I love it when the Star Tribune prints several articles in one issue that inadvertently speak to one idea. On Feb. 4, we find three: the main editorial ("Maintaining Minnesota's 'Big Mo' "), an article on page A13 ("Cost of hosting unclear, but NFL demands a lot") and the Opinion Exchange article from the Economist ("Neither students nor taxpayers can afford today's higher-ed arms race").
The editorial argues for joining an arms race with other states/cities that use public money to compete for America's biggest events, which, according to the editorial, seem to pay for themselves through tax payments and in other ways. But according to the article on page A13, the NFL is expert at making demands to get someone else to pay the cost while they rake off the profit (including tax payments) from the top. Shouldn't we assume that other venues are learning from the NFL how to do the same thing? I think a lot of analysis needs to be done on Super Bowl LII's economic impact on Minnesota before we run off chasing more such events with public money.
Jim Doudiet, Edina
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Thanks to reporter Eric Roper for some actual reporting on the business of the Super Bowl, albeit on Page A13 ("Cost of hosting unclear, but NFL demands a lot," Feb. 4).
After all the mindless boosterism by local media, it was fascinating and disturbing to see some real facts and numbers, including all of the "at no cost to the NFL" clauses in the contracts.
I thought I was reading about how the Mafia does business, and then I realized it was just the usual extortion by the NFL.
I hope you do a final accounting to see how much the Super Bowl really cost our community vs. the "perceived" benefits.
Brent M. Johnson, Stillwater
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The Star Tribune reported that the state and local sales tax breaks for hosting the Super Bowl were north of $10 million ("Cost of hosting unclear, but NFL demands a lot," Feb. 4). On the same day, the Editorial Board advocated for a "dependable stream of public dollars" for attracting future sports events. If the Star Tribune and other private corporations want to spend their funds for that purpose, that is a matter for their own business judgment. But surely we have much better uses for public dollars, such as restoring infrastructure, preventing elder abuse, designing a better and more economical system for higher education and many other purposes that would improve our community for all of its citizens.
Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville
THE TET OFFENSIVE
Blaming media for 'misleading' on Vietnam is simply wrong
Having just finished Mark Bowden's detailed history of the battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968, I was surprised to read Stephen B. Young's piece, in which he concluded that the media's reporting of Tet was "grossly misleading" ("The Tet Offensive, properly understood," Opinion Exchange, Feb. 4).
Bowden (author of "Black Hawk Down," among other fine works) comes to the opposite conclusion. Bowden argues that American military and political leaders lied to the public in failing to admit that the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese made significant advances in the early days of Tet, including taking and holding much of Hue. It was only through the reporting of brave American journalists on the ground in Hue, people like Neil Sheehan of the New York Times, that the true story came out, after much loss of life by undermanned American troops and Vietnamese civilians.
Tet was a microcosm of the American experience in Vietnam: lies by our government and military leaders, often poor leadership on the ground, and excessive killing of soldiers and civilians. Tet led in the same year to the replacement of Gen. William Westmoreland and President Lyndon Johnson's decision not to seek re-election. Young is correct to acknowledge the bravery and effectiveness of the South Vietnamese army. But his main thesis that the media misreported the offensive is simply wrong. It is also consistent with criticism of Ken Burns' recent PBS series on Vietnam as creating a false narrative. Maybe the lesson here is that the war continues to divide us even after more than 50 years.
Charlie Berquist, West St. Paul
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Back in mid-September of 2016, Stephen B. Young wrote a Star Tribune commentary, "The value of Trump," in which he presented an argument for Donald Trump to become president. I wonder what he thinks today about his supportive thoughts. He did say, "Putting the truth first is a fundamental good, no matter who it is who is willing to speak truth to power." Truth? Trump's 2,000-plus lies from the executive office in year one says it all.
But in his recent Star Tribune piece, Young wonders, "Why did the American elite get the truth of the Tet Offensive so wrong?" Living in the era, I rethink the war often. As the war escalated, the Tet Offensive was the coup de grâce and was a pivotal event in changing opinion on the merits of the war. It took Defense Secretary Robert McNamara some time to write and reflect on the failure in Vietnam ("The Fog of War" and "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam"). The Tet Offensive was by most all accounts the turning point of the war, but the problems with our involvement were numerous and our exit inevitable. The Vietnam War was bigger than the Tet Offensive. It was a dirty war and the terrible loss of life inexcusable.
Pete Boelter, North Branch, Minn.
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Stephen B. Young and his erstwhile enemies in Vietnam sure have one thing in common: They never give up the fight. But two questions will put his "proper perspective" in its true light.
If Tet was the crushing defeat for the enemy as often claimed, why did America have to go on fighting in Vietnam for another five years just to achieve a standoff? As it was, 1968 went on to become the hardest-fought year of the war. Somebody was shooting back, and it wasn't Walter Cronkite.
And why, eight years after this Tet triumph, was the notion-state (sic) of South Vietnam still so vulnerable that revanchists ever since have been able to blame its fall on the loss of its American crutch? Young stokes this contradiction throughout his piece, presenting the South as a veritable powerhouse — that couldn't survive without its deus ex America.
Ho Chi Minh and his comrades were wrong ideologically; even Vietnam knows that. But they earned their national stature in the fight against Japan in the 1940s and France in the 1950s. South Vietnam was a Cold War mirage, floating on the fallacy that the enemies of communism are always a separate polity.
Tet gave America's war its motto: We had to destroy it to save it. Now we destroy history to save it. But no one can answer the wrong question — How could we lose? — until they face the right one: Why were we there?
Charles Jolliffe, Edina
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One can understand the human desire to justify one's work as honorable, even when it later turned out not to be what it seemed at the time. Many if not all of us have done things we thought were good and right then, but looking back have realized they were less, or other, than we thought they were. And we should accept that reality and move on. Young tries using revisionist history to avoid the reality that the work he did in Vietnam 50 or so years ago, honorable as he intended it to be, was done in the service of poor strategy, political self-interest and a national failure to distinguish Vietnamese nationalism from global communism. I feel sorry for his inability to come to terms with his past, but I can't understand why the Star Tribune thinks this commentary deserved to be printed.
William F. Davnie, Minneapolis
The writer is a retired Foreign Service officer.