Recent events have given me occasion to think about situations where old enemies eventually forgo hostilities and open up to each other.
One of the most touching examples of this came after September 11th, when in tribute to fallen Americans a British band played the “Star Spangled Banner.” It wasn’t just a nice gesture of support for a friend in its time of crisis. It was a moment of historical irony, seeing how Francis Scott Key had written the words to the “Star Spangled Banner” after a battle of the War of 1812. A war fought against our then enemy, and now friend, Britain.
We are perhaps less chummy with Russia and its communist disciple Vietnam, but now that arms have been laid down we are learning to open up to each other. As a result it’s possible, on American TV, to watch an edition “Russia Today.” One showing Vietnam celebrating the 35th anniversary of US withdrawal by honoring the 3000 Soviet troops, or “military experts,” as they were called, who helped North Vietnamese soldiers defend against air raids. “We valued their equipment, it was better than the Americans’,” said one former Vietnamese officer. “That’s why we won the war.”
Perhaps these aren’t quite the friendliest of sentiments, but at least the openness that resulted from the dispensing of our mutual Cold War suspicions can remind us how in all wars there are people on the other side who believe in their cause as much as your side does in your own.