Vietnam War revisionists who believed that America had lost in Vietnam "because its warriors had been undermined at home." To Buzzanco, Bush's words do not constitute good history; they merely demonstrate that "control over the historical memory of Vietnam had become a foreign policy strategy as well, for, as George Orwell had warned, those who define the past can control the present and thus the future." To Buzzanco, "The legacy of Vietnam is so much more complex than the revisionists would have Americans believe."
One of the most popular of all Asian parables concerns the three blind men who, when led to touch a specific portion of an elephant's anatomy, described the whole animal in relation only to that which they knew: the man who grasped the trunk thought the beast was a type of snake, the man who grasped the tail thought it was a kind of rat, and the man who grasped the leg thought his arms encompassed a tree trunk. Unfortunately, many of the most knowledgeable teachers and most devoted students of the Vietnam War regard the Tet Offensive much as the blind men regarded the elephant of the ancient parable. So central is their interpretation of Tet to their vision of the entire war that they are unable to consider that the Tet Offensive may possess at least some of the characteristics of their competing visions or, perhaps, be another kind of animal altogether. Some scholars are so concerned with this development that they urge us to regard Tet not as a beacon illuminating the war, but as merely a dimly seen and elusive point of light.3 The problem, however, is not a want or excess of light, but an intellectual malaise that acts as a blinder limiting our range of vision. The authors' contributions to this volume are among the very first analyses to seek to dispel the wishful thinking, analytical dogmas, and political agendas that have obscured past efforts to master this key turning point in Vietnamese and American history. They reveal that, when conducted without such blinders, the debate surrounding the Tet Offensive can illuminate and improve our understanding of historical patterns and political and military policies that have shaped much of the recent past and may well help shape the future.