Реферат: AntiWar Movement Essay Research Paper AntiVietnam Movement

Anti-War Movement Essay, Research Paper

Anti-Vietnam Movement in the U.S.

The antiwar movement against Vietnam in the US from 1965-1971

was the most significant movement of its kind in the nation’s history.

The United States first became directly involved in Vietnam in 1950

when President Harry Truman started to underwrite the costs of

France’s war against the Viet Minh. Later, the presidencies of Dwight

Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy increased the US’s political, economic,

and military commitments steadily throughout the fifties and early

sixties in the Indochina region. Prominent senators had already begun

criticizing American involvement in Vietnam during the summer of

1964, which led to the mass antiwar movement that was to appear in the

summer of 1965. This antiwar movement had a great impact on policy and

practically forced the US out of Vietnam.

Starting with teach-ins during the spring of 1965, the massive

antiwar efforts centered on the colleges, with the students playing

leading roles. These teach-ins were mass public demonstrations,

usually held in the spring and fall seasons. By 1968, protesters

numbered almost seven million with more than half being white youths

in the college. The teach-in movement was at first, a gentle approach

to the antiwar activity. Although, it faded when the college students

went home during the summer of 1965, other types of protest that grew

through 1971 soon replaced it. All of these movements captured the

attention of the White House, especially when 25,000 people marched on

Washington Avenue. And at times these movements attracted the interest

of all the big decision-makers and their advisors (Gettleman, 54).

The teach-ins began at the University of Michigan on March 24,

1965, and spread to other campuses, including Wisconsin on April 1.

These protests at some of America’s finest universities captured

public attention. The Demonstrations were one form of attempting to go

beyond mere words and research and reason, and to put direct pressure

on those who were conducting policy in apparent disdain for the will

expressed by the voters (Spector, 30-31). Within the US government,

some saw these teach-ins as an important development that might slow

down on further escalation in Vietnam. Although several hundred

colleges experienced teach-ins, most campuses were untouched by this


Nevertheless, the teach-ins did concern the administration and

contributed to President Johnson’s decision to present a major Vietnam

address at Johns Hopkins University on April 7, 1965. The address

tried to respond to the teach-ins campus protest activity. The Johns

Hopkins speech was the first major example of the impact of antiwar.

Johnson was trying to stabilize public opinion while the campuses were

bothering the government.

In 1965, the US started strategically bombing parts of

Northern Vietnam, catalyzing the antiwar movement public opinion of

what was going on in Indochina. These bombings spawned the antiwar

movement and sustained it, especially as the North Vietnamese leader

Ho Chi Minh refused to listen to American demands (VN History and

Politics). The antiwar movement would have emerged alone by the

bombings, and the growing cost of American lives coming home in body

bags only intensified public opposition to the war (VN H. and P.).

This movement against the Northern bombings, and domestic critics in

general, played a role in the decision to announce a bombing pause

from May 12 to the 17, of 1965.

Antiwar activists carried on through the pause with their own

programs, and the scattered teach-ins had become more of a problem for

President Johnson when their organizers joined in an unofficial group,

the Inter-University Committee for a Public Hearing on Vietnam. This

new committee began planning a nationwide teach-in to be conducted on

television and radio, of which would be a debate between protesters

and administrators of the government. The antiwar movement, through

the national teach-in, contributed to the resignations of many

government officials, including the resignation of McGeorge Bundy in

early 1966. This well-publicized debate made the antiwar effort more


As supporters of the war found themselves more popular, they

were driven increasingly to rely on equating their position with

“support for our boys in Vietnam.” (Brown, 34). The antiwar movement

spread directly among the combat troops in Vietnam, who began to wear

peace symbols and flash peace signs and movement salutes. Some units

even organized their own demonstrations to link up with the movement

at home (Schlight, 45). For example, to join the November 1969 antiwar

Mobilization, a unit boycotted its Thanksgiving Day dinner (Schlight,

45). One problem of the antiwar movement was the difficulty of finding

ways to move beyond protest and symbolic acts to deeds that would

actually impede the war. Unlike college students and other civilians,

the troops in Vietnam had no such problem. Individual acts of

rebellion, raging from desertion to killing officers who ordered

search-and-destroy missions, merged into mutinies and large-scale

resistance. (Sclight, 45).

Between the late summer of 1965 and the fall of 1966, the

American military effort in Vietnam accelerated from President

Johnson’s decisions. The number of air sorties over Northern Vietnam

now increased again, from 25,000 in 1965 to 79,000 in 1966. The

antiwar movement grew slowly during this period and so did the number

of critics in Congress and the media. A ban on picketing the White

House was recommended. Instead, President Johnson and later Nixon

combated the picketers through a variety of legal and illegal

harassment, including limiting their numbers in certain venues and

demanding letter-perfect permits for every activity. (Gettleman, 67).

The picketers were a constant battle, which the presidents could never

claim total victory.

By 1967, US military authority was breaking apart. Not only

was it the worst year for President Johnson’s term, but also one of

the most turbulent years in all of American history. The war in

Southeast Asia and the war at home in the streets and the campuses

dominated the headlines and the attention of the White House. To make

matters worse, 1967 witnessed more urban riots; the most deadly of

which took place in Detroit. It was also the year of the hippies, the

drugs, and a wholesale assault on morality and values; and all of

these singular happenings were magnified by the media. (VN H. and P.).

The antiwar effort was crippling Johnson’s presidency and paralyzing

the nation.

Now the war was becoming more unpopular at home. By the middle

of 1967, many Americans began telling that the original involvement in

Vietnam had been a costly mistake. And for Johnson, only a little more

than a quarter of the population approved of his handling the war in

1968. Many of those fed up at home were the hawks. The hawks were the

group of people that supported the war. They wanted to remove the

shackles from the generals and continue the bombings over Vietnam.

However, Johnson’s critics among the doves were far more troubling.

The doves were usually blue-collar workers and wanted to end Vietnam

immediately. In the first place, they were far more vocal and visible

than the hawks, appearing at large, well-organized demonstrations.

Even more disconcerting were the continuing defections from the media

and the Democratic Party. The antiwar movement that began as a small

trickle had now became a flood (Small, 101). The most important

antiwar event of 1967 was the March on the Pentagon in October, which

was turning point for the Johnson administration. With public support

for Johnson’s conduct of the war fading, the president fought back by

overselling modest gains that his military commanders claimed to be

making. This overselling of the war’s progress played a major role in

creating the domestic crisis produced by the Tet Offensive in early

1968, sparked from the protesters’ actions. Although these marchers

were unable to levitate the besieged Pentagon, their activities

ultimately contributed to the redirection of the American policy in

Vietnam by 1968-and the destruction of the presidency of Lyndon

Johnson (VN H. and P.).

Johnson finally realized-the energized antiwar forces spelled

the beginning of the end for American involvement in the war. (VN

H. and P. ). Thus, the administration dug in for a long and dramatic

time of protests, uncivil disobedience, and numerous arrests. The size

of these demonstration crowds often varied but there were no

disagreements about the major events of protest. They began with

peaceful series of speeches and musical presentations. Then many of

the participants tried to march the various government grounds, most

importantly taking place at the Lincoln Memorial. For most Americans,

the events were symbolized by television images of dirty-mouthed

hippies taunting the brave, clean-cut American soldiers who confronted

the unruly demonstrators (VN H. and P.).

Americans were soon shocked to learn about the communists’

massive Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968. The offensive demonstrated

that Johnson had been making the progress in Vietnam seem much greater

than it really was; the war was apparently endless. Critics of the

administration policy on the campuses and Capitol Hill had been right

after all. For the first time, the state of public opinion was the

crucial factor in decision making on the war. Johnson withdrew his

candidacy for reelection in March of 1968, and he was offering the

communists generous terms to open peace talks.

In the meantime, as the war continued to take its bloody toll,

the nation prepared to elect a new president. The antiwar movement had

inadvertently helped Richard Nixon win the election. As Johnson’s

unhappy term of office came to an end, antiwar critics and the

Vietnamese people prepared to do battle with their new adversary

(Small, 124). The new president expressed more outward signs from

hawks not the doves, now that Johnson now out of office. Like many of

his advisors, Nixon was bothered with the antiwar movement since he

was convinced that it prolonged the war. He could not understand

how the current generation of young people could include both brave

young marines and hippies and draft-card burners (VN H. and P.).

Richard Nixon assumed the presidency with a secret plan to end the

war. Although most doves did not believe in the new president to do

so, they were prepared to give him time to execute the plan. Nixon had

a plan to end the war. He wanted to increase the pressure on the

communists, issue then a deadline to be conciliatory, and to keep this

entire secret from the American public (VN H. and P.). Thus, the

number of casualties increased in the late winter and spring as the

bombings of Northern Vietnam continued once again.

It did not take long for the antiwar critics and organization

to take up where it had left off with Lyndon Johnson. They got ready

for another campaign of petitioning and demonstrating with the center

of it all involving the middle-class. The deadline for the communists

past, and the failure to follow with his strategy was the rejuvenation

of the antiwar movement centered on the very successful demonstrations

in October of 1969. Nixon now feared that the public, led by a

confident antiwar movement, would demand a much quicker withdrawal

from Vietnam than he had planned. With that deadline approached, Henry

Kissinger, the most important Vietnam policymaker asked a group of

Quakers to give Nixon six months, if the war is not over then, “You

can come back and tear down the White House.” (VN H. and P.).

In May 1970, Nixon gambled that he could buy time for

Vietnamization through an attack on Cambodian sanctuaries to destroy

communist command-and-supply buildings, while containing the protest

that he knew his action would provoke. His gamble failed, when poorly

trained National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State

University, on May 4. This made the expected protests much worse than

anyone in Washington could have foreseen. The wave of demonstrations

on hundreds of college campuses paralyzed America’s higher-education

system. The Kent State tragedy ignited a nationwide campus disaster.

Between May 4 and May 8, campuses experienced an average of 100

demonstrations a day, 350 campus strikes, 536 colleges shut down, and

73 colleges reported significant violence in their protests. On that

weekend, 100,000 people gathered to protest in Washington. By May 12,

over 150 colleges were on strike (VN H. and P.)

Many of Nixon’s activities during the second week of May

revolved around the Kent State crisis. On May 6, he met with the

delegation of the university. But with the storm of people on the

outside of the White House, the government never completely stopped.

Despite Nixon’s claims that the media did not portray his serious

intentions accurately, his own records reveal almost no discussion of

Vietnam, Cambodia, or Kent State at the time. On December 15, Nixon

announced his intention to withdraw an additional fifty thousand

troops in 1970. Even the president’s faith in that position was

shattered after the unprecedented nationwide protests against his

invasion of Cambodia in the spring of 1970. (Lewis, 83).

As the Nixon administration tried to piece together in the

weeks after the crisis, a dramatic decline in antiwar occurred once

the colleges closed. The nationwide response to the Cambodian invasion

and the Kent State killings was the last movement by the people, which

had such an impact like the summer of 1970. Nixon began to plan a new

and even more vigorous offensive against the movement. However, Nixon

and his aides still felt undersized during the summer of 1970-from the

media, movement, and Congress.

For whatever reasons, campus demonstrations and general

antiwar activity declined after the spring of 1970. The number and

size of marches and protests declined as reported by the mass media.

For Nixon, the nation was full with marches, strikes, boycotts, and

other forms of activism during the last two years of his

administration. Some protesting still lingered, and in the late summer

on August 7, 1970, when a young researcher at the University of

Wisconsin was killed when the building in which he was working was

fire bombed. But the Dove rallies were poorly attended; the movement

was winding down. It was not just that the movement was doing poorly,

as Nixon himself was doing much better, becoming a popular Democratic

spokesperson. On September 16, he appeared to cheering crowds at

Kansas State University.

The antiwar movement figured indirectly in the outcome of

Vietnam. After Saigon fell, the Watergate affair crippled Nixon’s

presidency and dominated his political life until his resignation in

August 1974. During this period, he was far too weak to contest with

Congress over a renewal of American military involvement in Vietnam.

As the crisis in Southern Vietnam now deepened in the middle of 1974,

the new president, Gerald Ford, wanted to increase military aide to

the faltering Saigon regime. Congress refused his requests to what it

saw as pouring more money and lives away. Continuing in 1974 to 1975,

the public with the movement, led by Congress and the media, all

influenced the arguments presented to more financial and military

commitments in Vietnam. The struggle of the American minds was over,

for there would be no more Vietnams in the near future. ( VN H. and


Among the most convincing theories of the movement were that

it exerted pressures directly on Johnson and Nixon it contributed to

the end of their policies. The movement exerted pressures indirectly

by turning the public against the war. It encouraged the Northern

Vietnamese to fight on long enough to the point that Americans

demanded a withdrawal from Southeast Asia; it influenced American

political and military strategy; and, slowed the growth of the hawks.

It is now clear that the antiwar movement and antiwar criticism in the

media and Congress had a significant impact on Vietnam. It’s key

points being the mass demonstrations by the college students across

the country and the general public opposition to the war effort in

Vietnam. At times, some of their activities, as displayed by the

media, may have produced a patriotic backlash. (Gaullucci, 194).

Overall, the movement eroded support for Johnson and Nixon, especially

by the informed public. Through constant dissident, experts in the

movement, the media, and the campuses helped to destroy the knee-jerk

notion that “they in Washington have created.” (Small 164 ). Thus,

from the beginning of the US involvement in Indochina’s affairs, the

antiwar movement in the US from 1965-1971 was the most significant

movement of its kind in the nation’s history.

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