This chapter covers the Vietnam conflict, the longest and least successful war in American history. The period of greatest involvement was from 1965 to 1974, and because of their aggressive military policies, it became known as “Johnson’s war” and then “Nixon’s war.” The war and actions against it diverted the domestic agendas of President Johnson and student reform groups. Ironically, President Nixon proved not to be as conservative as expected in some social reform areas. He was also able to make a major foreign policy opening to Communist China and subsequently to Soviet Russia. The civil rights movement spurred demands from other groups from college students to gays, women, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Indians. The Vietnam War and the agendas of the various groups dominated both the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections. The year 1968 was also a key turning point on the battlefield, with the dramatic North Vietnamese “Tet” offensive. While the Americans finally won all the battles, live television footage and interviews with demoralized soldiers shocked the nation because of the gap it illustrated between rosy predictions of impending victory and actual facts. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in rapid succession during the 1968 presidential campaign. The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago was engulfed in great street demonstrations and violence, much of which was also televised. The national mood was dismal and the events of the Nixon administration and Watergate did nothing to rebuild a national political or social consensus.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Explain the spirit of community that college students and other groups were seeking in the 1960s.
Explain how the Vietnam War became Johnson’s and then Nixon’s war in spite of previous American involvement.
Trace the shift in the civil rights movement from King’s leadership to the “Black Power” movement of Stokely Carmichael and others.
Discuss why certain events during 1968 were pivotal in American domestic and foreign policies.
Summarize the impact of the civil rights movement had on other groups and outline the beliefs and agendas of these groups.
Summarize the domestic and foreign policies of the Nixon administration and explain how the Watergate issue brought them to an end.
Trace U.S. involvement in Vietnam through the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations, and show how this helped produce “Johnson’s war” and “Nixon’s war.” (Review Chapters 26 and 27)