Discuss the implications of the Tet Offensive on public perception.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that it could be argued that the Tet Offensive was one of the most critical elements in the Vietnam War.  It was a repudiation of everything that the administration had been saying about the war to the public.  The massive manner in which the Tet Offensive was launched, the complete and sheer surprise on the part of the Americans and the American supported forces, as well as inability to control what was happening all ended up playing decisive roles in how Americans came to view Vietnam.  The Tet Offensive brought these images into American living rooms through the media in an almost iconic manner.  The execution of a Viet Cong official in broad daylight, without any censor appalled the sensibilities of all Americans.  Combined with the rise in public protests, mainstream Americans began to wonder openly about where the country was going.  Added to this was the basic idea that the government was still professing success in the face of the Tet Offensive.  This stance created the conundrum that ended up dooming the government policy and haunted the entire endeavor:  If this is success, what would actually be failure?  It is here where the Tet Offensive was so effective in moving public opinion in an decidedly anti- war stance.  The lack of a clear policy for victory, the absence of prudent military judgment, and the failure to grasp how intense the enemy was were all encapsulated by the Tet Offensive, a moment in the war whose implications were profound.