5 Ways Vietnam War Changed America

1. The end of the draft

Sensing the public's disenchantment with the war, President Richard Nixon abolished the draft and shifted to an all-volunteer force before the 1972 election. The end of the draft was popular with mothers and on college campuses.

2. 18-year-olds granted the right to vote

18-year-olds could be drafted but not vote in a presidential election. The House and Senate passed a Constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18.

The Nixon White House recognized the electoral significance of these new voters and courted the 18-year-old vote.

55.4% of the newly franchised young voters went to the polls in 1972, the highest in history.

3. Banding together of military families

The families of American POWs and MIAs (Prisoner of War and Missing in Action) joined together to ensure that America did not forget the men unaccounted for in the war. They ensured that members of the Armed Services would always be respected for their service, even as the country debated the policies that sent them into war. 

4. War: Getting out is tougher than getting in


The Vietnam War serves as an important lesson for today's national security policymakers. There is the Vietnam (and now Iraq) lesson that getting out of a war is much more complicated than getting into conflict, especially for a democracy such as our own. 

During the Reagan years, the Pentagon offered a doctrine on military engagement requiring clear policy objectives, public support before engagement, and a predesigned exit strategy. 

President George H. W. Bush followed these principles during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But a decade later, the lessons of Vietnam resurfaced as U.S. forces returned to Iraq and found themselves locked into a ground war that lacked a clear political and diplomatic solution. 

5. The rise of China and the toll of Watergate

The pressures to exit Vietnam produced two highly consequential Nixon White House actions. 

First, the opening to China was driven by Cold War political realignment as American troops were departing Asia. In many respects, Nixon’s trip to China had a bigger impact on future events than the moon landings of the same period. China, fed by its opening to the West in early 1972, has become a global economic and political powerhouse.

The Watergate scandal led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974, the only presidential resignation in U.S. history. Together, the China trip and Watergate would shape American politics for decades.

Source: 5 Ways Vietnam War Changed America
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