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.
Thomas Sowell hits a Grand Slam!
Maybe.. Sirhan Sirhan doesn't look to my eyes as an Iranian name but whatever... To name him as an Iranian is to go against everything the country's government (the Shah et al) and the people (I rely on multiple accounts) stood for at the time.
It is my understanding from reading about it years ago he was an Iranian but I don’t believe it reflected on the Iranian government.
The sixties turned me into a conservative.
Actually, Sirhan is a Palestinian, still taking up valuable space in a California jail cell. His date with the executioner was commuted to life with the possibility of parole.
Hey, even the great ones like Sowell make an error once in awhile.
You are correct, he was a Palestinian.
At about 12:15 am on June 5, 1968, Sirhan Sirhan shot presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Kennedy, who was leaving a campaign rally, was mortally wounded and died the next day. (Kennedy’s death came just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King by James Earl Ray.) Sirhan was an Arab who had emigrated to the United States in the 1950s and was reportedly disturbed by Kennedy’s pro-Israel positions. After a 1969 trial lasting nearly four months, Sirhan was convicted and sentenced to death. That sentence was commuted to life in prison and Sirhan has been in prison in California ever since; his repeated applications for parole have been denied.
Actually Sirhan is an Arab, not a Persian. Most uneducated Westerners insist that Persians are Arabs, when they are not.
thats my kinda sowell food
I was with the First Marine Regiment in Vietnam at this particular time. We kicked the communists out of Hue, and when Walter Kronkite came to town when the war was over we offered to show him the mass graves that were the product of a massacre which the communists perpetrated in anticipation of an uprising in their favor which did not come to pass.
In operations in the surrounding area immediately afterward, the evidence that the commies were on the ropes was everywhere. We went where we wanted and when we wanted to. When we were shelled, most of the time the incoming did not explode, because no one was left in their units who knew enough to put the fuses on the rounds and rockets.
We won the war at that time but it was stolen from us. And anyone who could look at the little tigers of Asia who so prospered economically since Vietnam and contrast their success with Vietnam’s backwardness would easily see that if Vietnam had been allowed to take the capitalist rather than the communist route, it would have been a major success instead of a retard among Asian nations.
If there was one merit to the late sixties it was this: the men were separated from the girlie boys, and although it looked for a while like the girlie boys might prevail, reality set in after a few years, and the odds and sods have been declining in influence where it actually counts ever since.
I was heartened to learn recently that McSumpthin’, the little anti-vietnam wimp who ran for president and lost just about every state, was still alive. Until I found out where he was, I did not know exactly in which direction to fart, and a fart is a terrible thing to waste.
Thanks for that “Brief History” Digger. I believe that’s when and where the Democratic Party lost(sold) its soul to the radical left. David Horowitz gave some very interesting insight into the people who insitgated the riots that ensued there in his book “Radical Son.”
I remember Cronkite’s nightly broadcasts well, I disliked him then and probably come closer to hating him now than anyone. I really do consider him a traitor.
Wait just a darn minute. I was born in 68 and have been led to believe that the hippies and the protesters and the rioters have changed the world for the better. Shoot, they single-handedly won the Vietnam war, created equality among all peoples and reformed the American political process. If you watch enough TV you would know that every great achievement of the last 40 years can be chalked up to flower children.
Thank you for your service and your recollection.
WALTER CRONKITE’s 1968 TV declaration that we had lost the Vietnam War,
...while college students HILLARY RODHAM & WILLIAM CLINTON were busy supporting a Communist terrorist victory over a then Free South Vietnam,
horridly brought down upon a once Free South Vietnamese people ..a:
..”JOURNEY from the FALL”..
Now that our own Freedom is directly at stake here at home in a new time of war in a new century...
...what horrid fate awaits us, the still Free, when the Anti-Freedom RODHAM-CLINTON Team re-enter our precious Oval Office one last time..?
(A WALTER CRONKITE who is backing that same RODHAM-CLINTON Team’s Oval Office re-entry,
...went to a year 2000 London World Conference to declare that it was time for America’s 11 Southern States to secede from the Union ...as covered by AP at the time.)
Signed:..A witness to the times & Veteran of the 1st Major Battles for Freedom of the Vietnam War 1965-66