The Vietnam War

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Why did some Americans oppose the Vietnam War?    

The main reason some Americans opposed the Vietnam War is that they believed that the United States had no right to interfere in another country's affairs, especially if it involved the expense of so much blood and so many resources.

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The American war in Vietnam had a long history, beginning with the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia and extending through the fall of Saigon in 1975. In between, emotions among the American public regarding the war ranged widely and encapsulated a number of rationalizations.

During the war in the Pacific, the United States allied itself with local guerrilla forces united for the common purpose of defeating Imperial Japan. Among those with whom the United States forged alliances was the Vietnamese nationalist-communist movement led by Ho Chi Minh. It was, as with the alliance with the Soviet Union, one of convenience in the face of a common foe.

The United States had no territorial ambitions in Southeast Asia, but its wartime ally France sought to recolonize the territories of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, which it had lost to Japanese invaders. Rather than remain united with the forces under Ho and work towards a unified Vietnam under communist leadership, the United States supported France and framed the developing conflict there within the context of a strategy of containment intended to limit communist expansionism supported by the Soviet Union (and, later, communist China).

This background is provided for a reason: opposition to the US role in Vietnam began almost immediately, well before the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and the eventual escalation of the American role there. Members of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, the precursor to the later creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, who had worked with Ho Chi Minh, believed that US policy in Vietnam was heading in the wrong direction. To OSS veterans like Archimedes Patti, the United States had erred badly in not continuing to work with Ho, who some viewed as driven more by nationalistic sentiments than by ideological orientation.

As American involvement in Vietnam grew, especially during the 1960s, opposition to the war emerged for a variety of additional reasons. Some Americans opposed the war because they believed that it was an internal conflict—in effect, a civil war—in which the United States had no legitimate role. Others argued that the war represented a misplaced fear of communism, while some were outright supporters of the spread of communism, a category that included members of the entertainment establishment like actresses Julie Christie and Jane Fonda, who infamously visited with North Vietnamese troops, posing on an antiaircraft weapon used to shoot down American aircraft and making propaganda broadcasts opposing the United States—broadcasts used to demoralize American prisoners of war in North Vietnam.

Much of the opposition to the war in Vietnam emanated from concerns regarding the way the war was being conducted by the United States. While most Americans initially supported the war, the failure to prevail despite the scale of carnage being visited upon the targets of American bombers began to erode that support. In fact, there was rarely agreement within the United States government and the armed forces regarding the optimal strategy and tactics with which to defeat the Viet Cong and,...

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following the Viet Cong’s defeat, the North Vietnamese Army, which was supplied by the Soviet Union and China. American decisionmakers lacked a solid understanding of the enemy it was fighting, and most American military offices had little understanding of the unique qualities needed to fight a protracted, committed insurgency such as that posed by the Viet Cong.

Opposition to the war continued to mount with revelations of deception on the part of the American government under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson—revelations that emerged with publication of the Pentagon Papers—and the Nixon administration’s bombing of Cambodia.

In short, the opposition to the war in Vietnam grew for a number of reasons, including nightly images on American television of American casualties and the destruction of the Vietnamese countryside. That opposition began before the American military’s involvement and extended throughout the duration of the war.

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The Vietnam War wasn't always unpopular with the American public. It was only when the fatality rates of American soldiers began increasing exponentially, with nothing to show for such sacrifice, that public opinion gradually began to turn against what seemed to be a never-ending conflict.

There were many different reasons behind opposition to the Vietnam War. Large numbers of Americans were appalled at the amount of blood and resources being expended on what was rapidly becoming an unwinnable conflict.

Had the Johnson Administration prosecuted the war successfully and in a reasonably short timeframe, then this criticism would never have arisen in the first place. But as the number of body bags coming home rose and graphic news reports appeared on Americans' TV screens on a nightly basis, an increasingly large and vocal section of the American people voiced their opposition to the war.

A more deep-seated objection to the Vietnam War was the belief that the United States had no business getting itself mixed up in another country's internal affairs. It wasn't the business of young American boys to be sorting out a mess that the Vietnamese people themselves should be dealing with.

As the 1960s progressed, growing numbers of Americans, especially young people, reacted against what they saw as an egregious pattern of American involvement and interference in other countries' affairs. For many on the political left, the Vietnam War was just the latest in a long line of imperialist interventions carried out by the United States for her own benefit at the expense of Indigenous people, who bore the brunt of American imperialism.

Although radicals who held this opinion were very much in a minority in the United States, they nonetheless tapped into a growing sense that the consequences of American foreign policy were not always quite so benign as most people tended to believe under Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.

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There were many divergent reasons for opposing the war in Vietnam ranging from religious pacifism, such as that of Quakers and the various Mennonite sects, to general opposition to nuclear weapons to college student activist groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Significant events that precipitated strong and widespread opposition were the incursion of American bombing raids into North Vietnam (1965) and the Tet offensive (1968), both of which escalated the conflict and incensed Americans who watched vividly televised reports of it.

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One of the biggest differences between the war in Vietnam and previous wars is that for the first time the war was in people's living rooms. Although the coverage was not live, it was raw and constant. Vietnam was the first time that everyone saw what war looked like. Before that, war was just a vague concept. People knew that it was terrible and ugly, but they did not see it, in front of them, in all the gory detail. That is what made the Vietnam war different, and led to a revolutionary counterculture on the home front.
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I assume that you are asking why some Americans opposed the war.  I have changed your question to reflect this.

Many Americans who opposed the war did so because they felt that it was not a war that was necessary for the security of the US.  They felt that what happened in Vietnam could not truly impact the US.  Other opponents of the war opposed it because they believed that the US was trying to oppress the Vietnamese.  These leftists believed that communism was a better way than capitalism.  They felt that the US was a country that was acting aggressively in order to try to promote its own ideas even if those ideas were bad for Vietnam.

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