Tet and Public Opinion (multiple responses)

SIXTIES-L (SIXTIES-L@jefferson.village.virginia.edu)
Tue, 6 May 1997 14:55:25 -0400


From: buzzanco@Jetson.UH.EDU (Robert Buzzanco)
Subject: Tet and Public Opinion

I think, as Ted Morgan has previously suggested, that Tet had less the
cataclysmic impact that popular lore would lead us to believe. For the most
part Americans supported the war according to how well they perceived it was
going in Vietnam. While there were, to be sure, mass demonstrations prior
to February 1968, virtually every poll showed fairly widespread support for
the war and, among those critical, many were upset that LBJ wasn't fighting
"hard enough." While Tet clearly exposed the lies behind the war and, per
Walter Concrete's telecast, legitimated mainstream dissent, it did not
really alter the war in meaningful ways. The air war continued essentially
unabated and, "Vietnamization" notwithstanding, the U.S. devastated Vietnam
for five more years [while "changing the color of the corpses" as George
McGovern put it].

If anything came out of Tet, it was that the Establishment had soured on the
war. Not only did the "wise men" urge deescalation, but Wall Street
recognized that the war in Vietnam had occasioned massive
balance-of-payments deficits and in early 1968 had led European members of
an international gold pool to begin cashing in hundreds of millions of their
dollars for U.S. specie, per the Bretton Woods system. Walter Wriston of
Citibank, William McChesney Martin of the Fed, and economists from Goldman
Sachs, Merrill Lynch and all the other major investment banks made it clear
that "guns and butter" could not work with an actual war. LBJ too saw "the
spectre of 1929 all over again," and realized the war couldn't continue
along such lines. The massive reinforcement request of 206,000 troops and
280,000 reservists would have cost at least $25 billion more. America simply
could not afford to pay that anymore.

By far the best treatment of this is the chapter on Tet in Chomsky's and
Herman's MANUFACTURING CONSENT. I also cover it in the final chapter of my

Bob Buzzanco
University of Houston


From: <PUBBLAN@amber.indstate.edu>
Subject: Re: Tet offensive (multiple postings)

Fritz Wilson asks about the impact of the Tet offensive on public opinion in
the U.S. I think it was enormous, because it demonstrated the degree of mass
support the NLF enjoyed. The long-term infiltration of Hue, known to
thousands of ordinary citizens but unknown to the US and its ally the South
Vietnam government, couldn't have happened unless far more citizens of Hue
supported the NLF than the government. This fact was absolutely clear to
thousands of people in this country, and put the lie to a good deal of the
propaganda machine.

There was already mass opposition to the war. I don't think the war in
Vietnam ever actually enjoyed majority support here, but the Tet offensive
certainly broadened and deepened the opposition.

Public opinion polls would put a lie to your assertion that a majority never supported
the war here. you might want to check some out.