• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

"The USA got out of Vietnam because of the unpopularity of the war with the US electorate" To what extent do you agree with this interpretation? (1965-73)

Free essay example:

“The USA got out of Vietnam because of the unpopularity of the war with the US electorate” To what extent do you agree with this interpretation? (1965-73)

Some describe the Vietnam conflict as a promise “to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia...” (Martin Luther King), but instead Martin Luther King’s other description of the war as a “…cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on the TV screen as they kill and die together for a nation that cannot even seat them together in the same schools…” can be seen as more relevant. The US public carried a strong voice throughout this conflict and were able to change decisions and inevitably cause the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam.

The unpopularity of the war can be split into a number of sections. Unpopularity came about through the media coverage given to the actions of US troops and the barbaric acts that were being carried out in Vietnam. Examples of these were the development of napalm and Agent Orange. Napalm was jellied petroleum which was used to burn anything which came into contact with it; it had a devastating effect and often destroyed whole parts of the forest killing everything within it. Agent Orange was a chemical which was designed to kill plants, including tree’s and crops, and this didn’t have a positive effect on the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese peasants, the people who were in the firing line for Communism. After these events the war became increasingly dirty and barbaric. Events such as such as the CIA’s Operation Phoenix in 1968, which consisted of VietCong suspects, often on bad evidence and the torture of them. Most famously, for the wrong reasons, the incident in My Lai in 1968 where US troops wiped out an entire village with extreme brutality. With households commonly having TV sets in their homes in America it was there to be seen by the US public, who no matter how anti-communist they were, were shocked and disgusted by the actions their troops had committed. This set the ball rolling for the tide of anti-war feeling within the USA. During this period half of the American public were against the war and wanted to pull out.

It was all members of US society who wee beginning to feel the tide of anti-war feeling. 1968 signalled the start of when black people began to demonstrate against a blatantly unfair draft system. The draft system was meant to call up young Americans to fight in the war; however it always seemed to pick a disproportional amount of black Americans. With the civil rights movement at the time and the emergence of prominent black figures such as Martin Luther King it meant there were demonstrations against the government. This meant that the government had to deal with a group within their society, who had nothing to lose; therefore, they were able to wield great pressure on the government to withdraw.

It was also military mistakes and failures which aided the call for a pullout by the USA. The key example of this is the Tet Offensive in 1968. This highlighted the policy failures of McNamara and his generals. The VietCong launched this against every city in South Vietnam taking large portions of each one. Even though they were retaken later on it still illustrated to the US public that even though US generals such as General Westmorland were pulling out statistics such as “10 VietCong killed for every US casualty” it showed them that the conflict was far from over. The US public again viewed these events on TV and this graphic detail meant that it only strengthened the anti-war feeling.

The cost of this whole operation was beginning to show strains upon the US public. Due to the high costs money had to be detracted from programmes such as Johnson’s “Great Society Programme” which targeted poverty in America’s cities and the plight of Black Americans. It was planned to produce new homes, schools and roads. Therefore, due to the higher costs, money had to be retracted from the “Great Society Programme”. These cutbacks caused riots in the inner city areas with a dash of civil rights movement, due to the high number of black people living within those areas. This all posed the questions to the American whether all this was all worth it. The high number of coffins returning whilst living standards were in a downward spiral left Americans angry and change was wanted.

However there were other factors which resulted in the call for a pullout from Vietnam. One of these was America’s actual economic situation. Even though the war was expensive, an economically strong USA would have been able to afford the operation. However, this wasn’t the case with America during this period. As taxes went up due to the “Great Society Programme” American workers began to demand higher wages causing general prices to increase. This caused high inflation meaning taxes weren’t what they were valued at before. In addition to that the fact that America had to cut expenditure in the arms sector meant that the military-industrial complex, the arms industry, suffers. This combined with inflation at the time meant that economy was in bad shape. This forced the US government to reconsider its position in Vietnam. This had political casualties too, due to the resignation of President Johnson.

It wasn’t only because of economical reasons that there was a pullout from Vietnam. There were also political reasons too. After Johnson’s resignation, Nixon came into power. Nixon was a realist and knew victory was possible in Vietnam and he knew that doubled up with the political divisions and economical problems that it was best to pull out. He announced “peace with honour” which followed in with the withdrawal of US troops, who wee replaced with South Vietnamese forces (Vietnamisation), this then bought about the end of the war. This helped ease the political squabbles back home and it also proved to be a bit of a money saver as it cut back expenses.

I have come to conclude that the most important reason for the pullout from Vietnam is due to the US public. With the satellite age in full flow at that time the TV proved to be a massive tool for the average American at the time as it allowed them to be able to fully see what their troops were really doing there. This proved to be a bad tool for the government as their mistakes came to light. Also the US government wasn’t helped by the civil rights movement at that time which created figures like Martin Luther King who spoke critically of the war and the discrimination of young black men. The economic problem and the breakdown of the “Great Society Programme” meant that the average Americans were beginning to feel the effects of the war at home even though the battles were being fought miles away.

However there were some factors which weren’t down to the American public. The stagnant economy meant that the high costs of the war were more harshly felt by the American public. Also the pullout was achieved by Nixon due to him realising that Vietnam was a lost cause with more good coming if there was a pullout from there.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 section.

(?)
Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Related AS and A Level History Skills and Knowledge Essays

See our best essays

Related AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 essays

  1. Vietnam - reasons the US lost the war.

    "Critics in the government, the military, and elsewhere claim that the media was dominated by the antiwar journalists who poisoned the American public against the war by delivering superficial and negative coverage of the conflict. (pg 177 Walter). This shows how Walter noticed that people attentions were grabbed by the over coverage the news released.

  2. Why the USA got involved in Vietnam

    And subsequent charges that Truman had "lost" China and had settled for a stalemate in Korea caused succeeding presidents to fear the domestic political consequences if they "lost" Vietnam. This apprehension, an overestimation of American power, and an underestimation of Vietnamese communist strength locked all administrations from 1950 through the 1960s into a firm anticommunist stand in Vietnam.

  1. 'To what extent had the USA become two different societies by the eve of ...

    prospering because comparative advantages would have developed and America would possess the ability to trade with many other nations, which would inevitably reduce the differences between the north and the south. However, the problem was that as the south produced large quantities of agricultural products and 80% of the southern

  2. "America went to war over Vietnam in 1965 in order to uphold her credibility ...

    Korea had illustrated China and Soviet expansionist policies and it was vital to save South Vietnam in order to put across an effective message that America should not be messed with. A loss would bolster communist confidence, weaken trust among American allies and trigger of a chain reaction of future communist success.

  1. Introduction - US policy to Southeast Asia in general

    Indochina became a difficult contradiction in American foreign policy. Washington knew how important the colony was to France, and foresaw the danger of communism gaining a foothold in the region. If France were to abandon Indochina, communism could spread throughout Southeast Asia. The alternative was to endorse and support French colonialism, with the French economy and military forces necessarily

  2. To what extent did the Vietnam War impact upon US domestic politics and society ...

    'Losing the Great Society was a terrible thought, but not so terrible as the thought of being responsible for America's losing a war to the Communists. Nothing could possibly be worse than that.' 2 This source is similar to the one before as it shows how US domestic politics was being affected by the war.

  1. Why did the USA send combat troops to Vietnam in 1965?

    After the French defeat a peace settlement was agreed, the French were to withdraw from Vietnam and the country was divided along the 17th parallel, into the communist North and the non-communist South, it was agreed that election were to be held by 1956 to reunite the whole country, in

  2. To what extent was the media responsible for the American withdrawal from Vietnam?

    Coming at the beginning of 1968, which for the America people was filled with tragic events such as the assassinations of Martin Luther King and, Sen. Robert Kennedy. The Tet offensive was seen as a turning point for the whole war.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work