Hollywood Elsewhere friendo Phillip Noyce (Salt, Clear and Present Danger, The Quiet American) toured around Vietnam last month to promote a Vietnamese-language edition of Ingo Petzke‘s “Phillip Noyce — Backroads to Hollywood.” He and his family visited Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and several points in-between. And there’s economic health everywhere, he says. There’s a super-rich class (plus a middle-class and lower-class), thriving industries, friendly people, beautiful jungles and beaches. Delicious food, magnificent architecture. A nice place to visit.

Why exactly did 58,000 young Americans die over there between ’62 and ’75? To keep the Communists from landing on the shores of Santa Monica? I forget.

All I know is that reality-facing political insiders knew North Vietnam couldn’t be beaten early on, we all knew the war was a lost cause by early ’68, and we stayed for another seven years until the last chopper flew off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon in ’75. And for what? 58,000 Americans, mostly blue-collar guys, ate lead and shrapnel and rose up into the sky and became droplets of water in the great eternal fountain, and for what?

Vietnam’s Wiki page says that poverty levels are now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. According to a forecast in December 2005 by Goldman-Sachs, Vietnamese economy will become the 17th largest economy in the world in 2025, with a potential growth rate of almost 10% per annum in real dollar terms that could push it up to around 70% of the size of the UK economy by 2050. Vietnam is now the largest producer of cashew nuts with a one-third global share, the largest producer of black pepper accounting for one-third of the world’s market and second largest rice exporter in the world after Thailand. Other key exports are coffee, tea, rubber, and fishery products. There’s also a thriving tech industry.