WATCH: The Vietnam Peace Movement & Ukraine Today

Historian Carolyn Woods Eisenberg speaks on “Ending the ‘American War’ in Vietnam: Impact of the U.S. Antiwar Movement and Lessons for the Present.”  

Historian Carolyn Woods Eisenberg addressed Massachusetts Peace Action on Monday.

On January 27, 1973, the Paris Peace Conference agreed to U.S. withdrawal of all troops and advisors from Vietnam, withdrawal of all foreign troops from Laos and Cambodia, and a ceasefire throughout Vietnam. It was the culmination of a failed US project that cost vast sums of money and millions of lives. For years a vibrant antiwar movement challenged the direction of U.S. policy.

Focusing on the Nixon years, Eisenberg has drawn upon thousands of declassified documents to illuminate the impact of the antiwar movement on the Nixon Administration. In looking back at the Vietnam experience, do those events have implications for the present? Eisenberg’s new book Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia is a compelling, meticulous narrative of the way national security decisions formed at the highest levels of government affect the lives of individuals at home and abroad.

Carolyn Woods Eisenberg is Professor of U.S. History and American Foreign Relations at Hofstra University. She is the author of the prize-winning book Drawing the Line: the American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-49. She is the co-founder of Brooklyn for Peace and co-legislative coordinator for Historians for Peace and Democracy.

Student protesters marching down Langdon Street at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, January 1965. (UW Digital Collections/Wikimedia Commons)

11 comments for “WATCH: The Vietnam Peace Movement & Ukraine Today

  1. Rafael
    March 3, 2023 at 02:10

    You seem to have ignored the most important aspect of the antiwar movement: its unity with the troops themselves, leading the army to become disloyal. (Did you forget fragging?) It was the disintegration of military discipline (not lobbying congress!) that brought the troops home.

    You also seem to have accepted the absurd claim that the Russian entry to the war in Ukraine was “unprovoked”. Consortium News has a plethora of articles explaining how wrong that is.

  2. D.H.Fabian
    March 2, 2023 at 22:43

    We spent years talking about this, saying that a day would come when the proverbial masses – poor and middle class, workers and those left jobless – would need to pull together, for the common good. Years of work went into ensuring that this can’t happen this time. What the low-income and poor can tell you is that those in power are going to do what they want, regardless of how many oppose them. The people have the pitchforks, but the ruling class have the nuclear arsenal,

  3. Richard Coleman
    March 2, 2023 at 15:24

    I posted most of this elsewhere but I’m proud of it ( ;^] ) so here goes:

    I have recently rethought the role/importance of mass demonstrations of public opinion in opposition to something the rulers care alot about or are deeply invested in.
    Item: mass demonstrations for clemency for Sacco and Vanzetti. Got a big FU from the state.
    Item: Ditto for the Rosenbergs. I believe even the Pope pleaded for their lives. Same FU from the state.
    As to the Vietnam war: by the end of LBJ’s presidency there were regularly massive demos against it, reflecting major public opinion. The war went on for another 4 years. Why? And exactly WHY did the US finally withdraw? I have come to believe that public opinion played a role, even a major role, in that decision. BUT NOT THE DECISIVE ROLE.
    That, I believe, was the breakdown of “morale” in the Army. Fragging was becoming routine and we now know that it was largely racial: mostly black “grunts” were fed up with being ordered to their possible deaths (by mostly young priviledged white officers) defending someone else’s democracy when they had almost none of their own at home. The anti-war messages of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and MLK among others, along with the consciousness of the black struggle overall was hitting home. Also: active-duty GIs were marching IN UNIFORM against the war. Vietnam Vets against the War (VVAW). Anti-war coffeehouses around military bases even in the South and Southwest. Desertions. Draft card burnings. Draft evasion to the point of youth fleeing the country.
    The Army was on the road to rebellion and who knew there THAT might lead???
    I think that this breakdown of “discipline” both within and without the Army was what convinced the rulers that continuing the war was becoming too dangerous and had to end.
    Had it not been for that, I believe we’d STILL be in Vietnam. Public opinion By Itself? Nah.
    Marjorie Taylor Greene Votes Against Mourning Victims Of Turkey-Syria Earthquakes – HP

    So much propaganda, so little truth……
    Your Lying Headline: “Marjorie Taylor Greene Votes Against Mourning Victims Of Turkey-Syria Earthquakes”
    True Headline: “House Resolution Fakes Sympathy For Earthquake Victims To Denounce Putin, Call For Assad Ouster.”
    I don’t suppose you’d care to specify just what Assad did (or didn’t do) for the earthquake victims that was so heinous….

  4. John Banasiak
    March 2, 2023 at 11:50

    When will some of these soldiers for peace receive Medals of Honor?

  5. March 2, 2023 at 10:32

    A major factor was the breakdown of discipline in the military itself. It was not just the civilians, but it was the soldiers who were killing their own officers known as ‘Fragging’…tossing a grenade into the tent of the commanding officer, as well as simple refusal to carry out missions, that convinced the leadership that a draft army would just give trouble. That was the reason why the military switched to the volunteer army, even if the volunteers were guys and gals with no prospects in life. The military gave them a job, food, shelter, etc.
    But that all came after the military debacle and mutiny of the draft army.

  6. Daedalus
    March 2, 2023 at 10:30

    Those were the days when people could sign agreements and be expected to stand by their written word. They were the ‘good old days’. We’ve ‘moved on’, and who would trust any such agreement signed by the US or the EU today?

    The complexity of our human communication is one of the few things that differentiates us from other creatures. When we willfully break signed treaties and allow ourselves to be swamped in propaganda and false advertising, we are destroying our humanity.

    Perhaps the whole ‘human experiment’ will soon go the way of the dodo.

  7. James
    March 2, 2023 at 09:44

    The article states that:

    “On January 27, 1973, the Paris Peace Conference agreed to U.S. withdrawal of all troops and advisors from Vietnam, withdrawal of all foreign troops from Laos and Cambodia, and a ceasefire throughout Vietnam. It was the culmination of a failed US project that cost vast sums of money and millions of lives. For years a vibrant antiwar movement challenged the direction of U.S. policy.”

    While the anti-war movement was certainly helpful in ending the war in Vietnam, what was even more important in bringing that destructive war to a halt was the GI movement, which was the largest mutiny which the U.S. military has ever endured. David Cortright’s classic book Soldiers in Revolt, as well as the searing documentary Sir! No Sir!, drives this point home to great effect, both to the reader and the viewer, as tens of thousands of soldiers and airmen and sailors emphatically said NO to American militarism. Those members of the military who took part in the GI rebellion back then are, unlike those who went along with the program, the true heroes of this country as they had the courage and integrity to refuse the illegal and immoral orders which they were given by their commanding officers and to say NO to that most unnecessary war.

    • Rafael
      March 3, 2023 at 02:22

      For some reason your comment didn’t show up on my screen. Hence I wrote my comment, saying similar things without mentioning yours.

      However I would not counterpose “the GI movement” to “the peace movement”. The two were different sides of a single unified movement. The civilians organized GI coffee houses, distributed literature, etc etc. Conversely, GIs participated (openly and in uniform!) in mass denomstrations in the US.

  8. Tony
    March 2, 2023 at 08:28

    The speaker makes a very interesting and valid point: resolutions in Congress did not pass but troop levels had to be cut to ensure that those resolutions would be defeated.

    Later on, the Reagan administration had a similar dilemma in dealing with the Nuclear Freeze movement. That did not pass either but it did have some worthwhile effect in shaping administration policy. The Carter administration had envisaged deploying 200 MX missiles but the total actually deployed was around 50.

    In the early 1990s, the number of nuclear tests came down as there was not so much to test. But it is also reasonable to think that the Bush administration sought to limit the numbers in order to defeat legislation to halt them altogether. Legislation for a total ban did eventually pass and President Bush reluctantly signed it into law.

    Not achieving your immediate goals is not the same as having no effect.

  9. Rebecca Turner
    March 2, 2023 at 03:10

    Given that the US anti-war movement against the Vietnam war rose and fell with the imposition and ending of compulsory enlistment, I’m not sure that it has much to teach us. There has been no substantial or effective movement since then in the USA, nor here in the UK. Altering that means organising the working class, an activity (and class) that middle-class peaceniks instinctively avoid like the plague.

    • D.H.Fabian
      March 2, 2023 at 22:51

      It taught us that the middle class will stand up for the middle class. The draft is no longer a middle class concern. Today, most who go into the military do so, for a chance out of hopeless poverty.

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