Monday, February 27, 2006

William Buckley's Cronkite Moment: The Acknowledgment of Defeat in Iraq

Exactly 38 years ago today (Feb. 27), Walter Cronkite, reacting to the 1968 Tet Offensive, told his CBS Report audience that the Vietnam War was no longer winnable. It was a seminal moment in the war. Lyndon Johnson knew it. If he’d lost Cronkite, he’d lost the American public—and the war, for good. On February 24, William Buckley Jr., an early advocate of war on Iraq , pulled a Cronkite in his column. Not only does Buckley no longer believe that the war in Iraq can be won. He goes further than Cronkite did in 1968 and calls for “the acknowledgement of defeat” as the best way to “submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.” In other words, to cut and run for the sake of national security. Buckley’s piece won’t have the same effect on the American public, nor the credibility, as Cronkite’s moment following Tet. But the effect on the conservative movement, and the Bush administration, could be considerable. The end result is the same: The war, already lost in Iraq , is now lost at home. Here is Buckley’s column, along with the complete text of Walter Cronkite’s famous “report” to the American public:
  1. William Buckley Jr: "It Didn't Work" [National Review Online]

  2. Walter Cronkite: "We're Mired in Stalemate..." [CBS News]