The Vietnam War and its Effect on American Society Essay
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The Vietnam War was started by President Eisenhower. He was the first to involve the United States in the conflict between North and South Vietnam, by putting in CIA operatives and military advisors in South Vietnam (ushistory). The US’s involvement grew with every passing president. President Kennedy was the first to put soldiers in Vietnam. Johnson orders the first official combat of the United States soldiers. Finally, the war ended after eighteen years after it was declared by President Richard Nixon.
The war had a lasting effect on all parties involved. The US lost its first war, the objective of stopping communism from spreading failed. The war was also the first that the people and soldiers couldn’t look back on with pride of a sense of accomplishment (Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1).
Due to the government’s secrecy and over reach of power, a distrust of the United States government, as an institution, grew that still exists today. The fall out of the war had massive, negative impacts on south East Asian countries.
More countries would fall to communism. The devastation of the war caused economic repercussions that still effect countries today. Not only did the war cause lasting damage multiple countries, but it allowed situations that caused the death, slaughter, and starvation of millions in the years following the war (sparknotes).
The Vietnam War was started based on the Domino Theory. This theory was adopted by President Eisenhower; it concisely stated that if South Vietnam fell to communism, many other South East Asia countries would become more accepting of communism and eventually adopt it (vietnamawbb 1). “If Indochina falls, Thailand is put in an almost impossible position. The same is true of Malaya with its rubber and tin. The same is true of Indonesia. If this whole part of South East Asia goes under Communist domination or Communist influence, Japan, who trades and must trade with this area in order to exist must inevitably be oriented towards the Communist regime” (vietnamawbb 1) The Domino effect was the driving force for the Vietnam War. With the end of World War II, the USSR was the greatest threat to Democracy and Capitalism.
Vietnam, being in a centralized location, allowed many of the trade routes of South East Asian countries to pass through it. Many traders would have to come into contact with the political and economic structure within Vietnam, and through this eventually communism as a form of government would have to be accepted. The involvement of the United States lead more counties fall to communism. If the United States had not been so reckless with its military investment less countries would have turned to communist governments. The United States was the first domino in the South East Asian countries establishing communistic governments.
American leadership viewed communism as an economic and legal philosophy that “destroys justice” and “enslaves men” (Nixon 1). This perception, along with the military threats that the communist countries posed at the time, made communism the enemy of freedom and Democracy. The people of the United States had always fought for freedom: The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Now the world saw the new face of oppression, Communism. That drove the people and the politicians to purposely involve themselves in the Vietnam conflict.
The eighteen year war was a complete and utter failure. It cost the American people billions of dollars, almost 60,000 Americans lives and hundred thousands more were injured. The war did not accomplish what it was supposed to do, the objective, stopping communism spreading to South Vietnam, was not achieved. Within two years of the United States ending its military involvement the north took over the south and annexed it forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (ushistory 1). In fact, due to the desperate measures that the US took to try and rout the enemy caused, neighboring countries, Laos and Cambodia to fall to Communism. In March of 1969 the United States started a carpet bombing campaign that would last four years. Authorized by President Nixon the operation was kept secret from congress and the American people.
Along with the bombing campaign the US also invaded both Laos and Cambodia. The goal of both operations was to disrupt supply lines that aided North Vietnam. In 1973, the carpet bombing campaign became public knowledge and was stopped due to public opinion. This massive bombing displaced almost thirty percent of the populations from both countries, causing massive instability of the government’s there (rabble 1). Through the US’s involvement in those countries, communist government were established. Only through the US’s bombing campaign and invasion were the communist rebels were able to take over the weakened governments. Another failure and another “domino” falling because of the United States. A Large Part of the Vietnam War that cause a major change in American society was the discovery and recognition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD and the physical disabilities that many soldiers received during the war.
“It begins with an event in which the individual is threatened with his or her own death or the destruction of a body part, to such humiliation that their personal identity may be lost.”(Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1). This is the definition of the traumatic event that causes PTSD. Symptoms include feeling: helplessness, worthlessness, dejection, anger, depression, insomnia, and a tendency to react to tense situations by using survival tactics (Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1). PTSD wasn’t identified until the 80’s (Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1). When thousands of Vietnam veterans were reporting the same symptoms. The effects of PTSD usually don’t appear until about a year after the traumatic experience, this along with a limited understanding of the human psyche, made it easy for the government to disregard PTSD (Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1). The governments disregard for the veterans mental health caused resentment toward the Government, for using them and then not taking care of them after the war.
In Vietnam, not only were psychological problems but physical problems like, the massive drug problem among the soldiers. At the start of the war Marijuana was widely used and the soldiers first choice. Then the media found out that drugs were in mass usage in the United States military, the government quickly banned the smoking to marijuana to stop the bad press that came from the drug. Soon after, many soldiers turned to heroin for their ‘fix’. This switch was enjoyed by many soldiers because of the different effects of the drugs marijuana slowed down the perception of time, heroin sped up the perception of time. The drugs and alcohol in Vietnam were so inexpensive that they were easily taken to try and forget the horrors that they saw on the battlefield (Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1). But with the return of the soldiers to the United States, many had addictions that were exponentially harder to maintain because of the stricter drugs laws in the US.
Most veterans were still too young to buy alcohol in the United States. One of the worst things by far that came from the many publicized addiction employers used serving Vietnam as evidence of a drug addiction, and were refused employment (Hochgesang, Lawyer, Stevenson 1). The movement against the Vietnam War did become widely popularized until 1965 (History 1). Contrary to what many people believe before 1965, there was wide spread support of the war. Only two congressmen voted against president Johnson waging war against north Vietnam (ushistory 1). The student lead protests had the most support during 1968 after a successful North offensive. Over 40,000 men were forced into service each month, through the governments usage of the draft (history 1). This only cause less and less support for the war form the people. The Tet Offensive in January of 1968 was a serious blow to US moral.
By February of 1968 only thirty five percent approved of the war and fifty percent actively disapproved of it. Many war veterans joined in the anti-war protest (history 1). As more and more people joined in protest, and more and more information was revealed about the war crimes and horrors that happened in Vietnam, support for the war rapidly decreased until President Nixon announced the end to the US’s involvement in the conflict (history 1). The amount of protests that ended in violence and deaths of protesters caused approval of the government to plummet. The United States hiding operations from the American people, like the bombing and invasion of Laos and Cambodia, cause an ingrained distrust of the government in issues like transparences and being morally just that has lasted decades.
Over all, the Vietnam war was a failure for United States. The government failed to secure public support of the war after, their promises of a quick war fell short. Not only did they not secure it, they lost support of the American people in the later years of the conlict. The American government made an entire generation of veterans feel like they were tools to be used and thrown away. The Government did not recognize a massive disorder that thousands to veterans got during the war. They lost the trust of generations. The War also cost tens of thousands American lives and destroyed Millions more after the US left the conflict. The wars objective also failed, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia all established communist government in the years following the war. The Vietnam War was an overall failure and disappointment that still effects people today.