History of Anti-War Movements in the US

anti-war-rally-dc-60sThe anti-war movement is a social movement done to oppose a certain nation’s endeavor of inflicting conflict due to whatever cause. This is otherwise known as pacifism which can be described as the opposition to carry out military force in times of conflict. The opposite of anti-war movement is peace movement. Usually, methods used by anti-war movements are protests and grassroots undertakings to pressure the government and eventually end the conflict or war.

In the United States, the largest anti-war movement occurred in protest against the Vietnam War. More than 250,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D.C. As this movement started in 1965 and reached its peak in 1968, different social groups from government institutions, labor unions, middle-class suburbs, and college campuses took part just to attest to the conflict.

Peace movements have long been existing in the United States, particularly in Quaker and Unitarian beliefs. However, they did not gain prominence until the Cold War. The rise in the nuclear race between countries prompted the Norman Cousins, Clarence Pickett, and Dr. Benjamin Spock to form the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) in 1957. SANE was a middle-class organization in particular which was devoted to traditional liberal peace activism. They aimed towards reduction of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, there was the Student Peace Union (SPU) formed in 1959 which had a more radical approach. Most of their members were nascent activists. They did not just wanted a reduction of nuclear weapons. They wanted a massive restructuring of the American society. However, they did not last that long and were replaced by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

Formed in 1960, SDS was able to publish a statement expressing their disillusionment with the military-industrial-academic establishment. They thought that life during the Cold War was very uncertain. Also, they see the failure of liberal ideology in a sense that African Americans in the South are degraded. What they wanted was a reevaluation of academic agreement so that the apathy among American youth would not be in vain. The SDS participated in the Civil Rights struggle as well.

There was also the FSM or the Free Speech Movement formed at the University of California in Berkeley. Formed in December 1964, this was mainly composed of students who believed that they could bring about changes by working as one. Through them, closed ties were established between military and academic establishments. All they needed was a catalyst to push the goal further.

war-protestersSo the most awaited catalyst occurred in Februuary 1965 when United States bombed North Vietnam. More and more people joined the movement and even the organizers were surprised of the outcome. Particularly in April 17, 1965, 15,000 to 25,000 people gathered at the capital. Three years later, particularly in 1968, another catalyst occurred. In late January, the Tet Offensive made the Americans doubt their own administration. Their dissent flourished into violence where they went as far as occupying administration buildings, police force needed to be applied, raids along the streets, shredding of files, and many more.

The movement became powerful during 1969 to 1973. But as time passed by, these movements gained less public respect and faced opposition from the middle-class Americans. They were even tagged by the label “hippie”. In 1970, the movement gained solidarity once more when My Lai massacre became publicized. When President Nixon announced that U.S. forces entered Cambodia, protesters were filled with more dissent that ever. Many were killed and wounded in the process as rage filled the streets. Soon, the public came to know that military and intelligence services are slowly losing accountability. Finally, in January 1973, President Nixon announced the end of U.S.’s involvement with the war. Of course, this was in response to the dissent expressed by the anti-war movement.