How should people who are against a war go about protesting it? Was the Vietnam war protested in an effective way?
I believe that the protesters were very effective whether they presented a negative image about themselves or not. After all, they weren't protesting for themselves.
Vietnam was described as the first living-room war, in as much as the news could show action that happened only hours previously, and there was virtually no censorship involved. One result of that was that the war was not sanitized for the American public. But linked, I think, to this reality was a realistic broadcast of the anti-war movement. The realistic portrayal of the dead in Vietnam and the violence associated with the anti-war protests did not win any supporters for the war. The protesters won no friends but I think it did raise the conscientiousness level of the public. In this sense, it was a success.
And yes, as an American citizen if you feel that a war is going badly, and especially if the war is actually unjust (as so many thought during Vietnam), you should have the right to voice that opinion. Protest to your heart's content. But be prepared for the backlash.
A major difference between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan, and in my opinion a big difference, is that most troops in Vietnam were drafted and had no legal choice, while our soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan are volunteers.
Bless the volunteer army.
I think that there are two different issues being articulated here. On one hand, I would say that Vietnam Protests were highly effective. When people reflect on the conflict, the amount of dissent at home is one of the primary levels of focus. In this light, I think that this is because of the protests launched in response to the war and its escalation. I think that the exercise of First Amendment issues such as expression and protest help to create the setting that allows protesters to voice their opinion. The notion of dissent has to be forceful and passionate, but cannot cross the line to endanger others or move into a realm where the perpetrators of crimes and the protesters whose zeal causes them to do the same are no different from one another. Protesters should use their ability to assemble, express dissent, and contribute to the sensibilities of a great democracy are tools that protesters can use to go about articulating their beliefs on governmental policy.
I think that the war in Vietnam was protested effectively, but nearly as effectively as it could have been. I think that protestors have to be very aware of what image they present to the public and I think the Vietnam protestors often presented a negative image.
The war was protested effectively in that the protests helped to turn Americans off of the war. Of course, that might have happened anyway -- Americans got turned off of the Korean War without any protesting.
But the protestors were too radical. They did things that made them seem completely unAmerican (like the ones chanting the names of Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong in Chicago). This surely turned many Americans away and made them less likely to buy into the anti-war message.
Compare this to the positive image projected by the civil rights protestors in the early part of the movement and you can see what I mean.
One of the things that I think might have helped the protests against the Vietnam war is if some of the more dangerous or violent protests had been avoided and people focused entirely on non-violent actions. Though this was only a small part of the protests about the war, it tended to give Hawks or other conservative people ammunition to demonstrate that the protests were just a bunch of crazy hippies and were doing something that was actually dangerous for national security, etc.
The other part of it that wasn't effective was turning their rage against the soldiers who had been drafted and generally done what they did in Vietnam to try and stay alive and keep their buddies alive. The incidents of chanting "baby-killer" or spitting on returning soldiers added a very dark side to the protests that did not help make their cause effective with main-stream Americans.
Protesters in the modern day regarding the Iraq War have been famously disorganized. They have staged massive marches on single days without any follow through, without protest leadership and without any government meetings. Government, in the past ten years especially, simply ignore the protesters. To be effective, they would need to occupy government buildings or be otherwise civilly disobedient on a scale like the civil rights movement - a scale that could not be ignored.
Vietnam had better protests, organized, consistent and repeated. That doesn't mean they were effective, as they really didn't have much effect on either the course of the war or its end.