Ayers & Santoli: An Analysis – World History Essay
There is no doubt that the Vietnam War was the most controversial war ever. Beside the event, there is also a human face to the events. Both Ayers and Santoli show us that there is more than what the politicians are saying about the conflict and the era in general. This time was the defining moment in American history as far as shaping future military interventions and foreign policy definitions. Both authors evolve emotionally as the conflict progresses. The views expressed by both the grunts in Vietnam and the protestors on the streets of America are the same.
A recurring theme throughout both readings is that of undefined war or conflict. Both readings emphasize on the fact that the US government made the wrong decision by getting involved in the Vietnam conflict.
They should have left the Vietnamese to curve out their own destiny. Throughout this paper we will analyze the recurring this recurring theme and how it affected people both here in the US and those soldiers serving in Vietnam.
The beginning of the war in Vietnam galvanized protest groups here in the US to protest against an event they saw as illegal and at the same time taking attention away from more pressing domestic issues like civil rights and economic empowerment. The war created a need for men to join the military, thus causing the draft. These draftees having experienced anti-war rhetoric back home went to Vietnam not knowing what to expect or outright not interested in the conflict. This can be observed in most of the soldier’s narratives, they strived to stay alive long enough for their tours of duty to end.
The experiences that the grunts and protestors/activists varied a lot. In both readings people experience and express their anger in a variety of ways. For a soldier, deserting or shooting oneself to get injured and subsequently be removed from the war zone was a common practice. While at home some protestors resorted to bombing government buildings as a way of expressing their displeasures. Soldiers in Vietnam expressed a constant struggle trying to understand and define the nature of both the enemy. Back home protestors argued heavily against the war stating that the US does not have any right to impose or determine the future of Vietnam. The reality of soldiers and the views expressed were the same. Most soldiers struggled throughout the conflict to express themselves on the alien surroundings and the progression of the war. It is widely understood and known that soldiers could not understand why victory is always a struggle even though they were winning most of the major engagements with the NVA. The reality faced by protestors at home was about the same but in a different level. Protestors had to struggle with the fact that the government kept on ignoring them and it also could use some of its machinery to stamp out any form of disobedience. Some protest groups felt they were not effecting change fast enough thereby deciding to ante-up their tactics or change the way they confront the government.
By deciding to bring the harsh realities of the war to both the American public and the government, activist group’s in-effect alienated a lot of normal citizens, who supposedly were the recipients of their messages and had the ability to effect change through the ballot or congress. Such a bad move on the activists caused them to be split into groups and their effectiveness became limited.
The soldier narratives also give us a glimpse on how widespread the feeling of defeat and wrong conflict were widespread within the ranks. Officers were particularly disliked by normal grunts because they were viewed as being enforcers of government doctrines and also most officers lacked combat experience thus causing a lot of casualties in bad engagement or decision making. The unusual thing is that most of the soldiers would not express their dislike for conflict to superior officers fearing being branded as Anti-American or coward’s in spite of being draftees. This underlying sense of patriotic duty and the belief that maybe tomorrow things will be different is what kept the military performing while other organizations like the protest groups in the US were breaking up.
Both readings give us a deep analysis of the situation from the perspectives of a protestor and soldiers. It is from this perspective we deduce what people were really feeing about the events. The citizenry was in a way waiting for the facts believing the congress and government to deliver and fix the issues before they became out of control. Such measures did not happen sine the government withheld its plans and important information from congress. By the time normal people started thinking about stopping the conflict after witnessing such carnage and second person accounts from family and friends in the armed services it was too late. The country could not afford to cut its losses and withdraw. People realized that it will be a major mistake and will send the wrong signal to other enemies.
The fact that people within the government and protestors viewed the events as morally wrong, the military being professional, carried out its mission in spite of all the limitations it had placed on it. Most soldiers felt as if they have been abandoned and people protesting at home would not affect any chance even though they may went well. The citizenry in the beginning subscribed to the idea of a draft but in the end started having doubts when a lot of soldiers started dying. At the same time protestors struggled all along to define themselves but eventually failing and ending up being influenced by a few radicals to effect change by reminding people how things are in Vietnam.
Both narratives give us a glimpse on the so ever evolving mind of young protestors who in the beginning had the right goals and ambitions to be only swayed by a few radicals who did not weigh the consequences of their decisions. The soldiers in Vietnam walked away completely different individuals and bitter at their government for sending them to fight a war with no exit strategy or primary goal. The soldier viewed that the conflict should have been left to the Vietnamese people to sort out and the US government reshaped the US military after the conflict was over.
Even though the war was not won, the protestors and soldiers experiences taught the citizenry to be more involved in what the government is deciding on their behalf. This can be truly said to be the legacy of the protestors and grunts, since both groups disbanded and went back to mainstream society, thus affecting change within that group too.