Vietnam War was one of the major military conflicts of the XX century that lasted from 1961 to 1975. In Vietnam it is called ‘Liberation war’ and, sometimes, ‘the American war’ being considered the culminating point of the Cold War. At first, common Americans believed that participation of their country would be justified, serving the democracy. Consequences proved contrary: considerable human losses on both sides and millions of hectares burned by American toxic chemicals. In this paper, we will discuss the ways in which Vietnam War heightened social, political, and economic tensions in the USA during 1964-1975.
Social tensions caused by Vietnam War entailed thousands of young lives wasted in it. American draftees, as well as Vietnamese peaceful population, died in large numbers and this fact caused numerous protests in the USA. Martin Luther King was one of those who started civil rights movement against continuation of this war. In one of his speeches he wondered why young people are crippled in a war, while defending liberties of Asian country? He also stated that for some reason poor people were the ones who suffer the most, while the rich were the ones who started the war (Document C). The situation with draftees was complicated and difficult to understand. Though, the military reserves of the USA could not be mobilized because it could possibly be viewed by other countries as mobilization for global war. Vietnam War was fought by draftees and, as it was stated by draft board members, they were like a cattle sent to slaughter (Document D). People gathered and shouted anti-war slogans during organized protests. One of such protests was Moratorium Day in 1969, when Americans protested peacefully against this bloody war. Anti-war songs became a popular means of expressing dissatisfaction with military actions in Vietnam. One of such songs was “I feel like I’m fixing to die rag” by Country Joe and the Fish (Document B). Another reason which caused considerable social tensions was the fact that this was the first war covered by the media. Parents literally observed the horrific picture of their children dying in the battles. They could not understand what can possibly be the reason to keep the troops there.
Political tensions were also heightened considerably during and after the Vietnam War. One of the reasons was the fact that sons of politicians were not drafted and did not take part in the war. They were sent abroad – to Canada or Europe. Thus, government used draftees to fill in ranks of soldiers and to fill in the spots of politicians’ sons. The Selective Service System resorted to the draft lottery that aimed at determining the order of call. “Participants” were en born between 1944 and 1950, there were 366 balls corresponding to the number of days in a year. Consequently, the anti-war stance became more pronounced as people disapproved of enrolling solely uneducated, low-income members of society (Starr, 1997). It seemed to average citizens that upper class people wanted war but were not actually fighting it, while lower class wanted to stop war and had no choice but to fight it. Political tensions were furtherly aggravated by the fact that politicians did not or could not stop it. In the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” the Congress supported president’s determination to repel military attacks against the USA and prevent further aggression by any means (Document A). Though, this was not American war in the first place. As Robert Kennedy said in his speech, Americans misunderstood the very nature of the war. Problem between the two parts of Vietnam could not be resolved by military conflict with involvement of the USA (Document E). When the majority of American citizens were already against the war, the president Richard Nixon still encouraged people to continue fighting. He considered that North Vietnam could not win and humiliate the USA as a country (Document G).
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Economic tensions caused by Vietnam War were appalling. The country was already in relatively bad economic conditions but the war’s cost, which amounted to billions of dollars per year, worsened existing unfavorable situation. Every killed Vietnam communist, each soldier’s ammunition and weapon, air strikes and air raids –all these things were very costly. During the war stagnation connected to inactivity of business overwhelmed the country. Adding to this, when Johnson won the election of 1964, he faced the risk of losing this anti-communist fight since being accused of ignoring foreign affairs. Johnson found himself between Scylla and Charybdis: the idea of the Great Society was jeopardized by the war but leaving it would make “my nation an appeaser” (Campagna 1991, p.14). In the picture from document D we may observe how the Foreign Policy is dragging Great Society into the precipice. This caricature implies that America cannot support the Foreign Policy started by Lyndon Johnson and Great Society, it has to choose whom to rescue once and for all (Document D). While war producing manufactures were thriving during the Vietnam War, economic tensions were becoming more and more severe. The country had to at least conserve those limited resources left and stop spending money on weapons to fight war which, as it became apparent in the future, was not America’s war to fight (Document H).
To conclude, Vietnam War remains one of the darkest pages in American history and its reverberations are still felt worldwide: it changed the geopolitical map of the whole globe. Social, economic, and political tensions in the USA caused by this war played one of the crucial roles in cessation of hostilities in Vietnam and renewal of peace.
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