.. images of dirty-mouthed hippies taunting the brave, clean-cut American soldiers who confronted the unruly demonstrators (VN H. and P.). Americans were soon shocked to learn about the communists’ massive Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968. The offensive demonstrated that Johnson had been making the progress in Vietnam seem much greater than it really was; the war was apparently endless.
Critics of the administration policy on the campuses and Capitol Hill had been right after all. For the first time, the state of public opinion was the crucial factor in decision making on the war. Johnson withdrew his candidacy for reelection in March of 1968, and he was offering the communists generous terms to open peace talks. In the meantime, as the war continued to take its bloody toll, the nation prepared to elect a new president. The antiwar movement had inadvertently helped Richard Nixon win the election. As Johnson’s unhappy term of office came to an end, antiwar critics and the Vietnamese people prepared to do battle with their new adversary (Small, 124).
The new president expressed more outward signs from hawks not the doves, now that Johnson now out of office. Like many of his advisors, Nixon was bothered with the antiwar movement since he was convinced that it prolonged the war. He could not understand how the current generation of young people could include both brave young marines and hippies and draft-card burners (VN H. and P.). Richard Nixon assumed the presidency with a secret plan to end the war. Although most doves did not believe in the new president to do so, they were prepared to give him time to execute the plan.
Nixon had a plan to end the war. He wanted to increase the pressure on the communists, issue then a deadline to be conciliatory, and to keep this entire secret from the American public (VN H. and P.). Thus, the number of casualties increased in the late winter and spring as the bombings of Northern Vietnam continued once again. It did not take long for the antiwar critics and organization to take up where it had left off with Lyndon Johnson. They got ready for another campaign of petitioning and demonstrating with the center of it all involving the middle-class.
The deadline for the communists past, and the failure to follow with his strategy was the rejuvenation of the antiwar movement centered on the very successful demonstrations in October of 1969. Nixon now feared that the public, led by a confident antiwar movement, would demand a much quicker withdrawal from Vietnam than he had planned. With that deadline approached, Henry Kissinger, the most important Vietnam policymaker asked a group of Quakers to give Nixon six months, if the war is not over then, “You can come back and tear down the White House.” (VN H. and P.). In May 1970, Nixon gambled that he could buy time for Vietnamization through an attack on Cambodian sanctuaries to destroy communist command-and-supply buildings, while containing the protest that he knew his action would provoke.
His gamble failed, when poorly trained National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University, on May 4. This made the expected protests much worse than anyone in Washington could have foreseen. The wave of demonstrations on hundreds of college campuses paralyzed America’s higher-education system. The Kent State tragedy ignited a nationwide campus disaster. Between May 4 and May 8, campuses experienced an average of 100 demonstrations a day, 350 campus strikes, 536 colleges shut down, and 73 colleges reported significant violence in their protests.
On that weekend, 100,000 people gathered to protest in Washington. By May 12, over 150 colleges were on strike (VN H. and P.) Many of Nixon’s activities during the second week of May revolved around the Kent State crisis. On May 6, he met with the delegation of the university. But with the storm of people on the outside of the White House, the government never completely stopped.
Despite Nixon’s claims that the media did not portray his serious intentions accurately, his own records reveal almost no discussion of Vietnam, Cambodia, or Kent State at the time. On December 15, Nixon announced his intention to withdraw an additional fifty thousand troops in 1970. Even the president’s faith in that position was shattered after the unprecedented nationwide protests against his invasion of Cambodia in the spring of 1970. (Lewis, 83). As the Nixon administration tried to piece together in the weeks after the crisis, a dramatic decline in antiwar occurred once the colleges closed.
The nationwide response to the Cambodian invasion and the Kent State killings was the last movement by the people, which had such an impact like the summer of 1970. Nixon began to plan a new and even more vigorous offensive against the movement. However, Nixon and his aides still felt undersized during the summer of 1970-from the media, movement, and Congress. For whatever reasons, campus demonstrations and general antiwar activity declined after the spring of 1970. The number and size of marches and protests declined as reported by the mass media. For Nixon, the nation was full with marches, strikes, boycotts, and other forms of activism during the last two years of his administration. Some protesting still lingered, and in the late summer on August 7, 1970, when a young researcher at the University of Wisconsin was killed when the building in which he was working was fire bombed. But the Dove rallies were poorly attended; the movement was winding down. It was not just that the movement was doing poorly, as Nixon himself was doing much better, becoming a popular Democratic spokesperson. On September 16, he appeared to cheering crowds at Kansas State University.
The antiwar movement figured indirectly in the outcome of Vietnam. After Saigon fell, the Watergate affair crippled Nixon’s presidency and dominated his political life until his resignation in August 1974. During this period, he was far too weak to contest with Congress over a renewal of American military involvement in Vietnam. As the crisis in Southern Vietnam now deepened in the middle of 1974, the new president, Gerald Ford, wanted to increase military aide to the faltering Saigon regime. Congress refused his requests to what it saw as pouring more money and lives away. Continuing in 1974 to 1975, the public with the movement, led by Congress and the media, all influenced the arguments presented to more financial and military commitments in Vietnam.
The struggle of the American minds was over, for there would be no more Vietnams in the near future. ( VN H. and P.). Among the most convincing theories of the movement were that it exerted pressures directly on Johnson and Nixon it contributed to the end of their policies. The movement exerted pressures indirectly by turning the public against the war. It encouraged the Northern Vietnamese to fight on long enough to the point that Americans demanded a withdrawal from Southeast Asia; it influenced American political and military strategy; and, slowed the growth of the hawks. It is now clear that the antiwar movement and antiwar criticism in the media and Congress had a significant impact on Vietnam.
It’s key points being the mass demonstrations by the college students across the country and the general public opposition to the war effort in Vietnam. At times, some of their activities, as displayed by the media, may have produced a patriotic backlash. (Gaullucci, 194). Overall, the movement eroded support for Johnson and Nixon, especially by the informed public. Through constant dissident, experts in the movement, the media, and the campuses helped to destroy the knee-jerk notion that “they in Washington have created.” (Small 164 ). Thus, from the beginning of the US involvement in Indochina’s affairs, the antiwar movement in the US from 1965-1971 was the most significant movement of its kind in the nation’s history. — Bibliography Brown, McAfee, et al.
Vietnam: Crisis of Conscience. New York: Association Press, 1967 Gaullucci, Robert L. Neither Peace Nor Honor. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975. Gettleman, Marvin E. Vietnam and America: A documented history.
New York: Grove Press, 1985. Lewis, Lloyd B. The Tainted War. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985. Meyerson, Joel D. Images of a Lengthy War.
Washington, DC: Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data, 1986. Schlight, John. Indochina War Symposium. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1986. Small, Melvin.
Johnson, Nixon, and the Doves. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988. Spector, Ronald H. “Researching the Vietnam Experience” Historical Analysis Series. April1984: 30-31. VN History and Politics Rpt. Http://wwwpersonal.umich.edu:80/~hpp/hispo.html 1996.