I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President"1 These words spoken by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson on March 31, 1968, exactly two months after the North Vietnamese launched their boldest campaign of the Vietnam Conflict exemplify how significantly the TET Offensive impacted American politics…
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Johnson, upon assuming the Presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, inherited not only Kennedy's social reform policies but also the United States' involvement in Vietnam. He had never wanted to become a 'war president'. His primary objective had been to ensure a legacy of a president who gave his country social reform policies and programs devoted to establishing the 'Great Society' and first three years saw him work almost exclusively towards achieving it.2 This solitary concentration cost him conscientiousness with regard to the Vietnam Conflict.
During the first three years Johnson was responsible for establishing groundbreaking strides in the Civil Rights Movement, development of programs to provide training for the poor, such as Job Corps and VISTA, establishment of the Medicare/Medicaid Programs, and creation of educational enrichment programs for disadvantaged children such as Head Start, to name just a few3; Ironically, however, these programs which would come to become an intrinsic part of American society, is not what Johnson is remembered for. He as a President is responsible for leading the United States into the longest period of continuous armed battle in its history - The Vietnam Conflict. ...
In simpler words, he underestimated the commitment and investment that were necessary for launching a sustained Vietnam Conflict.4
Although the TET offensive is hailed by many as the turning point of the war, its political ramifications were laid years earlier. During an address at John Hopkins University in 1965, LBJ stated "We fight because we must fight it [the Vietnam Conflict] if we are to live in a world where every country can shape its own destiny. And only in such a world will our own freedom be finally secure".5 In fact, the United States' entry into Vietnam was anything but altruistic in nature. America involved itself for purely political motives, and in Johnson's defense the events leading up to it did predate his presidency. However, he escalated the political stakes and ultimately lost.
The war in Vietnam was not a war of major battle engagements, although at times there were some. Vietnam was more of guerrilla warfare. There were neither defined battle lines nor set plans. With the Vietcong's endless manpower supply, they were able; it seemed, to hold America, the 'super power' at bay indefinitely. By February of 1966 General Westmoreland asked for a significant increase in manpower. What had begun as several thousand American soldiers had by this time escalated to over 400,000 combatants in Vietnam with no end in sight.
Johnson, at this point, began to see his folly. He was stuck. On one hand he had to finance an ever increasing international war and on the other, his domestic commitment to social reform program, the Great Society. With no scope to compromise, he was trying to balance between the American public's acceptance and his power to exert his will upon them. Although he had avowed
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“TET Offensive Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 3000 Words”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/history/1526442-tet-offensive.
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