June 22, 2007
In March, Le Quoc Quan returned to his native Vietnam after finishing a fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington. He was promptly arrested and charged with planning to overthrow the government. The charges make sense in the communist country: His fellowship focused on how to peacefully spread democracy. Under pressure from the U.S. he was released on Saturday.
Today, President Bush will meet with the president of Vietnam, Nguyen Minh Triet, at the White House. High on the agenda will be the Southeast Asian nation's record on human rights. America's military efforts to stop the communist takeover of South Vietnam ended in defeat more than 30 years ago. The result was what many Vietnamese call the "dark years," a period of oppression and economic stagnation that lasted until the mid-1980s. But now something interesting is happening. America is once again waging a campaign for freedom in Vietnam, only this time with "soft power" and bipartisan support.