By 1968 the country was in tur- moil over both the Vietnam War and civil disorder, expressed in ur- ban riots that reflected African- American anger . On March 31, 1968, the president renounced any inten- tion of seeking another term . Just a week later, Martin Luther King Jr . was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee . John Kennedy’s younger brother, Robert, made an emotional anti-war campaign for the Demo- cratic nomination, only to be assas- sinated in June .

At the Democratic National Con- vention in Chicago, Illinois, protest- ers fought street battles with police . A divided Democratic Party nomi- nated Vice President Hubert Hum- phrey, once the hero of the liberals but now seen as a Johnson loyal- ist . White opposition to the civil

rights measures of the 1960s galva- nized the third-party candidacy of Alabama Governor George Wal- lace, a Democrat who captured his home state, Mississippi, and Arkan- sas, Louisiana, and Georgia, states typically carried in that era by the Democratic nominee . Republican Richard Nixon, who ran on a plan to extricate the United States from the war and to increase “law and order” at home, scored a narrow victory .


Determined to achieve “peace with honor,” Nixon slowly withdrew American troops while redoubling efforts to equip the South Vietnam- ese army to carry on the fight . He also ordered strong American offen- sive actions . The most important of these was an invasion of Cambodia in 1970 to cut off North Vietnam- ese supply lines to South Vietnam . This led to another round of protests and demonstrations . Students in many universities took to the streets . At Kent State in Ohio, the National Guard troops who had been called in to restore order panicked and killed four students .

By the fall of 1972, however, troop strength in Vietnam was be- low 50,000 and the military draft, which had caused so much cam- pus discontent, was all but dead . A cease-fire, negotiated for the United States by Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, was signed in 1973 . Although American troops




departed, the war lingered on into the spring of 1975, when Congress cut off assistance to South Vietnam and North Vietnam consolidated its control over the entire country .

The war left Vietnam devastated, with millions maimed or killed . It also left the United States trauma- tized . The nation had spent over $150,000-million in a losing effort that cost more than 58,000 Ameri- can lives . Americans were no longer united by a widely held Cold War consensus, and became wary of fur- ther foreign entanglements .

Yet as Vietnam wound down, the Nixon administration took his- toric steps toward closer ties with the major Communist powers . The most dramatic move was a new rela- tionship with the People’s Republic of China . In the two decades since Mao Zedong’s victory, the United States had argued that the Nation- alist government on Taiwan rep- resented all of China . In 1971 and 1972, Nixon softened the American stance, eased trading restrictions, and became the first U .S . president ever to visit Beijing . The “Shanghai Communique” signed during that visit established a new U .S . policy: that there was one China, that Tai- wan was a part of China, and that a peaceful settlement of the dispute of the question by the Chinese them- selves was a U .S . interest .

With the Soviet Union, Nixon was equally successful in pursuing the policy he and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called détente . He held several cordial meetings with

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in which they agreed to limit stockpiles of missiles, cooperate in space, and ease trading restrictions . The Stra- tegic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) culminated in 1972 in an arms con- trol agreement limiting the growth of nuclear arsenals and restricting anti-ballistic missile systems .

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *