Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 8 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/30/11

Vietnam and the New American Way of War

By       (Page 2 of 5 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page. (View How Many People Read This)   1 comment
Author 41168
Message Brian M Downing

The Post-Vietnam Nation

Confident that an old militarized society had expended itself, Americans embarked on lives of career, consumerism, and privacy.  Rootedness in a past and the hold of religion had given way amid the war.  Life became more atomized and hedonistic and less deferent to old notions of propriety and civility.  The insightful historian Christopher Lasch noted in 1979 that Americans had created for themselves a "culture of narcissism."

Postwar sensibilities held that military gambits had been integral parts of US history and had led the country onto the path of global empire.  William Appleman Williams observed at the intemperate high point of the war: "Empire is as American as apple pie.  Or as American as the ever westward moving frontier. . . .  Or as American as saving the world from the devil.  Or as American as the veils that Americans have woven to obscure the harsh reality of their imperial record."  ("Rise of an American World Power Complex," in N. D. Houghton, ed., Struggle against History: U.S. Foreign Policy in an Age of Revolution [New York: Clarion, 1968], p. 1.)  Embarking on another foreign war was thought impossible. 

After the incandescent victory of the Second World War, generals were revered, but twenty-five years later they were vilified as hidebound militarists.  The armed forces were seen as a redoubt of an atavistic warrior caste and the unfortunate youths forced or tricked into serving.  Veterans of the war in Vietnam were deemed losers, or deranged, or at least as people to be avoided lest they remind one of a disagreeable past.

The military drafted over a million young men during the war ┬ľ a major basis for opposition to the war.  Military service had once been an obligation, a duty owed one's country, but amid the war, it was seen as an unjustifiable intrusion on education and privacy.   When Richard Nixon became president in early 1969, he shifted the combat burden onto the S. Vietnamese army.  By the end of 1970, US troop levels had been reduced 30%, casualties 55%, and draftees 45%.  Concurrently, Nixon reduced then later ended conscription and based the military on volunteers attracted by pay incentives.  Most saw this a victory and happily returned to personal concerns.  Military service was now for others.

Partial Reemergence of the Martial Spirit

In the fall of 1979, Iranian students seized the US embassy in Tehran and held the staff hostage for well over a year.  Many Americans saw the events as an understandable response to past meddling when the US (and Britain) overthrew the Mossadegh government and reinstalled the shah.  Many others, however, were angered that a small country could humiliate them.  

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5


Must Read 3   Well Said 3   Valuable 3  
Rate It | View Ratings

Brian M Downing Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Brian M Downing is a national security analyst who has written for outlets across the political spectrum. He studied at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago, and did post-graduate work at Harvard's Center for International (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Israel and Iran head for war in Syria

The End Comes To The Colonel's Compound

Is there any debate on foreign policy these days?

Two Cheers for the Trump's Pakistan Tweet

Time-out in the Iran conflict?

War and change in Saudi Arabia

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: