Book Reports / Vietnam: The Mixture Of Protests And Politics

Vietnam: The Mixture Of Protests And Politics

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Autor:  anton  26 October 2010
Tags:  Vietnam,  Mixture,  Protests,  Politics
Words: 1651   |   Pages: 7
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The United States was unjustified in its involvement in the Vietnam War because, in my opinion, the U.S had little justification to sacrifice thousands of innocent youths for political ideals. It was the longest and most unpopular war in which the United States fought. Many Americans on the home front protested their government’s involvement in the war. Many young Americans felt that there was no reason to fight for a cause they did not believe in, especially in such a strange foreign country. The civil rights movement also strongly influenced many of the war protests. This was because such a large percentage of minority soldiers sent over to fight were being unfairly treated. The African American soldiers were being ordered to the frontlines more often than white soldiers were.

Another vigorously protested topics of the Vietnam War was Conscription. Most of two million soldiers who fought in the war were chosen through the Selective Service program. The draft policy has been an imprint of America the Civil War. This policy has been used in every major United States war since. Young adult males were required to register for the draft when they turned eighteen years old. A lottery system decided who would be called to combat. If selected for the draft, the draftee had to serve 24 months of active duty. During the Vietnam War, the hostility Americans felt towards the draft erupted and caused major protests across the nation.

They are where many ways people protested the draft. Some eligible draft members avoided the draft by leaving the country for Canada, Sweden, and a number of other countries. Other men protested by publicly burning their draft cards.

Lyndon B. Johnson won the presidential election on November 1, 1964. Despite the tension between the “Doves” and the “Hawks”, president Lyndon B. Johnson stood by his policy of slow escalation. As he began his term in office in 1965, he was confident that his programs to better the nation would be established despite that “nagging little war in Vietnam”# as News Week reported it.

Protests have long been a way for people to display their difference in opinion and gain support. One of the many protests against the war that had a powerful effect on public opinion took place on March 7, 1965. African Americans citizens, approximately 500, congregated along US Route 80 outside of Selma, Alabama. The group, organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had planned on walking from Selma to Montgomery to help conclude a registration drive. Before the group was able to walk more than a few hundred yards, they encountered 150 local police and state troopers. On horse were 15 of the officers. The protest group was warned by the Dallas County Sheriff during that time period, James G. Clark, to retreat immediately. The protestors refused to move. Only a few minutes later, a wave of officers armed with tear gas, clubs, whips, and cattle prods began to drive the crowd back. By the time the charge had subsided, more than fifty marchers were seriously injured.

After the incident in Selma, there was a major national uprising over the next two weeks amongst the African American community. Across the nation, civil rights leaders, clergymen, and students focused on the number of injustices displayed in Selma, Alabama.

Political analyst, Walter Lippman, said, “Unless Selma is expunged by a mighty national act of repentance and reparation, how shall Americans look themselves in the face when they get up in the morning?”.#

This view of national shame was felt through across the America. Violence surrounding the matter escalated. Harsh feelings towards George Wallace, the Alabama Governor, and Sheriff James Clark were expressed. Violence in Selma peaked on March 9th after a federal injunction caused one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s marches to be postponed. A white Unitarian minister was murdered. The minister was attacked outside a Selma Cafe by his fellow whites who yelled “nigger lover” as they beat the man to death with steel bars.

This brutal attack caused Lyndon B. Johnson to call Governor George Wallace to the White House. President Johnson explained that if he did not allow the marches to proceed in a peaceful manner, Federal Troops would be sent to assist the marchers. Even though this was a sign of progression, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continued to describe the Vietnam War as “a white man’s war; a black man’s fight”.#

The United States Army saw the largest percentage of African American participants in Vietnam than in any other military conflict. During 1965-66, blacks made up only eleven percent of America’s population, but they made up twelve percent of the soldiers in Vietnam. The majority of these soldiers were in the infantry and suffered a relatively high fatality rate of twenty percent during this time. On many ships and bases, there where race riots in response to interracial councils and the creation of race sensitive training. Despite the set backs in racial equality during the Vietnam War, this was first major combat operation that involved an integrated army. This was also the first war that African Americans were encouraged to join.

By this time, the Great Society program was an obvious failure. The Great Society program was a term used to describe an expansion in the federal government's role in domestic policy. More specifically, President Johnson focused on major civil-rights acts, the Economic Opportunity Act, and two educational improvement acts. In addition, legislation was passed that created the Job Corps, Operation Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Medicaid, and Medicare. Although the Great Society program made significant contributions to the protection of civil rights and the expansion of social programs, critics increasingly complained that the antipoverty programs were ineffective and wasteful. The economic and political costs of the escalation of the Vietnam War, as well as the costs of these programs themselves, soon overshadowed Johnson’s domestic efforts.

During 1966, there where numerous efforts made by many officials in the military to lower the amount African American casualties. There where many steps made by civil rights groups to influence the decisions of policy makers, and by the end of the conflict, black casualties where down to a more proportionate number of twelve percent. By the end of the war there was only a slightly higher amount of African American casualties than Whites due to efforts made by political groups.

Robert S. McNamara was the United States Secretary of Defense from 1961-1968. McNamara was responsible for enforcing the responsibilities of the Pentagon. Obviously, he had a major hand in the amount of U.S involvement in throughout Vietnam. His original policies for Vietnam focused more so on deepening the United States involvement. In 1966, McNamara expressed positive views for the outcome of Vietnam. This all changed as he began to question the integrity of having United States troops in Vietnam. Due to this new change of heart, he called for a full investigation of the exact reason for military involvement. McNamara knew, by the end of the war, that he was wrong to ever think they should have occupied South Vietnam. The main fault of the United States was that it tried to fight a guerrilla war with conventional weapons when the opponents were willing to sacrifice large numbers of troops. McNamara also admitted to not being truthful with the public, and that there were many instances were they should have considered surrendering.

With this new frame of mind, McNamara was able to create a Middle War, where the U.S in involved, but not directly in the line of fire. He was able to make it so that the United States was present in South Vietnam, yet safe so to speak. He expressed this strategy, but continued to aim at opposing targets for personal gain. These actions caused the U.S. to be sucked even deeper into Vietnamese affairs. With this strategy in affect, McNamara believed that he could essentially control opposing policy makers by threatening attacks on various targets that have political significance.

Upset with McNamara’s actions, in November, Lyndon B. Johnson announced that Robert S. McNamara would be stepping down. McNamara had once been asked by Johnson to be his vice president, and was now being asked to leave the Defense Department due to a vast number of citizen uprisings. The people of the United States felt that McNamara was dishonest and self-serving. One would believe that U.S. citizens would be happy to see the decrease of military involvement in Vietnam. Unfortunately, this was not the case. McNamara’s grasp for personal fulfillment increased the already harsh relations between the United States and the opposition. In conclusion, the Vietnam War was a conflict that the United States should not have been involved in because it was against an unknown enemy in an unknown territory. The consequences of the war far exceed the benefits. The citizens during that period of time would definitely agree. The war caused a severe decrease in the countries moral. Many people no longer trusted the government and grew extremely skeptical of its actions. The recession soon after the war did not help in boosting the spirit of the country. The Vietnam war also exposed many of the United States‘ weaknesses. It showed that our government had planned poorly. It also showed that it was possible to resist the United States as a mass. There is a major difference between one disagreeing voice and a vast number of them. In the end the United States had devastating losses socially and economically. Protests and politics will always go hand in hand when the “sheep” disagree with the “herder“.


- Nhu Tang, Truong. 1985. A Vietcong Memoir. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers

- Dougan C. & Lipsman S. 1984 The Vietnam Experience: A Nation Divided. Boston: Boston Publishing

- McDougal Littell. 2003 World History. United States of America


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