March 3, 2011

Eric Sevaried - maybe not extinct, but certainly a dormant breed of broadcast journalist.

It's a debate exactly when the turning point of the Vietnam War occurred. Some say it was around 1966 (the year of this broadcast) and others say it was in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. My own feeling is that the writing was most certainly on the wall as early as 1965 as reports of escalation, draft calls and body counts became a daily segment on most every news program.

It was around 1966 that the mainstream news establishment began looking at the war and questioning its validity, as is evidenced by a special program from CBS Radio News which featured veteran correspondent Eric Sevareid reporting his impressions of that war in this June 21st broadcast.

Eric Sevareid: “We try to apply Western logic and experience to this Oriental land. So we encourage the elections, envisage a Parliament and eventual civilian rule representing groups and regions. My own guess is that this process of democratizing would produces years of political turmoil before stability is reached. It will probably, though not certainly open a whole new Pandora’s box, all the quarrels in the country bursting out into the open. Vietnam, I think myself, is not to be compared with Korea or Greece where we were successful in these respects. A strong national sense and strong leaders existed in those countries. If this proves to be the trend as we try to democratize government in Vietnam then the immediate consequence would be a nightmare for us, for we should then have to involve ourselves deeper and deeper into their politics, their economy and more and more of the fighting and dying will be done by Americans and less and less by the Vietnamese.”

It's interesting that Sevareid brings up the subject of Western logic with reference to establishing our brand of Democracy in other countries (in that case Southeast Asia). A subject being brought to the forefront again in the Middle East with the recent protest movements and overthrows underway and certainly our foray into Iraq. But in 1966 the concern was whether or not Vietnam was winable and what was in store for the future.

I guess the two parts to this post would be listening to a journalist like Sevareid and realizing how far we've gotten away from Journalistic integrity. And the other is how the lessons learned from Vietnam have somehow been forgotten.

We had no idea what the future would be like in 1966 and we certainly have no idea now.

Maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be.

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