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Peace Now!

Peace Now!: American Society and the Ending of the Vietnam War

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Peace Now!
    Book Description:

    How did the protests and support of ordinary American citizens affect their country's participation in the Vietnam War? This engrossing book focuses on four social groups that achieved political prominence in the 1960s and early 1970s-students, African Americans, women, and labor-and investigates the impact of each on American foreign policy during the war.Drawing on oral histories, personal interviews, and a broad range of archival sources, Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones narrates and compares the activities of these groups. He shows that all of them gave the war solid support at its outset and offers a new perspective on this, arguing that these "outsider" social groups were tempted to conform with foreign policy goals as a means to social and political acceptance. But in due course students, African Americans, and then women turned away from temptation and mounted spectacular revolts against the war, with a cumulative effect that sapped the resistance of government policymakers. Organized labor, however, supported the war until almost the end. Jeffreys-Jones shows that this gave President Nixon his opportunity to speak of the "great silent majority" of American citizens who were in favor of the war. Because labor continued to be receptive to overtures from the White House, peace did not come quickly.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14859-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The incident in the white House dining room could not have been anticipated. Lady Bird Johnson’s luncheon had been routine—she simply wanted to enlist fifty women in the fight against crime. The guests had been vetted; allowances had had to be made in one or two cases. One of the guests, the singer Eartha Kitt, had known the rough side of American life. She had grown up in Harlem and, in her own words, “lived in the gutters.”¹ Yet Kitt’s work on behalf of disadvantaged youths and her willingness to advise President Johnson’s administration had marked her out as...

  5. 2 The Social Consensus
    (pp. 13-41)

    November 1, 1965, was a reasonably good Monday for the White House press office. The front page of theNew York Timescontained three stories on the Vietnam War. The largest headline proclaimed the result of the first attack by the Viet Cong on dug-in U.S. troops. Taking only light casualties themselves, the defenders of a Marine post had killed fifty-six of the enemy attackers. The next largest headline wasn’t quite so good. American planes had bombed a village, killing forty-eight innocent people. The error, however, had resulted from an accidental reversal of map coordinates by South Vietnamese military officers....

  6. 3 Students
    (pp. 42-92)

    In president nixon’s first term, student feelings against the Vietnam War reached a pitch of intensity summed up in the headline “Pigs Shoot to Kill—Bystanders Gunned Down,” describing an incident near the University of California, Berkeley.¹ Politicians took the students seriously, especially in key electoral states. In California, U.S. Senator Alan Cranston begged the antiwar students at Stanford to campaign for the ultimately victorious candidate John Rutherford because “the race in the 14th State Senate District will have tremendous impact on the history of the world.”² President Nixon stepped in on the other side of the debate. He made...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  8. 4 African Americans
    (pp. 93-141)

    On april 28, 1967, muhammad ali attended the Houston, Texas, induction center. The lieutenant on duty told him to step forward to be admitted into the armed forces of the United States. But Ali did not move. “Who is this white man,... to order a descendant of slaves to fight other people in their own country?” When he remembered that fateful day, another incident, too, stood out in Ali’s mind. As he departed, an old white woman whose son was serving in Vietnam accosted him: “I hope you rot in jail. I hope they throw away the key.”¹ Before the...

  9. 5 Women
    (pp. 142-177)

    Women were effective opponents of the Vietnam War. They supplied the antiwar movement with literary luminaries like Mary McCarthy, stars like Jane Fonda, and publicity-capturing organizations like Women Strike for Peace (wsp). They were especially important in helping to legitimize the antiwar movement from 1970 on, with Congresswoman Bella Abzug to the fore in cutting off the funds that sustained the U.S. military effort in Indochina. Whereas students started the antiwar campaign and African Americans took up the standard two years later, it fell to women to make the final charge. The pronounced affinity of women with the legitimization movement...

  10. 6 Labor
    (pp. 178-221)

    Most mainstream union leaders supported the Vietnam War. The Johnson and Nixon administrations found their support comforting because the labor leaders could claim to speak for the common, working person, which would help to undermine the antiwar campaigners’ claim to be the champions of the exploited masses. Labor’s patriotic support for the war had tangible results: it encouraged and enabled the White House to hold out for military solutions instead of accepting peace terms early.

    The virulent opposition faction that developed within the labor movement must also be considered in any appraisal of the workers’ role in the Vietnam War....

  11. 7 Minority Mentalities and the Vietnam War
    (pp. 222-228)

    The social groups considered in this book—students, African Americans, women, and labor—formed an important part of the consensus behind the Vietnam War. But significant numbers in those groups lost faith and, once disenchanted, mounted a formidable challenge to the grip exerted on foreign policy making by white, old, rich men.

    One reason for the success of the antiwar campaign lies in the shock engendered by the sudden and virulent protest of these social groups, which left the White House unprepared. Another stems from what might otherwise seem to be the weakness of the protest movement: its qualities of...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 229-292)
  13. Index
    (pp. 293-308)