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.
I hate the sixties. Cant even stand the music anymore
- - - - - - - - - -
Ditto that right through the 1970’s.
"For all the people on Earth the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you".
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."
"And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."
"And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good."
Borman then added, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you on the good Earth."
In terms of economic productivity, the boomers WERE the greatest generation since at least the 1920s.
The riots in Detroit were in ‘67, not ‘68.
I wonder why Sowell let that out of the article.
Thank you for your service. Full Stop.
Your comments bring back to my recollection a long but extremely well-written piece by marron. Please consider clicking on it; trust me, if you start reading it you will finish it.
Like Imam in Iran there was the ruthless Ayatollah khomeini
‘68 produced Right Biased as well.
wow what a year!!
Please add me to the ping list, if you would.
Thank you for your service.
I remember 1968. I was 10. I loathed hippies. I thought they were dirty, rude, spoiled, mean, arrogant, drug-using leeches who wore ugly clothes.
40 years later, I realize I had too high an opinion of them.
Pity their parents didn’t just cut off all money and let them starve until they grew up or died.
Thanks, it was worth reading. I first went to RVN in ‘63 and in ‘64 on temporary duty on various staff assignments from the parent Marine forces in Japan and Okinawa which oversaw the forces we had committed at the time. I was just a captain with a couple months “in country” at the time, but my judgment then was that the advisory role was about right, the tactics and technology being provided to the RVN was appropriate, and that in the long run all we had to do was stick to it, slowly upgrade the technology, steadily improve the training, and the RVN would eventually prevail. I was also appalled when the coups started, and personally was suspicious of the Kennedy Administration on that count.
My big tour was in ‘67-’68. After Tet, the First Marine Regiment went with the First Air Cav on Operation Pegasus, as the relief of the siege of Khe Sanh was called. The First Marines stayed in Khe Sanh after that, relieving the 26th Marine Regiment which had been there for seven or eight months. At the time, we were issued maps of North Vietnam. We had a Marine Division and two thirds of another one up on the DMZ, along with the First Air Cavalry Division and the 82d Airborne Division, and other forces mobilized up there. These were the most mobile major units in the US order of battle, and we could have taken half of North Vietnam in three or four days. We didn’t get the order to go. Instead, my regiment got orders to destroy Khe Sanh before the summer monsoon, which we did.
My last involvement with Vietnam was from Okinawa during the fall of Saigon. I was on the III MAF headquarters staff. Many of us were hoping that the orders would come to send a few brigades back in to shore up the ARVN and reassure them that the US hadn’t written the little guys off. Unfortunately, the orders we got were the pitiful ones that lead to the evacuation of the embassy in Saigon, and all that went with that.
Kennedy and Johnson, and their incompetent SecDef, and the leadership at the top level botched the Vietnam opportunity just the way they botched the Bay of Pigs. I thought that the only competence in the national leadership element in those years was that of Senator Sam Nunn, and of Secretary of State Rusk. The rest of them were feather merchants.
That is one part of history that makes me despise liberals.
Is this the set of ads that has the “Gimme Some Lovin’” tune in the background?
And the guy/host sounds kind of smarmy about “you’re not playing shuffleboard”?
Yes, the communist is the United States.
A brilliant man.
The ad should feature “ Gimme Some Herpes “ as a tune in the background.
I personally believe much of the “Greatest Generation” hoopla, beginning with “Saving Private Ryan” was an effort by the boomers to bask in the reflected glory of the same people they used to call “facist,” “capitalist,” “imperialist,” etc., over the breakfast table back in the day.