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The ProWar Movement

The ProWar Movement: Domestic Support for the Vietnam War and the Making of Modern American Conservatism

Sandra Scanlon
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The ProWar Movement
    Book Description:

    In the vast literature on the Vietnam War, much has been written about the antiwar movement and its influence on U.S. policy and politics. In this book, Sandra Scanlon shifts attention to those Americans who supported the war and explores the war’s impact on the burgeoning conservative political movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Believing the Vietnam War to be a just and necessary cause, the prowar movement pushed for more direct American military intervention in Southeast Asia throughout the Kennedy administration, lobbied for intensified bombing during the Johnson years, and offered coherent, if divided, endorsements of Nixon’s policies of phased withdrawal. Although its political wing was dominated by individuals and organizations associated with Barry Goldwater’s presidential bids, the movement incorporated a broad range of interests and groups united by a shared antipathy to the New Deal order and liberal Cold War ideology. Appealing to patriotism, conservative leaders initially rallied popular support in favor of total victory and later endorsed Nixon’s call for “peace with honor.” Yet as the war dragged on with no clear end in sight, internal divisions eroded the confidence of prowar conservatives in achieving their aims and forced them to reevaluate the political viability of their hardline Cold War rhetoric. Conservatives still managed to make use of grassroots patriotic campaigns to marshal support for the war, particularly among white ethnic workers opposed to the antiwar movement. Yet in so doing, Scanlon concludes, they altered the nature and direction of the conservative agenda in both foreign and domestic policy for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-266-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction Conservatives and the Vietnam War
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1980 the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) broke with an eighty-year-old precedent and endorsed a presidential candidate. Four weeks after winning the Republican presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan delivered an address to the VFW’s annual convention in Chicago. Reagan’s address was typically impassioned and politically astute. Seven years had passed since U.S. troops had left the field of battle in Vietnam, and Reagan condemned the social and political divisions the war had helped create in America. Decrying partisan divisions over foreign policy, he called for unity in order to make America great and to keep it at peace. He declared...

  6. CHAPTER 1 No Substitute for Victory The Beginnings of a War
    (pp. 17-42)

    As Sen. Barry Goldwater triumphantly accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1964, a great many of the Republicans who crowded into San Francisco’s Cow Palace stood jaded. Many were exhausted by the last-minute campaign to stem the unexpected tide of Goldwaterite strength. Others were tired simply from their efforts in the four-year campaign to see Goldwater nominated and from the prospect of a difficult election battle. The potential, or even actual, American war in Vietnam did not prove to be a prominent feature of the debate that consumed the Republican Party during this period. This was hardly surprising,...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Loyal Opposition? The Push for Victory, 1965–1968
    (pp. 43-71)

    Intellectual conservatives and political activists wasted little time in questioning the policies of the Johnson administration. This distinguished them from most within the Republican Party, who remained largely silent on the Vietnam War because of the widely held view that challenging the popular president at this time would backfire politically. In the run-up to the midterm elections in 1966 Republicans preferred to allow Democrats to question the president’s policies rather than enter the political fray themselves.¹ Sen. John Tower was among the few Republican legislators who bucked this trend: by mid-1966 he openly attacked the president’s handling of the war....

  8. CHAPTER 3 Conservatives for Nixon The Domestic Politics of Vietnam, 1968–1969
    (pp. 72-124)

    Richard Nixon’s rhetoric on the centrality of the Vietnam War to America’s credibility differed little from that of pro-war conservatives during the early to mid-1960s. Building on his reputation as an arch-anticommunist and determined to augment the political leverage of the Republican Party, Nixon used the Vietnam issue as he had anticommunism and the House Un-American Activities Committee during his early career. A vocal hawk, Nixon urged military escalation and railed against the administration’s intermittent bombing halts. He began advocating a limit on the deployment of American troops in Vietnam while echoing hawkish demands for expanded and intensified air and...

  9. CHAPTER 4 From Victory to Honor Making Peace with Withdrawal, 1969–1972
    (pp. 125-183)

    Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech engendered a patriotic campaign that rivaled the anti-war effort in its breadth and lasting impact. Patriotic groups and veterans’ organizations rallied in support of the president’s call for national unity, exemplified by full endorsement of his policies of Vietnamization and negotiation. Labor leaders who continued to back the war, particularly Meaney and Lovestone, urged their memberships to rally behind the president’s agenda for solving the Vietnam problem.¹ The speech helped galvanize grassroots support for Nixon’s Vietnam agenda and steepened a trend whereby the push for military victory was no longer the basis of activism in favor...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Search for a New Majority Popular Support for the War
    (pp. 184-241)

    Each president who dealt with Vietnam understood that military intervention would have far-reaching political ramifications. Both Kennedy and Johnson sought to avoid a debate on Americanization of the conflict precisely because they realized that the complexities involved in whatever strategy was pursued would invite both opportunistic political challenges and sincere questioning of policy. Johnson attempted to rally public opinion behind his policies by deflecting political challenges and by openly insisting on the need for bipartisan support of American war aims. He also presented U.S. strategy within the widely understood contours of the Cold War consensus. The administration’s explanations of U.S....

  11. CHAPTER 6 Tell It to Hanoi Student Pro-War Campaigns
    (pp. 242-288)

    In 1961 the young conservative activist M. Stanton Evans published a book that, in its opening pages, described the Right’s “revolt on the campus.” Evans confidently envisaged historians recording “the decade of the 1960s as the era in which conservatism, as a viable political force, finally came into its own.”¹ Conservative student activism was not diminished by the prevailing liberal political climate on many campuses, but it altered with the rise of the New Left. Student groups such as YAF increasingly challenged academic administrations only in regard to their failure to restrain New Left activity on campus and became involved...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Snatching Victory The Endings of a War
    (pp. 289-327)

    Grassroots and student activism in support of Vietnam reduced the need for the government to rationalize the continuation of the war on the basis of national security considerations. Public and congressional pressures to hasten the process of Vietnamization made any talk of outright military victory politically irrelevant. Nixon’s preoccupation with the impact of the war on the election of 1972 and Kissinger’s determination to secure a peace agreement that would allow him to further the broader purposes of détente therefore prompted the White House to continue the process of winding down direct U.S. military engagements in Southeast Asia.

    National Review...

  13. Conclusion Defining the Vietnam War
    (pp. 328-342)

    The Watergate scandal in 1972–74 undercut what remained of the Nixon administration’s commitment to South Vietnam. It also convinced conservative leaders that the provisions of the Paris accords that were designed to ensure North Vietnam’s compliance were in fact hollow. Although individuals like Gold-water, Reagan, and Buckley became disillusioned with Nixon during this period, their reasons for supposing that the accords would ultimately fail to ensure South Vietnam’s independence were not entirely related to the president or even to the details of the agreement ending the war. In part, this was because they had not fully expected the accords...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 343-388)
  15. Index
    (pp. 389-425)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 426-426)