The Vietnam War Essay

This paper is an attempt to explore the links between the student unrest and Vietnam War and the cause and effect relationship between both of them. Furthermore, the focus would also be on exploring the political and social impact of the end of Vietnam War. 


Before the Vietnam War, the public in America viewed their senators, congressional representatives, public and governmental institutions and universities with great respect. However, there was a drastic shift in these views during the 1960s. When the Vietnam War started in 1955, the majority of the American public backed their government and regarded their intentions as good but as the war dragged on to the next decade with no signs of the way ending in the future, the great financial, social and economic losses incurred by the Americans (Gilbert, 2001). The public became more and more concerned about their future and started questioning about the merits and demerits of prolonging the war. More importantly, the American government instituted a draft to send the young men and women to war, the very same war that was being questioned for American involvement. Statistics of 1960s and 1970s indicate that around 0.125 million young American migrated to Canada and 55000 service men went off the radar. There were exemptions for the students in college and therefore, everyone of the age tried to put themselves to college in an attempt to avoid the draft (Klimke, 2010). However, they knew that as soon as their education ends, they would be standing in the same line in which the 38000 civilians and soldiers were standing and had lost their lives (the total deaths caused by the conflict were over 58000 but by the time, the draft was signed, the death toll stood somewhere near 38000). Furthermore, the rising inflation, unemployment, mounting fiscal deficits and other economic problems also forced the youth so register their protests. On top of it, with the ongoing events in the political arena, Johnson’s policies, Nixon’s Watergate scandal, appointment of President Ford, complete pardon to Nixon by Ford and others created an environment of complete distrust of politicians by the public. The result of all these appeared in the form of mass protests by students and nationwide student unrest (Gilbert, 2001). 

Historians agree to the fact that it was the student protests, which ignited the mass protests of Americans throughout the United States. Activists, celebrities and musicians like “Abbie Hoffmann, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jane Fonda, Jefferson Airplane and other soon joined the cause and the students protesting on the streets of New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and others” (Klimke, 2010). 

Without any doubts, the United States paid a huge price for engaging itself into the Vietnam War for over two decades. Despite his domestic policies of Great Society and other plans, President Johnson had to leave his post due to the immense pressure of the general public (Kissinger, 2003). President Nixon’s promise to the nation was the systematic withdrawal of troops from Vietnam; however, the same did not happen. In fact, during the Nixon era, both death and influx of soldiers and civilians remained high (Lawrence, 2010).

The country lost more than 120 billion US dollars on the war during 1965-1973. This increased the fiscal deficit and diverted the attention of the federal government from many domestic plans and policies. Furthermore, the economic strains caused by the war played an important role in limiting the US government’s ability to cope up the economic recession of early 1970 caused by the oil crisis (Kissinger, 2003). 

The country also learned important lesson about the future military conflicts. They learned a lesson that they could not beat any enemy on their own land without any enough information about those enemies. Furthermore, Americans also learned the lesson that despite of them being a superpower, they cannot police the entire world at all times. Sometimes, it is important and in fact, imperative to follow a policy of non-intervention (Kissinger, 2003). 

Three million Americans served in the war and more than 58000 Americans lost their lives, 0.15 million seriously wounded and 21000 were permanently disabled and over 0.83 million veterans suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder. More importantly, military institutions and soldiers who lost their lives and the ones who put their lives on stake “for their country”, when they came back, the public did not see them as heroes but as the mass killers of innocent men (Kissinger, 2003). Never in the history of United States before did people see politicians more dishonest, fraudulent, and deceitful. People believed more in the conspiracy theories than the speeches and promises of the politicians (Lawrence, 2010). 


Without any doubts, even after three decades of the United States pulling its troops out of Vietnam, it remains one the most debated topics in the United States history. The social and political impacts of the war are still visible, although, it appears that the country’s administration has forgotten the lessons learned from the war. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that student unrest played a curial role in shaping the opinions of people and the policies of the government about the war. 


Gilbert, M. J. (2001). The Vietnam War on campus: other voices, more distant drums. Greenwood Publishing Group. 

Kissinger, H. (2003). Ending the Vietnam War: A History of America’s Involvement in and Extrication from the Vietnam War. Simon and Schuster. 

Klimke, M. (2010). The other alliance: student protest in West Germany and the United States in the global sixties. Princeton University Press. 

Lawrence, M. A. (2010). The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. Oxford University Press.