At the Water's Edge: American Politics and the Vietnam War (The American Ways Series)
More than most wars in American history, the long and contentious Vietnam War had a profound effect on the home front, during the war and especially after. In At the Water's Edge, Melvin Small delivers the first study of the war's domestic politics. Most of the military and diplomatic decisions made by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Mr. Small shows, were heavily influenced by election cycles, relations with Congress, the state of the economy, and the polls. Although all three presidents and their advisers claimed that these decisions were taken exclusively for national security concerns, much evidence suggests otherwise. In turn, the war had a transforming impact on American society. Popular perceptions of the "war at home" produced a dramatic and longstanding realignment in political allegiances, an assault on the media that still colors political debate today, and an economic crisis that weakened the nation for a decade after the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. Domestic conflict over the war led to the abolition of the draft, the curtailment of the intelligence agencies' unconstitutional practices, formal congressional restraints upon the imperial presidency, and epochal Supreme Court rulings that preserved First Amendment rights. The war ultimately destroyed the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and indirectly forced the resignation of Richard Nixon. Those presidents who followed through the remainder of the twentieth century constructed their foreign policies mindful that they would not survive politically if they were to lead the nation into another protracted limited war in the Third World.