Skip to comments.Myths Of '68 (Thomas Sowell)
Posted on 01/08/2008 6:43:44 PM PST by jazusamo
January 9, 2008
This 40th anniversary of the turbulent year 1968 is already starting to spawn nostalgic accounts of that year. We can look for more during this year in articles, books, and TV specials, featuring aging 1960s radicals seeking to relive their youth.
The events of 1968 have continuing implications for our times but not the implications drawn by those with romantic myths about 1968 and about themselves.
The first of the shocks of 1968 was the sudden eruption of violent attacks by Communist guerillas in the cities of South Vietnam, known as the "Tet offensive," after a local holiday.
That this sort of widespread urban guerilla warfare was still possible after the rosy claims made by American officials in Washington and Vietnam sent shock waves through the United States.
The conclusion that might have been drawn was that politicians and military commanders should not make rosy predictions. The conclusion that was in fact drawn was that the Vietnam war was unwinnable.
In reality, the Tet offensive was one in which the Communist guerilla movement was not only defeated in battle but was virtually annihilated as a major military force. From there on, the job of attacking South Vietnam was a job for the North Vietnam army.
Politically, however, the Tet offensive was an enormous victory for the Communists -- not in Vietnam, but in the United States.
The American media, led by Walter Cronkite, pictured the Tet offensive as a defeat for the United States and a sign that the Vietnam war was unwinnable.
That in turn led to the second shock of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson's announcement that he would not run for re-election. He knew that public support for the war was completely undermined -- and that is what in fact made the war politically unwinnable.
Think about it: More than 50,000 Americans gave their lives to win victories on the battlefields of Vietnam that were thrown away back in the United States by the media, by politicians and by rioters in the streets and on campuses.
Years later, Communist leaders in Vietnam admitted that they had not defeated the United States militarily in Vietnam but politically in the United States.
The next great shock of 1968 was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The after-shocks included riots that swept through black ghettos across the country.
These orgies of mass destruction, vandalism, looting and deaths have likewise been seen nostalgically as mass "uprisings" against "the system."
But "the system" did not kill Martin Luther King. An assassin did. And the biggest losers from the 1968 riots were the black communities in which they occurred.
Many of those communities have never recovered to this day from the massive loss of businesses and jobs.
Then came the next great shock of 1968: The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Deep thinkers tried to claim that somehow it was America that was in some way responsible for these assassinations. In reality, the assassin of Robert Kennedy was not an American, but an Iranian.
Dispersed among these national shocks were various local and regional shocks, as colleges and universities across the country were hit by student disruptions and violence of one sort or another over one issue or another.
Like the ghetto riots, campus riots flourished where the authorities failed to use their authority to preserve order. Instead, academics sought to cleverly finesse the issues with negotiations, concessions and mealy-mouthed expressions of "understanding" of the concerns raised by campus rioters.
Many academics congratulated themselves on the eventual restoration of calm to campuses in the 1970s. But it was the calm of surrender. The terms of surrender included creation of whole departments devoted to ideological indoctrination.
Members of such departments spearheaded the campus lynch mob atmosphere during the Duke University "rape" case, as they have poisoned other campuses in other ways, all across the country.
1968 indeed left a legacy.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.
LOL! Yeah, my son was born in ‘68 and we had a toddler also, I don’t quite remember it that way. The few flower children I was ever around caused me to make a hasty retreat due to their body odor.
Thanks for your post Ronnie, it’s a good reminder.
Never forget. When it was fashionable a couple of years ago to compare Iraq to Vietnam (as if Vietnam metaphors were anything new) I used to point out to my liberal friends that not only was Iraq not Vietnam, Vietnam wasn't Vietnam- meaning, that what we had been told about the Vietnam war for now 40 years, simply wasn't the truth.
I think Thomas Sowell needs to make a correction.
I forgive him
For anyone who wants a greater understanding of Vietnam and the Tet Offensive I highly recommend Richard Nixon's book No More Vietnams
Exactly, that’s a very good point.
Funny how a guy like Dennis Hopper comes on the TV as a shill for corporate America as he’s telling all the ageing hop-headed hippies about how theirs was the real greatest generation. I thought time was supposed to give us greater perspective.
Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!
HA! I taste the irony! But of COURSE the hippies saved the world, young grasshopper- mostly by the majority of them frying their peabrains on dope and being completely useless.
I was a teenager in 68 and graduated class of 69. I thought being a hippie was a whole lot of fun- and then I grew up. The entire generation of Boomers will have MUCH to answer for when we stand before our Creator.
I thank the one thing the hippies couldn’t forsee- the tech revolution- for our being able to forestall certain destruction of our “grand experiment” in self-government.
Dippie hippies grew up, ran for office and destroyed America.
I hate the sixties. Can’t even stand the music anymore.
I hate those ads.
We will never win another war until we commit to controlling the press where the war is concerned. If we kill every terrorist in Iraq and Afghanistan, the liberal media will simply repeat, "We lost" until it is ingrained in the national consciousness. Their self-righteousness and intellectual corruption always leads them to be propagandists for whoever we are fighting.
God Bless you for your service. * ^)
I agree! Right now is a good example of just how slanted the enemedia is. Up to the last few weeks the press was filled with how many people were being killed in Iraq and how badly it was going for us, they've stopped reporting on the war because it's going in our favor. Basically now the only reporting is if a suicide bomber takes out a few people.
Thanks for listening, Jazusamo.
It NEVER hurts to remind Freedom-loving Americans that...
the enemy is now within
...and always has been..?
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
I was in college in 1968. It seemed each turn of the page of the calendar brought some momentous and awful event. The horrors of the year were sufficient that I saved the year-end magazines, lest we forget. I have two college graduate children. Needless to say they were taught in college something quite different from what was memorialized in the magazines. They are both Republicans, with GOP mates.
I’m amazed that an intellectual of Sowell’s reputation can make a mistake like that.
Well it SEEMS clear that Sirhan was a Palestinian nationalist (not Muslim) indoctrinated into his hatred of Zionism etc. His diaries reveal a demented man.
What is still unclear was whether there was a second/other gunman.
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