The influence of the anti-war movement during the Nixon era

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Over time, there has existed a multifarious of debates regarding whether the social movements in the United States often attain the objectives they initially intend to attain. The United States has over and over again confronted massive mass demonstrations frequently organized by the anti-war movements whose major objectives have often been to exert immense pressure on the government to end any war-related activities within other nations.1 The most notable wars that have perhaps been fought against by social movements in the contemporary American society have been those of Vietnam as well as the war in Iraq. The wars in both Vietnam and Iraq were quite costly and had detrimental consequences. From a diplomatic perspective, many later come to feel that America had other significant alternatives rather that submitting itself into a full-scale war. As such, came the formation of the anti-war social movements.

For instance, America ultimately boasted of disarming Iraq – which had continuously developed weapons of mass destruction, the costs that had later been seen to be involved was a significant down-side of the eventful war.2 The anti-war movements regarding Vietnam had particularly taken center stage during the period within the 1960s and had been spear headed by students as well as the faculty of the numerous and distinctive universities all across the United States.3 Even though some may argue that some of the anti-war movements in America had no significant impacts, existing literature has strongly proven that indeed, the anti-war movements in the United States had quite a number of influences. For instance, it has been proven satisfactorily that the social movements tremendously influenced the public opinion regarding the Vietnam war which America had perpetrated and spear-headed against other nations.3

The Vietnam War along with antiwar sentiments marked a radical relational change between the ruling elite and the American citizens. The Vietnamese War was a source of conflict that left the United States profoundly divided. Those supporting the war believed that withdrawing from Vietnam was a sign of weakness and could potentially jeopardize the U.S security, whereas antiwar movements strongly thought that the military action was against the American values. The antiwar movement is considered significant in the history as it presents drastic changes that took place in the American political landscape as the youths took active roles in compelling the government to withdraw from Vietnam.

The Vietnamese involvement was a gradual phenomenon, with President’s Johnson’s decision to intensify the military scope in 1965 marking the climax of the division. Previously, the media, a section of the Congress, and the civil societies expressed their war escalation displeasure. This resulted in a gradual progression of radical activists forming the anti-war movement. Students, labor unions, a section of government institutions, and the middle class spoke in one voice through huge protests, attracting nation-wide attention between 1967 and 1972. This movement remained influential throughout Nixon’s government, making it hard for the political elite to ignore the antiwar calls.

Peaceful demos turned violent as police attempted to make arrests while most schools remained closed due to the involvement of the students. ROTC buildings were touched and road blocked by the protestors, leading to frequent clashes between law enforcers and demonstrators. Initially, an injunction on protesting against the White House was commended, but the Nixon’s administrations opted for intimidation and illegal persecution to combat the picketers. Instead of restoring order and law, these actions lead to deaths of students and activists along with the escalation of the chaos. This made it hard for the White House to ignore antiwar sentiments, which placed restrictions on the Nixon regime as well as changing the course of the war.

A surging budget to sustain the war adversely affected the U.S economy to the extent of threatening gold reserves between 1967 and 1968. The escalation of chaotic protests against the government drove the food and oil prices high, forcing the Nixon administration to reconsider its opinion towards the war. This compelled the government to make necessary changes in monetary and financial policies. The Congress initiated other policy changes aimed at restricting Nixon’s government. First, the military draft was adjusted to allow an all-volunteer program and lowered the voting age to 18 years. The Congress also restricted the President’s power, in this case, Nixon, and subsequent successors, through the War Powers Act in 1973. The act limited the presidential power to send American forces to war for more than ninety days without Congressional approval. As a result, the Nixon’s government was again restrained from championing pro-war objectives.

The unpopularity of the war in Vietnam among draftees and draft eligible man led Nixon to call for the termination of the Selective Service System and the introduction of an all-volunteer army.

Briefly, President Nixon believed that the end of draft policy would discourage the young people from protests once it was clear that they would no longer be forced to risk their lives in combat.

The antiwar movement incited the public against the war, forcing the Congress to restrain the American policies that could encourage continued engagement8. Following the Watergate Scandal that forced President Nixon to resign, the fear of suffering from public disapproval and the portrayal of the U.S as a weak country has since obligated subsequent regimes to avoid military intervention. It is worth noting that President Nixon entered into the presidency, with a secret plan aimed to end the war. However, for most protesters, President Richard Nixon was keen on ending the war. The protesters rested for a while, as they gave him time to execute the plan he had.  However, the leaks to the press showed that the president was reluctant to the end the war, considering he had his own demands from the communists. Indeed, the Americans were tired that the country had been involved in foreign war, which was not in any beneficial toto the Americans. The Americans felt that President Nixon and his predecessor President Lyndon B. Johnson had led to loss of lives and casualties, following the bombings in Vietnam, as more American troops were deployed in Vietnam, According to President Nixon, ending the war would require piling pressure on the communist, through giving a deadline for the conciliatory talks, and ensure that Americans are not aware of the administration’s plan to use the approach in ending the war. For this reason, the number the number of war causalities increased considerably, particular during the later winter and spring, as bombing intensified in Northern Vietnam. Following the deaths of American military in the war, the protesters were up in arms again, to force the government to withdraw from the Vietnam War. The protesters picked where they left with the President Lyndon B. Johnson. The protesters were actively involved in another campaign, as they petitioned and demonstrated that the American middle-class did not support the meaningless war in Vietnam. The deadline President Nixon had given to the communists passed, without a deal being struck. Besides, the failure of President Nixon using another strategy to end the war led to the rejuvenation of the antiwar movement. President Nixon greatest concern was the protests would lead to a quicker withdrawal from Vietnam; earlier that he had planned. Therefore, when the deadline approached, a leader of group of Quakers, Henry Kissinger, asked the protesters to grant President Nixon more time, proposing an additional six months.

However, in 1970, President Nixon took a further gamble, as he thought he could still buy time and keep the American troops in Vietnam. He ordered an attack on Cambodia, as he believed it was the right decision to destroy the buildings used by the communists military. The attack on Cambodia was considered as an expansion of the Vietnam War and this led to an escalation of anti-war protests in the different cities in the US. The president had thought about the need to silence the press, as he believed that the media had radicalized protesters. However, he could not succeed because the protesters had organized group, which provide news to the protesters and the unity of the anti-war protesters, hugely supported by the college students in the US, made the movement stronger and determined to force the president to end the war. For instance, when American troops bombed Hanoi, the decision angered the anti-war protesters who sent the volunteers to treat the causalities in Vietnam. The American did this despite the fact the Americans troops were keen to destroy the medical facilities casualties could be treated. Moreover, the graphic images from the Vietnam War led to public outcry, as the anti-war movement argued that Americans had no business fighting in a civil war in Vietnam.

President Nixon was keen on quelling the protests in the US, in a bid to get more Americans to support his actions in relation to the Vietnam War. Nonetheless, his gamble failed, following the National Guardsmen murder of four Kent State University students. The killing intensified the antiwar protests across the United Stated, and became worse than first feared. Indeed, the wave of protests that swept through American college campuses made learning impossible in American colleges and universities. It is worth noting that Kent State University tragedy culminated to the nationwide campus disaster. Spector claims that between May 4th and May 8th, campuses in the US averaged 100 demonstrations per day. Approximately 350 campuses were closed, 350 campus strikes were recorded, 536 colleges ordered to shut down, and about 73 colleges in the US reported violence in their protests. In Washington, protests intensified, as hundreds thousands of people marched in the streets, in a bid to force the government to act quickly to end the war.

President Nixon’s administration during the second week of May was to concentrate on the Kent State crisis, which had paralyzed learning in universities. President Nixon met with the delegation from Kent State University on May 6th, 1970.  However, the protests outside the White House and Washing D.C area made it impossible for the meeting to progress smoothly. However, President Nixon’s administration never gave up trying to calm the protesters. President Nixon shifted his blame on the media, for failing to tell the American people the truth. He claimed that the American media had inaccurately reported his intentions. Nonetheless, the media had been keen to portray the failings of President Nixon in stopping American participation in the civil. For instance, the media made it clear that American cannot legally justify the invasion of North Vietnam, just because the leaders in the region supported communist idea. It was increasingly clear that American had a hidden motive, as it participated in the foreign civil, which was difficult to justify. Even though President Nixon argued that the media provide inaccurate reports, a closer look at his personal records revealed no information related to the attack in Cambodia and Kent State University killing at that time. President Nixon was gradually bowing to the pressure to end the war, announcing on December 10, 1970 about his plans to withdraw 50,000 troops from Vietnam. However, the faith in President Nixon shattered, following the nationwide protests, when he ordered military action against Cambodia in the spring of 1970.

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As President Nixon’s administration was keen on addressing the crisis that had affected learning in higher learning institutions in the country, the colleges in the US were closed, effectively reducing the protests. It is noteworthy that fury in Americans following the invasion of Cambodia and the shooting of students at Kent State University was considered the last movement by Americans, which had a great impact and forced the government to consider changing its policies on the war. The intensity of the movement led to President Nixon resorting to defend his position on the war, as he thought that this the only way he could win the support of Americans. However, the movement proved too strong to be dissolved by the administration’s constant attacks on protesters. President Nixon and his aide realize that the movement was a greater force that could make it difficult for him to govern the country. He lost the support of the Congress and this meant he could no longer convince the Congress members to support his war plans. In fact, some of the senators lobbied the Congress into passing bill, to eliminate funding of the military and advisor in Cambodia. The media heavily criticized the administration for failing to act quickly in ensuring that the war and involvement of American troops in Vietnam War.

It is worth noting that the antiwar movement figured indirectly the outcome of the Vietnam War. When Saigon fell and later the allegations of the Watergate Scandal, President Nixon reputation suffered further. The protests and shrinking support of his presidency by the Republicans indicated that it was difficult for his presidency to be smooth. Some of his Republican friends forced him to resignation, as it became increasingly clear that an impeachment motion was possible. With the protests dominating his presidency, President Nixon did not have the capability to lobby the congress into supporting the funding of the Vietnam War. The media reported against the policies of President Nixon regarding the US support of South Vietnam, as well as the corruption in President Nixon administration, and this contributed to his diminishing popularity.

In conclusion, the anti-war protest had a great impact on the change policies by President Richard Nixon administration. The protest, particularly, those in American colleges piled pressure on President Nixon, as well as the previous administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Indeed, President Nixon found himself on the wrong side of the media, as his foreign policies, with growing calls for America to withdraw troops from Vietnam. President Nixon coverage of the media portrayed him as someone who is not keen to solve the problems that mattered for America. In fact, the situation worsened years later, when President Nixon was implicated in the Watergate Scandal, which he later admitted to wrong doing American viewed the invasion of Vietnam as pointless and whole war considered immoral. As much as President Nixon thought it was right for the troops to stay in Vietnam, a substantial number of radicalized Americans sought to oppose President Nixon’s administration, in particular its position on Vietnam War. Indeed, the protests proved the turning point, as calls for the administration to withdraw troops from Southeast Asia intensified. The anti-war protest had a great influence on the American military and political strategy, as well as slowed the growth of hawks. Indeed, the movement served to erode the support for President Nixon, with the media playing an active role to inform the public about the need to pursue peace, as opposed to engaging in an immoral war.

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