THIS TIME WE WIN: Revisiting the Tet Offensive

By Previdi, Robert | Military Review, May/June 2011 | Go to article overview

THIS TIME WE WIN: Revisiting the Tet Offensive


Previdi, Robert, Military Review


THIS TIME WE WIN: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, James S. Robbins, Encounter Brooks, New York, 2010, 364 pages, $25.95.

This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive is a direct, honest, and strong book about the Vietnam War. James S. Robbins, the senior editorial foreign affairs writer for The Washington Times, presents a clear analysis of executive branch decision making during Lyndon Johnson's administration. Robbins also explains why U.S. media hurt our war effort and helped to turn our decisive victory during the 1968 Tet Offensive into a defeat with shortand long-term consequences.

To set the stage, he begins his book with an overview of what was happening in Washington. Robbins points out why Johnson's administration was at best incompetent and at worst dangerously arrogant.

Questions: Where in the Constitution is the power of policy formation given exclusively to the president? In fact, can we successfully fight any war without the active involvement of Congress and the people? Johnson was foolish enough to follow the advice of such people as Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, whose strategy of "gradual escalation" sent a clear message to Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately, the message was that the United States would never be totally committed to the war. In contrast to Johnson, Ho Chi Minh had only one goal: to win the war. He had defeated the French, and now he wanted do the same to the Americans. Toughness is what Ho Chi Minh understood, nothing else. Robbins puts it this way: "In the long run it meant that the United States lost in Vietnam by choice; we chose not to do the things we needed to do in order to win." Johnson and McNamara simply did not know what they were doing. Ho Chi Minh did.

Robbins writes that according to captured Viet Cong papers, Tet was "a campaign designed to bring about a decisive victory and end the war. …

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