"For decades you had been torn apart by war," Bush said in a state banquet salute to Vietnam, Asia's fastest growing economy. "Today the Vietnamese people are at peace and seeing the benefits of reform."
In Hanoi, powerful reminders remain of the fighting three decades ago, the longest U.S. war and one that -- like Iraq -- bitterly divided Americans.
Asked if the experience in Vietnam offered lessons for Iraq, Bush said, "We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile."
He said "it's just going to take a long period of time" for "an ideology of freedom to overcome an ideology of hate. Yet, the world that we live in today is one where they want things to happen immediately."
"We'll succeed unless we quit," the president said.
His talk about impatience brought a rejoinder back home from Sen. Dick Durbin, who will be the second-ranking Democrat in the new Senate.
"I think we ought to show a little impatience when it comes to the Iraqis and their unwillingness to respond to the need to change," Durbin said at a St. Louis news conference. "America has been patient. Our troops have been heroic. ... It is time for the Iraqis to stand up and defend their own country."
Bush is in Vietnam for the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and his first test today is to persuade South Korea to fully implement U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea for testing nuclear weapons.
South Korea has balked at some of the measures, and Bush planned to press President Roh Moo-hyun on the issue. South Korea suggests Washington needs to show more flexibility.
In weekend discussions, Bush hoped to coordinate strategy with China, Russia, Japan and South Korea for the resumption of disarmament negotiations with North Korea. Bush was to see Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, later today.
Stand on N. Korea unclear
In all, leaders of 21 nations and territories are gathered here, and it is unclear whether the summit will produce a unified stand toward North Korea.
As for local Vietnamese, the turnout for Bush as his motorcade moved past storefronts was far more subdued that the enthusiastic reception that greeted President Clinton six years ago. A few people waved, but most merely watched impassively. Weary of war, many here deeply disapprove of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Bush's limousine took him along Truc Bach lake, where then-Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, now a Republican senator from Arizona, was captured after parachuting from his damaged warplane. McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.
"He suffered a lot as a result of his imprisonment, and yet we passed the place where he was literally saved, in one way, by the people pulling him out," Bush said. He was talking with reporters after meeting with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, a staunch partner in Iraq.
Bush was to pay a visit today to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, charged with recovering and identifying the remains of Americans who were killed in action but never brought home. With personnel in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Hawaii, the command identifies about six MIAs each month.
Reflecting on his visit, Bush said that "my first reaction is history has a long march to it, and that societies change and relationships can constantly be altered to the good."
There were bronze busts of Ho Chi Minh, the victorious North's revolutionary communist leader, as Bush met with the Vietnamese president, the prime minister, and the general secretary of the Communist Party. But there also were signs of change and Vietnam's quest to replace poverty with prosperity.
Nong Duc Manh, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, was quoted by the White House as telling Bush that his country wanted to "put aside the past and look forward to the future."
Facing resistance in Congress, Bush was unable to deliver promised normalized trade benefits to Vietnam but said he was confident they would eventually win approval.
Nearly two weeks after elections at home that brought heavy Republican losses and a rebuke on the Iraq war, Bush discussed the possibility of a new approach with Howard.
"I assured John that any repositioning of troops, if that's what we choose to do, will be done in close consultation with John and his government. But I also assured him that we're not leaving until this job is done, until Iraq can govern, sustain and defend itself."
Bush said the embattled government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "is going to make it unless the coalition leaves before they have a chance to make it. And that's why I assured the prime minister we'll get the job done."
Howard said a premature withdrawal of troops "would be a catastrophic defeat for our cause, not only in the Middle East, but it would embolden terrorists in that region and it would embolden terrorism in countries like Indonesia."