God Bless America

Like most Americans, I came here expecting something north of gentle chaffing about our role in the region. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even in Hanoi, everyone was absurdly friendly to the Americans. Some of this is politeness--why bring ugly history up?--and more may be commercial desire; we buy an awful lot of stuff from them. Nike's operations alone account for nearly 10% of Vietnamese exports, and the Cambodian garment industry is built largely on the special American quotas that have diverted Chinese production here in exchange for higher labor standards. Everyone in the region is intensely interested in learning English.

But it isn't all simple politeness, or need. For some of the people around Ho Chi Minh City, of course, we were the good guys in the war; I spoke to a fair number of people who had relatives who had fled to the States after fighting on the South's side in the war. And in Cambodia, I'm told, Americans poll fantastically well; public approval seems to be in the 80-90% range. Even the older generation seems to think that what we did wrong was not invading, but leaving after we had.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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