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The Real Lesson Of Vietnam That Was Absent In Ken Burns "Vietnam"
by John Jazwiec

Perhaps this is unfair to say, but as someone who read about the Vietnam War in the 1980s - being too young to remember it - I found little new insight.

The narrative has been straightforward for at least 30 years. The US thought or conspired to make the war about communism. While in fact, North Vietnam wasn't so much Marxist, as it was a grassroots movement for national independence for both the North and the South; against a historical backdrop of being ruled as a colony by China, by the French, by Japan, and back by the French. The French capitulated. Then the US allied itself with the wrong side of history - with corrupt South Vietnamese regimes - that nonetheless did have brave and dedicated soldiers.

It's also a narrative of US teenage lower-class fighters who bought into US nationalistic propaganda, returned to the US where they were vilified unfairly and in some cases came to see the war as immoral. 

What Burns missed and was largely absent from his 20-hour special, was - then and now - the lesson that mistakes lead to progress. And, as such, should be timely.

Go do the research yourself. Vietnam and the US have transformed their relationship. Vietnam has one of the highest approval rates of America in the world. It started from the ground up. And it has been continually codified by its sovereign institutions. More and more Americans have come to respect Vietnam and in turn that has meant more and more Vietnamese have come to respect the US.

Go to YouTube and watch young students talking to President Obama. Two-thirds of the people of Vietnam were born after the war. The young students look and sound no different from American students. Vietnam always has and continues to be hungry for education and Western Civilization literature. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Our children have already discovered the treks through Vietnam's beautiful country, enjoyed their great beaches and their cuisine. 

The point is, the US has and always will make mistakes. But we do seem to learn from those mistakes. And what is happening today, is no different from what happened during World War II and the Vietnam War. We think it is permanent. But it never is. 

Some say our country is as divided as it was during the Vietnam War. It's not my place to opine on division metering. But what history tells us, is that our divides are always a step back, but they lead to two steps forward.

The main lesson of Vietnam that was absent in Ken Burns special, was that Vietnam shouldn't be an analog to the current divide in of our country, but rather a lesson that these "times" will pass and the country will be better for it.


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From athletic scholar and satirist to computer programmer to CEO success, John Jazwiec brings a unique and often eccentric perspective to business and supply chain challenges. Exploring how they can be solved through the leadership and communication insights found in untraditional sources. This CEO blog demonstrates how business insights from books on history to the music of Linkin Park can help challenge and redefine “successful leadership.” Read Jazwiec’s Profile >>

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