How does Martin Luther King Jr. build an argument to persuade his audience that American involvement in the Vietnam war is unfair?

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King points to seven important reasons why he is against American involvement in Vietnam, and these seven arguments constitute the overall thrust of his speech. The first is what he characterizes as an obvious, "almost facile" connection between the war and the struggle against poverty in the United States. The...

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King points to seven important reasons why he is against American involvement in Vietnam, and these seven arguments constitute the overall thrust of his speech. The first is what he characterizes as an obvious, "almost facile" connection between the war and the struggle against poverty in the United States. The war in Vietnam, in short, is diverting valuable resources from the war on poverty. King says he is "increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."

He goes on to argue that the war disproportionately affects the poor because it is they who are drafted to go off and fight. His third reason is that the violence employed against the Vietnamese undercuts his argument for nonviolent struggle against oppression at home. He thus feels compelled to actively speak against it. He goes on to argue that the war, and the fact that the United States is devastating Vietnam, is poisoning the soul of the nation. As a Christian, he says, he cannot support the use of violence to achieve political ends.

His final argument is that, as a minister, he is called to advocate for the oppressed and the weak. In other words, he sees the United States as an oppressor in Southeast Asia, and he is compelled to speak against it. So King essentially moves from the pragmatic to the moral as he makes a his case against the war in Vietnam.

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What King is trying to do in this speech is to get his audience to put themselves in the shoes of the Vietnamese, in whose name the war is being fought. The Johnson Administration claimed that the Vietnam War was being fought to free the Vietnamese from the tyranny of Communism. Yet King forcefully undermines the official rhetoric by drawing attention to the long-standing role of the United States in propping up corrupt, repressive dictatorships in the region such as Diem's in South Vietnam. Instead, he wanted America to live up to its long-cherished ideal of liberty and back up its lofty rhetoric with action.

King seeks to persuade his audience of the truth of his argument by drawing a parallel between the Vietnam War and the civil rights struggle. In both cases, he argues, there needs to be a concerted effort to build a new world, a world no longer based on exploitation and repression, but on love, respect, and justice. God calls us to speak up for the weak and dispossessed, whenever and whoever they are. That applies to the Vietnamese peasants killed by American bombs as much as African-Americans struggling to free themselves from the yoke of racial oppression.

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In his speech, "Beyond Vietnam," King draws a connection between the struggle for liberty in Vietnam and the struggle for liberty in the United States, and mentions the obvious irony of so many young black men going to "liberate" the South Vietnamese from Communism:

We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

He ponders the perspective of the Vietnamese, which was unusual in 1967 because most Americans were in favor of the war. He thinks that they must find Americans a strange choice as their liberators, given the United States' previous policies in the region. The United States entered Vietnam, starting with the Kennedy Administration, with the belief that a police action would help to hinder "the domino effect," or the inevitable spread of unchecked Communism.

The Vietnamese, King notes, had liberated themselves twice: first, in 1945, after the end of World War II which had brought an end to Japan's brutal militarist regime, and again in 1954, after the end of French colonial rule. Ho Chi Minh had appealed to President Woodrow Wilson in Paris after the end of the First World War, hoping that the United States would support that early push to free Indochina. However, the United States had aligned itself with the French interest to maintain the colony.

What King calls for, instead of a condemnation of Communism -- a concern which really had little to do with any interest in the well-being of Vietnamese people -- is "a revolution of values" which would "soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies." This revolution of values, he argued, would lead people to reconsider the soundness of a policy that proclaims to liberate Vietnam while simultaneously burning its inhabitants with napalm.

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