Biden in Hanoi: The fruit of atonement

For 23 years, ever since Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president to visit Hanoi, it has been a rite of passage for every American commander in chief to visit the capital of Vietnam, a former enemy. President Joe Biden takes his turn Sept. 10. His state visit will build on one of history’s best examples of how once bitter and estranged foes can work toward reconciliation.

While the visit is aimed mainly at drawing Vietnam into a close strategic alliance, Mr. Biden is expected to offer a new type of aid, this one designed to help find the remains of Vietnamese who went missing during the war. Ongoing U.S. aid is already targeted at finding Americans missing in action, removing land mines, and coping with the effects of the wartime defoliant Agent Orange.

Such work of healing the wounds of a conflict that ended 48 years ago has been so successful – although unfinished – that officials in Hanoi often speak of a desire to advise countries coming out of mass violence on how to achieve trust, forgiveness, and even friendship with previous antagonists. One bit of advice: Let the healing begin with individuals, working heart to heart.