The Vietnam War

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How was there an increase in social and political tensions during the Vietnam War?  

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The Vietnam War was one of many controversial events during a period of general social upheaval in the United States. The baby boom was a period of great prosperity. More students were attending college and people moved up into the middle classes. The rising middle class and baby boom generation rethought many social values in this time period.

Perhaps the most important movement of this period was the civil rights movement, which saw many groups rise up against various forms of discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 marked a major step forward in combating racism and discrimination and giving equal rights to ethnic minorities. There was a major backlash against this piece of legislation from racists uncomfortable with equality and desegregation. At the same time, people began rethinking issues of gender. Women and LBGTQ people also pushed for equal rights.

The Vietnam war was a flashpoint for social tensions, pitting liberals of all stripes against older, more conservative values. Many people felt the war was a waste of American lives and money. During the 1950s the fight against communism almost seemed a continuation of the great patriotic effort of World War II. By the 1960s, though, many people felt that the United States should not be wasting soldiers's lives to interfere in the domestic political choices of foreign countries.

Many of the young protesters of this generation were involved in multiple issues, linking together the Vietnam war and racial oppression in the United States. They protested what seemed to be an entire military-industrial complex and political system that was oppressive and unfair.

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There were numerous reasons why social and political tensions increased during the Vietnam War (1965–1973).

One key reason for an increase was the length and futility of the conflict. As the war dragged on and the public viewed it on TV, public support waned. During the first couple of years, the public believed the US was winning the war. The Tet Offensive of 1968 changed their minds. After Tet, a majority of Americans believed the war was not winnable.

A second reason for public disenchantment was the My Lai incident of 1968. Large numbers of Vietnamese civilians were murdered by American troops. This atrocity sickened many Americans.

A third reason for growing tensions was the high number of American casualties and financial costs of the war. The US had underestimated its enemy. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were tough and determined.

By 1968, the war was the dominant political and social issue in the nation. The size and frequency of protests were growing. Tens of thousands of men were avoiding the draft. Even respected journalist Walter Cronkite had called the war a failure.

Because of growing public dissatisfaction, the U.S. government started a policy of Vietnamization in 1969. This led to the gradual withdrawal of American combat forces.

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There were sharp increases in the political and social tensions of the United States during the Vietnam War. Many Americans were unclear as to why the United States was fighting the North Vietnamese....

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This was also the first war shown on people's televisions; the graphic nature of war turned many people against the conflict. Some people questioned the practice of college graduates receiving draft deferments while those not in college were drafted. Other war protesters pointed to the profits made by companies with war contracts such as Dow Chemical.

Another aspect of political tension was the narrative of the war itself. General Westmoreland and Secretary of State McNamara claimed that the war was being won relatively easily, and then the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive (1968). Though they lost, this was a major propaganda coup, as it demonstrated to the American people that North Vietnam was capable of fierce fighting. There was also Nixon's pledge to leave Vietnam's defense to the South Vietnamese; Nixon also clandestinely invaded Laos and Cambodia in order to disrupt Viet Cong supply lines. All of this led to a distrust of the American government that persists to this day.

There were also racial tensions during this war. African Americans were disproportionately listed on casualty lists despite being a minority in the United States. African Americans were also less likely to go to college, and due to the policy of drafting those not enrolled in college first, many African Americans were the first men called for dangerous service in Vietnam. Many African American leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali spoke out against the war. The war was also going on during the height of the civil rights movement. Vietnam was one of the most divisive wars in American history, and to this day the history of the war remains controversial.

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Social and political tensions increased during the Vietnam War. Many people were opposed to the war and were against the drafting of soldiers. Many students began to protest about our involvement in the war and the drafting of young people to serve in Vietnam. Some people felt the draft discriminated against minorities and against poor people. These groups were less likely to be in college, and therefore, they couldn’t postpone serving in the military. Other people just believed our involvement in the war was wrong, and they organized many protests to show their displeasure.

Political tensions also increased during the Vietnam War. As the war dragged on, many people believed we would not emerge victorious in this conflict. They believed the government was not being honest with them regarding how the war was really going. What the government was saying and what people were seeing on television were two very different stories. People also were convinced that we would need to dramatically increase our military commitment in order to be successful in Vietnam, and there was no political support for that to occur. Distrust of the government increased during the Vietnam War.

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What were the social and political consequences of the Vietnam War?  

The Vietnam War was a very unpopular foreign venture that dramatically changed the political and social landscape of the United States. Some basic political changes that resulted as a result of the war was the introduction of an all-volunteer military and the lowering of the voting age to 18. The government abolished the draft for the practical reason that it would be easier to commit troops to foreign lands if they had volunteered for service versus making citizens serve. The draft was never really popular in the history of the United States, and this disdain reached new heights during the war in Indochina. Lowering the draft age from 21 to 18 was done through a Constitutional amendment (26th) because many believed if 20-year-olds could die for their country, they should have some say in who its leaders would be.

The war also brought a great distrust of the government and its leaders. This is especially true of the Democratic Party that escalated the war. The party lost the White House in 1968 and would only hold the presidency for four years in the next quarter of a century. This war undermined promising social programs instituted by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and dramatically hurt the U.S. economy. It can also be stated that the Vietnam War slowed the momentum of the Civil Rights and Women's Rights movements.

The Vietnam War also brought a wave of counter-culture activity amongst the youth. Hippies, as they were called, resisted government, political, and parental influences and sometimes lived in communes together. Many turned to illicit drug usage. College campuses were disrupted by organized protests and sit-ins and started to lean even further to the left politically. Also, the War brought over 125,000 new immigrants to the United States in the form of Vietnamese political refugees. Finally, the war was the first "televised" conflict in the history of the United States, if not the entire world. The public was updated with video images from the front line, on an almost nightly basis. In this way, many people were disillusioned about warfare and could better understand its brutal consequences.

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