American Reaction To Involvement In Vietnam Essay

, Research Paper

The opinions on the Vietnam War were split in America from the beginning to the end. It proved to be the most controversial war America had ever experienced. In the early 60s, most Americans were very ignorant about Vietnam. They just saw it as a little concern. They were an extremely confident nation who had never lost a war to date, and whose resources were limitless. So they naturally assumed that all their weapons and firepower would ensure victory in a couple of months. Patriotism was very strong in America at that time. Many people remembered the McCarthy trials of the 1950?s, so people were extremely aware of the anti-Communist feelings in the country in the early 1960?s.Most Americans believed the ?Domino Theory? during these years, and so most were in favour of military involvement. So part of the support to military involvement was down to ignorance and arrogance. The ?Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? of 1964, illustrated how people felt about military action. This resolution gave President Johnson the power to go to any measure he thought necessary to defend ?freedom? in South East Asia. Only 2 people ion the whole of congress didn?t vote for Johnson to have free rein in Indo China. This shows they were extremely keen to get involved.However, The opinions differed depending on where you were in the country. For example, the Mid-West and southern counties were very conservative and patriotic, therefore pro war. But if you headed to the coasts, for example California, San Francisco or New York, you would find more democratic and liberal attitudes.The generation gap also played a part in the differing opinions. The older generation was mostly pro war after their experience of World War Two. This had been mostly a positive experience for them, and had brought prosperity to the country. They still retained the more conservative attitudes of the 1930?s and 40?s. But, young people were playing an increasingly more important part in public opinion on the war at that tmie. Youth culture came to the forefront during the 60s. It had already begun to take hold during the 1950s, with figures such as Elvis Presley capturing the heart of teenagers across the country. This was because the wealth of America had lead to young people having more money to spend on music and fashion, and so they had more say in the country. Thye had more liberal attitudes and were concerned with freedom of speech and self-expression. During this young people threw time traditional values out of the window and it was a period of huge social change in all areas of society. For example it was the time of women?s liberation and the sexual revolution with the introduction of contraception such as ?the pill?. This was all part of young people?s struggle against authority, and so as you can imagine, the idea of a war was not going to go down too well. Part of young people?s negative attitude to the war was connected with the desire to rebel against their parent?s ideas and values. One thing that made Vietnam unpopular with young people was conscription, which came in at this time. Boys would receive their draft cards on their 18th birthdays. Children of the rich were sometimes able to dodge the draft by being sent abroad, but on the whole, this made the war much more unpopular because the armed forces were being filled with people who didn?t want to be there. This led to low morale in the army.The mid-sixties was also the period of Black Rights in America. Inspirational leaders such as Martin Luther King, encouraged black people and in fact, many other white people across the world, to stand up for individual rights and justice. Many felt that the US was going against these beliefs by their actions in Vietnam. Proportionally, more black people were sent into Vietnam than white, despite the fact that they only made up 15% of the population. This was partly due to the wealth factor, as more white people could afford to defer the draft, and so the army ended up consisting of the poorer sectors of society. This led to resentment and racism was a strong feature of the war, which increased its unpopularity. People began to see the war as dirty and corrupt.The late 60s showed a real shift in public opinion. The Tet Offensive of 1968 humiliated the government. The army and the public lost respect for their leaders and it lost all credibility. It became apparent to everyone that the USA couldn?t win the war. The previous year, the Defence Secretary, Robert McNamara resigned saying that America couldn?t win, so morale was already low by this stage. It sent an extremely negative message to the army and the public, and they couldn?t see why soldiers were still being sent in. Another example of government losing confidence was that Johnson, previously one of the main supporters of the war, refused to stand for re-election, which showed everyone that he realised America had made a mistake.One factor that was important in the change in opinion was the media. Vietnam was the only war where the press had total free access. They sent horrifying images into the homes of every American through TV. They could see all the blood and guts, and it brought the war into the public?s faces. This was very damaging to the war effort, and was the first time the Americans had see war without the Hollywood facade. They saw the use of Nepalm, Agent Orange, the devastation of the intensified bombing, night after night, and it ground on them. In 1969, the media brought the My Lai Massacre to the public?s attention. This shocked the world, and created yet more opposition to the war. America began to realise their unpopularity throughout the world.Also, by the late 60s, the ?Hippies? were becoming more widespread. With their pacifist attitudes, (for example ?Make Love, Not War?), they held more and more protests against Vietnam, for example outside of the American Embassy.Not only that, Vietnam was so expensive that it was sending the Us economy into recession, and people were having to pay higher taxes in order to fund it. Prosperity was in danger, which caused resentment for the war.In 1971, an opinion poll was done in America on whether the public thought that Vietnam was morally wrong. Sixty percent answered yes, but still forty percent said no. So there was still a large core of the population that believed in the Vietnam War. Therefore, in conclusion, although there was a dramatic shift in opinion, and much opposition to it supported by leading figures in government and pop culture, much of America supported the war effort.


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