevailing policies at the center; at times water reaching up to their air holes and other times only to their chins.
    On one occasion, when the leaders reduced water levels, the local functionary praised it and stated that he was never a firm believer in the possibility of evolving amphibian people in that manner.
    The next change in direction from the “Centre”, raised the water levels and the poor functionary disappeared.

  60. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Did you ever try the Cuban restaurant down on the plaza 🙂
    I was surprised that the building management (whoever that was; I don’t know who it was) let such an obvious security risk occur.
    It’s really hard for people to avoid shop talk over lunch, especially if the lunch is lubricated.
    As they said in WWII, “The walls have ears.”

  61. mike says:

    different clue –
    thanks. my favorite aunt Rose, whose parents immigrated from southern Italy used to make a special spaghetti dish with a sauce made from garlic, olive oil, and anchovy paste. No tomato sauce, no cream. She only made it a couple of times a year or else her daughters, my cousins, threatened to leave home.

  62. DickT says:

    In Binh Dinh Province 1970 I remember eating meat(viand!), and bamboo shoots, rolled into a translucent leaf and dipped in nuoc maum. Smelled awful but didn’t taste that bad. When I was in Saigon it seemed like the whole city smelled like nuoc maum.
    Also back to “moi”, I remember hearing someone refer to a baby with an american father as “mai”. Same same as “moi”?

  63. turcopolier says:

    Dick T Well, good for you! You survived the experience. How long were you in the military, three years? I ate local chow for 29 years so don’t get up on your high horse with me! “I went there and ate everything!” Well good, fathead! More pretentious BS from civilians! In Yemen an American major who had never eaten local food in his life told me he was going to a village for a wedding party. I advised him not to do it. He very nearly died and I had to arrange a USAF medivac to Germany. He was so f—–d up that he was retired from the army. pl

  64. turcopolier says:

    That sounds delicious. Do you have the recipe? pl

  65. DickT says:

    You’re correct. 3 years 10 months 13 days.

  66. different clue says:

    I had never thought of such a thing for spaghetti. Sometimes when I am feeling energetic and diligent enough, I will make a salad for myself with a dressing based on lemon juice/olive oil/ garlic/ anchovy paste mash-mixed in. Also a small fine-grated onion and some mixed pre-grated parmesan-romano cheese. I spice with a heavy foot, I guess . . .
    But anchovy paste is not a fermented product, so far as I know. So nuoc mam or indeed garum itself would be a far further step.

  67. turcopolier says:

    Dick T
    “Thank you for your service.” pl

  68. divadab says:

    MIke – the Cham are malayo-polynesians, great navigators. Prior to the European voyages of discovery these people had successfully sailed from their home seas as far as Madagascar (where the people speak a malay language) and Hawawii and Easter Island and probably North and South America. (Peruvian “native” chickens are genetically polynesian). Peopled the islands of the Pacific.
    The Sunda Sea was once dry land, flooded out when sea levels rose when the great continental glaciers melted ~8 – 6 thousand BC. I think this set them in motion. Much as the peoples who once lived in now drowned shallow seas: the Black Sea basin, the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and in DOggerland (the land that once connected Britain and the Continent) were similarly flooded out.IMHO this is what set the Indo-european migrations in motion.
    Fascinating thread – many thanks to all for sharing your knowledge, and Colonel, for maintaining the space and moderating the discourse.

  69. turcopolier says:

    Dick T
    Sorry to have been such a shit. Please put it down to a cranky old man who is not feeling good. pl

  70. mike says:

    Colonel –
    I do not have my Aunt Rose’s recipe, may she rest in peace. Her youngest daughter said her mom never wrote them down. But she thinks this internet recipe is probably closest except her mom mashed up all the anchovies in the sauce.
    WARNING – unless both you and SWMBO indulge in this dish, keep your distance from her for awhile. Last time I indulged my bride slept in the guest bedroom.

  71. mike says:

    divadab –
    I always believed that Thor Heyerdahl had it backwards. I read his book KonTiki in the fifties when it was first translated. It seemed to me even then that he should have started the expedition in Tuamotu and sailed east.

  72. J A Connor says:

    Interesting comments, but I am still wondering about the central thesis of the Colonel’s comments above. Are the VN to be our dictators of choice? The war may have been an exercise in naiveté, but there were underlying issue of real consequence.

  73. divadab says:

    mike – agreed. Heyerdahl had the gumption to do experimental archaeology but his ideas about egyptians and incas were pretty silly.
    No doubt of this though – our ancient neanderthal ancestors sailed to Crete in boats of some kind – they got there by 170 bc. IMHO archaeologists really miss the role of sea and river navigation in human history.

  74. DickT says:

    My post was lame. Your comments made me feel young again. Haven’t been chewed out by a colonel in almost 50 years..

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