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Vietnam War--The War Option

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Autor:   •  December 10, 2010  •  2,037 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,335 Views

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"Johnson had miscalculated: Even the richest and most powerful nation in the world could not do it all" (Turbulent Years: The 60s 36). Lyndon B. Johnson is a president torn to pieces by war. He glows in the passage of bills benefiting American society. He is someone who has suffered through an entire generation of rebellious teens. What impact did Johnson's foreign policies concerning Vietnam War have on American society?

The Vietnam War really isn't a war. Congress never declared war and thus, it is constitutionally considered police action. The United States can have troops in an area for ninety days, but how ninety days became twelve long, bloody years is beyond even my knowledge. The war started in 1959, but U.S. involvement did not start until 1961. We withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, and it raged on for another two years. This was Vietnam's civil war, where 58,000 Americans lost their lives and Vietnam was lost to the Communists. If it hadn't been for the French-Indochina War, America might not have been so deeply involved in Vietnam.

The area of Indochina, present-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, was taken away from France during the World War II and afterwards, they tried to get it back. France lured the U.S. into paying 80% of the costs used to fight Ho Chi Minh and Communist North Vietnam by the end of the French-Indochina War. Author Gini Holland said, "This 'paying the costs' committed the United States financially, although not yet militarily, to the region" (Holland 41). So, when Vietnam was into their civil war, the U.S. felt the need to help South Vietnam. In addition to fighting Communism, the American soldiers faced the very devoted and hostile Vietcong, the pro-Communist guerilla force of South Vietnam.

"It was in Southeast Asia that President Johnson ran into his greatest difficulties" (World Book "Johnson, Lyndon Baines"). He finished John F. Kennedy's term starting in 1963 and completed another term, ending his presidency in 1969. As many of us are, he was reluctant to get fully involved in the war. After ordering air strikes against North Vietnam in retaliation for U.S. ships being attacked by torpedoes, he stated, "We will seek no wider war" (Hargrove 69). Even though he did not want war, his peaceful policy concerning it was widely protested by the country.

While there was a war in Vietnam, there were several wars at home, of which included Johnson's wars on poverty and racial segregation. Even before Johnson became president, he had visions of a perfect society (Turbulent Years 67). When he did become president, he pushed as many of those ideas through Congress as possible. For instance, several medical aid and civil rights bills went into Congress and were approved. This was the great achievement of Johnson's presidency. Unfortunately, the Vietnam War ate a lot of government money and some of the Great Society bills just couldn't get through because of money problems. "Guns and butter," Johnson said, "should both be funded by Congress" (Rubel 179). He was met with a lot of resistance because people rendered that idea impossible. It was obvious to everyone that the Great Society was much more important to Johnson than the Vietnam War. He was willing to leave the war to develop the Great Society, but by the time he voiced that feeling, he had pushed the war to a point of no return.

Many ordinary Americans saw from the start that we could not possibly win Vietnam for the South Vietnamese. It was regarded as a "no-winner" (World Book Multimedia, 3). Even so, we supported South Vietnam with containment, which was the Cold War policy of keeping Communism within its borders, instead of trying to get rid of it. Unlike the Korean War, we fought to keep South Vietnam, but we did not fight to gain control of North Vietnam. Why did we go to war if we thought it was such a "no-winner?" The American people yielded to the war because of Johnson's weak cover-up explanations. For example, he stated in March of 1968: "...The heart of our involvement in South Vietnam...has always been America's own security" (Frazier 286). In any case, people realized what he was doing and started learning the truth. Johnson gained more powers and the death list grew longer and longer as the war progressed. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution blessed upon President Johnson war-making powers until Vietnam had restored peace. The war would now continue for another decade. During that timeframe, people concluded that his foreign policy caused our involvement in Vietnam (Annals of America 552). The public then doubted his decisions and became impatient as he walked in circles, suspending bombings on North Vietnam, asking for negotiations, being denied, continuing the bombings, and the cycle just never seemed to end. By the time he left office, peace talks were underway, but he did not live to see the results ("LBJ Library Online" 11).

Johnson may have gained power, but at the cost of public support. "As the death toll grew, so did the protests," said Michael Schuman. Protests took all different forms during the 1960s. Young men burned draft cards; there were a number of rallies in the Pentagon, and also in several other major cities. One such instance occurred on March 1966, where more than 20,000 people gathered on Fifth Avenue in New York (Schuman 78). In these protests, police used tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse the crowd. Sometimes, people were killed or seriously injured and really, this only spurred more protest.

The largest generation was well named--baby boomers. Because of World War II, people put off having children, so after the war, they made up for lost time. The baby boomers were, in addition to being a well-sized generation, the most ardent antiwar group. They took up symbols that represented peace and resistance against the war. One of their signs was the flower, as they symbolize peace. Back in the day, the word "hep" meant anyone who was aware of the newest fashions (Turbulent Years 137). Soon the word became "hip" and those people came to be called hippies. These people went against tradition, with wild fashion, wild music, and togetherness. The feeling of being together and having someone behind your back really spurred the antiwar movement to a point where even the sky didn't seem to be a limit. Sayings like, "Hell no, we won't go" were as symbolic of the hippies as the "Star-Spangled Banner" is symbolic of America. Of course, the hippie movement couldn't go without punishment. The World War and Korean War veterans thought that the actions of the hippies were unpatriotic. This caused riots in the streets alongside the civil rights riots (Schuman 90). Hippies thought


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