It is fascinating to watch the president in Hanoi at a summit hosted by a nation we were at war with less than fifty years ago. In fact, when I joined the Army in 1980 Saigon had fallen just five years in the past. The people of Hanoi seem to have gotten over the conflict and enthusiastically welcomed Trump to their nation. And why not?
We just inked major aerospace deals with Vietnam and Americans, who years ago replaced the Russians as a strategic ally and economic partner, are probably the most popular they have ever been in the unified country. Know who else is popular there, at least in spirit? Benito Mussolini. Hear me out.
Mussolini, during his about twenty-year reign in Italy, governed by the notion that a civilized nation will trade a lot for political stability and a full stomach. Throw in the mirage of glory and keep the repression understated and most people will go along without much problem. Keep regime mitts off of civic and religious organizations? Even better for most and insurance for a longer lasting rule. Though, it helps to mind who your friends are.
Combine that with the Eastern notion of the collective and you see the spirit of Il Duce stalking the streets of Hanoi. It is a Western fallacy that all people want liberty and individual rights, as do we and the rest of the Anglosphere.
Our Western ideals come from centuries of tradition to include the Bible, Greek philosophy, Roman law, 1688, Magna Carta, 1776, the Constitution, etc. When that timeline is lacking, as in Vietnam, the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy take precedence. Even when it is present, as it was in Italy in the 1920s, people can be convinced otherwise after national trauma and tumult.
Freedom or material comfort? Hanoi, like many others in the East, has made its choice. Much of humanity agrees with them.