Made in Vietnam

When I visit the United States as a tourist, I admire and enjoy the advantages of this developed country, developed not only in an economic sense but in education, law and order, respect for the law and its institutional structures, democracy, freedom and other desirable features which it has in common with the rest of the developed countries of the “First World” such as the majority of European countries, Japan, Canada, Australia and others.

It is impossible to visit a First World country and not go shopping where there is so much commerce and so many shopping facilities in these so-called “consumer” societies, because their capitalistic economic base is governed by supply and demand. They have a lot of supply and a lot of demand for both goods and services. However, I notice that in the United States, as in Europe, almost everything is made in other countries — I even found some made in Nicaragua — and almost nothing is “Made in the USA,” as it used to be in past decades. The majority of goods sold are from China. Independent of this however, the economy is in good shape and its system functions adequately. It seems that Obama’s administration has successfully resolved the economic crisis it inherited.

The issue I want to share, however, is that I found many things “made in Vietnam” and I couldn’t stop remembering that from 1959 to 1975 the United States fought the longest and most painful war in its history in Vietnam, and lost. The thing is, aside from the human losses, the economic cost, and the pain and trauma suffered by millions of Americans, the United States lost nothing politically nor did losing the war affect its national security. Nor would it have gained anything if it had won! So, why did it fight a horrific war, the result of which had no relevance to the country?

It attempted to impede the reunification of Vietnam under a communist government. South Vietnam, with the support of the United States and other nations, fought against the local Viet Cong guerrillas and the army of North Vietnam, backed by China and the Soviet Union. The United States (officially) had 58,159 soldiers killed, 304,704 injured in combat, including many who became disabled, and 3,104 missing. Thousands ended up suffering serious psychological problems, others became alcoholics or addicted to drugs after living through what the ex-combatants called “hell.” The United States’ hugely expensive effort to avoid reunification under a communist government failed. The North Vietnamese Army took the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, and unified the country on July 2, 1976.

Vietnam ended up governed by a communist party which, like all communist governments, imposed its dictatorship without any public freedoms. However, following the footsteps of China, this coexists with a free market which had brought progress and prosperity to the country. Vietnam’s annual economic growth is one of the highest in the world, bettered only by China, currently the leading economic world power. However, as in China, severe shortages continue to be experienced in Vietnam, much of the population is poor and there are disparities in the availability of healthcare, education and access to economic well-being. Despite having a communist government, Vietnam maintains excellent relations with the United States; they are not enemies nor does Vietnam represent any threat to the U.S. So, why did it go to war? We could add, why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, countries which also did not signify any real threat? In short, why does the United States, or rather its government, involve itself in so many conflicts? Why create unnecessary enemies? They could live more peacefully!

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