The 1960’s and 70’s were filled with turbulent changes. The US was still reeling from containment and its domino policy, leading it to believe that it had the right to exercise influence in foreign affair. One foreign affair was known as Vietnam. The Vietnam War was the longest war in the nation’s history. This war, from both abroad and at home, drastically changed the society of America, socially, economically, and politically.
It caused for much anti-war sentiment and fueled the counter culture movement, it caused inflation and contributed to the stagflation, and brought down Johnson’s reputation and caused for several changes in legislation. While the Vietnam War raged on, other movements rose up, such as the Civil Rights movement and the counter culture movement. This war was also the first “TV war”, meaning that there was national coverage on the atrocities of the war overseas, including the bombing of innocent women and children.
This brought anger and sympathy from the public and brought up antiwar sentiment. The antiwar sentiment dropped the morale of the common soldier. James Morale describes the young men who were drafted as cattle off to slaughter (Doc F). It was not common for a soldier to flee the draft. The army had a high ratio of black and poor people. Martin Luther King Jr. , a leader of the civil rights movement, spoke out against this, asking why black people were fighting for rights that they themselves did not have (Doc C).
In the 70’s Black power arose, calling for Black Nationalism. Carmichael and Malcolm X were contemptuous against whites and white superiority, sometimes advocating violence when necessary. In the midst of this was the counter culture movement. The counter culture movement was about free love, experimenting on drugs, and both anti-establishment and anti-war. An epitome of the counter culture movement was the song, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die”. It mocked the Vietnam War for its pointlessness, all the dying for nothing, and the way it sucked up the government funds.
These three movements, the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, and the counter culture movement, were very different in their essence, but they all had one similarity. They disparaged the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War put a strain on America’s economy. Kennedy and Johnson’s policy was of gradual escalation. Unfortunately, this caused for increasing investment in the war. Johnson tried to approach these problems with programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, as a part of a larger plan called the Great Society. It was a “war against poverty”.
However, as the war raged on, more and more money and lives went into Vietnam, and the ‘Great Society’ was not a priority. Many people such as George McGovern criticized the massive deficit spending on the war (Doc H). This eventually turned into both an economic recession and inflation, which became known as ‘stagflation’ (stagnation and inflation). Nixon, the president succeeding Johnson, would attempt to alleviate the situation by freezing prices and wages temporarily. In the aftermath, many people have realized that the way we approached Vietnam was not right.
Robert F. Kennedy tells that the reason that there has not been yet a solution to Vietnam is not because of lack of manpower, but because the way we sought to alleviate the problem was by manpower. (Doc E). Politically, the Vietnam War was full of complications. The Vietnam War, itself started because of a culmination of many factors, including the political theory of the Domino Effect. The Domino effect was the theory that once a nation fell to communism, other nations around that nation would follow. It followed the theory of containment, “containing communism”.
This led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which was basically an unofficial declaration of war. It allowed the president to take any action he deemed worthy to repel aggression and armed attacks against the U. S (Doc A). Congress later realized their mistake in doing this and passed the War Powers Act in 1973. This limited the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution greatly because it required the president to report to Congress whenever he takes a military action within 48 hours of doing so (Doc I). The Tet Offensive was the turning point of the war.
It disillusioned the American people who thought that the war was going to be won easily and made many people angry and want to drop out, even without grace and honor. Antiwar protests increased and Johnson became even more unpopular. Although Johnson wanted to be remembered as the president who implemented all these reforms, such as the passing of the Civil Rights act and the Great Society, he is dragged down by the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War becomes what Johnson is remembered for and brings him down, like the cartoon on Doc D shows.
In the end, as Nixon states in Doc G while addressing the nation, the downfall of the Americans was not Vietnam. It was the Americans. The Vietnam War affected the nation politically, socially and economically. It was a hectic time period with many movements, reforms, and riots. It disillusioned the people and brought down such great figures such as Johnsons. The lesson that Americans learned from Vietnam is not all that clear, but many can agree that the effects of the Vietnam War were resounding in the U. S.