The Anti-Vietnam War Movement Was A Testament For American Nationalism

Last Updated: 07 Dec 2022
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The Allied Forces won the Second World War. Democracy was restored. Peace soon reigned worldwide. But the victory became short-lived. Another ideology surfaced. A former ally, the Soviet Union spearheaded the campaign of communism globally. “In 1946 President Harry Truman gave voice to the new geopolitical position of the United States by stating that America would, “assist all free peoples against threats of revolution and attack from without” (Wiest, 2003). The Soviet menace continued. Russian troops gradually gobbled most countries in Eastern Europe into submission.

The United States government fortified its military capability. The Soviet nation did the same. And the Cold War began. Communism spread like fire. Although the main focus of the threat was in Europe, destabilization plots escalated among some nations in South East Asia. Prior to the Second World War, France dominated most of the continent. Its colonies included Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. When Japan entered the war, the French government lost its hold and influence. When events settled down, France wanted to regain the lands it formerly occupied.

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With the Japanese threat out of the picture, French exerted its influence all over again. Vietnam, being a former colony, came on the French list first. The colonizers controlled the Third World country before the Second World War. They thought that it would be easy to put Vietnam back under their fold. It was a different story this time. THE ROAD TO WAR Vietnam surprised the French effort to subdue and control them. A charismatic leader named Ho Chi Minh led the revolution against the foreign conquerors. Given a small chance of winning their independence, the Vietnamese guerilla group retreated to the jungles to regroup.

The firepower of the French troops proved to be too much against the ill-equipped and ill-trained forces of Ho Chi Minh. Refusing to engage the enemy head on, the Vietnamese looked forward to a long harassing war that would soon exhaust and later discourage their foes to simply fold up. The confrontation escalated and surprised the foreign legion about the strong determination of a small band of resistance. Significant events began to unravel in 1949. Mao Che-tung challenged the rule of democracy in China. The North Koreans battled the South for supremacy over the peninsula.

“President Dwight Eisenhower put the new position of the United States into words in his inaugural address in 1952 when he remarked that, “the French in Vietnam are fighting the same war we are in Korea” (Wiest, 2003). The United States felt the need to stretch its hands to prevent a communist takeover over the rest of the world. The uprising within the region inspired Ho Chi Minh and his followers. They fought back and inflicted serious casualties on the French side. Reeling from defeat after defeat, France loosened it hold on the colony. The situation divided Vietnam.

The communist supporters rallied around the North while the South directed its efforts to strengthen its grip on democracy. As communism gained momentum, Ho Chi Minh directed an attack against South Vietnam with the purpose of uniting the country once and for all. When France decided to give up its position in the war-torn nation, the United States Administration assumed the role of driving back the communist threat. “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” (http://www.

cyberessays. com/History/168. htm). In the beginning, the communist leader of Vietnam never intended to draw the Americans into a bloody engagement. But the involvement of the U. S. simply left Vietnam with no choice but to defend itself. As American troops gradually increased its number in the South, the Vietcong from the North instituted yet again a guerilla tactic to tire out the enemy. The U. S. government reasoned out that the main reason why it participated in the Vietnam debacle was to stave off the ideological threat of communism.

With the withdrawal of the French forces after a series of stinging defeats, America had no choice but to intervene for the sake of democracy. AMERICAN INTERVENTION The Vietnam War was another thorn on the America’s pathway. At around that period, the government dealt with the instability brought about by racism, bigotry and equality. Upholding the human rights became the battle cry among the citizens throughout the country. Despite all the internal problems hounding the nation, the U. S. government solidified its stand in checking the communist threat.

America knew that if the new found ideology remained unchecked, the world would be in peril. With no other country willing to challenge the Soviet aggression, the U. S. found enough reason to assume the responsibility in protecting democracy. Nations with strong and direct links with the United States reluctantly supported the drive against communism. However, their involvement came in a variety of ways. Many countries pledged their support in ways other than committing combat troops. America contended itself with the medical and engineering battalions from cooperative nations to back its cause in Vietnam.

As the United States went deep in its mission to prevent a communist takeover in the South, the number of troops it brought to the worsening war increased. Public outcry blasted the American policy in handling the situation in Vietnam. . “Starting with teach-ins during the spring of 1965, the massive antiwar efforts centered on the colleges, with the students playing leading roles” (http://www. cyberessays. com/History/168. htm). PUBLIC SENTIMENT In the beginning, the public were inspired by democratic ideals to defend freedom in every part of the globe. Support came rushing all over the states.

American sentiments, limited primarily inside the corners of the homes of its citizens, eventually spilled out in the streets. Rallies and demonstrations soon became a common sight on the newspapers and the television. The media did a good job in motivating a public outcry. U. S. involvement in Vietnam inspired a spirit of nationalism on two fronts. Setting aside its internal racial discourse, the Americans worked together in its bid to eliminate the communist ideology in Asia once and for all. However, things became uneventful and the U. S. took on a new meaning for the word nationalism.

Never since the attack on Pearl Harbor did the United States found itself rallying around the flag in its involvement in Vietnam. The government fueled talks about America’s new role in shaping the events and situations around the world. It went on to say that the U. S. Armed Forces had a duty and responsibility to fulfill not merely to the American people but to the entire humanity in general. Being the most sophisticated and most advanced nation globally, America must look at the bigger picture. No country wanted to fill in the shoes of promoting and maintaining peace and progress on earth.

Most regimes simply wanted to reinforce its hold on power than do anything of significance and value. Americans took pride in uplifting their potentials and ideals to a level of unmatched ability. People valued their freedom too much. Because of this, they willed to do anything against the rule of oppression. These individuals believed in enforcing order all throughout the society. Only through a nation under control would growth and development materialize. The United States always looked ahead of its time. The future remained to be a distant goal.

The citizens were willing to risk anything to fulfill its vision of a free and united country. When the Vietnam War erupted, many critics downplayed its significance to the star-pgled nation. But its modern role to promote global stability was too big to ignore. The spread of communism risked freedom to be conquered. Due to this grave danger, America was compelled to fight an external conflict. The citizens understood this, at least primarily, and supported the move in disarming the communist threat. The American people believed in its supremacy.

It believed that the entire nation could achieve whatever there was out there to achieve. The government promised the citizens that the country was fighting a war far larger than it was widely perceived. It could never be denied that a victory of a communist regime would be a big blow to democracy. Being the leading staunch supporter of democratic ideals, the United States must assert its claim in proclaiming the freedom that the nation stood for. Every direction that the country steered itself into reflected the united front instilled among the Americans.

It would be unfair if communism remained nullified and misunderstood in its concept. The ideology believed in the equal distribution of wealth and resources in the community. This vision of equal partake of the pie would be a welcome development if only it could be applied. Communism was patterned from the Socialist manifesto coined by Karl Marx. There was a preconceived notion that a communist rule would be progressive. Since the government controlled everything, its citizens were poised to be given equal rights and equal chances to shine in the society.

But the truth was that a nation thrived not because of government intervention. No matter how good the governance of a country was, it would be difficult to subdivide opportunities equally. The growth and development of people relied on hard work. Government intervention maybe vital but prosperity resided in the ability of the citizens to make things happen. Freedom had no substitute. Unless suppressed, individuals have that capability to realize their dreams. America believed so much in their dreams. Its freedom was the vital factor in their progress as a nation.

The ability to move around and weigh their options was what kept the nation going. The law of the state shattered down all boundaries and borders which inhibit democratic ideals to pull through. Democracy valued the individual no end. The citizen was considered instrumental in making the wheels the freedom rolling. Regulations were enacted around the individual to allow a free reign of ideas to materialize. The American public openly supported its fight against communism. But as the Vietnam War drag on, the people saw that the situation was getting out of hand.

The number of body bags which were coming home had increased. Americans felt that resources were being wasted in a foreign situation without the end in sight. Numerous draftees left for Vietnam and few would eventually make it back home. ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT The American people supported their government’s involvement in Vietnam. They were motivated to help a nation contain the repression of freedom. But somewhere along the line, more and more young American soldiers were killed. Many groups and organizations felt the need to review the superpower nation’s objective in winning the war in Vietnam.

But the government hardly came up with a good explanation. The situation had gone bad to worst. And the public was looking at a war gone awry. The U. S. Administration could not address the different problems involved in the situation. Much more, it cannot give direct answers to the questions and concerns of the citizens. Numerous and contrasting groups around the United States rallied and gathered together each with causes of their own. Anti-government movements surfaced with the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy when nuclear programs proliferated at the start of the Cold War.

But the most aggressive campaigns against government regulations began with the rise of the radical Student Peace Union in 1959 although it went out of contention five years later. A more active group, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) continued upholding the cause. The organization was meant to assist the laborers, the intellectuals and the oppressed people. SDS later was taken over by student radicals during the 1950s. Sensing the disorientation and listless significance of life among Americans, the group voiced out its concern against the government. It actively pursued in valuing human rights in the society.

It supported Lyndon Johnson in its bid for the presidency against Barry Goldwater in 1964. Social reforms were the main concern of the SDS. As the Vietnam War escalated, more and more young people were drafted from the Southern part of the country. The government also pulled out numerous individuals out from schools for a tour of duty in Vietnam. Civil Rights rallies continued to flourish. The public saw the gradual increase of enlisted men in the U. S. Armed Forces which revealed that American involvement in South East Asia was getting serious. Casualties began to pile up and replacements were seriously considered.

It was 1965. The anti-war movement which initially was limited inside the campus gained wide recognition throughout the country. “The history of that movement is not only one of demonstrations, teach-ins, rallies and hundreds of other actions. It was also a history of internal debate over how and for what purpose to mobilize mass sentiment against the war” (Lorimer, 1991). When the bombing in North Vietnam began, demonstrations increased and anti-government activities moved on swiftly. Rallies and anti-war sorties gained prominence on every avenue of the United States.

Faculty members joined the movement and immediately made an impact. A series of seminars were held to educate the public about the political, military and social effects of the Vietnam War. The march towards the capital city slowly gained numerous members. On April 1965, about 25, 000 people gathered in Washington D. C. to protest American involvement in Vietnam. Inspired by the turnout of events, campus editors formed a nationwide network of media organizations that would circulate and educate various information and activities in connection with the anti-war movement.

Pressure mounted on the Pentagon especially on Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to end the war. The campaign gained more support from the religious community which sent out letters expressing their opinions and reactions about the turmoil in Vietnam. In 1966, the movement penetrated military branch and draft evasion became a major issue. Almost all sectors in the community had a hand one way or the other in keeping the youth out of the draft. Many individuals sought refuge in nearby countries such as Canada and Sweden to elude a trip to Vietnam.

“In a January 1967 article written for the Chicago Defender, Martin Luther King, Jr. openly expressed support for the antiwar movement on moral grounds. Reverend King expanded on his views in April at the Riverside Church in New York, asserting that the war was draining much-needed resources from domestic programs” (Barringer, 1999). His views were not limited to religious matters alone. He tackled the moral effects of the ongoing war. As the number of recruits from the South increased in number, King voiced out his concern about the plight of the African-Americans in the United States.

He assailed the government’s action to prolong the war by risking a huge chunk of the taxpayers’ money. The Johnson administration began feeling the pressure internally. McNamara was fired shortly after questioning the real objectives of the conflict. George Ball the Secretary of State handed out unsolicited advice to the president. The Vietnam War was taking too long. Cabinet members and government officials reviewed the political stance of the country. It was 1968. Election was on its way. Presidential candidates capitalized on the confusion of the current administration. The U. S.

government turned out to be divided in its opinion and decision about the Vietnam situation. With no end in sight for the Vietnam offensive, the Tet American public opinion revealed that majority of the population now opposed the conflict. The Johnson presidency continued drafting young citizens for a tour of duty in South East Asia. Its policies about the war remained unchanged. The situation infuriated the anti-war movement across the American nation. “The peace movement was often militant, and many on the campuses came to reject non-violence and fought heroically against the police” (http://www. chss.

montclair. edu/english/furr/Vietnam/riseandfall. html). Student activists clashed with police. The once peaceful rallies turned violent and blood spilled over. Protesters bloodied the streets and stormed the draft centers in different cities throughout the United States. President’s Johnson’s advisers reversed the administration’s position on the Vietnamese issue and the presidency bowed out of contention. Anti-war dissidents grew bolder in its actions. Fights soon erupted during public demonstrations. Protests continued and an estimated 500,000 people participated on the citizen’s second march to Washington.

Active members rose from the ranks and went to the frontlines to lead the movement. However, the new frontrunners in the anti-war campaign gained little recognition from the American society. It was an age of expression. Majority of the general public declined its support due to the unacceptable and disturbing behavior of the protesters. The anti-war movement introduced a lifestyle which bannered the Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ roll theme. The situation turned complicated because of behavioral concerns. The protesters disrespected soldiers returning from Vietnam. American support for the movement faded a bit.

Just when things subsided, an immediate turn of events angered the entire nation. Richard Nixon the newly-elected president planned the withdrawal of troops in 1970. But the war suddenly went ugly with a few shocking events. There was a public discomfort when news reported the involvement of American troops in the My Lai massacre. In addition, the United States entered a new trail in its bloody campaign when it invaded Vietnam’s neighboring country Cambodia. American sentiment across the nation was high. Academic institutions, Union groups and even some government agencies like the State department called for an end to hostilities.

Violence went full gear when the National Guardsmen in Ohio killed a number of protesters at Kent State University. The public outcry was further driven out of proportion when true stories and coverage about American troop activities were revealed in the New York Times. Incompetence, disorganization, neglect, cruelty and abuses were directly associated with the behavior of the American military contingent. It was hardly the news all American citizens wanted to hear. The Nixon administration was quick to grasp the impending doom of prolonging the conflict.

On January 1973, the president announced the official statement which ended the American involvement in the Vietnam War. The anti-war movement was not without resistance. It was during President Johnson’s presidency that protests and demonstrations rose to the public consciousness. The government conducted suppressive methods against the dissidents. Intelligence groups monitored the movements and activities of many protesters. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation tracked down numerous figures involved with the demonstrations.

Investigations even came to the point that conspiracy theories were framed by the communist groups to promote turmoil in America as a means of confusing and disorganizing the government’s focus on the war. But none of the framed stories were actually true. When America got itself involved in the Vietnam situation, a huge number of the population supported the government’s decision to intervene. Two years later, the public’s backing percentage was down to around 30%. A surprising development soon emerged in the middle of the Vietnam conflict.

Many Americans denounced the activities of the anti-war movement. However, due to the opposition to the war, most of the citizens joined the demonstrators in pressuring the government to end the escalating engagement. It was the image of the marchers and dissidents which the American public never liked. Drugs, alcohol and rock n’ roll were too much to handle especially in supporting a serious matter like the Vietnam War. “The antiwar movement reached its zenith under President Richard M. Nixon. In October 1969, more than 2 million people participated in Vietnam Moratorium protests across the country.

The following month, over 500,000 demonstrated in Washington and 150,000 in San Francisco” (Barringer, 1999). The Kent State shootings and the invasion of Cambodia fueled one of the biggest protests in recent history. Students from most universities and colleges joined hands with White House officials and blue collar workers to pressure the Nixon administration in ending the Vietnam War. Numerous arrests were made. Different groups came out in the open to lend their support. The complicated situation in the U. S. was coupled by the worsening American troop situation in Vietnam. Discipline vanished. Drugs became rampant.

The morale was down. The way the Americans dealt the communist situation in the South East Asian region turned out to be disastrous. Never did it occur to them that a rag-tag band of guerrillas would take chances with superior firepower of the United States. As more and more troops came back home, demonstrations and protests gradually subsided. Troop withdrawal began in 1971. It was almost completed in 1975. The remaining anti-Vietnam War crowd continued to hound the government about other issues related to the war. The after effects of the bombing in Vietnam, the situation of the Vietnamese civilians and the mismanagement of the U. S.

funding for the conflict were some of the arguments used by the activists in continuing their marches. CONCLUSION “The American movement against the Vietnam War was the most successful antiwar movement in U. S. history” (Barringer, 1999). The conflict became a modern test of character for its people. Although it wasn’t the United States’s finest hour, victory could still be claimed. It showed the strength of the American public. In times of turmoil and disorder, no matter what circumstances or events were there, as long the interest of the nation was at stake, individuals gathered together to show unity and support for the Motherland.

People owe so much to the land of their birth. It gave them life and liberty. Individuals from all corners settled their differences to unite and engage a common enemy. Americans portrayed a spirit of nationalism on two fronts. Primarily, citizens rallied around the flag right away when American involvement in Vietnam was announced. It was interesting to note how persons with different backgrounds could come together and work as one to achieve a specific objective. Americans held hands to fight for a cause. Citizens were instrumental in making the war possible.

It sacrificed thousands of young American soldiers to battle an ideological threat. Moreover, the American people were also a vital factor in ending the war. As the war took longer than expected, the individuals behind the anti-Vietnam War movement reversed its previous decision to go on fighting. With numerous lives at stake, a united American front retrieved its troops from Vietnam and ended the conflict right there and then. Nationalism valued every American soldier. The interest of the nation was what drives the citizens to excel.

No matter what was at stake, unity kept a country progressive and protected amidst the threat of external conflicts like the Vietnam War. “The outpouring of strong feelings and the tense atmosphere generated by the crisis make it easy to lose sight of some important aspects of this war--and all wars--which need to be dealt with on a personal and on a social level” (Stew, 1991). BIBLIOGRAPHY Barringer, M.. The Anti-war Movement in the United States. Oxford UP. 1999. 4 November 2007. http://www. english. uiuc. edu/maps/vietnam/antiwar. html Lorimer, D.. Lessons of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement.

New Course Publications. 1991. 4 November 2007. http://www. dsp. org. au/dsp/resist/r9viet. html Stew, C. The U. S. Soldier and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. International Anarchism. 1991. 4 November 2007. http://flag. blackened. net/revolt/inter/seattle/vietnam. html Wiest, A.. The Vietnam War, 1956-1975. New York: Routledge. 2003. The Rise and Fall of the Anti-War Movement in the U. S.. 4 November 2007. http://www. chss. montclair. edu/english/furr/Vietnam/riseandfall. html Anti-Vietnam Movement in the U. S. 4 November 2007. http://www. cyberessays. com/History/168. htm

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