Often times, indeed, when we mention the word Vietnam in the United States, we don't mean Vietnam as a country. Vietnam is unfortunately not like Thailand or Malaysia or Singapore to America's collective imagination. Its relationship to us is special: It is a vault filled with tragic metaphors for every pundit to use.
After the Vietnam War, Americans were caught in the past, haunted by unanswerable questions, confronted with an unhappy ending. So much so that my uncle who fought in the Vietnam War as a pilot for the South Vietnamese army, once observed that, "When Americans talk about Vietnam they really are talking about America." "Americans don't take defeat and bad memories very well. They try to escape them," he said in his funny but bitter way. "They make a habit of blaming small countries for things that happen to the United States. AIDS from Haiti, flu from Hong Kong or Mexico, drugs from Columbia, hurricanes from the Caribbean."