During the Vietnam War there was a sudden, sporadic, and fierce attack against US Armed forces that coincided with the Tet Vietnamese holiday (Schmitz, 2005). This series of strikes was later called the Tet Offensive and was a defining moment in Vietnam War History. It led to a number of poor decisions on the part of the United States military, which were primarily fueled by media sensationalism and a general fear of losing the public support. Public support is a crucial part of effective military efforts and determines the elective power, taxation base, and general camaraderie of a country. If that were to be lost totally, continuing the war in Vietnam would be incredible difficult1. It was because of this fear of losing public support that it was decided that a swift counterattack was necessary. This was less about the strategic and tactical validity of the attack, and more about pleasing the public. The purpose of this sudden onslaught was to create a sense within the United States that the war was being won. This was because, according to poll data, 45% of Americans wanted out of the war and 60% wanted to either win swiftly or abort the operation. The administration’s understanding of these polls and the increasing amount of detractors made it clear that a strong retaliation had to happen. Unfortunately, this response negatively impacted the war, costs many Vietnam soldiers their lives, and wasted taxpayer money. Responding to the media
One of the biggest problems with the retaliation attacks that happened in response to the Tet offensive was the reasoning behind it. The retaliations were not conceived out of tactical necessity, but out of a need to please the media (Hallin, 1989). This was an unfortunate but recurring theme in the Vietnam War, because media attention turned negative could quickly mobilize voters, polltakers, and activists. This may have been in part because it was long before the Internet was a viable means of communicating – people were much more dependent on television media for news information and had less opportunities to discern the truth through thorough research. Without the possibility for due diligence that is now essentially available through the Internet, viewers were at the mercy of whatever television newscasters claimed (Hallin, 1989).
Therefore, in order to maintain any level of support for the war, it was of the utmost importance that the administration pleases the media. This created a major dissonance in tactical warfare, with the military powers focused more on media expectations than on the wellbeing of soldiers of the tactical necessities of the actual war. If the military had been able to safely ignore media coverage – even in the short-term, this would have led to more responsible decisions regarding appropriate military action. Instead, the following year almost 17,000 soldiers died and 48,000 more were drafted (Cardaras, 2012). This proved to be a terrible decision, with the United States military failing to gain significant ground in a situation where they may have had other opportunities to establish tactical efficacy. However, as they were forced to march forward and appear to be advancing to appease the media bodies, they were not able to think strategically and develop a sustainable model for their campaign (Hallin, 1989). Lives were lost
Arguably the most tragic loss in Vietnam was the many tens of thousands of Americans who gave their lives for the mission. The numbers themselves range into the 20 and 30 thousands but numbers are actually difficult to accurately determine for a number of reasons (Cardaras, 2012). POWs and deserters are frequently difficult to reconcile and therefore cannot be effectively added to the numbers. This is because a soldier may have been taken captive and eventually killed in which case he should be considered a casualty; however he may have deserted his platoon and stayed hidden, developing a new...
References: Allen, M. J. (2009). Until the Last Man Comes Home: POWs, MIAs, and the Unending Vietnam War. Univ of North Carolina Press.
Berinsky, A. J. (2007). Assuming the costs of war: Events, elites, and American public support for military conflict. Journal of Politics, 69(4), 975-997.
Cardaras, M. (2012). America 's missteps: how fear, power and politics led the United States into Iraq (September 1, 2001-March 19, 2003).
Daggett, S. (2010, June). Costs of Major US Wars. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE.
McMahon, R. J. (2010). Mark Atwood Lawrence, The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. Journal of Cold War Studies, 12(3), 159-160.
Hallin, D. C. (1989). The uncensored war: The media and Vietnam. Univ of California Press.
Schmitz, D. F. (2005). The Tet Offensive: Politics, War, and Public Opinion. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
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