We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
No serious person takes analogies as accurate. Politicians and journalists are often not serious people, seeking self-serving soundbites and sensationalism over careful knowledge of the facts.
This lure is attractive for those who trot out the US experience in Vietnam, particularly the 1968 Tet Offensive, to advocate hopelessness for our and target countries’ battles against insurgents. US misreporting of the wholesale defeat of communist forces – losing 45,000 of the 84,000 attackers – and feckless US policymakers failing to carry-through, serves as the template current foes rely upon.
Among many examples provided by Robbins:
Osama bin Laden wrote to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, “It is obvious that the media war in this century is one of the strongest methods; in fact, its share may reach 90 percent of the total preparation for battles.”
So author James Robbins, in This Time We Win: Revisiting The Tet Offensive, takes 301 pages plus copious footnotes to “unlink the power of analogy from the terrorist arsenal,” by detailing every aspect of Tet ’68 and its aftermath.
This ground has been well-plowed before.
It’s not new news that the US media was grossly biased and inept in its reporting of Tet ’68.
The Washington Post’s Saigon Bureau chief during Tet, Peter Braestrup, blew the whistle, citing column-and-verse, in his 1977 Big Story. His analysis was based on decades of journalism experience. Aside from media bias, Braestrup concluded that the structural, staffing and experiential limitations of the mainstream press “persist to this day.”
Lewis Sorley’s 1999 A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy Of America’s Last Years In Vietnampicks up the analysis at 1968 through 1975. Under General Creighton Abrams’ inspired leadership and President Nixon’s willingness to shuck many of President Johnson’s limitations and illusions, the remaining North Vietnamese invaders were brought to their knees, only to have the supplies promised to South Vietnam to survive withheld by the heavily Democrat Congress post-Watergate. Sorley concludes: “While demonstrating that more effective options were available at many stages of the war, such calculations also remind us that time after time those chances were missed, ignored, rejected, or proscribed on the basis of one rationale or another.”
Robbins is not trying to draw an analogy from Vietnam to today’s challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather, Robbins documents how our failures of leadership and will during Vietnam have actually formed the view of our present foes. President Bush’s 2007 turnaround of our Iraq strategy in Iraq shows that clear-eyed determination works, despite the wailing and defeatism of the war’s domestic opponents. “But, an enemy cannot achieve the same type of impact [as Tet ‘68’s misinterpretation] when our country has strong leadership, particularly a president willing to take the steps necessary to secure victory….The choice will be ours.”
The electorate blew that choice in 2008. Dithering, delaying, reducing military recommendations, the will for victory subservient to getting out, all signal to our enemies the US’ lack of commitment and focus. The Obama administration’s formative mindset is based upon Vietnam defeatism, not recognizing 1968 was a victory and the 1975 defeat was self-inflicted.
James Robbins summarized his book at PowerLine, focusing on the myths of Tet ’68. Well-worth reviewing.
Robbins points out “the myths of Tet remain a standing challenge to the conduct of America’s unconventional wars. The purpose of this book is defense in depth – an answer to the myth and those who appeal to it.” Need to read to turn back ignorant analogy.
I spent 23-years in the news media. Always, always remember that most news people are not very smart - though they think they are brilliant. The most amazing thing about them to me is that media people do not read. Anything. Not even news magazines. My living room hosts bookshelves holding thousands of books - most news people have not a one. Media folks suffered from political correctness long before we had that term.
I read Sorley’s book - excellent. I always knew that Tet was falsely reported. A different spin would have compared it to the Battle of the Bulge - a desperate attack that achieved early success through surprise, then a crushing American/Allied counter-attack.
Sorely walks you through the later days of the war - when the American public had forgotten the whole thing while Abrams brilliantly out-maneuvered his North Vietnamese counterparts.
Then, at the moment when victory was within our grasp - by the end of 1971 the war was effectively won - we betrayed the South and left them in an absolutely unwinnable situation. What both Nixon and Congressional Democrats did to the people of South Vietnam was incredibly cold-hearted.