The Vietnam war brought many changes to the United States in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. Some of the changes were for the better of the country, take the rediscovered Women’s Rights movements and the ever growing Free Speech movements inspired by New Left, while most of the other changes brought on tensions between government and their people. The Domino Theory pushed our leaders to the edge. In order to stop the Domino Theory in Vietnam, the U. S. invaded. The war was useless for the American government to get involved with. Even Robert Kennedy described our presence in Vietnam as ‘… sending a lion to halt an epidemic of jungle rot. (Doc E)
From new groups forming to rebel, to inflation and loss of trust in the Government, from 1960’s to the 1970’s the Vietnam War heightened social, political and economic tensions in the United States. The Vietnam war caused Social aspects in the United States to rapidly change, from Black rights, Women’s rights and Free Speech to the radical politics of New Left.
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If the people weren’t upset about the war in Vietnam already, word of the My Lai massacre caused an uproar. It was said that American Soldiers were becoming frustrated by not being able to capture an elusive enemy, so instead, they open fired on innocent women and children.
The Government tried to cover this atrocious story for more than 20 months after it occurred, leaving American Citizens to be skeptical to trust in their leaders. In all this upset, the black community was outraged. They, like women, were being treated as second-class citizens and weren’t having it. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the war by making speeches that appealed to the families of lost soldiers. He talked about the unnecessary slaughter that their people were being led to in Vietnam. (Doc C) In 1966, Stokely Carmichael started ‘Black Power’.
The idea that the black people held as much power as whites did. Black groups, such as the Black Panthers, wanted to ‘change the system’. They worked towards denouncing major political parties and big business. In the same year, another large group had started: The National Organization for Women (N. O. W. ). The women in this group strived for equal rights in partnership with men. Radical Feminists soon began to appear, protesting the usage of women being used for sex or being treated as servants. A Free Speech movement crossed the nation riding the backs of those in New Left.
New Left, though their members had extreme differences, all united for two things: Hatred of Racism and their hatred of War. These members differed in execution. Some had belief that in social change by just negotiation, others were revolutionists who thoughts negotiation wouldn’t change a thing. Because of the harsh conditions of the Vietnam war, many men skipped on their drafts. Half a million men escaped the draft throughout the 20 years of war. One man, James Fallows, writes about his draft experience, describing it as ‘… cattle off to slaughter’. (Doc F) The draft escapees were not blamed for wanting out of the war.
Many were against it. In 1965, the National Committee to End War and 80,000 others went across the nation, protesting sending troops to Vietnam. Over the next two years, SDS (Students for Democratic Society) protested as well. Even songs were made to protest the war. Country Joe and the Fish sang, in 1965, ‘I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die’. They use harsh, but justifiable, lyrics to make their point. ‘Be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box’. (Doc B) Crude, yet effective. Economic tensions were growing drastically in the 60’s and 70’s because of the debt and inflation caused by the war.
In attempt to advert eyes from the issues in Vietnam, President Johnson initiated a new program called the ‘Great Society’. He turned attention from the war in Vietnam to the war on poverty. Many felt that the Great Society, though good, was being held back by a considerable amount because of foreign policy. (Doc D) Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to give a billion dollars to fight poverty, Medicare was introduced to the elderly, to help take care of their needs. The same year, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was announced.
It was the first program for federal assistance in education. These acts would have been excellent, if it weren’t for the inflation in 1971. Finally, Nixon froze wages, rent, and prices for three months. This simplistic act greatly heightened tensions for their time period. Social and economic tensions were not the only things strained because of the war, political activities were on the brink as well. The Domino Theory, speculation that if one country takes another to communism, the surrounding countries will fall to it as well, was one of the main reasons for starting the war.
If the Domino Theory had occurred, the United States would suffer a horrible loss to foreign affairs, something they were not able to handle at that time. When the affair in the Gulf of Tonkin happened in 1964, the U. S. government jumped on the idea to stop Vietnam. In the Gulf of Tonkin, a ship, the U. S. S. Maddox, was attacked by Vietnam patrol boats. Even though the Maddox was unhurt, the LBJ jumped on the opportunity to squash the Domino Effect before it started. Soon after the attack, Lyndon B Johnson got the ‘stamp of approval’ from Congress to counter attack.
He was allowed to “Take all necessary measure to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. ” (Doc A) Little did they know that their agreement would lead to a devastating war, one they would instantly regret. It wasn’t long before the American people began to see flaws, major, at that, in their government’s choices. The war was called into question, the President’s leadership was as well. What good president would send off his people to fight an unwinnable war after all?
On March 31, 1968, LBJ announced he was stopping the attacks on Vietnam and they were working for an agreement between the two countries. Unfortunately for Nixon, who won the election of 1968, the state of the economy and the people were in chaos. He wasn’t too troubled until 1971, when a paper was released stating the lies that the government had told the people during the war. People were outraged by the fact their leaders falsely used an ‘attack’ to persuade the public to support their decision of war. To help with the tensions caused by the lying and cover-ups, the government lied and tried to cover-up even more.
The Vietnam war had many profound effects on American society, politics, and economy. America had achieved their goal: To stop countries surrounding Vietnam from collapsing into a communistic government, though it cost them dearly in both lives of war victims and the trust of the public. Not everything from the war was bad, though. Black movements, as well as women’s, helped with their rank in society as well as the Free Speech movement. We may have lost a war, but we gained positive things as well from Vietnam.