Vietnam and the American Political Tradition
Edited by Randall B. Woods
Cambridge University Press
Despite a decade of public dissent and protests staged nationwide, it took a handful of senators to halt the war in Vietnam. A new book edited by distinguished professor of history Randall Woods examines the origins of their opposition. In the process, it suggests that challenging a president’s foreign policy can be both conscientious and patriotic — a fight for American values, rather than a betrayal of them.
Essays from leading scholars of history and political science reveal how seven U.S. senators — from different regions, backgrounds and political parties — each came to oppose the war in Vietnam. Among these loyal dissenters were Senators Ernest Gruenig, George McGovern, Frank Church, J. William Fulbright, Al Gore and John Sherman Cooper. Additional chapters discuss the evolution of the war and the responses of Presidents Johnson and Nixon to their critics.
Rather than contesting the purpose of the war — halting the international spread of communism — the senators focused their opposition on its effects. Among the negative consequences they perceived were the unchecked growth of the military-industrial complex and the federal government’s disregard for American civil liberties. They felt these effects undermined the nation’s political integrity and threatened quality of life in the regions they represented.