Vietnam and the American Political Tradition: The Politics of Dissent

Vietnam and the American Political Tradition: The Politics of Dissent

Vietnam and the American Political Tradition: The Politics of Dissent

Vietnam and the American Political Tradition: The Politics of Dissent

Synopsis

Many came to see cold war liberals during the Vietnam War as willing to invoke the democratic ideal, while at the same time tolerating dictatorships in the cause of anticommunism. This volume of essays demonstrates how opposition to the war, the military-industrial complex, and the national security state crystallized in a variety of different and often divergent political traditions. Indeed, for many of the individuals discussed, dissent was a decidedly conservative act in that they felt the war threatened traditional values, mores, and institutions.

Excerpt

Political and diplomatic history have fallen into disrepute of late. They are, critics proclaim, concerned with power, elites, and white males, both living and dead. The subfields are allegedly subject to “top-down” treatment and largely ignore the inarticulate, disfranchised, and powerless. All of this is true; much work in diplomatic, and to a lesser extent, political history seems repetitive, overly abstract, and unimaginative. And yet, if one reads the New York Times or listens to National Public Radio, much of the reporting has to do with politics at home and abroad, and the interaction between nation states. That is so because educated laypeople find such topics not only interesting but important. They do have a point. In the United States, at least, the national political arena is not only where interests project their power but where the people's representatives discuss the nation's values and goals, in the process forging its very identity. The realm of international relations is where national goals, values, and ideologies compete, coexist, conquer, or perish. In the aftermath of the Cold War the threat of religious, ethnic, and tribal conflict has become as important as the danger posed by international warfare. Nevertheless, power is still exercised to a large extent by national governments, both internally and externally. In truth, though, the distinction between culture on the one hand and politics and diplomacy on the other is artificial.

Isolationism has always been a dominant theme in American foreign policy. The nation was born in part out of a desire to separate itself from the evils of European monarchism and colonialism. In the decades that followed the American Revolution, it labored to avoid entanglement in great power rivalries because entanglement might very well have led to conquest by one of those great powers. With the maturing of the U.S.

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