For the North Vietnamese, the Tet Offensive is both a military and political failure in Vietnam. The "general uprising" they had hoped to ignite among South Vietnamese peasants against the Saigon government never materialized. Viet Cong had also come out of hiding to do most of the actual fighting, suffered devastating losses, and never regained their former strength. As a result, most of the fighting will be taken over by North Vietnamese regulars fighting a conventional war. Tet's only success, and an unexpected one, was in eroding grassroots support among Americans and in Congress for continuing the war indefinitely.
The . commitment to Vietnam expanded under the Kennedy administration at the end of 1961 after a series of incidents (most notably the Bay of Pigs) allowed the Republican opposition to portray him as soft on Communism. Consequently, Kennedy chose to take a hard line against the advance of Communism in Southeast Asia , expanding the number of military advisers from 900 to 3,200 by the end of 1961 and then to 11,300 by the end of 1962. Despite these large increases in advisers and despite optimistic Defense Department reports to the contrary, little progress was being made in quelling the insurgency. Prominent . officials began to blame this failure on Diem, claiming that rampant corruption by his friends and family, lack of progress on land reform, and, above all else, an anti-Buddhist policy, were causing him to lose favor with Vietnamese citizens. Diem ’ s relationship with Buddhists was highlighted by a May 1963 incident in Hue when a deputy provincial chief gave orders to fire on 20,000 Buddhists at a religious celebration. Nine people were killed, and the Buddhist monk Quang Duc was prompted to burn himself a month later, calling for Diem to “ show charity and compassion to all religions. ” Photographs of his self-immolation appeared in . newspapers and were thought to undermine support for the war effort. Small-scale opposition to the war, mainly on . college campuses, erupted not long after the incident.