Frog In The Well - Prologue (Draft)

This is the draft of the prologue of the book Frog In The Well that I am still writing the last chapter. I publish the prologue on this blog to explain what is this book about, why I am writing it, and what credentials do I have to write such a book. The answer to the last question is - I don't.

Because this is a draft, it is subject to change.

PROLOGUE (draft)

In 1980, I came to the United States, and discovered paradise.

I was born in the 1960s, in Saigon (the capital of South Vietnam), in the middle of the war. The Americans called this war the Vietnam war. The victorious North Vietnamese called it the American war. The South Vietnamese, before losing the war, called it the civil war or the anti-communist war. After losing the war, we called it whatever the North Vietnamese wanted us to call -- losers do not choose.

1975 was the year South Vietnamese lost the war. The next four years were the worst years of my life, and looking back, some of the best years of my life. Just by going through the motions, I got a free education on socialism and communism. The arrangement was very simple. Whatever you had, physically and emotionally, even your thoughts, belonged to you but also to society. Whatever belonged to society would be managed by the state - this was socialism. And whatever the state managed would be lead by the party - this was communism. But if you concluded that whatever you had, ended up belonging to the party, and you had nothing, they put you into a re-education camp. If I were to spend the rest of my life reading books on socialism and communism, I would not gain a better knowledge than from those four years.

My father was a pharmacist in the South Vietnamese health ministry. In 1975, as Saigon fell, and the North Vietnamese soldiers came marching in, my father was just promoted to his superior's position a few weeks earlier. My father might deserve the position, but the reason for the promotion was that his superior had deserted his post and fled the country. My father never wanted to escape - he said something like "North or South, we are all Vietnamese, let's rebuild the country together". They sent him to re-education camps instead. He was let out after a few months because they needed him back at the health facility. But somehow during those months of unrelenting re-education, my father had changed his thinking about "all Vietnamese rebuilding the country together" into a simpler thought - "let's get out of here". 

1979 was the year my father, mother, elder brother, little sister and I escaped communist Vietnam. My mother had converted all our assets into the gold needed for the escape. She discovered that the communist cadres that had exhorted young patriotic North Vietnamese soldiers and ingenuous South Vietnamese insurgents to die for the reunification cause, were now happy to take the gold for themselves (and their superiors) to compensate for their own years of combat hardship.

We were the boat people. The five of us were among over a million Vietnamese (from the defeated South and amazingly from the victorious North too) who risked their lives on flimsy wooden fishing boats, packed in all decks, to create the largest mass exodus by sea in modern times. Hundred thousands died. Your life was in a roll of dice. My best friend's family rolled the wrong number. In a refugee camp later, I learned that his boat sunk in a tempest of the South East Asia sea. I still sometimes see him in my dreams.

If the leftist intelligentsia of Europe, the anti-war activists of the US, and the Ho Chi Minh lovers of the world, were to ask us why did we escape a country that was now re-united and free of American dominion, we would say that we did not escape Vietnam -- the blood circulating in our bodies was always Vietnamese. We escaped socialism and communism, the alien parasites that took over the soul of Vietnam. You would try to escape too if you ever lived in one, instead of reading and dreaming about the beautiful promises of a socialist and communist utopia, in the comfort of your liberal democratic armchair.

We stayed in a Malaysian refugee camp for one year; and in 1980, we came to Chicago. This was when I discovered paradise. This was not a paradise of riches -- we landed at O'Hare airport in winter with no money in our pockets, and the pockets were attached to donated clothing from the UN Refugee Agency. This was not a paradise of materialism. Yes, everything here was bigger, brighter, better, more beautiful, more abundant than what we left behind, but we would get used to it. The paradise that I kept feeling every day was the paradise of the mind. Some called it freedom. For me, it was simply that my thoughts belonged to me, and not assigned to or by an omnipotent state or party.

I am a man of lots of thoughts and ideas. I cannot help it - ideas keep flowing in and out of my mind. I founded a startup company because of an idea I would like to see realized. I got a Ph.D. in computer sciences on an idea of writing programs in parallel in a different way. Sometimes, I selected some of my "best" ideas and described them to my wife during dinner time. She listened approvingly and invariably said - "This was a very nice idea, dear. Now, what do you want for dessert?"

One day, she had an idea about my ideas. "Why don't you write a book, dear?" This book is therefore dedicated to my pragmatic wife. And of course, she is also beautiful.

I started writing during the long sleepless nights when pain from the bilateral knee replacement surgeries kept me awake. The years I played judo and table tennis (both badly) finally caught up. Likewise the ideas exposed in this book had been building from decades of wandering thoughts. I just don't know what to do with them ... until my wife's suggestion.

This book is about ideas how to resolve some of the intractable conflicts of the world. I am a weathered software engineer, a rainbow-chasing entrepreneur and a closet poet. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of these conflicts. All the knowledge I get is from reading books, magazines, and articles in newspapers and on the Internet. How does a neophyte like me have novel solutions to issues that have stumbled experts for years? My answer is simply - "Do you know the fable about 'the hummingbird and the chicken on flying to the garden of Eden'?"

Well, I don't know it either. But I hope the question intrigues you enough to hold on reading instead of derisively throwing this book into a recycling bin. Since I have kept your attention, let's go down the list of conflicts:



CHAPTER 1 - The Ukraine Conflict

CHAPTER 2 - The Kashmir Conflict

CHAPTER 3 - The Palestine Conflict

CHAPTER 4 - The North Korea Conflict

CHAPTER 5 - The North Korea Conflict - Part II



+ The Iran Nuclear Conflict

+ The Kuril Island Conflict

+ The Myanmar Conflict

+ The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

+ The Afghanistan What If

+ The Lands of The Kurds


+ The Tibet Conflict

+ The Himalayas Conflict 

+ The Taiwan Conflict

+ The Hong Kong Conflict

+ The Senkaku Islands Conflict

+ The South East Asia Sea Conflict

+ The Rise Of New China


+ The R-U-MAD Strategy

+ The Condominium Principle

+ The Native Residency Concept

+ The Vo Bien "Nations Without Borders" Movement

+ The Inexorable Law Of The Feedback Equation

I started writing a few chapters good for one book. Then one thing after another, more chapters begged to get off my mind. At the end, I had to arrange them into four books to keep the reading manageable. Book one and two are about miscellaneous conflicts. Book three can be called the China book since it deals with conflicts that involve China on its march to become a superpower. Book four contains essays of various concepts mentioned in the first three books. What you are reading here is Book 1.

I choose the title "Frog in the Well" for the books. Being "a frog in the bottom of a well" is a Vietnamese idiom to denote a person who knows nothing besides his small little world, but keeps croaking loudly.

Several years ago, after I told a coworker about my saga from Vietnam to the US, he suggested that I wrote an autobiographical book. Such a book could be interesting except that my life story would be one among those of the other million boat people refugees, some with a more harrowing escape or a more celebratory success in the US. Instead of a separate book, I bookend each chapter in this book with some incidental personal stories.

Back to the 'the hummingbird and the chicken' fable, I am obviously the pondering chicken that assiduously pecks each chapter. I invite you to be the curious hummingbird. Each chapter can be read independently from the others (except Chapter 5 which follows Chapter 4), so you can nimbly fly into the ones that interest you. 

Chicken and hummingbirds, let's do the journey to Eden! And what is Eden? It is the utopian peace on earth. We, together, can see how it could happen.