The Vietnam War Early Involvement in Vietnam



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The Vietnam War
Early Involvement in Vietnam

  • in 1941, Japanese invaded French colony of Indochina (Vietnam) causing US to enact oil embargo

  • after World War II, France attempted to retake its lost colony – communist Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, asked Truman to support Vietnamese independence – Truman Doctrine and desire for French support in the Cold War caused Truman to ignore Ho Chi Minh’s request

  • US gave financial aid to French in their war to control Vietnam – US viewed Vietnam as another “battle” in Cold War

  • 1954 – French army forced to surrender at Dien Bien Phu – effort to keep Vietnam non-communist now fell to US

  • Geneva Conference (1954)

    • France agreed to give up Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia)

    • Vietnam was temporarily divided at 17th parallel between communist North (ruled by Ho Chi Minh) and non-communist South (under pro-West Ngo Dinh Diem)

    • elections were to reunite country but were never held because South knew Ho Chi Minh would win

  • “domino theory” – both Eisenhower and Kennedy gave over $1 billion in economic aid to South Vietnam and justified it by claiming that fall of Vietnam would lead to fall of all Southeast Asia putting Australia and New Zealand in danger

    • Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) – under Dulles (Eisenhower), US and allies created regional alliance to defend one another in case of an attack

US Involvement Grows

  • JFK increased US involvement by sending military “advisers” and Green Berets (special forces) to train the South Vietnamese forces; by 1963, there were over 16,000 US troops in Vietnam in a support role, not in combat

  • Ngo Dinh Diem’s government grew increasingly unpopular with peasants and it became unclear whether Diem could hold-off the communist insurgency

    • in 1963, South Vietnamese generals (with CIA assistance) assassinated Diem with JFK’s apparent approval

  • Tonkin Gulf Incident and Resolution (1964)

    • by 1964, South Vietnam’s government was unraveling and LBJ was criticized by Goldwater for not giving more support to the South in its war against the Vietcong (communist guerillas in the South)

    • August, 1964 – North Vietnamese appeared to fire on US ships in a mysterious incident in the Tonkin Gulf; LBJ used the incident to win congressional support for US troops to engage in combat in Vietnam

    • Tonkin Gulf Resolution

      • Congress (in an almost unanimous vote) authorized LBJ to take “all necessary measures” to protect US interests in Vietnam

      • LBJ likened the resolution to “grandma’s nightshirt” because “it covered everything”

      • the resolution enabled LBJ to escalate rapidly America’s involvement in Vietnam

  • escalation – US involvement in Vietnam will steadily grew throughout LBJ’s presidency

    • Operation Rolling Thunder – after a Vietcong attack on US base at Pleiku in 1965, LBJ responded with long, sustained bombings of North Vietnam

    • US increased troop levels and launched “search-and-destroy” missions to find Vietcong

      • 1965 – 184,000 US troops

      • 1967 – 485,000

      • 1969 – 540,000 (the peak)

    • General William Westmoreland – US commander in Vietnam who continually asked for more troops

The War at Home

  • “credibility gap” – perception that LBJ and the military were not being honest with the American people about the scope and costs of the war

  • “TV war” – television coverage of the war, including the violence, casualties, and destruction, helped shaped American public opinion

  • “hawks” vs. “doves” – Americans divided between war supporters (hawks) and opponents (doves)

    • many saw war as a Vietnamese civil war that should not involve the US

    • civil rights leaders (MLK) opposed war because it took money from Great Society, anti-poverty programs

    • Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led student opposition to war; many feared being drafted

    • Eugene McCarthy was first antiwar Democrat to challenge LBJ for nomination in 1968; his early success in the primary campaign inspired Robert Kennedy to seek nomination

  • Tet Offensive (1968)

    • Vietcong launched an all-out, surprise attack against US bases in the South on Tet (Vietnamese new year)

    • US counterattacked, inflicting heavy casualties and recovering all lost territory

    • Tet significantly reduced the American public’s support for the war and for LBJ’s Vietnam policy; though Tet was a military victory for US and South, it was a political victory for the Vietcong and the North

    • LBJ made a TV address, promising he would reduce bombing, seek peace, and withdraw from 1968 race; some criticized LBJ for “quitting” in the middle of the war

1968 – A Terrible Year

  • January – Tet Offensive turned American public opinion against war in Vietnam

  • April – Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated in Memphis, TN by James Earl Ray, touching off riots in all major cities

  • June – after RFK won the presidential primary in CA (and appeared the likely Democratic nominee in 1968), Arab nationalist, Sirhan Sirhan, shot and killed him

  • Election of 1968

    • Democrats: nominated VP Hubert Humphrey who supported LBJ’s policy in Vietnam

      • Democratic convention in Chicago was rocked by antiwar protests outside; mayor Richard Daley used police to silence protestors; chaos ensued and was on TV (“the whole world is watching”)

      • Democrats resisted the call for an antiwar platform

    • American Independent: AL governor George Wallace

      • segregationist who represented those angered by antiwar protests, desegregation, and race riots; railed against the “liberals, intellectuals, and longhairs (hippies)”

      • won 46 electoral votes and 13% of popular vote

    • Republicans: nominated former VP Richard Nixon

      • Nixon was a “hawk” on Vietnam, but spoke of a vague “plan” to end the war (“peace with honor”)

      • Nixon narrowly edged Humphrey in popular vote but easily won electoral vote, 301-191

    • Nixon and Wallace’s combined 57% of vote indicated America (the “silent majority”) was tired of the upheaval of the 1960s (protest, violence, counterculture, drugs, sexual revolution, and federal intervention in social institutions); the elections of the 1970s and 1980s confirmed that conservatism was overtaking the New Deal liberalism of the past

Nixon and Vietnam

  • “Vietnamization” – Nixon’s policy to gradually reduce US troops in Vietnam while increasing the funds, arms, and training to South Vietnam – by 1972, US troop strength was reduced from 540,000 to 30,000

    • Nixon Doctrine – declared that US would support Asian allies with money and supplies, but not with extensive use of US ground troops

  • Protests continue

    • April, 1970 – Nixon authorized US forces to invade Cambodia in search of Vietcong

      • college campuses erupted in protest; National Guard troops shot and killed 4 students at Kent State (OH) and 2 black students at Jackson State (MS); in response to shootings, campuses across America organized a “student strike”

      • the Senate (but not the House) voted to repeal Tonkin Gulf Resolution

    • My Lai (1968/1970)

      • in 1970, the public learned about a 1968 massacre of Vietnamese women and children by US troops in My Lai village (a village that had harbored Vietcong)

      • only top officer, Lt. Calley, was convicted, serving only 3 years of life sentence

    • Pentagon Papers – the New York Times published a secret government document (leaked by Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg) that revealed government mistakes and deceptions regarding Vietnam

  • Paris Peace Accords (1973)

    • Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, negotiated secretly with North Vietnamese; in 1972, he announced a deal was at hand but when the North backed away, Nixon responded with massive bombings

    • 1973 – Paris Peace Accords signed

      • established a ceasefire and called for free elections in Vietnam

      • US pledged to withdraw all troops; the North promised to return all POWs

  • Post-withdrawal

    • Ford failed to secure additional financial aid from Congress in 1974

    • in 1975, communists overran South Vietnam (the “Fall of Saigon”); over 1 million Vietnamese imprisoned by the communists, while 100,000’s fled (“boat people”); US managed to evacuate over 150,000 pro-US Vietnamese before collapse

    • US prestige in the world at its lowest point

  • Effects of the war

    • over 58,000 Americans killed and 300,000 wounded; an estimated 2 to 3 million Vietnamese died

    • the war cost $118 billion, which triggered inflation that would hurt the US economy for the rest of the 1970s; it also took funds away from LBJ’s Great Society programs

    • the 26th Amendment required states to set a maximum voting age of 18, reduced from 21 in many states

    • Congress passed the War Powers Resolution (1973)

      • the revelation of Nixon’s bombing raids in Cambodia led Congress to limit president’s war powers

      • the law requires the president to report any military action to Congress within 48 hours

      • also requires congressional approval (or a declaration of war) for any military action lasting more than 60 days

    • the public’s morale, national pride, and its faith in the government sunk to all-time lows largely because of the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal (1973-74)

    • “Vietnam syndrome”

      • after the war, the US became more hesitant to use its military for fear of “another Vietnam”

      • the military’s morale and the public’s confidence in military were low

      • “Vietnam syndrome” largely evaporated after the quick and successful Persian Gulf War (1991)

Nixon’s Presidency and the Watergate Scandal
Nixon’s Foreign Policy

  • Henry Kissinger – Nixon’s national security adviser (and secretary of state), who helped design Nixon’s foreign policy

    • realpolitik

      • Nixon and Kissinger’s approach to foreign policy that promotes dealing with other nations in a practical manner, rather than on the basis of strict doctrines or ethics

      • they saw the Cold War, not as an ideological struggle between good and evil, but a rivalry between superpowers that had to be managed and controlled

    • Chile

      • after socialist Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970, the CIA worked with Allende’s opponents to orchestrate a coup, installing brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973

  • Nixon and the Cold War

    • Nixon and Kissinger took advantage of the growing rivalry between communist China and the Soviet Union to bolster the US position

      • they enticed the Soviets with trade goods, particularly technology and grain

      • they improved ties with communist China; in 1972, Nixon visited Mao and opened diplomatic relations, clearing the way for the US to recognize “Red China” in 1979

    • SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty)

      • Nixon used his new relationship with China to convince the Soviets to agree to limit production of antiballistic missiles (ABMs)

      • the treaty did not end the arms race, but it helped ease tensions

  • détente

    • a policy, accepted by many of the major powers in the early 1970s, aimed at relaxing Cold War tensions

    • détente emerged in response to the social, political, and economic unrest of the late 1960s that threatened stability in the US, Soviet Union, and in other countries

    • it was hoped that easing Cold War tensions would also reduce the pressures that world leaders faced at home; Nixon, Ford, and Carter all pursued some degree of détente with the Soviet Union

  • Middle East

    • in 1973, Arab nations again attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War; Nixon responded by putting nuclear forces on alert and sending $2 billion in arms to Israel

    • Arab members of OPEC responded by placing an oil embargo on Israel’s supporters

      • consumers faced oil shortages and long lines at gas stations (“energy crisis”)

      • economy suffered as inflation soared and Americans switched to smaller, fuel-efficient Japanese cars costing many American automaker jobs

      • Congress responded with 55-MPH speed limit and oil pipeline from Alaska; inflation continued

Nixon’s Domestic Policy

  • New Federalism – Nixon’s attempt to curb the Great Society programs by returning the administration of social welfare programs to states (an idea known as devolution) and providing federal dollars to fund many of them

    • revenue sharing – Congress approved giving $30 billion in “block grants” to states to spend as they see fit

    • Nixon also attempted to “impound” (not spend) funds appropriated for social programs; the courts ruled that it was the president’s duty to carry out laws of Congress and “impounding” was an abuse of executive power

  • Nixon’s economic policies

    • “stagflation” – combination of economic slowdown (“stagnant” economy plus high unemployment) combined with high inflation (“stagflation” plagued US economy in 1970s)

    • Nixon responded by imposing a 90-day wage and price freeze; he took the dollar off the gold standard; and added a 10% tax on imports to improve the balance of trade

    • by 1972, a recession had ended; but the stagnant economy eventually returned

  • Nixon’s other domestic programs

    • Nixon surprisingly supported expansion of some welfare programs, including Food Stamps, Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Supplemental Security Income (which assisted elderly, blind, disabled), and expensive cost-of-living Social Security increases

    • Philadelphia Plan (affirmative action)

      • required the federal government and its contractors to hire a set number of minorities to offset centuries of discrimination

      • critics claimed it was “reverse discrimination”

      • Bakke v. Regents of the University of California (1978)

        • Court ruled 5-4 that preference for admission to college cannot be given to any group solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity, but it can be one factor in determining admission

        • ruling did not end affirmative action, but did outlaw quotas

    • environmental protections

      • Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

      • inspired by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Congress passed the Clean Air Act (1970) and Endangered Species Protection Act (1973)

  • Burger Court

    • Nixon was able to replace four liberal justices of the Warren Court; appointed Warren Burger as chief justice

    • Roe v. Wade (1973) – legalized abortion

  • Election of 1972

    • “silent majority” – Nixon believed majority of Americans (those not engaged in protests and unrest of 1960s) were tired of antiwar protests, Black Power, forced integration, and the counterculture

    • Nixon’s “southern strategy”

      • to capitalize on the break-up of the Democrats’ “Solid South,” Nixon developed a strategy to win over southern voters to the Republican party

      • he asked federal courts to delay integration in the South and he appointed two southern conservatives to Supreme Court (although the Senate rejected both)

    • results

      • Nixon won landslide victory (60.8% PV) over liberal George McGovern

      • Democrats kept Congress, but the victory signaled a shift of Republican power to the South and the suburbs

Ford, Carter, and the Seventies
Ford Presidency

  • Gerald Ford (Michigan) was the first vice president to be appointed (under the 25th Amendment) when Nixon’s first vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned

  • when Nixon resigned due to Watergate, Ford became only president never elected president or vice president

    • one month into office, Ford lost the support of many when he granted Nixon a full and unconditional pardon

      • Ford was accused of making a “corrupt bargain” with Nixon, some believing he agreed to pardon Nixon as a condition of being named vice president

      • Ford defended his decision to end “our long national nightmare,” claiming Watergate threatened to consume the government and distract it from other pressing issues

  • Cambodia (1975)

    • US-supported government fell to the communist Khmer Rouge, which then killed over 1 million Cambodians

    • after the US merchant ship Mayaguez was seized by Cambodians, Ford ordered a rescue operation that saved the ship’s crew but cost the lives of 38 Marines

  • Ford and détente

    • Helsinki Accords (1975)

      • Ford and other nations settled Eastern European border issues with the Soviet Union

      • the Soviets also agreed to an East-West people and information exchange, as well as pledged to protect basic human rights

    • many Americans, however, were becoming critical of détente, as it appeared the US was giving more than the Soviets gave in return

  • Ford attempted to halt rising inflation by urging businesses and consumers to take voluntary measures; he encouraged Americans to “WIN” (or “Whip Inflation Now”), but the economy, inflation, unemployment only worsened

  • Ford’s decency and humility, as well as the patriotic fervor caused by the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, helped ease some of the pain of Vietnam and Watergate

Carter Presidency

  • Election of 1976

    • Republicans: Ford narrowly won nomination over the more-conservative Ronald Reagan

    • Democrats nominated the little-known, former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter

      • Carter ran as a “Washington outsider” (one unassociated with Vietnam and Watergate)

    • Carter won narrowly (287-241) by carrying most of the South and winning 97% of the black vote

  • Carter’s foreign policy

    • “human rights diplomacy”

      • Carter preached that other governments must protect human rights as a key condition to receiving US aid and support

      • he denounced the oppression of blacks in South Africa (apartheid) and Zimbabwe, and cut off US aid to Argentina and Chile for violating human rights

    • Panama Canal (1978)

      • Carter negotiated a treaty to return the Panama Canal to Panamanian control by 2000

      • he was criticized in the 1980 election for “giving away” the canal

    • Camp David Accords (1978)

      • Carter arranged a peace settlement between Egypt and Israel by calling the leaders of these bitter enemies together at Camp David, with Carter acting as the intermediary

      • Egypt became the first Arab nation to recognize Israel; Israel responded with concessions to Arabs

      • Camp David was Carter’s greatest success, but was soon overshadowed by the hostage crisis

    • Iranian hostage crisis (1979-1980)

      • in 1979, Islamic fundamentalists (led by Ayatollah Khomeini) overthrew the pro-Western government of the shah of Iran; this reduced oil exports, causing another energy shortage and price increases

      • in November, militants seized the US embassy in Teheran and took over 50 Americans hostage for the remainder of Carter’s presidency

      • Carter attempted a rescue mission that failed; many saw it as symbolic of a failed presidency

  • Carter and the Cold War

    • Carter attempted to continue the policy of détente but Soviet actions ended it

      • in 1979, he exchanged ambassadors with communist China and ended official recognition of the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan

      • he negotiated the SALT II treaty, which would have limited the size of the US and Soviet nuclear delivery systems

        • the Senate rejected the treaty after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan (which was near vital Middle East oil fields)

        • the Soviet invasion ended a decade of détente; Carter responded with a grain and technology embargo and a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics

  • Carter’s domestic policy

    • like Nixon-Ford, Carter struggled to reduce inflation, which peaked at 13% in 1979-1980

    • the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board tried to break inflation by pushing interest rates to a high of 20%, but this only hurt the auto and construction industries, which were forced to lay off tens of thousands

    • since many social programs were tied to the inflation rate, the cost of these programs rose, leading to higher taxes; in many states, frustrated citizens staged “taxpayers’ revolts” as the standard of living was declining

    • Carter also granted amnesty to all Vietnam-era draft dodgers on his first day in office

  • the “Malaise” (or “crisis of confidence”) speech

    • in a TV “pep talk,” Carter blamed the nation’s problems on a “moral and spiritual crisis” of the people

    • most Americans, however, blamed him for a lack of leadership; his popularity plummeted to only 23%

Cultural and Social Change in the 1960s and 1970s
Black Nationalism

  • following the significant civil rights accomplishments of the mid-1960s (most notably, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965), a younger, more assertive (often militant) generation of civil rights activists emerged

  • they were often northerners living in urban areas like New York, Detroit, Washington, and Oakland, who felt that the civil rights movement had focused exclusively on southern issues (voting rights, segregation, etc.) and had neglected the plight of the black urban poor

    • Nation of Islam (Black Muslims)

      • founded by Elijah Muhammad, who advocated black nationalism, separatism, and self-improvement

      • movement was similar to Marcus Garvey in the 1920s

    • Malcolm X

      • criticized MLK as “Uncle Tom,” advocated militancy to fight white violence

      • eventually left Black Muslims and adopted a more moderate approach; was assassinated by Black Muslims in 1965

    • Black Power movement – a more radical and militant civil rights movement

      • Stokely Carmichael, chairman of SNCC, repudiated SNCC’s nonviolent philosophy and advocated “black power” and racial separatism

      • Black Panthers

        • organized in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, advocating black self-rule

        • used aggressive rhetoric (slogans like “get whitey,” “burn, baby, burn,” and “off the pigs [police]”) and were often seen wearing military-style attire or black clothing, while openly carrying weapons

        • while several acts of violence were attributed to the Panthers, they also advocated a Ten-Point Program of economic and political demands

        • the Panthers also ran their own social welfare programs (run largely by women within the organization) that offered poor blacks free immunizations, health screenings, breakfasts, and clothing

      • the Black Power movement may have inspired numerous race riots between 1964 and 1968, including the deadly Watts riots

Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

  • Kerner Commission (1968)

    • in response to violent race riots that swept major cities between 1965 and 1968, LBJ organized a commission to investigate the causes and recommend ways to end violence

    • the commission concluded the riots were caused by blacks’ frustration with the lack of economic opportunities and white racism (“Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”)

  • de jure vs. de facto segregation

    • de jure segregation refers to legalized segregation (such as laws that mandated separate schools for blacks and whites); this was eliminated as a result of civil rights movement

    • de facto segregation refers to segregation as a matter of practice (such as neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly white or black); this remains prevalent in both the South and North

      • “red-lining” – refers to the practice of limiting economic opportunities to certain groups of people; usually seen in real estate and banking where red lines would be drawn around lower income (minority) neighborhoods to indicate that mortgage loans should not be offered there

      • “sundown towns” – refers to towns that were overwhelmingly white due to deliberate steps by residents or local governments to keep them that way (could include high tax rates, inflated home values, realtor practices designed to steer minorities away, or acts of intimidation or violence)

The Women’s Movement

  • history of the women’s movement

    • “first wave” feminism – refers to the early women’s rights movement that begin during the antebellum decades and continued through the early twentieth century

      • primary goal was to attain suffrage, property rights, and other legal rights for women, culminating with the 19th Amendment in 1920

      • led by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, the Grimke sisters, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Margaret Sanger, Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Lucy Burns

    • “second wave” feminism” – refers to the post-WWII women’s movement that peaked in the 1960s and 1970s

      • primary goals included removing de facto inequalities, such as hiring and pay discrimination, family issues, sexuality and reproductive rights

      • led by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and the National Organization for Women (NOW)

  • the women’s movement (second-wave) was sparked by:

    • the increased educational and job opportunities for women in 1950s

    • the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution in 1960s; the birth-control “pill” became available in 1960

    • the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963

      • Freidan questioned women’s role as housewives, asking “Is this all?”

      • Friedan’s book (and the women’s movement, in general) were criticized for focusing too much on white, middle-class women and excluding working class and minority women

  • legislative accomplishments

    • Equal Pay Act of 1963 – outlawed gender discrimination in pay

    • Civil Rights Act of 1964 – in addition to its protections for blacks and other minorities, it also outlawed gender discrimination in hiring

  • Roe v. Wade (1973)

    • the Supreme Court declared that an implied “right to privacy” in the Constitution gave women the right to seek an abortion

    • in so doing, the Court struck down state laws aimed at protecting the life of the unborn child; the Court concluded that unborn children were not legal “persons” entitled to a “right to life”

    • some celebrated the decision as a victory for women, granting them greater reproductive rights; others criticized the decision as legalizing “murder” and for denying the personhood of the unborn, much like the Court did to slaves in the Dred Scott decision

    • an estimated 50 million abortions have been performed since the Roe decision in 1973

  • Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

    • the ERA would have prevented the denial of equal rights on the basis of one’s gender

    • it passed the Congress in 1972, but despite heavy campaigning, fell three states short of the 38 needed for ratification

    • Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative spokeswoman, led the opposition (“Stop ERA”)

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments (1972)

    • “Title Nine” prohibited gender discrimination in any federally-funded educational program; its greatest impact was on women’s athletics

  • women’s presence grew in jobs previously dominated by men (business, law, medicine, politics)

    • “glass ceiling” – idea that there remains a “limit” to how high women could rise in society

Modern” Immigration

  • before the 1960s, most immigrants to the US came from Canada and Europe; by the 1980s, nearly half came from Latin America and over one-third came from Asia

  • causes of increased immigration

    • Immigration Act of 1965 ended quotas and opened doors to more immigrants worldwide

    • many were refugees fleeing communist takeovers of Cuba and Vietnam

  • by 1980, estimated 12 million immigrants were in US illegally; Congress responded with Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986) which penalized employers who hired illegals

Minority Rights Movements

  • Hispanics (also referred to as the Latino or Chicano movement)

    • many Hispanics worked as low-wage agricultural workers and were often exploited

    • Cesar Chavez organized boycotts that helped win United Farm Workers Organization the right to bargain collectively in 1975

    • Mexican-Americans won federal mandate requiring bilingual education for Hispanic children

    • the 2000 census named Hispanics as the nation’s largest minority group

  • Native Americans

    • the American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968 to achieve self-determination and revival of tribal traditions; AIM activists seized Alcatraz Island and the Wounded Knee site

    • Indian Self-Determination Act (1975) – granted greater power to tribes over internal programs (which allowed tribes to develop their own industries and casinos), education, law enforcement

    • Indians have used courts to regain property and win compensation for treaty violations

  • Asian Americans

    • by 1980s, Asians (including Arab Americans) were fastest-growing immigrant group

    • their dedication to education gave Asians disproportionate numbers in colleges

    • some experienced “Japan-bashing” in 1970s and 1980s, as American economy suffered in comparison to Japan’s; Americans were criticized for buying Japanese-made cars

  • Gay liberation movement

    • a 1969 raid on the Stonewall Inn (a NYC gay bar) sparked riots and launched the gay rights movement; movement urged gays to be open about their sexuality and to work to end discrimination

    • accomplishments:

      • by the mid-1970s, homosexuality was no longer classified as a mental illness by the APA and the federal government dropped a ban on hiring homosexuals

      • in 1993, Clinton tried to end discrimination in the military, but settled for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for service members; in 2011, Congress ended the policy, allowing openly gay service members

      • several states now sanction gay marriages or civil unions

The Reagan Revolution
Rise of Conservatism

  • a grassroots conservative resurgence emerged in the 1960s, highlighted by Barry Goldwater’s nomination by Republicans in 1964 and Ronald Reagan’s election as California governor in 1966

  • conservatives supported smaller government, lower taxes, gun rights, family and religious values, and a strong military as a deterrent to communism; they opposed enlarging the welfare state (created by the New Deal and Great Society), affirmative action, sexual permissiveness, abortion, and drug abuse

  • rise of conservatism coincided with reemergence of Christian fundamentalism, particularly in 1980s

    • televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Jim Baker, developed massive TV audiences

    • Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority to fund political campaigns to unseat liberal congressmen

    • fundamentalists attacked “secular humanism,” the effort to remove religion from society and schools

    • the Roe decision sparked a right-to-life movement, which brought many Catholics to conservatism

Election of 1980

  • Republicans nominated Ronald Reagan (CA), former actor, governor, conservative spokesperson

    • Reagan attacked the Democrats for offering big-government solutions (“government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem”) and for the lack of American prestige in world

    • he pointed to a high “misery index” score of 28 (inflation rate plus unemployment rate)

  • Democrats re-nominated Carter, who barely overcame challenge by Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy

    • the long Iranian hostage crisis hurt Carter who only won 41% of vote

  • Independent: moderate Republican John Anderson ran as an independent, claiming Reagan was too conservative

    • he won 8% of the vote, but did not win any electoral votes

  • results

    • Reagan won 51% of the popular vote and won an electoral vote landslide, 489-40

    • Reagan won the majority of “blue-collar” voters (known as “Reagan Democrats”), a group that had supported the Democrats since 1932

    • Republicans won the Senate, ending 50 years of Democratic congressional dominance

  • Reagan’s early presidency

    • the Iranian hostages were released as Reagan was being sworn into office

    • in March, 1981, Reagan survived a near-fatal assassination attempt by John Hinckley

Reagan’s Domestic Policies

  • “Reaganomics” (or supply-side economics)

    • supply-side economists believe that reducing government spending, cutting taxes, and curbing regulations on industry encourages increased investment by private businesses and individuals and, in turn, leads to increased production and jobs

      • this theory contrasts with the Democrats’ belief in the Keynesian theory, which relied on government spending to boost people’s income and demand for goods

      • critics of supply-side theory thought it was similar to the “trickle-down” theory of the 1920s which benefited the wealthy the most

    • Congress passed Reagan’s tax cut proposals immediately, including a 25% decrease in personal income taxes, cuts in corporate income taxes, capital gains taxes, and gift and inheritance taxes

    • conservative southern Dems (known as “boll weevils”) joined Republicans to cut $40B in domestic programs including cuts to food stamps, student loans, mass transportation

  • Reagan also sought to reduce federal regulations on business, industry (“deregulation”)

    • to help the struggling auto industry, regulations on emissions and safety were eased

    • federal lands were opened for coal and timber production and offshore waters were opened to oil drilling

  • labor unions

    • Reagan, once president of Screen Actors Guild (actors’ union), fired thousands of air-traffic controllers for violating their contract and decertified their union (PATCO)

    • union membership declined from over 30% of workers in 1962 to only 12% by the 1990s

  • Recession of 1982

    • a severe recession caused banks to fail and unemployment to hit 11%; however, it also caused oil prices to fall and the inflation rate to decline

    • by 1983, Reagan’s economic policies began working; economy entered long recovery

    • income gap between rich and poor widened, however, and standard of living for rich and “yuppies” (young urban professionals) increased while that of poor remained stagnant

  • Supreme Court

    • Reagan appointed three conservative and moderate-conservative justices (including Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female on the Court) and elevated conservative William Rehnquist to chief justice

    • the Court limited affirmative action and allowed some restrictions on abortion rights

  • Election of 1984

    • Reagan overwhelmingly defeated Democrat Walter Mondale and his running-mate Geraldine Ferraro (the first woman nominated for VP)

    • Reagan won every state but Mondale’s MN and received support from every group but blacks and the very poor

  • impact of Reagan’s economic policies

    • negatives:

      • tax cuts and increased military spending created budget deficits of over $200 billion per year

      • the national debt tripled from $900 billion to nearly $2.7 trillion over Reagan’s eight years

      • the US trade deficit grew (US imported more than it exported) and became a debtor nation for the first time since before WWI

      • the income gap (the gap between rich and poor) widened

    • positives:

      • high inflation rates were reduced from 1980 high of 13.6% to 3%

      • unemployment rate fell from high of nearly 10% down to 5%

      • median household income grew from $38,000 to $44,000 (in 2005 dollars); every group of Americans experienced improved economic conditions, although the rich improved more than the poor

      • the stagnant economy of the late 1960s and 1970s ended, and Reagan’s tax cuts sparked the longest sustained period of peacetime economic growth in the nation’s history

Reagan’s Foreign Policies

  • Reagan wanted to restore US pride, military might, and to intensify the Cold War so as to win it

  • military build-up

    • Congress spent billions on new weapons technologies (B-1 bomber, MX missile, new ships and submarines)

    • Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or “Star Wars”)

      • plan for a high-tech system of lasers and particle beams to destroy missiles in space before they could reach the US or its allies (a “missile shield”)

      • critics charged it would be too costly and that it would provoke the Soviets

  • Central America

    • Nicaragua

      • US sent aid to the “contras” (anticommunist rebels) who were fighting the communist Sandinistas

      • in 1985, congressional Democrats cut off US aid to the “contras” (see Iran-Contra affair)

    • El Salvador

      • the US aided El Salvador’s government against communist guerillas

      • many in America were shocked by the Salvadoran army’s killing of 40,000 civilians, including some US missionary nuns

    • Grenada (1983) – Reagan sent the Marines to this Caribbean island to stop a coup led by a pro-Cuba regime

  • Iran-Contra Affair (1985-1986)

    • Reagan aides developed a secret plan to sell Iran weapons (in violation of a Congressional embargo on weapon sales to Iran) in exchange for Iran’s help in freeing Americans held hostage by a radical Arab group

    • another aide proposed using the profits from the weapons sales to secretly fund the Nicaraguan “contras,” despite Congressional resolutions that forbid such aid

    • Reagan denied any knowledge of the transaction; while some doubted his honesty, the scandal created the impression that he was being controlled by his advisers

    • despite a temporary drop in approval, the scandal had little lasting effect on Reagan’s popularity

  • Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

    • in 1982, Israel invaded southern Lebanon to stop PLO terrorists who were raiding northern Israel; the US sent troops to help keep peace in Lebanon

    • in 1983, suicide bomber killed 63 people at US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon; later another terrorist killed 241 Marines in their barracks; Reagan withdrew US forces from Lebanon

    • Secretary of State George Schultz pushed for a temporary peaceful settlement of the Israeli-PLO conflict

      • a PLO homeland was established in the West Bank (which had been part of Israel since a 1967 war)

      • PLO leader Yassir Arafat agreed to recognize Israel’s right to exist

Reagan and the Decline of the Cold War

  • the Cold War intensified in the early 1980s as a result of military build-ups by both nations and Reagan’s stern rhetoric aimed at the Soviet Union; however, by the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse

  • historians are divided as to how much of a role Reagan played in ending the Cold War, but many agree that…

    • Reagan’s military build-up likely compelled the Soviets to try to “keep up,” crippling their struggling economy; however, several decades committed to a policy of containment laid the foundation for this

    • Reagan’s rhetoric (he referred to Soviet Union as “the evil empire” and “focus of evil in the modern world”) likely inspired Eastern Europeans to continue their fight for freedom

      • in 1987, Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall, and called on the Soviets to “tear down this wall”

    • Reagan’s willingness to work towards peace with new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev (who came to power in 1985), ensured Cold War would end quietly and not with a war

      • Mikhail Gorbachev also attempted to institute reforms in the Soviet Union

        • glasnost (openness) – called for an end of political repression and more political freedom for Soviet citizens

        • perestroika – a restructuring of the Soviet economy by introducing some free-market (capitalist) practices

      • INF treaty – Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to destroy all intermediate-range missiles

      • Gorbachev also agreed to remove Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988 and agreed to help end the Iran-Iraq War

  • by the end of the 1980s, US-Soviet relations were much improved and the Cold War seemed nearly over

The George H. W. Bush (“41”) Presidency
Election of 1988

  • Democrats: Mass. governor Michael Dukakis

    • hoped budget deficits and Iran-Contra would hurt Republicans

  • Republicans: Vice President (and former UN ambassador and CIA director) George H. W. Bush

    • attacked Dukakis for being soft on crime, weak on defense

    • promised voters “Read my lips – no new taxes”

  • Bush won easily but Democrats won large majorities in both houses of Congress

Collapse of Soviet Communism and Bush’s Foreign Policy

  • Tiananmen Square (1989) – Chinese students led protest for democracy but are crushed by Chinese government

  • Eastern Europe

    • Poland (1989) – labor leader Lech Walesa elected and communist government ousted

    • communist party fell in Hungary, Czechslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania

    • communist party in East Germany forced out in 1989, Berlin Wall torn down, Germany reunited in 1990

  • Breakup of Soviet Union (1990-1991)

    • Soviet Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) declared independence in 1990

    • other republics dissolved USSR after brief coup to topple Gorbachev by communist hard-liners failed

    • Boris Yeltsin (president of Russian republic) joined with nine former Soviet republics to form loose confederation, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with democratic government and free markets

  • End of Cold War

    • both sides also worked quickly to dismantle much of their nuclear arsenals

      • START I (1991) – reduced nuclear warheads to less than 10,000 each

      • START II (1992) – reduced further to just over 3,000 each, offered economic aid to Russia

    • Bush cautiously and wisely did not celebrate end of Soviet Union concerned about civil wars breaking out as did in Yugoslavian provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    • many questioned need for heavy defense spending after end of Cold War

    • Bush first president to have to address US role in a post-Cold War world – spoke of a “new world order” of increasing peace and democracy

  • Invasion of Panama (1989) – Bush authorized invasion to topple autocratic general Manuel Noriega whose country served as a drug pipeline to US – Noriega was arrested and imprisoned in US – troops stayed until elections held

  • Persian Gulf War (1991)

    • August 1990 – Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded oil-rich but weak Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia

    • Bush skillfully crafted a UN coalition (including Arab nations) to pressure Iraq to withdraw – UN embargo had little effect, so Bush won congressional approval to use massive force (Operation Desert Storm)

    • after 5 weeks bombing and 100 hours on ground led by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Iraq conceded defeat

    • some thought Hussein should have been driven from power – Bush’s approval rating climbed to 90%

Bush’s Domestic Policies

  • with foreign-policy successes Bush seemed assured a second term, but economic issues hurt

  • African-American Clarence Thomas was appointed to Court to replace Thurgood Marshall (first Black justice) but his strong conservative views and accusations of sexual harassment made him a controversial choice

  • economy

    • S&L bail-out – federal government’s intervention to save failed small banks (savings-and-loans) shocked Americans when they learned it would cost over $250 billion

    • continued budget deficits raised national debt additional $1 trillion in Bush’s single term

    • Republicans felt betrayed when Bush agreed with Democrats call to raise taxes breaking his 1988 pledge

    • economy entered a recession in 1990 ending era of Reagan prosperity

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) – prohibited discrimination against citizens with physical and mental disabilities in hiring, transportation, and public accommodations

Clinton and the 1990s

Election of 1992

  • Republicans: George Bush

    • foreign policy successes could not overcome recession and tax hike

    • won only 37% of vote and 168 electoral votes

  • Democrats: AR governor Bill Clinton

    • first “baby boomer” president and a skilled politician

    • presented himself as a moderate “New Democrat” – focused on economic issues such as jobs, education, health care (political strategy stressed “It’s the economy, stupid!”)

    • won 43% of vote and 370 electoral votes

  • Independent: Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot

    • criticized Washington politics and big deficits of Republicans

    • won 20% of vote but no electoral votes – best showing by third party since TR in 1912

    • Perot’s strong showing was reflective of anti-incumbent mood of 1990s

      • states attempted to impose term limits on federal legislators but Court ruled it unconstitutional

      • 27th Amendment (1992) – prohibited Congress from raising its own salaries

Clinton’s First Term

  • Early setbacks

    • Clinton used his wife, Hillary, as chief architect of program for universal health coverage – Republicans, the insurance industry, and small businesses opposed the program and defeated it by 1994

    • failed to lift ban on homosexuals in military settling for a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell”

    • failed to pass economic-stimulus package, campaign-finance reform, environmental bills

  • early accomplishments

    • Democratic Congress passed series of measures

      • “Motor-Voter” bill – enabled citizens to register to vote as they received their driver’s licenses

      • Brady Handgun bill – mandated a 5-day waiting period to purchase a handgun

      • Anti-Crime bill – provided $30 billion for more police protection and crime-prevention programs, banned the sale of most assault weapons

      • passed deficit-reduction budget that included $255B in spending cuts and $241B in tax increases

    • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – created a free-trade zone (no tariffs or barriers to trade) with Canada and Mexico

  • Republicans take over Congress

    • Republicans won both houses of Congress in 1994 (first time since 1954) offering “Contract with America” – Republicans elected Newt Gingrich as Speaker of House who attacked federal programs and spending

    • while both Republicans and Clinton wanted a balanced budget, Clinton wanted a “leaner, not meaner” budget; conflicts with Congress led to two government shutdowns in 1995

    • Congress and Clinton compromised in 1996 on a balanced budget

      • Medicare, Social Security benefits left intact

      • Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act – limited welfare benefits to five years

      • set some limits on immigration, increased minimum wage, balanced budget

    • spending cuts, tax increases, record economic growth created budget surpluses by 1998

    • Clinton skillfully won credit by painting Republicans as extremists and by taking their most popular positions

Clinton’s Second Term

  • technological innovations in computers, the Internet, wireless communications, and “e-commerce” helped fuel longest peacetime economic expansion in nation’s history, low inflation rates, low unemployment, and increased prosperity

  • Republicans wanted to use surpluses to reduce taxes while Clinton wanted to support Social Security, expand Medicare, and reduce national debt

  • scandals

    • from beginning, Clinton administration repeatedly investigated by Congress and independent prosecutors

    • Clintons not charged in Whitewater real estate deal, firings of White House travel staff (“Travelgate”), or political use of FBI files (“Filegate”)

    • Monica Lewinsky scandal and Clinton impeachment (1998)

      • however, independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr charged Clinton with lying (perjury) about his relations with Monica Lewinsky, a young White House intern, while giving a deposition in a lawsuit alleging him with sexual harassment while Arkansas governor

      • House impeached Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice – both partied condemned Clinton’s personal behavior but public did not support Republican effort to remove him

      • Senate failed to win even a majority (let alone 2/3 necessary) on either count to remove Clinton

Clinton’s Foreign Policy

  • Clinton’s first secretary of state, Warren Christopher, was criticized for lacking a clear foreign policy; in 1997, Clinton then appointed first woman secretary of state, Madeline Albright, who was more forceful with US power

  • US peacekeeping troops were killed in Somalia in 1993; Clinton sent peacekeepers to Haiti in 1994; US played diplomatic role in end to British rule and armed conflict in Northern Ireland in 1998

  • the Balkans

    • Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic suppressed independence movements in former Yugoslav provinces of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo – hundreds of thousands killed in “ethnic cleansing”

    • US and NATO troops stopped bloodshed in Bosnia (1995) and Kosovo (1999) – Serbs ousted Milosevic in 2000 elections and international tribunal convicted him of genocide

  • Asia

    • US reached deal with North Korea to drop nuclear weapons development but North Korea later reneged

    • Clinton established diplomatic relations with communist Vietnam in 1995

    • Clinton signed trade agreements with China hoping for improved relations and reforms within China despite complaints from human-rights groups and labor unions – balance of trade with China worsened

  • Middle East

    • Iraq – Saddam Hussein defied UN by kicking-out all weapons inspectors in 1998 – Clinton responded with air attacks but Hussein remained in power and global support for economic sanctions against Iraq faded

    • Clinton worked to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestinians, but process broke down in 2000 and anti-American sentiment increased

  • globalization – development of global and regional economic organization

    • World Trade Organization (WTO) – established in 1994 to oversee trade agreements, enforce trade rules, and settle international trade disputes

    • International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank – made loans and supervised economic policies of poorer nations with debt problems

    • European Union (EU) – unified market of European nations (many of which adopted the Euro as its currency) with goal of becoming economic superpower

    • Group of Seven or G-7 (now G-8) – world’s largest industrial powers

    • workers and unions in richest nations (including US) often resented globalization because they lost jobs to cheaper labor markets in the developing world

Unit 10: Modern America 23 April 2013



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