Type: Critical Essays
Sample donated: Roberta Stone
Last updated: November 11, 2019
Defeat in the Vietnam War had many consequences for America as the country and its people were changed forever. The war had ended and in 1973 the last US soldiers had left Vietnam but the consequences of the war were already being seen. In the years immediately after the war, America suffered financially as taxes rose and the soldiers who fought in the war were being unfairly blamed for the embarrassing defeat they had to endure. In the long term, the people of America lost trust in their leaders because they felt that they had lied to them about how well the war was going and now the US forces are far less aggressive.The results of this war were very serious for the Americans because they had lost nearly 60,000 soldiers and around 150,000 were injured.
Not only did America have to cope with this loss of death, pain and suffering they were also forced to deal with the huge financial cost of fighting a war 9000 miles away. The government spent over 350 billion on the war which was a huge amount of money and not surprisingly there wasn’t enough money to spend on the important social issues that America was promised at the time, also as a result of this taxes had to rise which caused up roar within communities.This meant that everybody in America was paying for getting involved in a war that didn’t have anything to do with them really, because of the rise in taxes and higher inflation goods in America cost much more. These tax rises made the government very unpopular as it was them who raised them in order to off the debts. A second consequence of all this spending was that all the social programmes that had been planned to help the least well off were scrapped because America couldn’t afford to pull it off.
The government had promised to improve education and housing but again it could not keep to its promises. The issue of housing was to prove a major problem for the government. Statistics show that more was spent on the war than social issues and this meant that its plans to pull down the number of slums and ghettos were stopped. It was mostly black people who lived in these places and so this caused major racial tension. The government also didn’t pay for schools to be improved and so the level of education dropped and the crime rates rose dramatically.
As well as this the ex soldiers were treated very poorly. They were treated in dirty hospitals with untrained doctors and nurses, they were often short of supplies because of how much the government spent on the war. This was a horrible thing for the people of America to do because the troops had risked their lives fighting in that war and should have been treated with respect not treated as lepers. The human cost of the war also had a great impact on the American people, 58,000 soldiers lost there lives and 153,000 were severely injured.As well as people who were physically affected there was also many men who come back with serious mental issues because of the disturbing things they had witnessed during there time in Vietnam. Many people resented the government because they believed that they had suffered with the loss of family and friends for nothing because at the end of the war they were no better off than before. This lowered the morale of the people and as a result of this many people committed suicide because of the blame and the fact that the government didn’t provide any after support for them.The veterans were greatly affected by the war, they suffered massive problems, not only were some physically injured some were also mentally scared.
It was a fact that many of the young boys who fought in the war used drugs to get them through it and many of them turned to drugs after the war in an attempt to forget about the things they had seen out there. Unfortunately employers would not take on veterans and so they turned to crime to feed their addictions. Some of them drank excessively and this resulted in violence which caused broken homes and more social issues.
Many Americans saw the veterans as a failure and an embarrassment to the American people. They were blamed for the defeat and many were called names and were treated with no respect. The main issues was the drugs, this was the way in which the soldiers forgot about what was really going on, on Vietnam it was easy to get hold of the drugs in Vietnam but when they got home it became much harder. Many ex soldiers turned to violent crimes in order to get what they needed. This resulted in crime rates rising and communities becoming worse by the day.Alcohol was something else that caused a problem, many of the men who drank became violent and aggressive, sometimes even towards there wives which often resulted in broken homes. Following the war, the Americans tried to ‘purge the guilt’ that the US felt about the war.
Films such as platoon, born on the 4th of July and apocalypse now were made with a realistic view of what really happened during the war. Film directors were critical of American soldiers in an attempt to get them to see there wrong doings, hoping she would eventually be forgiven.The films also showed how wrong the tactics were- blaming the generals and politicians.
They saw at first hand just how bad it was to fight in Vietnam and how guerrilla warfare wore down the soldiers, most of them just 19 years of age. They were also many long term consequences of the war, for example, America had to deal with the defeat of loosing the war which caused great humiliation, you have to remember that in the 1960s and 70s America posted that it was the greatest power in the world.Not only did they have to cope with the humiliation but they had to think about the guilt and the pain they caused the innocent people of South Vietnam. They had to cope with the fact that the American government had lied to the people and so it made is difficult for the people of America to trust its leaders again. The government kept in saying that Vietcong was just around the corner when truth was it wasn’t. Then President Nixon said he would withdraw but he didn’t. Many young people began to think that the politicians couldn’t be trusted.
Americas own President Nixon had stood up in court and swore he was completely innocent of the Watergate scandal when soon it was proven that he was lying. The people of America knew that if they could be lied to once by the president – government they could be lied to at any time about more important issues. They had seen horrific incidents on TV where there own troops had accidently killed or injured hundreds and thousands of innocent peasants, the images of Kim Phuk come to mind and they blame this on the government.
Young people lost respect for authority because they believed that if their own government had to be questioned then so should parents, police and even teachers. This attitude affected the US because many people were filled with resentment towards the government and so they began to rebel in any way they could. Young people went on rampages and organised protests in order to make a point to their governments. Anything that the government told their people they didn’t believe what they were saying. They knew that they had lied once and could easily do it again.Some could say that the American people were glad the government was put in its place.
Perhaps one of the most important consequences of the war was that it forced the government to change its attitudes and policies towards foreign affairs and how it reacted to events around the world. During the 1960s they believed that the Americans were invincible and could never be beaten, America saw itself as a super power, a country what could do anything and so it got involved in Vietnam to stop it falling to communism.This was its only aim and they cared little about the people. Defeat was out of the question but when it came the Americans felt humiliated. Not only had they been defeated, they had been defeated by ‘little men and women in black pyjamas. ‘ America had been beaten by a 3rd world country that had little weapons or training.
America realised after the embarrassment she experienced she could no longer act the way she had ‘like the police force of the world. Her foreign policy changed and now she is far more reluctant to get involved in other countries issues.Take for example the recent problem in Afghanistan and Iraq, America no longer jumps into war on her own, she ensures she has other countries just in case anything happens like in Vietnam. America has now stopped thinking she is invincible and is a little more careful of what she does after the consequences of the last war. In conclusion it is clear that the American involvement in Vietnam has had a number of important consequences in both the short and longer term and that it changed America.
In the short term apart from being humiliated by a peasant army America felt the consequences of spending over $350 billion on fighting the war. Higher taxation and social problems were an issue throughout the 1970s. The soldiers were wrongly, in my opinion, blamed for the defeat when the defeat when the truth is the tactics and training were to blame. Only much later did the American people accept this? Finally defeat changed the way that America gets involved in other nation’s problems.In the 1960s America was arrogant and she behaved as if she so powerful, that she could get involved in any dispute she wanted to, but Vietnam changed all that. Today she is far more reluctant to get involved and refuses to go it alone, now she will only send her troops if other countries or organisations like the UN is sending troops also, this is what it happening recently in Iraq. The president knows that the US people would not support any plan of getting involved by itself- the people would have to be listened to.