« some run on thoughts about nothing while I work off some negativity | Main | Requisite American Idol Post »


If someone would like to write a guest post explaining the Tet Offensive, the media's role in the Vietnam war and maybe throw in some LBJ, Nixon I would be really grateful as I don't have the time nor the expertise or full knowledge needed (even though I just finished reading three HUGE LBJ/Vietnam books) to fairly answer the people who have emailed asking me for such an explanation, clarification, fill-in-the-blanks-for-me, kind of thing. Thank you in advance. Hopefully. Oh, if you just want to point to some online articles, that would be great as well. Perhaps I could make a little compendium of links to point people to, which would come in hand for Command Pos as well.


I thought might be helpful, if you haven't seen it. It does a good job with the domestic political reaction.


Start with Stanley Karnow's insightful interview with NPR back in 1998 (Karnow wrote what many beleive to be the definitive history of the Viet Nam conflict).


Taranto linked today to this Bob Bartley column, written shortly before Bartley's death last fall. Den Beste also explained Tet at some length last spring just before the shooting started in Iraq.

Some I found interesting:


Yglesias lays it out thus:

"...in purely military terms, America "won."

But what really happened was that the offensive's scale and success in inflicting casualties demonstrated that the American leadership had either been lying to the public, deluding itself, or both and that it had no real idea of what it was trying to do in Vietnam or how it planned to achieve it."

Probably not strictly germane to your request, but my thought as a pro-invasion liberal is this: I don't think that Bush lied about WMD in Iraq; it was a mistaken belief that crossed administrations. But given that, pre-invasion, WMD was the primary justification offered, we need to grapple head-on with the mistakes that we made. This includes Clinton and Bush, OSP, CIA and State, Chalabi and the other exiles, Blair and Brit intelligence; everything. Without addressing this frankly and forthrightly, Tet, and especially Yglesias' assessment of it, becomes a more reasonable analogy by the day.

My personal biggest worry is that if WMD becomes the Tet of Iraq (causing doubt, dissent, etc. among the public in general), we may end up in a situation where, whoever is president, we back out without truly finishing the job. Thing is, unlike Vietnam, Iraq then becomes a base for terrorism; the blowback would be absolutely tremendous.


For the comments more than the post

There is a long discussion in the comments, largely dovish, but luisalegria argues the hawkish side with great eloquence. And comparisons and analysis of our present crisis.

I take no offence should you chose to delete this comment.

The Commissar has a post on Tet, with links.

Bob, why would I delete your comment?

Michele, it is your blog. There are comments in the MY post I find offensive, and some that you might find offensive, including some immoderation of my own.

You are far from intolerant, but I simply respect your rights to tone and content. The Yglesias crowd is not your crowd. I simply make a real effort not to troll.

Bob, Matt's crowd may not be my kind of crowd (just like my commenters are not everyone's cup of tea), but I like Matt's blog and I respect him, so the link is fine.

A good book on the subject is Big Story: How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington by Peter Baestrup.

A key effect of the Tet offensive for Vietnam was that it resulted in the destruction of the National Liberation Front (aka the Viet Cong)and destroyed their political influence in North Vietnam.

As a result, the burden of the war shifted to conventional NVA forces. The decimation of the Viet Cong ensured that the North would politically dominate the South after the fall of Saigon.

Baestrup also covers the true story behind Peter Arnett's "We had to destroy the town in order to save it" quote, which was a flat-out lie.

I think your last sentence is the reason we won't back out too early and I think most, or enough, Americans understand the situation. This is the reason that no matter what Kerry believes, if elected, he will have to yield to the will of the people.

How he would deal with Iran and Syria on the other hand...

Already some good posts and links to follow, so I thought I would offer up my personal remembrance..

I was 9 when Tet happened. My dad was 37 (7 years younger than I am now...geez). We watched the news every night...it wasn't an hourly barrage like CNN, but you did see it almost every night, and especially during Tet.

The overwhelming message was "we're losing, after all this look at what they can throw at us, it will never end".

The war had been in high gear for 3 years.

My dad was a veteran of Korea. He was upset by what he saw, but not because we were losing...because we were in the fight and it cost lives. He always got very quiet when we heard about American casualties.

When Cronkite gave his famous report, we watched it. I sat there thinking we were losing. Dad sat there thinking it was BS. Not because he knew what was going on...because he knew that the fight wasn't over, and he knew from experience we know how to fight. Confusion in a battle is normal. And the sight of dead American soldiers has a profound emotional impact.

I can't remember with crystal clarity how the war was reported for the rest of that year...I don't remember it all...but I do remember that I never heard that it was a crushing defeat for the Viet Cong, that they lost 30-40 thousand dead, and that their organizations were so badly beaten they never regained any serious capability.

I just remember thinking we were losing. I was right, but only in the sense that what we lost was our will.

There is a chapter in Victor Davis Hanson's "Carnage and Culture" devoted just to Tet.