35 Years After the Stone Age

35 Years After the Stone Age

They’ve got to draw in their horns and stop their aggression, or we’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age.        Curtis LeMay, US Airforce General

A B52 bomber left this crater. Many craters still remain from when the sky rained bombs.

By the end of the Vietnam War, General LeMay’s threat became a reality.  The Vietnam War left Vietnam in the stone age by destroying*:

  • 100% of power plants
  • Most bridges and sewage systems
  • 2,953 schools
  • 465 pagodas (temples) and 484 churches
  • Roughly 12% of the population was killed (2 million civilians, 1.1 military, and 2 million after the war due to destroyed agriculture capacity)
  • To this day there are birth defects and health problems due to Agent Orange in the land and water
  • From 1965-1972 less than 11% of all US bombing were aimed at military targets, the others were economic, civilian and infrastructure

The war officially ended about 35 years ago, yet Vietnam rises anew.  It is astonishing that two generations removed from total destruction a society could be as prosperous as Vietnam today.  As we can see from many countries around the world, it is hard to turn the corner from devastation to sustainable growth.  When the war ended in 1975 GDP per capita was $85, literally off the charts, below the 131st poorest country on earth.  Most African nations were far ahead of it, Kenya, for example, had a GDP per capita of $241, or 284% of Vietnam’s.  In 2006 Vietnam had surpassed Kenya with a GDP of $724 versus $603 in Kenya.  This may seem little compared to the USA, but 851% growth is amazing considering it required starting from scratch whereas Kenya faltered with infrastructure built by the British.

Beyond rebuilding economically and physically, the country has moved on emotionally.  Considering the pain caused, and still caused, by the “war of American aggression” as they call it, they are still welcoming and friendly to Americans.  I can’t imagine Americans being friendly to anyone that invaded our country and killed 12% of our people.  It is a great lesson in humanity, that even when the worst has happened, you can make the best for yourself, rebuild and move on.  In doing so, Vietnam is reaping the rewards of rapid growth, increasing education, and an advancing society.

Wire upon wire as the society has quickly evolved from nothing to the internet age.

They key to Vietnam’s recent success most likely lies in it’s long history.  There is a shared history of survival, cultural heritage, that has outlasted any troubles it has faced.  This lesson is shared throughout Asia, where the societies aren’t up and coming as we refer to them as, they are just rebuilding from a down period.  While Europeans were living in the dark ages, the Asians were among the world’s wealthiest  and are returning to that place.  These societies operate differently than in the West, but they have made it work for thousands of years, while we have struggled to make it work for hundreds.  I believe it is this long history that allows them to quickly recover and rebuild physically, emotionally and economically.

A newly opened bridge crosses the Mekong.

Many people travel to Europe and are amazed by the hundreds of years of history .  This is hard to fathom coming from a country that was founded just 235 years ago.  Westerners like myself consider the Renaissance and the Medicis as the beginning of society as we know it, but when you see Hanoi celebrating it’s 1000th anniversary or how Korea has 10,000 years of continuous civilization, it puts things on a totally different scale.  These societies have something figured out to last as long as they have, yet evolve and grow.  They have risen, fallen and risen many times over, each time creating a better place.  They know they will rise another day and we are all witnesses to this cycle.

Just 35 years and Vietnam has gone from Stone Age to Modern Era, it should be a call to Americans to look forward instead of into the past.  If Vietmanese can charge forward into the future after all they have suffered, we too can progress.  We need to, as those that we compete with are not dwelling on the past, not trying to make things “how it was”, instead they are putting their energy into shaping tomorrow so that they will be around for thousands of years more.  It is only through change, evolution, and progress that we will be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

* War statistics from The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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» dad :
Jan 4, 2011

leave it to an economist to put the war in perspective……..good stuff Maynerd!…..happy new year…..be smart, be safe and be happy every day……love, bka

» Moma A :
Jan 4, 2011

After just returning from China, I would say your theory is a strong one. Let’s hope that, although we are a young country, we can learn that lesson early. The whole theme of the recent World Expo in Shanghai was communities for the future. Today in China the first generation of working people has the choice of working for the government or the private sector. Of course their response to the Nobel Prize given to one of their citizens shows that everything doesn’t change all at once. Your view of Cambodia will be very interesting.

» Ken Tschannen :
Jan 5, 2011

Good insights, I was in China in 1985 & 1986, I also visited the first free enterprise zone, You are right
about change, it happens quickly, look at China now! I look at all the business opportunities I see every
time I travel. The U.S. is on a slippery slope now, I hope it can upright it’s ship. Can’t wait for you to come
back and start working again , so you can pay my social security and medicare!!! Hurry back! Just kidding,
have fun, stay safe, will miss you at the wine stomping party this fall.
Ken Tschannnen

Hmm it seems like your site ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it
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I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to the whole thing.

Do you have any recommendations for newbie blog writers?

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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