The War’s Consequences

The Vietnam War had far-reaching consequences for the United States. It led Congress to replace the military draft with an all-volunteer force and the country to reduce the voting age to 18. It also inspired Congress to limit the presidency through the War Powers Act, restricting a president's ability to send American forces into combat without explicit Congressional approval. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees have helped revive US urban neighborhoods.

The Vietnam War severely damaged the U.S. economy. Unwilling to raise taxes to pay for the war, President Johnson unleashed a cycle of inflation. 

The war also weakened U.S. military morale. The public was convinced that the Pentagon had inflated enemy casualty figures in order to hide the fact that the country was engaged in a military stalemate. During the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. commitment to internationalism was weakened out of fear of another Vietnam. Since then, the public's aversion to casualties led to strict guidelines for sending forces abroad and a heavy reliance on air power to project American military power.

The war in Vietnam deeply split the Democratic Party. As late as 1964, over 60 percent of those surveyed identified themselves in opinion polls as Democrats. But the war alienated many blue-collar Democrats. To be sure, other issues—such as urban riots, affirmative action, and inflation—also weakened the Democratic Party. Many former party supporters viewed the party as weak in the area of foreign policy and uncertain about America's proper role in the world.

The war undermined liberal reform and made many Americans deeply suspicious of government. President Johnson's Great Society programs competed with the war for scarce resources, and voters who might have supported liberal social programs turned against the president as a result of the war.

Today the American people remain deeply divided over the conflict's meaning. A Gallup Poll found that 53 percent of those surveyed believe that the war was "a well intentioned mistake," while 43 percent believe it was "fundamentally wrong and immoral."

Source: The War’s Consequences
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