To what extent did the American public's reaction to the Vietnam War shape its course?
It is the course of the war that shaped the American people's reaction and not the reaction of the American people that affected the course of the war. American public's reaction may have played a small part in shaping the course of the war, as the president could not escalate without public support. Increasing criticism within the administration and congress it self, anti war reports of the media and the cost of the war were all issues that caused the anti war feeling. However all these issues were generated from the war itself. The Tet Offensive and the My Lai Massacre amongst many other events showed to everyone back at home, the point where "things start to go wrong in a war"(Michael Herr). The weaknesses of the Americans in the Vietnam War greatly contributed to their failure. These failures were gradually shaping the course of the war and thus the growth of anti war feeling in the administration and the congress and the general public who saw number of dead soldiers being brought back. Therefore it was not just the public's reaction that shaped the course of the war.
The Vietnam War itself was enough proof that was needed to show that the war wasn't going well as the Americans had hoped. The Tet Offensive that occurred in January 1968 had shown that US intelligence officials had failed to notice clear warnings. It had also decreased their confidence. This event occurred on the Tet festival that is the equivalent of Christmas, New Year and Easter. It is when Hanoi launched an'unprecedented offensive against South Vietnam' (Vivienne Sanders). The aim of this was to cause the collapse of Saigon government. The attack came very unexpectedly, shocking Saigon, Washington and the US public. Communists seemed to move with such impunity and so effectively that it took 11,000 American and ARVN troops thr…