(K. Brent Tomer),
Vietnam: A New History. By Christopher Goscha. Basic Books; 524 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £30.
WHAT do people think of when they see the word Vietnam? In America the name conjures images of a brutal, grinding military loss which, until President George W. Bush’s ill-fated decision to invade Iraq in 2003, made American leaders rightly hesitant to engage in wars of choice for ideological reasons. For young Europeans Vietnam has become an essential stop on the circuit of backpacking around Asia, offering pleasant weather, cheap accommodation, great food and just enough exoticism to give bragging rights at university and just enough tourist infrastructure to make travelling reasonably comfortable. Investors appreciate its cheap labour, long coastline, numerous ports and pro-business policies—all assets that will grow increasingly important as Chinese labour costs rise.
But Vietnam, today, is not the front-runner in any of those categories: China still draws more investment, Thailand more tourists and the ongoing Iraq fiasco more opprobrium. Ask the average Westerner to name…Continue reading