Following are the main points of THE WAR IN VIETNAM taken from US History Book by State Department.
Dissatisfaction with the Great Society came to be more than matched by unhappiness with the situation in Vietnam.
Determined to halt Communist advances in South Vietnam, Johnson made the Vietnam War his own.
After a North Vietnamese naval attack on two American destroyers, Johnson won from Congress on August 7, 1964, passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed the president to “take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”
After his re-election in November 1964, he embarked on a policy of escalation.
Grisly television coverage with a critical edge dampened support for the war. Some Americans thought it immoral; others watched in dismay as the massive military campaign seemed to be ineffective. Large protests, especially among the young, and a mounting general public dissatisfaction pressured Johnson to begin negotiating for peace.
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THE ELECTION OF 1968
By 1968 the country was in turmoil over both the Vietnam War and civil disorder, expressed in urban riots that reflected African- American anger. On March 31, 1968, the president renounced any intention of seeking another term. Just a week later, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. John Kennedy’s younger brother, Robert, made an emotional anti-war campaign for the Democratic nomination, only to be assassinated in June.
A divided Democratic Party nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
Republican Richard Nixon, who ran on a plan to extricate the United States from the war and to increase “law and order” at home, scored a narrow victory.
NIXON, VIETNAM, AND THE COLD WAR
Determined to achieve “peace with honor,” Nixon slowly withdrew American troops while redoubling efforts to equip the South Vietnamese army to carry on the fight.
By the fall of 1972, however, troop strength in Vietnam was below 50,000 and the military draft, which had caused so much campus discontent, was all but dead.
A cease-fire, negotiated for the United States by Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, was signed in 1973.
Although American troops departed, the war lingered on into the spring of 1975, when Congress cut off assistance to South Vietnam and North Vietnam consolidated its control over the entire country.
The most dramatic move was a new relationship with the People’s Republic of China. In the two decades since Mao Zedong’s victory, the United States had argued that the Nationalist government on Taiwan represented all of China. In 1971 and 1972, Nixon softened the American stance, eased trading restrictions, and became the first U.S. president ever to visit Beijing. The “Shanghai Communique” signed during that visit established a new U.S. policy: that there was one China, that Taiwan was a part of China, and that a peaceful settlement of the dispute of the question by the Chinese themselves was a U.S. interest.
With the Soviet Union, Nixon was equally successful in pursuing the policy he and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called détente. He held several cordial meetings with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in which they agreed to limit stockpiles of missiles, cooperate in space, and ease trading restrictions. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) culminated in 1972 in an arms control agreement limiting the growth of nuclear arsenals and restricting anti-ballistic missile systems.
NIXON’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND DEFEATS
Vice president under Eisenhower before his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1960, Nixon was seen as among the shrewdest of American politicians.
Not opposed to African-American civil rights on principle, he was wary of large federal civil rights bureaucracies. Nonetheless, his administration vigorously enforced court orders on school desegregation even as it courted Southern white voters.
Perhaps his biggest domestic problem was the economy. He inherited both a slowdown from its Vietnam peak under Johnson, and a continuing inflationary surge that had been a by-product of the war. He dealt with the first by becoming the first Republican president to endorse deficit spending as a way to stimulate the economy; the second by imposing wage and price controls, a policy in which the Right had no long-term faith, in 1971.
In the short run, these decisions stabilized the economy and established favorable conditions for Nixon’s re-election in 1972. He won an overwhelming victory over peace-minded Democratic Senator George McGovern.
Things began to sour very quickly into the president’s second term. Very early on, he faced charges that his re-election committee had managed a break-in at the Watergate building headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and that he had participated in a cover-up. Special prosecutors and congressional committees dogged his presidency thereafter.
Factors beyond Nixon’s control undermined his economic policies. In 1973 the war between Israel and Egypt and Syria prompted Saudi Arabia to embargo oil shipments to Israel’s ally, the United States. Other member nations of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quadrupled their prices.
Even when the embargo ended the next year, prices remained high and affected all areas of American economic life: In 1974, inflation reached 12 percent, causing disruptions that led to even higher unemployment rates.
Seeking to energize and enlarge his own political constituency, Nixon lashed out at demonstrators, attacked the press for distorted coverage, and sought to silence his opponents.
Adding to Nixon’s troubles, Vice President Spiro Agnew, his outspoken point man against the media and liberals, was forced to resign in 1973, pleading “no contest” to a criminal charge of tax evasion.
Nixon probably had not known in advance of the Watergate burglary, but he had tried to cover it up, and had lied to the American people about it. Evidence of his involvement mounted. On July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend his impeachment. Facing certain ouster from office, he resigned on August 9, 1974.
THE FORD INTERLUDE
Nixon’s vice president, Gerald Ford (appointed to replace Agnew), was an unpretentious man who had spent most of his public life in Congress.
In public policy, Ford followed the course Nixon had set. Economic problems remained serious, as inflation and unemployment continued to rise.
He imposed measures to curb inflation, which sent unemployment above 8 percent. A tax cut, coupled with higher unemployment benefits, helped a bit but the economy remained weak.
In foreign policy, Ford adopted Nixon’s strategy of détente. Perhaps its major manifestation was the Helsinki Accords of 1975, in which the United States and Western European nations effectively recognized Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe in return for Soviet affirmation of human rights.
Western nations effectively used periodic “Helsinki review meetings” to call attention to various abuses of human rights by Communist regimes of the Eastern bloc.
THE CARTER YEARS
Jimmy Carter, former Democratic governor of Georgia, won the presidency in 1976.
Portraying himself during the campaign as an outsider to Washington politics, he promised a fresh approach to governing, but his lack of experience at the national level complicated his tenure from the start. He was a navy officer.
In economic affairs, Carter at first permitted a policy of deficit spending. Inflation rose to 10 percent a year when the Federal Reserve Board, responsible for setting monetary policy, increased the money supply to cover deficits.
Carter also faced criticism for his failure to secure passage of an effective energy policy. He presented a comprehensive program, aimed at reducing dependence on foreign oil, that he called the “moral equivalent of war.” Opponents thwarted it in Congress.
Though Carter called himself a populist, his political priorities were never wholly clear.
Carter’s political efforts failed to gain either public or congressional support. By the end of his term, his disapproval rating reached 77 percent, and Americans began to look toward the Republican Party again.
Carter’s greatest foreign policy accomplishment was the negotiation of a peace settlement between Egypt, under President Anwar al-Sadat, and Israel, under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Acting as both mediator and participant, he persuaded the two leaders to end a 30-year state of war. The subsequent peace treaty was signed at the White House in March 1979.
After protracted and often emotional debate, Carter also secured Senate ratification of treaties ceding the Panama Canal to Panama by the year 2000.
Going a step farther than Nixon, he extended formal diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China.
But Carter enjoyed less success with the Soviet Union. A SALT II agreement further limiting nuclear stockpiles was signed, but not ratified by the U.S. Senate, many of whose members felt the treaty was unbalanced. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan killed the treaty and triggered a Carter defense build-up that paved the way for the huge expenditures of the 1980s.
Carter’s most serious foreign policy challenge came in Iran. After an Islamic fundamentalist revolution led by Shiite Muslim leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini replaced a corrupt but friendly regime, Carter admitted the deposed shah to the United States for medical treatment. Angry Iranian militants, supported by the Islamic regime, seized the American embassy in Tehran and held 53 American hostages for more than a year. The long-running hostage crisis dominated the final year of his presidency and greatly damaged his chances.
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