What factors caused many Americans to have a negative view of our involvement in the Vietnam War?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several distinct and powerful factors that helped to make the Vietnam Conflict a rather unpopular one.  The death count would be one such element.  On both sides, the war was extremely brutal in terms of casualties and dead.  Americans were experiencing this first hand seeing "the flower of their youth" returned in body bags or in a condition that permanently would alter their quality of life.  The media was another element that helped to enhance this.  The notion of Vietnam being a "living room war" was something that helped to bring about an unfavorable view of it.  Seeing the dead caused by American military force through bombing or ground campaigns helped to bring out the horrific nature of the conflict.  The most famous image of an American commander summarily executing a suspected Viet Cong agent in the middle of a Saigon street in the wake of the Tet Offensive helped to enhance the negative perceptions of the war.  I  would also say that the inability of the government to be able to address in an effective and clear manner the difficulties of the war helped to create a credibility gap between what was being said and what was happening.  The complex nature of the conflict, as well as the changing benchmark of what defined victory, and the elusive nature of "the enemy" helped to create a misread of the war, feeding its unpopular perception.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the factors included:

  • The war was shown on television more than any other war so people got more pictures of death, etc.  They also saw much more critical news coverage.
  • The war dragged on for much longer than people thought it should have.  Why should it take so long to defeat such an insignificant enemy?
  • The war did not seem like it was necessary.  The Vietnamese had never attacked us and Vietnam was way over on the other side of the world.
  • It was not clear how we could tell if we were winning the war since we weren't trying to invade some country and conquer specific areas.  That was discouraging because we couldn't tell if the war was going well or not.
mkcapen1 | Student

I grew up during the Vietnam Era and it was miserable.  Everyday in the news we were bombarded with episodes of violence and death.

The high rates of American soldiers dieing in battle and the fear of the draft led to public dissatisfaction.  There were court marshalls and accusations of violent misconduct on behalf of our tactics and soldiers.

As the war dragged on and it did drag, Americans began to question f the war could actually be won.  Then they began to question what exactly we were really fighting for and if it was in our best interest to be involved.

People were tired and worn ou by the war.  Death surround us and no one wanted it anymore.  It was scary sending more and more young men.

Minorities were more frequently subject to the draft as well as poor people because if someone was maintained in college and kept up hsi grades he could get a waver from the war. 

IN addition, many of the Veterans that returned from the war were emotionally messed up and the drug additions increased significantly.

All of these things creaed a boiling pot in America.