F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
June 11, 2000
Protestors Prolonged Vietnam War



F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Antiwar protestors did not bring an end to the war in Vietnam; in fact, their unpopular tactics may actually have prolonged it.



The United States was not doomed to defeat in Vietnam; the war could have been won, declares Adam Garfinkle of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. If U.S. military and political leaders had "better understood the nature of the Vietnam War," he asserts, "they could have devised tactics to deal with it."

Garfinkle concedes that there would have been certain political costs. "Because the Vietnam War did not involve survival interests for the United States," he explains, "it was always necessary to consider the price of gaining a strategically important, but not critical, goal. U.S. leaders, as politicians are wont to do, chalked up 'costs' not only in terms of casualties and money, but also their own political fortunes." Garfinkle concludes that the Vietnam War could have been won, or at least not lost, "had it not been for a concatenation of bad military tactics, civilian overseers who failed in their duty to drag decent advice out of the uniformed military, the wavering of Lyndon Johnson's Wise Men, Richard Nixon's desire to shape a quick 'opening' to China, and then his self-inflicted problems over Watergate."

Garfinkle rejects the self-serving claims of antiwar activists and argues instead "that the protests lengthened the war and that more people were killed on account of them." He points out that "the obscenity, illegality, and raging anti-patriotism of the antiwar protestors made them the most hated group in America during the late 1960s and early 1970s," effectively discouraging antiwar sentiment among the general populace. Garfinkle acknowledges that "the American people did turn against the war, but not because of protests in the streets. They turned against it because eventually the costs seemed to outweigh the benefits. Moreover," he adds, "they turned against it when the leadership of the country lost its will to continue."

In the spring of 1969, my seventh grade class at St. Matthew the Apostle Elementary School was invited to participate in the "Loyalty Day Essay" contest sponsored by VFW Post 3267 in Harahan, Louisiana. My submission was a fervent and heartfelt defense of America's crusade against Communism in Vietnam, and to my astonishment it won first place. Less than five years later, I found myself attending an antiwar protest in downtown New Orleans. True, I remained aloof from the proceedings, which struck me as even more artificial and contrived than a school pep rally, but why was I even there? Why? Because, like all teenagers, I was anxious to rebel -- against something, anything. But, also, because the older generation, which had gotten me to the age of 12 with a reasonably level head, had suddenly given up and abandoned me to wiles of the culture warriors. I regained my wits, eventually, no thanks to my elders. And I still have the magnificent blue metal and carved wood plaque bestowed on me by the vets at Post 3267, but I can't take as much pride in it as I'd like to, because of an uneasy feeling that I no longer deserve it.


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