By Alan W. Dowd

A Special Homecoming
Cmdr. H.B. Le, commander of the USS Larsen, sailed his destroyer into Da Nang, Vietnam, for a historic and moving port visit late last year. Some 35 years earlier, Le—at the time only five years old—and his family fled what was then a country ravaged by war. “My crew and I are proud to be able to represent our country to the people of Vietnam,” he added.

Le escaped Vietnam on a fishing trawler that his father, then a South Vietnamese naval officer, commandeered and sailed to safety. Along with Le’s family, the trawler was crammed with 200 refugees. It drifted for three days before the USS Barbour County rescued the vessel on May 2, 1975, as the U.S. Pacific Command reports. 

Le’s family ultimately resettled in Virginia. Le became a U.S. citizen in 1985 and graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1992. But during his dramatic return to Vietnam, he was quick to shine the spotlight on his parents and the people who sponsored his family’s “new beginning” in Virginia. “Service to my country by pursuing a Naval career—that’s my way of trying to give back to them and my parents,” Le told the Pacific Command.

“You Came To Rebuild”
Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations draws important contrasts between the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan and earlier foreign interventions, which are often cited by critics of the current U.S. mission.

Neither the British nor the Russians had popular support on their side, he notes, but U.S. and NATO forces do today. “In recent polling, only 4 percent of Afghans express a desire to see the Taliban return to power,” according to Boot. “Sixty-two percent have a positive impression of the United States, and 82 percent have a favorable view of our chief on-the-ground ally—the Afghan National Army.”

In fact, Boot points to an assessment by Gen. Stanley McChrystal that quotes Afghanistan’s defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak: “Afghans have never seen you as occupiers, even though this has been the major focus of the enemy’s propaganda campaign. Unlike the Russians, who imposed a government with an alien ideology, you enabled us to write a democratic constitution and choose our own government. Unlike the Russians, who destroyed our country, you came to rebuild.”

Read more at cfr.org/publication/20618.

Arms Supply
The United States dominates the world arms market, with Russia a distant second. The findings were recently reported by the Congressional Research Service.

Rank by Value 2005-2008
1. U.S. 91.3 billion
2. Russia 34.3 billion
3. France 17.5 billion
4. U.K. 16.9 billion
5. Italy 7.6 billion
6. China 6.1 billion
7. Germany 6 billion
8. Israel 5.3 billion
9. Spain 4.4 billion
10. Austria 3.1 billion 

Buyers of big-ticket U.S. hardware among developing nations include the UAE (Patriot air defense systems), Morocco (24 F-16 C/D fighter-bombers), Taiwan (30 AH-64D Apache helicopters), India (six C-130J cargo planes) and Iraq (140 M1A1 Abrams tanks). Russia’s key clients include China (fighters, destroyers, missiles, submarines) and India (tanks and fighter planes).

As a contributing editor to The American Legion Magazine, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.