War at Home, War Abroad, 1965—1974 Part One: Introduction
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War at Home, War Abroad, 1965—1974
How and why was U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam widened?
What was the “sixties generation” and what was its role in the antiwar movement?
How did poverty contribute to the urban crisis?
What characterized the election of 1968?
What contributed to the rise of “liberation” movements?
What characterized the Nixon presidency and how did the Watergate conspiracy arise?
Uptown, Chicago, Illinois
In 1964, a small group of college students tried to help residents in a poor Chicago neighborhood.
The activists were members of Students for a Democratic Society.
Founded by white college students, SDS initially sought reform and grew by 1968 to have 350 chapters and between 60,000 and 100,000 members.
Efforts to mobilize the urban poor were unsuccessful, but SDS members helped break down isolation and strengthened community ties.
By 1967, SDS energies were being directed into protests against the widening war in Vietnam.
Vietnam: America’s Longest War
Although pledging not to send American soldiers into combat, he manipulated Congress into passing a resolution that was tantamount to a declaration of war. When bombing failed to halt North Vietnamese advances, Johnson sent large numbers of troops into Vietnam to prevent a Communist victory.
Search-and-destroy missions combined with chemical warfare wreaked havoc on the people and the land.
LBJ was committed to a war of attrition to wear out and destroy Vietnam.
Johnson kept his decisions from the American public and distorted accounts of military actions.
News media increasingly questioned the official descriptions of the war.
As casualties mounted, more Americans questioned LBJ’s handling of the war.
In Congress, Democratic senators led by J. William Fulbright opposed Johnson’s handling of the conflict.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
People of all ages protested against the war, but young people stood out.
Early campus protests at Berkeley centered on students’ rights to free speech. Many felt that the university had become a faceless bureaucratic machine.
In 1967, San Francisco attracted thousands of young people for the “Summer of Love.”
Events like the Woodstock festival spoke to many young Americans’ desires to create a new sense of community or counterculture.
Campus Protest in Global Perspective
College students organized protests that questioned the war effort and universities’ roles in war-related research.
Student strikes merged opposition to the war and other community issues.
Public opinion polarized.
Massive anti and prowar rallies occurred.
Nonviolent and violent protests erupted at draft boards.
The cultural attitudes of protesters were even found among their equally young GI counterparts.
Working-class Latinos and African-American young men made up a disproportionate share of the soldiers.
Many soldiers grew increasingly bitter over government lies about their alleged victories and the inability of society to accept them once they returned home.
An American Profile: Life Expectancy
A racial divide existed on life expectancy.
Poverty helped create a racial divide on infant mortality
An American Profile: Poverty
Spurred by books like Michael Harrington’s The Other America, American awareness of the problems of poverty greatly increased.
LBJ called for “an unconditional war on poverty.”
Chart: Percentage of Population Below Poverty Level
Johnson established the Office of Economic Opportunity to lead the war on poverty.
The Job Corps failed, but agencies focusing on education were more successful.
Community Action Agencies threatened to become a new political force that challenged those in power. The Legal Service Program and Head Start made differences in the lives of the poor.
The Great Society was opposed to income redistribution.
Most social spending went to the nonpoor through Medicare.
A 1970 study concluded the war on poverty had barely scratched the surface.
Cities became segregated centers of poverty and pollution with large minority populations.
Urban black frustrations resulted in over 100 riots in northern cities between 1964 and 1968.
A presidential commission blamed the rioting on white racism, poverty, and police brutality, and recommended massive social reforms.
On January 30, 1968 the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, shattering the credibility of American officials who had been predicting a quick victory.
Despite the military victory, media reports triggered antiwar protests.
LBJ declared a bombing halt and announced he would not seek reelection.
By 1968, Martin Luther King had broken with LBJ on Vietnam and had announced a massive Poor People’s Campaign.
He was assassinated in Memphis. Rioting broke out in over 100 cities.
Polarization split the Democratic Party. Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy both sought the anti-war vote.
Kennedy appeared unbeatable, but was assassinated.
Hubert Humphrey won the nomination from a bitterly divided party.
The Democratic convention was the scene of a major confrontation between protesters and police.
Generational divisions marked the civil rights movement as younger African Americans turned to Black Power.
Groups like the Black Panthers reflected the growing militancy and the calls for community autonomy.
Racial pride grew during the late 1960s, affecting numerous segments of the African-American community.
A renewed interest in African heritage and customs arose.
During the early 1960s, many women began to demand equal rights.
By the late sixties, the influence of civil rights and the New Left appeared as women identified their movement as one of liberation.
In thousands of communities, women formed small consciousness-raising groups to examine the power dynamics in their own lives.
A diverse and comprehensive women’s rights agenda emerged, though the movement remained a bastion of white middle-class women.
The gay community had gained visibility during WWII and several openly gay organizations had emerged.
The Stonewall Riot in New York City in 1968 galvanized a Gay Liberation Front.
Gradually, changes in public opinion led to more accepting attitudes and a large minority of homosexuals “came out” of the closet.
Mexican Americans articulated a sense of Chicano pride and nationalism, initiating a series of protests.
Throughout the Southwest, Mexican Americans organized to push for land and social reforms as well as political power.
Cesar Chavez successfully organized Chicano agricultural workers into the United Farm Workers.
Map: Major Indian Reservations
Indian activists, led by the American Indian Movement, organized protests such as taking over Wounded Knee.
An Indian Renaissance led to many new books about Indian life.
The Asian American Movement
Like Black Power and Latino activists, Asian Americans embraced a nationalism that emphasized ethnic pride and cultural survival.
Map: The Election of 1968, p. 929
In 1968, Richard Nixon’s campaign:
appealed to voters who were hostile to the protests and counterculture of the young
pledged to undercut liberal programs and roll back the Great Society
Nixon narrowly defeated Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace.
Nixon promised to bring “peace with honor” to Vietnam.
Nixon and National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, believed that a military defeat would destroy U.S. global leadership.
Nixon spoke of a phased withdrawal of American troops, but widened the war by invading Cambodia.
Massive protests led to four deaths at Kent State and two at Jackson State.
Nixon accepted a peace settlement that led to the fall of South Vietnam.
Chart: U.S. Military Forces and Casualties
Nixon opened relations with the Communist government in China.
Relations with the Soviet Union improved as he negotiated a grain deal and signed an arms control agreement.
Nixon’s last diplomatic effort was to send Kissinger to the Middle East where he negotiated a temporary lull in the ongoing war.
Despite his conservatism, Nixon:
supported a guaranteed income to replace welfare
imposed a wage and price freeze to hold down inflation
He appealed to conservatives in his opposition to school busing and Supreme Court appointments.
Nixon’s foreign policy included a wide range of secret interventions that propped up or destabilized regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Domestically, Nixon formed an inner circle to keep information from the public and to plug leaks.
In 1972, Democrats nominated George McGovern, representing the liberal wing of the party.
The Nixon reelection committee ran a dirty-tricks campaign to confuse the Democrats, including a break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex.
The White House tried to cover up its Watergate involvement, but two reporters followed the evidence back to the Oval Office.
Nixon fired the special prosecutor who sought secret tapes Nixon had made of White House conversations.
After a congressional investigation, Nixon finally resigned to avoid impeachment.
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