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CHAPTER 29 Vietnam and the Limits of Power 1961–1975

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1 CHAPTER 29 Vietnam and the Limits of Power 1961–1975

2 New Frontiers in Foreign Policy
Meeting the “Hour of Maximum Danger” Kennedy and Democrats criticized Eisenhower administration for relying heavily on nuclear weapons - conventional ground forces as well to provide a “flexible response” to Communist expansion. Kennedy exaggerated actual threat to national security but developments in 1961 heightened sense of crisis - rationale. Soviet Union had aligned with independence movements in the third world - Cuba, just ninety miles from Florida. April 17, 1961, about 1,300 anti-Castro exiles trained and armed by CIA landed at the Bay of Pigs on the south shore of Cuba. No popular uprising in Cuba to support anti-Castro uprising - invaders fell to Castro’s forces - humiliation and defeat. Days before Soviet astronaut first human to orbit the earth - in 1969 Americans became the first to set foot on the moon. June 1961, Kennedy and Khrushchev meeting - Soviet demand for agreement recognizing the existence of two Germanys.

3 New Approaches to the Third World
Massive exodus of East Germans into West Berlin embarrassed Communists - East Germany erected a wall between East and West Berlin. Berlin crisis used to add $3.2 billion to defense budget and expand military by 300,000 troops. New Approaches to the Third World Kennedy administration - hard-line policy toward Soviet Union and fresh approaches to nationalist movements for independence in third world countries - publicly supported third world democratic and nationalist aspirations. Alliance for Progress to thwart communism and hold nations in the American sphere with economic development - $20 billion in aid for Latin America over the next decade. In 1961, Peace Corps. Used direct military means - “special forces,” and political stability in the third world - foreign aid initiatives fell far short of their objectives. The Arms Race and the Nuclear Brink Strengthen American nuclear dominance.

4 A Growing War in Vietnam
Superpowers close to using nuclear weapons in 1962, when Khrushchev decided to install nuclear missiles in Cuba. Project appearance of toughness rather than conducting quiet negotiations with Soviets. Kennedy and Khrushchev negotiated an agreement. Soviets removed missiles and pledged no new offensive weapons into Cuba – U. S. promised not to invade Cuba and secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey. Cuban missile crisis contributed to Khrushchev’s fall from power two years later, Kennedy emerged triumphant. Kennedy worked with Khrushchev to prevent further confrontations - installed special “hot line” to speed Communications - in 1963 signed with Great Britain, a limited test ban treaty. A Growing War in Vietnam Kennedy criticized idea of a “Pax Americana enforced in the world by American weapons of war,” but increased flow of those weapons into South Vietnam. Two major problems in the way of Kennedy’s objective of holding firm in Vietnam - South Vietnamese insurgents, Vietcong, an indigenous force; initiative came from within, not from Soviet Union or China.

5 Chemical Weapons

6 Lyndon Johnson’s War against Communism
Second problem - corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government that refused to satisfy demands of insurgents but could not defeat them militarily. North Vietnam invaded - Kennedy responded with measured steps – by 1963 military aid doubled and nine thousand military advisers in Vietnam; sometimes in combat - but Diem government refused to bring reform. American officials assumed that military’s superior technology and sheer power would win struggle. South Vietnamese military leaders launched coup on November 2, executing Premier Diem and his brother. Shocked by the killings but no change in policy – by ,000 Americans served in Vietnam and 100 had died there. Lyndon Johnson’s War against Communism An All-Out Commitment in Vietnam Johnson faced dilemma in Vietnam - commitment to stopping Communism but caution against continued American involvement.

7 Preventing Another Castro in Latin America
Pursue face-saving way out of Vietnam - but Johnson continued dispatching advisers, weapons, and economic aid - in 1964 increased pressure on North Vietnam. Response to report that North Vietnamese gunboats had fired on U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin - Johnson ordered air strikes on North Vietnamese targets - requested and received Congress’s permission to repel further armed attacks against U. S. forces. Johnson’s response to Gulf of Tonkin crisis helped counter opponent, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater’s charges that he was “soft on communism.” Johnson widened the war - rejected peace overtures from North Vietnam - Operation Rolling Thunder, bombing campaign. In 1965 first U.S. ground troops in South Vietnam - in July, U.S. troops from defensive to offensive operations. Preventing Another Castro in Latin America Perpetual problems in Latin America despite efforts of Alliance for Progress. 1964 riots in Panama Canal Zone – U. S. territory since early 1900s. “Yankee imperialism.”

8 In 1961Dominican Republic voters ousted a dictator and elected a constitutional government headed by Juan Bosch. In 1965 Bosch government overthrown by military coup - Johnson sent over 20,000 troops to quell a “leftist revolt” and take control of the island. Yankee force in Latin America damaged the administration at home and abroad. The Americanized War Apparent success in the Dominican Republic encouraged Johnson to press on in Vietnam. U.S. pilots dropped 3.2 million tons of explosives - more than U. S. launched in all of World War II. General William Westmoreland’s strategy of attrition - to search out and kill the Vietcong and North Vietnamese regular army. American soldiers did not always distinguish between military combatants and civilians. Teenagers fought the Vietnam War. Poor and working class 80 percent of troops; privileged youth avoided draft using college deferments or family connections. U. S. did not undergo full mobilization for Vietnam – but between 7,500 and 10,000 women served in Vietnam, majority nurses.


10 A Nation Polarized The Widening War at Home
Early in the war, African Americans constituted 31 percent of combat troops - military over meager opportunities in civilian economy - death rates among black soldiers disproportionately high until 1966 military adjusted assignments to achieve a better racial balance. A Nation Polarized The Widening War at Home Johnson’s authorization of Operation Rolling Thunder sparked mass movement against the war - in April 1965, chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) sprang up on more than 300 college campuses across the country. Antiwar sentiment in mainstream society - many prominent critics by 1968. Opposition to the war - letter-writing campaigns to officials, teach ins on college campuses, mass marches, student strikes, withholding of federal taxes, draft card burnings, and civil disobedience against military centers and producers of war materials. Refusal to fight in the war - based on morals and practical issues.


12 Antiwar movement outraged millions of Americans who supported the war and President Johnson.
FBI infiltrated peace movement, disrupted its work, and spread false information about activists – even resorting to illegal measures failed to subdue the opposition. 1968: Year of Upheaval American society polarized over the war - grave doubts about the war – in 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara believed that U. S. could not defeat the North Vietnamese and left the administration in 1968. Critical turning point with Tet Offensive on January 30, 1968, when North Vietnamese and Vietcong attacked key cities and every major American base in South Vietnam. Tet Offensive underscored credibility gap between official statements and war’s actual progress. On March 31, 1968, Lyndon Johnson in a televised speech announced U. S. would reduce its bombing of North Vietnam and begin peace talks with its leaders and that he would not run for reelection.


14 End of gradual escalation that began in shift from increasing American forces to “Vietnamization,” a reliance on the South Vietnamese. Negotiations began in Paris in May 1968, long drawn out. At home, violence escalated – in 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy. In August, protesters battled the police in Chicago, where Democratic Party had convened to nominate its presidential ticket. Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley issued ban on rallies and marches, ordered a curfew, and mobilized thousands of police. On August 25, police responded to jeering protesters with tear gas and clubs, three days of street battles and police riot on August 28 - police used mace and nightsticks on those who came to provoke violence and also on reporters, convention delegates, and peaceful demonstrators. A strong third party candidate: staunch segregationist George C. Wallace ran on ticket of American Independent Party.

15 Search for Peace in Vietnam
American Independent Party produced strongest third-party finish since 1924, but Republican Nixon managed to edge out Democrat Hubert Humphrey by just half a million popular votes. 1968 elections revealed deep cracks in coalition that, except in Eisenhower years, kept Democrats in power for thirty years. Nixon, Détente, and the Search for Peace in Vietnam Moving toward Détente with the Soviet Union and China Working with Henry Kissinger, Nixon exploited deterioration of Soviet-Chinese relations that had begun in early 1960s. After two years of secret negotiations, in February 1972, Nixon first president to visit China - symbolic, but followed with cultural and scientific exchanges. As Nixon and Henry Kissinger hoped, the warming of U.S.-Chinese relations increased Soviet responsiveness to their strategy of détente. In May 1972, Nixon visited Moscow, signing several agreements on trade and cooperation in science and space, and concluding arms limitation treaties that had grown out of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) begun in 1969.

16 Shoring Up Anticommunism in the Third World
Nixon and Kissinger equated Marxism with a threat to U.S. interests - resisted social revolutions that lead to communism. IN 1970s helped overthrow Salvador Allende, a Marxist elected president of Chile. In 1973, with CIA help Chilean military led a coup, killed Allende - established brutal dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet. Nixon administration stood by many repressive governments. Delicate balance between defending Israel’s security and seeking goodwill of Arab nations strategically and economically important to U. S. Israel won victory in Six-Day War in seized territory twice its original size. Anti-American sentiment among Arabs who viewed U. S. as Israel’s supporter.

17 Vietnam Becomes Nixon’s War
Nixon and Kissinger embraced the non-Communist South Vietnam idea - incidental to the larger objective of maintaining American credibility. From 1969 to 1972, Nixon and Kissinger pursued a four-pronged approach in Vietnam: strengthen the South Vietnamese military and government, disarm the antiwar movement at home, negotiate with North Vietnam and the Soviet Union, and conduct a massive bombing campaign. Vietnamization of the war - ARVN forces over one million, and their air force became the fourth largest in the world. Withdrawal of U.S. forces. In spring 1969, Nixon began a ferocious air war in Cambodia, hiding it from Congress and the public for more than a year. In April 1970, Nixon ordered a joint U.S.-ARVN invasion of Cambodia - “Nixon’s” war - outrage at home.

18 Huge antiwar protests - Kent State University in Ohio (four students killed), and at Jackson State College in Mississippi (police killed two students). Congress concerned about abuses of Presidential power; Senate voted to terminate Gulf of Tonkin Resolution - House did not go along but Nixon pulled U.S. soldiers out of Cambodia. Cambodian invasion failed to break will of North Vietnam and North Vietnamese presence in Cambodia strengthened the Khmer Rouge and spurred on a brutal civil war in that country. By 1971, Vietnam veterans visible part of the peace movement, first in U.S. history to organize against war in which they fought. After spring 1971 fewer massive antiwar demonstrations - protest continued - Americans learned of My Lai massacre and government’s cover-up of event. Administration policy suffered another blow in June 1971 with publication of Pentagon Papers, a secret government study critical of U.S. policy in Vietnam - military morale sank.

19 The Peace Accords and the Legacy of Defeat
Military force and negotiation - intensive firepower could bring North Vietnamese to their knees. Peace talks stalled - Nixon ordered most devastating bombing of North Vietnam (coined “jugular diplomacy” by Kissinger) - costly to both sides but brought about renewed negotiations. Nixon claimed agreement brought “peace with honor,” but it actually allowed face-saving withdrawal for U. S. Fighting resumed immediately among Vietnamese - Nixon’s ability to support South Vietnam, and govern eroded by Watergate scandals. May 1, 1975 North Vietnamese occupied Saigon - Americans evacuated with 150,000 of their South Vietnamese allies. During four years it took to end the war, Nixon expanded conflict into Cambodia and Laos - massive bombing campaign; many legislators criticized war but Congress never denied funds to fight it.

20 War Powers Act in November 1973.
Dire predictions of three presidents, Communist victory in South Vietnam would set dominoes cascading turned out to be false – complicated U. S. relations with its allies and alienated many countries in the Third World. Veterans reactions to defeat: Commitment an honorable one - betrayed by U.S. government for not letting them and their now-dead comrades win the war Blamed government for sacrificing nation’s youth in an immoral or useless war. Vietnam War combat brutal – civil and guerilla warfare. Veterans came home to public neglect - harassment from antiwar activists – did not distinguish war from warriors. Veterans Administration (VA) estimated nearly one-sixth of three million veterans suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. Incorporation of Vietnam War into collective experience symbolized in Vietnam Veterans Memorial unveiled in Washington, D.C., in November 1982.





25 Pro-War Demonstrators

26 Students Killed at Kent State

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