Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Way Off Yonder in Vietnam

From the BBC:

President Obama has met the leader of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong, at the Oval Office in Washington.

It is the first meeting of its kind since the two countries normalised relations 20 years ago.

July 2015 marks 40 years since the end of the Vietnam war.

President Obama said the relationship was mutually beneficial.

America lost over 50,000 lives in the war to save South Vietnam from going communist and the world from the Red Menace.  We lost; that defeat has shaped our foreign policy ever since and still plays a large part in our politics; just ask President John Kerry.  Vietnam is still communist, their rulers still repress human rights, they still haven’t sent back all the remains of the MIA’s, and they haven’t paid us back for the expropriated property we left behind.  And now we sell them stuff and they crank out our t-shirts.  No one on Capitol Hill is raising a stink about us pandering to a tyrannical regime.

Cuba, too, is still communist; they repress human rights, and they haven’t paid us for the property they took over after the Revolution, all of which Marco Rubio and los historicos on Miami’s Calle Ocho say are deal-breakers for restoring diplomatic relations and ending the embargo.  Only until Cuba has democracy and white bread will they allow us to sell them iPads and Arby’s.  (As if Cuba was a model of Jeffersonian democracy before 1959, right?)

Why the disconnect?  Why is it good business to deal with our former enemies whose record on human rights is worse than Cuba’s and anathema to deal with Havana?

There are a number of reasons, but the most obvious one is simple: it’s personal.  A lot of the anti-Cuba sentiment is based not on ideology but on the vocal exiles who see the Castro brothers as the villains who marched into their homes, parked their butts on the sofa, ground out their cigars on the carpet and took over.  (I know many exiles who have all their old property titles and deeds carefully saved so that when Raul and Fidel finally check out they can go back and reclaim everything, including the DeSoto in the driveway.)  In some cases, it’s familial.  The Diaz-Balart brothers, Mario and Lincoln, who have been big dogs in South Florida politics and served in Congress, are — or were — related to Fidel Castro by marriage: their aunt was Fidel’s first wife.

It also has something to do with our own history with Cuba.  We engineered their liberation as a colony of Spain with the intent of making them one of our own, only to have them rebel against us.  That’s the thanks we get for setting up their mob-run casinos and corrupt dictators?

There’s no such connection with Vietnam; at least not to the degree that a small group of exiles with personal grudges and vendettas can block trade and isolate a country for half a century from America and Americans.

It also has to do with distance.  Vietnam is ten thousand miles from our shores.  Cuba is ninety miles from Key West and a constant reminder of the failure of manifest destiny.  As long as there’s a Castro to rub our nose in it — and grind out the cigar on the berber — there will be a blockade.