To what extent was the American War effort in Vietnam undermined by public opinion?

Essay by hollygolightly May 2004

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The Vietnam War is viewed by the majority as one of the worst periods in American history. The Americans moved into Vietnam in 1954 under the pretence of fighting against an "evil and aggressive Communist regime"1. The government stated the Domino Theory as a reason for involving themselves in someone else's war, whereby if America did not stop Vietnam from falling to Communism then other countries would follow, and American liberty, free enterprise and security would be put at risk. It is hard to define one important reason for the American's defeat in Vietnam. There are many factors that explain it: restrictions on the military and tactics that the American army employed, coupled with the strength of the North Vietnamese Army. The war also cost a lot of money, which meant inflation, tax rises and America's economy suffering. The collapse of the home front and the lack of support from the media was cause for the presidents to retreat and was another reason for the undermining of the war effort.

This information from home often leaked to the front line and caused the deterioration of troops' morale, also, the government was often criticised for not understanding the political nature of Vietnam, where no-one really understand or cared about the term democracy.

The general consensus by most historians is that the military tactics employed played a large part in determining the outcome of the war. Justin Wintle's 'The Vietnam Wars' concentrates on the military aspects, and suggests that while the Americans had a superior military and equipment, the tactics they used were useless due to the environment in Vietnam - Westmoreland's search-and-destroy operations would have been an effective opposition to guerrilla combat, 'or would have done had they been able to take place in a sealed environment ventilated by the...