Throughout American History, there have been many contentious times. For many today, it would seem like we’re living through the most contentious times in our history right now, but that might not be true. The Vietnam War became very unpopular by the time the 1970s rolled around.
In 1965 over half of Americans approved of the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War (64 Percent). By 1969, that number had reversed and over half of Americans disapproved of the United States’ efforts in southern Asia (54 percent had a negative view of America’s participation in the war).
The gradual disinterest and disagreement with the war efforts in Vietnam became a festering wound on American culture as more and more people became disillusioned with the leaders of the country, even as those same leaders seemed to double down on what seemed to be a losing effort.
By the time President Richard Nixon took office in 1969, most Americans wanted out of the war in Vietnam. Protests, often becoming violent, were common, and it seemed obvious to most people that the goals of the US were not being met. People who were against the war most often wondered what the US was fighting for or more accurately, what were the US forces dying for?
Historian Thurstan Clarke writes, “In 1968, America was a wounded nation. The wounds were moral ones; the Vietnam War and three summers of inner-city riots had inflicted them on the national soul, challenging Americans’ belief that they were a uniquely noble and honorable people.”
While the American public became more and more disillusioned with the Vietnam War, the politicians who led America spent more and more time defending the war effort (also defending their decisions to continue fighting what most Americans considered to be a losing effort).
The question that historians have been asking for the last half century, or so, is why the US was so invested in continuing the fighting in Vietnam. In order to answer that question, one has to ask the question of why the US participated in the war in the first place.
The answer is that it has to do with Communism and the United States’ fear that if Vietnam and Southern Asia fell to Russian-influenced Communism, more and more nations would follow. This is what was known as the Domino Theory, which was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.
It was a policy the US Government adhered to until the end of US participation in the Vietnam war in the early 1970s. It was a highly controversial policy, as there was no evidence that it would come to pass if the Vietnam war was lost. In fact, many argued that it was highly unlikely that outside of a few very small countries any other Asian countries would fall to communism due to Soviet influence.
Fear of Communism and Soviet influence in World Politics and trade is what drove the United States to continue their efforts in Vietnam, plain and simple. If it weren’t for Communism, the US would have played no role in the Vietnamese Civil War.