Analyze the ways in which the Vietnam War heightened social tensions in the US. Focus your answer on the period from 1964 to 1975.

The Vietnam War heightened social tensions in the United States by creating divisions between those who opposed the war and those who supported the fight against communism no matter what. It also laid bare numerous social, economic, and racial inequities in American society.

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The Vietnam War heightened social tensions in the United States in that it highlighted many existing social inequities. Once the draft was initiated at the end of 1969, millions of young American men became eligible to be sent off to war. However, there were ways to get around the draft....

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The Vietnam War heightened social tensions in the United States in that it highlighted many existing social inequities. Once the draft was initiated at the end of 1969, millions of young American men became eligible to be sent off to war. However, there were ways to get around the draft. If someone was a college student, employed in certain trades, or able to pay off a doctor for a medical deferment, they were able to avoid the draft. This drew a sharp divide between privileged Americans and the less advantaged. As a result, a disproportionate rate of minorities and poor Americans were drafted into the military. This led to a high level of class and racial resentment.

Furthermore, the war heightened the ideological divide in the United States. Those who opposed the war were often painted as communist sympathizers by those who supported it. Furthermore, the anti-war movement fueled the rise of the counterculture in the United States. This, in turn, led to a reactionary movement that felt that traditional American values were under threat. Richard Nixon was able to capitalize on this in 1968 by appealing to those who sought a return to normalcy.

Throughout the war, divisions increased over trust in the government. President Johnson (and later Nixon) often tried to downplay American failures in Vietnam. This became more difficult as the media showed images of caskets returning home and issued daily reports of US casualties. This made it harder for many Americans to have confidence that the government was being candid with them. Some Americans continued to support the war as a necessary sacrifice to combat the spread of communism. Meanwhile, other Americans came to view the war as a quagmire resulting in the needless loss of life.

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The Vietnam War significantly heightened social tensions in the United States. Black and Hispanic men died in disproportionate numbers in this war. Muhammad Ali famously dodged the draft because he said that he had no personal quarrel with the Vietcong. Those who could afford to go to college were given deferments, while those who could not afford to go were drafted out of high school. In many instances, these young infantrymen were led by second lieutenants fresh from college with little experience in actual fighting. The nation's defense contractors made billions off the war, and the average infantryman was regularly placed in harm's way in a war he did not understand. The war helped fuel the counterculture movement, as young people started to question everything that their parents told them about the government. The Tet Offensive in 1968 and the My Lai Massacre in 1970 placed the government in an unfavorable light concerning the war's progress. As young people started to question the anti-communist policies of the United States, traditionalists and conservatives called these people disloyal Americans. If a young person left for Canada in order to avoid the draft, it was considered to be indicative of disloyalty against the government; this same eighteen-year-old did not receive the right to vote until 1971.

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The Vietnam War was unpopular in the United States. Those against it cited a lack of clear objectives, suggesting the war was unwarranted. Although American soldiers who went to war believed they were fighting for the freedom and independence of South Vietnam, the drawn-out conflict stirred dissatisfaction back home. The war required extensive resources both in military equipment and money. The war had serious ramifications for the United States economy; as it drained the country's coffers, the general public began to disapprove of continued support. Divisions emerged between those who believed it was unpatriotic to abandon the war effort and those who could not bear further discomfort and losses for what seemed a pointless conflict. Arguments by civil leaders coupled with student protests sparked outrage.

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The Vietnam War did a tremendous amount to create and heighten social (and political) tensions in the US.  It created and emphasized a gap between people who believed in traditional values and those who did not.  This gap translated into politics, becoming a partisan issue between Republicans and Democrats.

Traditionally, American patriotism was taken to mean that people should support what the country did militarily, no matter what.  The military was seen as an extension of the country, not as something to be argued over and criticized on partisan terms.  This belief was not held by the anti-war protestors and other liberals during the Vietnam Era.  They felt that the war was wrong and they criticized the government and (less justifiably, at least in my mind) the military that carried out the government's orders.

This helped to create and exacerbate a gap between traditionalists and liberals.  It helped to create a sense that the traditionalists (to the liberals) were blind followers, not much better than Germans who went along with the Nazis.  On the other side, it helped to create a sense that liberals were people who hated the country that had given them so much in the way of material wealth and rights.  This was a huge split and it continues to some extent to this day.

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