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The Pro-War Movement

Domestic Support for the Vietnam War and the Making of Modern American Conservatism

Sandra Scanlon

Publication Year: 2013

In the vast literature on the Vietnam War, much has been written about the antiwar movement and its influence on U.S. policy and politics. In this book, Sandra Scanlon shifts attention to those Americans who supported the war and explores the war’s impact on the burgeoning conservative political movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Believing the Vietnam War to be a just and necessary cause, the pro-war movement pushed for more direct American military intervention in Southeast Asia throughout the Kennedy administration, lobbied for intensified bombing during the Johnson years, and offered coherent, if divided, endorsements of Nixon’s policies of phased withdrawal. Although its political wing was dominated by individuals and organizations associated with Barry Goldwater’s presidential bids, the movement incorporated a broad range of interests and groups united by a shared antipathy to the New Deal order and liberal Cold War ideology. Appealing to patriotism, conservative leaders initially rallied popular support in favor of total victory and later endorsed Nixon’s call for “peace with honor.” Yet as the war dragged on with no clear end in sight, internal divisions eroded the confidence of pro-war conservatives in achieving their aims and forced them to reevaluate the political viability of their hardline Cold War rhetoric. Conservatives still managed to make use of grassroots patriotic campaigns to marshal support for the war, particularly among white ethnic workers opposed to the antiwar movement. Yet in so doing, Scanlon concludes, they altered the nature and direction of the conservative agenda in both foreign and domestic policy for years to come.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii


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pp. xiii-xvi

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Introduction: Conservatives and the Vietnam War

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pp. 1-16

In 1980 the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) broke with an eighty-year- old precedent and endorsed a presidential candidate. Four weeks after winning the Republican presidential nomination, Ronald Reagan delivered an address to the VFW’s annual convention in Chicago. Reagan’s address was typically impassioned and...

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1. No Substitute for Victory: The Beginnings of a War

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pp. 17-42

As Sen. Barry Goldwater triumphantly accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1964, a great many of the Republicans who crowded into San Francisco’s Cow Palace stood jaded. Many were exhausted by the last-minute campaign to stem the unexpected tide of Goldwaterite strength...

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2. The Loyal Opposition?: The Push for Victory, 1965–1968

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pp. 43-71

Intellectual conservatives and political activists wasted little time in questioning the policies of the Johnson administration. This distinguished them from most within the Republican Party, who remained largely silent on the Vietnam War because of the widely held view that challenging the popular president...

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3. Conservatives for Nixon: The Domestic Politics of Vietnam, 1968–1969

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pp. 72-124

Richard Nixon’s rhetoric on the centrality of the Vietnam War to America’s credibility differed little from that of pro-war conservatives during the early to mid-1960s. Building on his reputation as an arch-anticommunist and determined to augment the political leverage of the Republican Party, Nixon used the...

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4. From Victory to Honor: Making Peace with Withdrawal, 1969–1972

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pp. 125-183

Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech engendered a patriotic campaign that rivaled the anti-war effort in its breadth and lasting impact. Patriotic groups and veterans’ organizations rallied in support of the president’s call for national unity, exemplified by full endorsement of his policies of Vietnamization and negotiation...

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5. The Search for a New Majority: Popular Support for the War

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pp. 184-241

Each president who dealt with Vietnam understood that military intervention would have far-reaching political ramifications. Both Kennedy and Johnson sought to avoid a debate on Americanization of the conflict precisely because they realized that the complexities involved in whatever strategy was pursued...

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6. Tell It to Hanoi: Student Pro-War Campaigns

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pp. 242-288

In 1961 the young conservative activist M. Stanton Evans published a book that, in its opening pages, described the Right’s “revolt on the campus.” Evans confidently envisaged historians recording “the decade of the 1960s as the era in which conservatism, as a viable political force, finally came into its own.”1 Conservative...

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7. Snatching Victory: The Endings of a War

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pp. 289-327

Grassroots and student activism in support of Vietnam reduced the need for the government to rationalize the continuation of the war on the basis of national security considerations. Public and congressional pressures to hasten the process of Vietnamization made any talk of outright military victory...

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Conclusion: Defining the Vietnam War

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pp. 328-342

The Watergate scandal in 1972–74 undercut what remained of the Nixon administration’s commitment to South Vietnam. It also convinced conservative leaders that the provisions of the Paris accords that were designed to ensure North Vietnam’s compliance were in fact hollow. Although individuals like Goldwater...


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pp. 343-388


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pp. 389-425

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781613762660
E-ISBN-10: 1613762666
Print-ISBN-13: 9781625340177
Print-ISBN-10: 1625340176

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War
Series Editor Byline: Christian Appy See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 867742165
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Pro-War Movement

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1969-1974.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1963-1969.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1961-1963.
  • Conservatism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Public opinion -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Political aspects -- United States.
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