The Tet analogy

An excellent analysis of President Bush’s comment on the Tet analogy.

Tet, however, was not a military disaster for the United States. Quite to the contrary, history has revealed that the Tet offensive was in fact a crushing defeat for the Viet Cong, and effectively required that the Communists conquer the South by invasion from the North, rather than by civil insurgency. The Viet Cong were only able to turn a military disaster into strategic victory by persuading the American media that the United States was mired in stalement. With the domestic political support for the war fading fast, the United States decided to withdraw from Indochina, even though it would take Nixon and Kissinger another four years to accomplish it.

Scott Johnson adds his commentary, referencing The Big Story, the definitive book on how media reportage helped North Vietnam take over South Vietnam:

If journalism were a profession, Peter Braestrup’s 1977 book Big Story would be required reading in every journalism school. Braestrup’s long subtitle is a little dry: “How the American Press and Television Reported and Interpreted the Crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington.” But his analysis was memorable. Braestrup showed that the press blew the story of the Tet offensive, portraying a major American battlefield victory as a disaster.

Scott includes a very useful comment by reader Mario Fante, which references the Robert Elegant essay “How to Lose a War – The Press and Vietnam”

I once spoke with Peter Braestrup years ago back when he was at the Library of Congress. He helped me with my Master’s policy paper on military-media relations by recommending a couple of sources that I found very useful – one of which he strongly endorsed, and which your readers may find haunting for its prescience of current media distortions of the war on terror and in Iraq.

…This article is required reading alongside Big Story, and makes much the same argument, but has the virtue of being much shorter, and a faster, more compelling read.

My advisor (a friend of Braestrup’s who set up the call), knew Elegant, and told me how much writing this piece cost him among “the brotherhood” of the media, who shunned him, and damaged his career (he’d since recovered).

I’ve just read the Elegant essay — it is now in my archives for future reference — recommended.

1 thought on “The Tet analogy

  1. I only just recently heard about this book, “The Big Story.” I have been saying for years that Dan Rather & Walter Cronkite lost the Vietnam war. I think both men should have been tried for treason, and then executed. To highlight my beliefs, you only have to view Dan Rather’s Nightly News on the months & days preceding the current Irag war. I can still see his moronic face & hear his moronic comments. Then, he displays a map of Iraq, and points out that the Amwerican Plan is for the 101st Airborne or some marine outfit to enter Irag from the south, and some other American Unit was going to enter Iraq from the north, and on and on and on. The only thing this traitor didn’t do was tell the Iraqis the date and time we were coming. I wonder how many of our guys died because of his STUPIDITY!!!

    I recall two other things about Dan BLATHER that I will never forget. One, was his one hour special in I think 1988. He profiled 3 ALlEGED Vietnam veterans who were living in the woods up in Maine or some other God-forsaken place, because these guys COULD NOT readjust to a normal existence after experiencing the horrors of Vietnam. Turns out not one of the three ever went to Vietnam. I think two were never even in the military. That story was neatly “swept under the rug.” The second thing I remember is a 7 part BBC series that aired on public television about the war in Vietnam. The president of North Vietnam was interviewed for the story. He allegedly told the BBC reporters that had NIXON bombed North Vietnam ONE MORE DAY, he would have surrendered. If you are old enough to recall those times, the reason Nixon halted the bombing of the North was because of the poublic outcry against the war, which I believe was a direct result of the slanted news on the war, especially the nightly barrages of WALTER CRONKITE & DAN RATHER.

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