As President Bush prepares to visit Vietnam for the first time, his spokesman Tony Snow said this trip would not be a “look back to the Vietnam war.”
“The Vietnamese,” Snow added, “are not much interested in that.”
The truth is, the president is the one who isn’t interested -- or at least not interested in discussing the Vietnam War publicly. The reason is, of course, Iraq and the inevitable comparisons that will be drawn with Vietnam during this three-day visit.
However faulty the comparisons -- Vietnam historian Stanley Karnow told me during a phone call this morning there are “parallels that don’t meet” -- President Bush comes to Vietnam at a time when his administration is struggling to find the way out of Iraq.
Americans -- older than me -- remember that same struggle to find the exit in Vietnam.
And yet, 30 years later, we are returning to Hanoi, Communist Vietnam where the red carpet will be rolled out for an American president -- only the second to visit since the war ended.
With passions over war in Indochina now cooled, replaced by passions over an American war in the Middle East, you are left to ask whether you can lose the war, but win the peace.