At the Water's Edge: American Politics and the Vietnam War (American Ways)

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9781566635936: At the Water's Edge: American Politics and the Vietnam War (American Ways)
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More than most wars in American history, the long and contentious Vietnam War had a profound effect on the home front, during the war and especially after. In At the Water's Edge, Melvin Small delivers the first study of the war's domestic politics. Most of the military and diplomatic decisions made by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Mr. Small shows, were heavily influenced by election cycles, relations with Congress, the state of the economy, and the polls. Although all three presidents and their advisers claimed that these decisions were taken exclusively for national security concerns, much evidence suggests otherwise. In turn, the war had a transforming impact on American society. Popular perceptions of the "war at home" produced a dramatic and longstanding realignment in political allegiances, an assault on the media that still colors political debate today, and an economic crisis that weakened the nation for a decade after the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. Domestic conflict over the war led to the abolition of the draft, the curtailment of the intelligence agencies' unconstitutional practices, formal congressional restraints upon the imperial presidency, and epochal Supreme Court rulings that preserved First Amendment rights. The war ultimately destroyed the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and indirectly forced the resignation of Richard Nixon. Those presidents who followed through the remainder of the twentieth century constructed their foreign policies mindful that they would not survive politically if they were to lead the nation into another protracted limited war in the Third World.

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About the Author:

Melvin Small is Distinguished Professor of History at Wayne State University and the author of Antiwarriors, The Presidency of Richard Nixon, Democracy and Diplomacy, Covering Dissent, and other books on American history. Born in New York City, he studied at Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Review:

A masterful survey of the interrelationships between U.S. domestic politics and the Vietnam War by the most knowledgeable historian on the subject. (Jeffrey Kimball, author of To Reason Why; Nixon’s Vietnam War; and The Vietnam War Files)

The Vietnam War lives on in American domestic politics, and in this book, Melvin Small explains masterfully why America’s longest war has had such a seminal and enduring internal impact on the United States. Small is one of the most respected scholars of the war at home. . . . This book is an important contribution to understanding why the Vietnam War still matters to all Americans. (David L. Anderson, author of The Columbia Guide to the Vietnam War, and dean, CSU Monterey Bay)

Melvin Small explores an often overlooked aspect of the Vietnam War by focusing on the role played by domestic politics. This concise, balanced account reveals how partisan considerations influenced the policies of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon in regard to Vietnam. The result is a welcome addition to the Vietnam literature. (Robert A. Divine, Littlefield Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin)

Melvin Small is one of our best historians of the Vietnam War and widely known and admired for his analyses of how U.S. foreign policy has historically been shaped by domestic events and beliefs. Here he combines these talents to give us a superb account―not least, its Legacies chapter that succinctly links these events of the 1960s and early 1970s to the 2004 presidential campaign. (Walter LaFeber)

Small does an excellent job of focusing on domestic political considerations. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. (Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia University Library Journal)

A valuable account of the impact of international politics on domestic policy. (Kirkus)

This is an excellent introduction to the politics of the 1960s and early 1970s. . . . Highly recommended. (D. R. Turner, Davis and Elkins College CHOICE)

Melvin Small's survey provides an important focus on the domestic front of the war. (Library Bookwatch)

An engaging account . . . ideal as a teaching text. (Journal of Southern History)

Concise and energetic. (The Historian)

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