Past and Present

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Past and present

McCarthyism affected the lives and political thinking of people in the U.S. during the 1950’s. With the Soviets declaring their intentions of exporting revolution throughout the world, McCarthyism effectively used the fear and hatred Americans had of communism in order to manipulate the American public and sway political decisions. After America learned, from Britain, that Klaus Fuchs, had spied for the Russians while working on the Manhattan Project, Senator McCarthy claimed that there were communists within the State Department (Rockwell, 2004). He used the thought of espionage and conspiracy as a scare tactic against the American people. McCarthy lied to the American public and made false claims against U.S. government officials. America as a society was confused, fearful and angry, about communism, espionage, and conspiracy. Their decision-making wasn’t rational and McCarthy fed off of this and used it to his

advantage. “Most people thought that communists were worse than murderers” (Mack, 2002). McCarthy used this as a tool to manipulate the American public into agreeing with him and his policies even-though it caused panic fear throughout the nation.

The U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War during the 1960’s was a significant event in U.S. history. The United States became involved in Vietnam because American policymakers believed that if the entire country fell under a Communist government, Communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia (Atwood, N.D.). In order to keep an abundant amount of U.S. troops in Vietnam, the U.S. government implemented the use of the Selective Service Draft. At the age of 18, every male in America had to register for the draft and this brought on an uprising of student unrest across the county. The draft had been used in previous wars but changes to the draft caused controversy and unrest. If the draftee were a college student, they could receive a deferment and would be able to finish college without the fear of being drafted. However, once finished with college, a students name would be put to the very top of the draft list and could be deployed anytime thereafter (Bexte, 2002). Many students did not understand why America was at war, and wanted no part of it. Many students began to protest against the war. These protests would literally divide the country in two, those who were for the war and those who were against it. Many of the protests went without incident, but as the war escalated

in Vietnam so did the anti-war protests in the Unites States. On the Kent State University campus national guardsmen killed four students during an anti- war protest (Kent.EDU). Americans began to question the war and the overall goals of America.

The war claimed, “ 57,000 American lives and left more than 300,000 wounded,” (Davidson et al., 2005). As the body count of innocent American soldiers grew, so did the national deficit. In order to support the war efforts and troops in Vietnam, the United States spent over $120 billion. The Vietnam War was a total loss for the United States. It was socially and economically devastating.

The Watergate scandal could be identified as the greatest political scandal of the century; one that cost Richard Nixon his presidency. In 1971, a former defense analyst, Daniel Ellsberg, turned over a secret Pentagon report concerning the history of the war to the New York Times. The New York Times immediately began publishing these ‘Pentagon Papers’, which greatly infuriated many of those in charge of the country, including President Nixon. When Nixon was unable to stop the publication of the reports legally, he used his power as president to make sure the job got done by whatever means necessary (Evans, 2002).

President Nixon authorized his aide, John Ehrlichman, to organize a secret unit known as the “plumbers.” The plumbers were to do whatever was necessary to stop leaks to the press. The...
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