The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

10 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL LETTERS Not Forgetting History Thank you, Ambassador Rubin, for cautioning against failing to “study and understand what went wrong” in Afghani- stan and Iraq (President’s Views, March FSJ ). Urging a “thorough, non-partisan and unstinting review” of these chapters is vital. At the same time, I would add that any review must include in-depth perspectives of Afghans and Iraqis. AsThomas Ricks wrote in a review of books on America’s war in Vietnam ( New York Times , May 30, 2021): “Howmuch longer will American scholars try to understand the VietnamWar while largely disregard- ing the views of the victors?” We must try to understand the histori- cal and cultural touchstones that motivate people in the countries we seek to influ- ence. This lesson came home to me while writing a book about Vietnam that offers the life stories of Vietnamese women who rebelled, first against the French and then against the Americans ( The Saigon Sisters: Privileged Women in the Resistance , Northern Illinois University Press, 2020). The women tell their stories in their own words. Although more than 30,000 books have been written about America’s war in Viet- nam, very few are by Vietnamese. We can’t learn from an echo chamber of accounts by outsiders. I’m honored that John Terzano, co- founder of VietnamVeterans of America Foundation, said of my book: “While many Americans are familiar with the VietnamMemorial Wall in D.C. and thousands upon thousands of stories of loss, sacrifice and heroism, few know the stories on the other side of the wall—the stories of the Vietnamese. This book, chronicling and bringing to light the lives of these extraordinary women, is both necessary and integral to truly understand America’s war in Vietnam.” It is heartening to hear calls to investigate and learn lessons from recent wars. Let us learn from his- tory, with input from those on all sides . Indeed, empathy is vital to understanding. We can’t understand a person, or a country, without grasping the cultural and his- torical touchstones that shaped them. All these fundamentals must be part of any search to “study and understand what went wrong.” Patricia (Kit) Norland FSO, retired Arlington, Virginia Afghanistan, a Reminder of Indochina The FSJ compilation of FSO experi- ences in the evacuation and resettling of Afghans was a genuine contribution to the understanding of this important moment in history ( “Operation Allies Refuge: The FS View from the Front Lines ,” March FSJ ). It also usefully explained the multifaceted roles of FSOs to those Ameri- cans who are not part of the Foreign Service family. The coverage brought back memories of the evacu- ation and resettlement of people from Indochina in the wake of the VietnamWar. I served at the Camp Pendleton resettlement site in California, one of a handful of reception centers in the Interagency Task Force on Indochinese Refugees in 1976. Those 125,000 Indochina refugees, and the hundreds of thousands who came to the U.S. after the initial program termi- nated, found warmwelcomes across the country. Wherever they settled, they built successful businesses, and their children excelled academically. They enriched America’s culture with great cuisine and new traditions. My earlier experience in Vietnam as a soldier in the U.S. Army and then as a diplomat working among the Lao/Hmong and Cambodians revealed the strong sense of family, values and industrious- ness of these peoples. A decade later, I worked with Afghans at Embassy Kabul and, subsequently, as U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan. That experience revealed similar qualities among Afghans, including devotion to family and a vital entrepreneurial spirit. I am convinced that, given a chance, Afghan refugees will be every bit as suc- cessful and contribute substantially to their new country as have the refugees and evacuees from Indochina. Edmund McWilliams Senior FSO, retired White Oaks, NewMexico Applause for Inside a U.S. Embassy ’s Continuing Success I was delighted to read of the continuing success of Inside a U.S. Embassy (“The Little BookThat Could: Telling the Foreign Service Story for More Than a Quarter Century,” April FSJ ). As production coordinator of the first “skinny yellow hand- book,” I remember