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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 .

America After Vietnam
Tai Sung An

(Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997)
85pp. Bibl. hb. ISBN 1-85972-665-8. 29.95.

In his short book (seventy-nine pages) Mr Tai Sung An takes the reader through five chapters: The Agony of Blunder; The Cycle of the Letdown; The Process of Healing; The Missing in Action Issue and a concluding Farewell to the Bitter Old War. Mr An, a Chinese-American, offers us little in the way of an insight into ethnic conflict and the Vietnam war. Chapter one is where an ethnic element is highlighted for the first and last time in the book: "...Washington spokesmen...failed to understand that the communist appeal had its roots in centuries of Vietnamese xenophobia."(p. 9) "Knowing too little of Vietnamese culture and history, Hawks [as in hawks and doves] never understood the genuinely patriotic [emphasis added] and fiercely fanatical determination the Vietnamese Communists to reunite their country."(p. 10) Such contradictions are as common in this book as unexploded bombs in Laos. However one feels the cause of these contradictions is a lack of direction, e.g., America is haunted by the war; "Vietnam cost America its innocence and still haunts its conscience..."(p. 3). On the other hand, America doesn't give a damn about the war: "The Americans recognize their nation, after years of negativism and cynicism during the highly divisive Vietnam conflict, as a dynamic and confident nation."(p. 78) Mr An berates the 'doves' for having being duped by Vietcong propaganda yet claims that his adopted country, the "Untied" [sic] States (p. 73) after "...the victorious Gulf War and the American victory in the Cold War"(p. 34) has through accepting Indochinese refugees from a war the States did nothing to stop, a "retrospective justification for... involvement. One of the success stories of those people is, as shown in one of the Disney-made TV movies in the Spring of 1975, Linn Yann, the little Cambodian girl who arrived in America knowing not one word of English and who four years later won a spelling-bee championship."(p. 38) Meanwhile, the Vietcong whose victory had been "Pyrrhic at best...has forfeited or relinquished all real claims to things deriving from victory-glory, respect, honor, prestige, admiration and influence."(p. 73) They probably even don't have a thesaurus. Mr An clearly knows what side of the Pacific his bread is buttered on.

Adrian McNickle

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