Timeline War, Peace, and Public Opinion
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In the 1920s, essayist and social commentator Walter Lippmann wrote, "The unhappy truth is that public opinion has been destructively wrong at the critical junctures." Two decades later, public relations expert Edward Bernays declared, "Today it is impossible to overestimate the importance of engineering consent; it affects almost every aspect of our daily lives. When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society . . ." How are these ideas related to the conduct of American foreign policy? Enter the Timeline to find out! Walter Lipmann was not alone in arguing that public involvement in the policy-making process had detrimental consequences. Dean Acheson, a former secretary of state in the Truman administration, complained that "the limitation imposed by democratic political practices makes it difficult to conduct our foreign affairs in the national interest." Regardless whether one agrees with their elitist assessment of the merits of public participation in the making of foreign policy, since the earliest days of the republic public opinion has played a vital role when it comes to deciding questions of war and peace. When the colonists sought independence from Great Britain, they justified their defiance of British laws on the basis of the doctrine of popular sovereignty. Government, argued men like Jefferson and Madison, should be based upon the "consent of the governed." Accordingly, American presidents since George Washington have continually claimed that their foreign policy goals—including their decisions to go to war—were an expression of the "will of the people." Despite occupying a hallowed place in the rhetoric of American foreign policy, the American public—or at least a majority of it—has rarely paid close attention to events beyond our borders. Protected on two sides by vast oceans, and blessed with abundant natural resources, for much of their history Americans have enjoyed the luxury of relative isolation from the complexities and intrigues of international politics, preferring instead to focus on the domestic pursuits of liberty and prosperity. Given their constitutional responsibilities as commander-in-chief, it is hardly surprising that many presidents have regarded public opinion as something to be actively shaped and molded, rather than passively obeyed. In this endeavor, presidents have often used the techniques of media persuasion to their advantage. However, the revolution in media technology has also made the world a smaller place, and events in distant lands can now be viewed instantaneously on CNN and similar 24-hour news sources. The result has been an
TL005 August 2006 Public Opinion Bryan Reece
increase in the significance of public opinion as a constraint upon the actions of the president and other top officials charged with furthering the national interest. In this Timeline, you will explore the impact of public opinion on vital decisions concerning war and peace at various points in our nation's history. As you proceed through the Timeline, it will be helpful to keep the following questions in mind: On what occasions have decisions of war and peace been driven by a well-organized public, demanding that its opinions be taken into consideration? On what occasions have presidents attempted to manipulate public opinion in ways that lend support to presidential goals? Do you agree with Lippmann's view that the public only gets in the way of efforts to promote the national interest, or do you see the public as a necessary check on the potential abuse of power?
Timeline People Suggested Videos Conclusion Test Yourself
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Timeline 1812: The War of 1812—Madison Defends the National Honor
In 1803, American envoys to France successfully negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, agreeing to pay the emperor Napoleon $15 million for land that would almost double the size of the existing United States. That same year, France and England went to war, with the latter declaring a naval blockade of the European continent. President Jefferson sought to maintain neutrality in the conflict, and American ships laden with food supplies set out across the Atlantic bound for both England and France. In its effort to enforce the naval blockade, the British Navy repeatedly seized American ships headed for France. In addition, the British Navy forcibly seized thousands of American sailors, falsely accusing them of being British deserters. In response to the public outcry over British affronts to the national honor, Congress, at President Jefferson's request, passed the Embargo Act of 1807, prohibiting all shipping to Europe. The trade embargo proved to be very unpopular in New England, where shipping was a mainstay of the economy, and Jefferson repealed the embargo right before the end of his term. When the British and French resumed seizures of American ships, James Madison, the new president, desperately sought to avoid war. He was supported in this effort by New Englanders, who understood that the United States lacked a formidable navy and that commerce could still be profitable even if some ships were lost to British and French seizures. However, the situation was a different one in the western territories, where nationalist sentiments along the frontier were strong. Indignant over Madison's failure to respond more aggressively to continuing British assaults on American shipping, and inflamed by persistent rumors that the British were sponsoring raids by hostile Indian tribes in the Great Lakes region, westerners clamored for war. Led by Speaker of the House Henry Clay, the western "War Hawks" in Congress attacked Madison relentlessly. Finally, on June 1, 1812, Madison asked Congress for a declaration of war against Britain. The war lasted two years, and it did not go well for the American forces. There was little support for the war from New Englanders, some of whom even threatened secession. The British captured key forts along the Great Lakes, repelled American efforts to invade Canada, and burned down the recently constructed Capitol building and the White House in Washington, DC. However, once the British defeated Napoleon in 1814, they were willing to put an end to the American conflict as well. Two weeks after American negotiators signed the Treaty of Ghent, but before the news had reached the United States, General Andrew Jackson secured a bold victory at the Battle of New Orleans, establishing a reputation that would later propel him into the rebuilt White House. Did You Know? Thomas Jefferson, the 3 president of the United States, played a major role in the founding of the United States. Napoleon I Bonaparte ruled the French Republic as the First Consul from 1799 to1804.
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1846: The Mexican War—Polk Pursues Manifest Destiny
In 1836, the Republic of Texas declared independence from Mexico, and offered to allow the United States to annex Texas and incorporate it into the Union. In 1845, the administration of President James K. Polk, convinced of the need to expand the size of the nation, agreed to the annexation and claimed the Rio Grande River as the border with Mexico. Previous treaties had established the Deuces River, 150 miles to the north, as the border. Not only did the Mexican government refuse to recognize the Rio Grande border, but it also rejected the U.S. annexation of Texas. In the hopes of settling the dispute—and perhaps of even purchasing the vast territory of California and New Mexico—President Polk dispatched a secret diplomatic envoy, John Slidell, to Mexico. After Slidell's arrival, the Mexican president was overthrown and replaced by a military leader, who asserted Mexico's sovereignty over all of Texas. Slidell departed, urging Polk to "chastise" the Mexicans. Now determined to provoke a military conflict with Mexico, Polk secretly ordered General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed territory south of the Deuces and establish positions along the Rio Grande. On the afternoon of May 9, 1846, Polk informed his cabinet that he would shortly ask Congress to declare war against Mexico. That evening, news reached Washington that the Mexican army had ambushed some of Taylor's troops, killing three American soldiers. On May 11, Polk delivered his war message to Congress, stating that Mexico has "shed American blood upon America's soil." Two days later, both houses of Congress overwhelmingly voted for war, knowing that the majority of the 1 public was solidly in favor of punishing Mexico and pursuing America's manifest destiny to establish control over the entire territory between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Despite considerable public support for extending American power from Texas to California, the Whig Party opposition in Congress was furious over Polk's maneuvers to provoke war with Mexico. Some were incensed primarily because Polk had started the war without consulting Congress; others feared that the admission of Texas into the Union would tip the balance in favor of the slave states. Still others opposed the war on moral grounds, claiming that it was beneath a nation committed to democracy to conquer its weaker neighbor by force. One newly elected Whig legislator, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, introduced his "Spot Resolution," questioning whether the spot where blood had originally been shed was really American soil. By the end of 1847, the American forces had won several decisive military victories, and General Winfield Scott's troops occupied Mexico City. Nevertheless, when the Mexicans refused to negotiate a surrender, public opinion began to turn against the war. Newspaper reports of the hardships endured by American troops—many more soldiers died of disease than from battlefield injuries—further eroded public support. Expressions of concern over both the costs and the morality of the war were concentrated in New England, where Henry David Thoreau spent a night in jail rather than pay a $1 poll tax to a government he believed to be acting immorally; his experience went on to serve as the basis of his famous essay, Civil Disobedience.
The notion of "manifest destiny" was used by political leaders beginning in the 1840s to justify the expansion of America's territorial boundaries. It referred to a belief that America had a national "mission" to spread the virtues of freedom and democracy across the American continent, along with the entrepreneurial spirit that prevailed on the frontier. Some historians also argue that the concept of "manifest destiny" contained a racist element, denigrating those of nonEuropean origin.
While Congress debated the wisdom of annexing "All Mexico," Polk's secret emissary to Mexico City negotiated the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo, ending the war. Texas, California, and New Mexico were ceded to the United States in exchange for a payment of $18 million. America had taken another step toward fulfilling its alleged "Manifest Destiny," but, as with the War of 1812, the American public's opinion of the war had divided largely along regional and party lines. Did You Know? James Knox Polk, the 11 president of the United States, served from 1845 to 1849. The Whig Party operated from1832 to 1856 during the presidency of Andrew Jackson.
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James Knox Polk
1898: The Spanish-American War—McKinley Remembers the Maine
In the 1890s, the United States possessed the world's leading industrial economy, but it remained a minor player in world affairs while the European powers scrambled to colonize most of Africa and Asia. Following the Civil War, Americans had little appetite for foreign expansion, preferring instead to concentrate on settling the western lands acquired in the war with Mexico. Domestic political debate tended to revolve around economic issues, given that the rise of industrialism was accompanied by both labor unrest and declining prices for agricultural exports. By 1895, however, there was renewed interest in foreign policy among the American public. That year, while populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan relentlessly campaigned for the free coinage of silver as a way of easing the plight of debt-ridden farmers, Venezuela and Britain became embroiled in a conflict over the territory of British Guiana. Since Britain was the leading defender of the gold standard, many Americans took Venezuela's side in the conflict, urging President Grover Cleveland to declare war on Britain if it refused to submit the dispute to arbitration, which the British eventually agreed to do. Also in 1895, the people of Cuba launched an uprising to achieve independence from Spain. By the time the newly elected Republican president, William McKinley, assumed office in early 1897, the popular press was filled with reports of Spanish human rights abuses against the Cuban insurrects. In their efforts to increase circulation, rival newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer strove to outdo one another in sensationalizing the Cuban conflict, featuring banner headlines and daily stories of Spanish atrocities. President McKinley did not want war; nor did the business leaders who had backed his election. Nonetheless, he used the threat of public opinion to attempt to force Spanish concessions in secret negotiations. When it appeared unlikely that Spain would accede to McKinley's terms, the president still refrained from declaring war, prompting further criticism from Democratic members of Congress, newspaper editorialists, and grass-roots supporters of Cuban independence. Beginning in February 1898, however, events overtook McKinley. The Maine, an American battleship anchored in Havana harbor, exploded, killing 253 American sailors. Although a hastily formed Court of Inquiry concluded that the Spanish could not be held responsible for the explosion, the popular press had little trouble "convicting" Spain. Urged on by headlines to "Remember the Maine," the public demanded war, forcing prominent Republican politicians and business leaders to change their mind as well. On April 11, McKinley delivered his war message to Congress, which responded by passing a joint resolution in favor of armed intervention on behalf of Cuba. It didn't take long for American forces to defeat the Spanish. In addition to liberating Cuba, America quickly evicted the Spanish from the Philippines. When America signed a peace treaty with Spain in December 1898, it also gained control of the islands of Puerto Rico and Guam. On the eve of the 20th century, America had become a global military power. Did You Know? Citizen Kane, a movie by Orson Welles and often cited as the greatest film ever made, was based on William Hearst’s life. William Jennings Bryan was a lawyer popularly known as "The Great Commoner" because he fought for the rights of the common people.
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Maine Battleships entering Havana (1898)
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1917: World War I—Wilson Mobilizes a Nation
In August 1914, when war erupted across the European continent, President Woodrow Wilson immediately adopted a policy of American neutrality. Like most Americans (and Europeans) Wilson was convinced the war would be short, and he was more interested in pursuing a domestic agenda of Progressive reform. Although there were scattered pockets of pro-British and pro-German sentiment, most Americans opposed becoming involved in a war they regarded as irrational and destructive. Despite Wilson's call for America to be "neutral in thought as well as deed," the president also considered the European conflict as an opportunity to expand American exports. Trade with Britain, France, and Germany increased substantially in the months following the outbreak of war. When the belligerents ran out of cash, America quickly extended them credit, with the amount of loans to Britain and France eventually exceeding two billion dollars, nearly 100 times the amount lent to Germany. In May 1915, a luxury liner named the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank off the coast of Ireland. Nearly 1,200 passengers and crew perished, including 128 Americans. Public outrage directed at Germany was considerable, but Wilson urged the nation to remain neutral, declaring that "America was too proud to fight." Former President Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch advocate of military intervention and a constant critic of Wilson, encouraged a military buildup and a national "preparedness" campaign. While promoting a preparedness program of his own, Wilson successfully ran for reelection in 1916 on the slogan "He kept us out of war." American neutrality would not last much longer. In March 1917, the British publicized the "Zimmerman Note," an intercepted telegram sent by the German foreign minister, Arthur Zimmerman, to the German ambassador in Mexico instructing him to seek an alliance with Mexico. In return for Mexican support against the United States, Germany promised to help Mexico regain Texas, New Mexico, and California, territory it had lost nearly 70 years earlier. Shortly after the Zimmerman Note became public, German submarines sank three American merchant ships. The following month, Wilson went before Congress to seek a declaration of war, claiming that "the world must be made safe for democracy." Confronted with an urgent need to mobilize the nation for war, Wilson established the Committee for Public Information (CPI), the first official propaganda agency in U.S. history. Under the direction of former newspaper editor George Creel, the CPI engaged in a massive campaign to generate public support for the war effort. Anti-German advertisements were placed in mass circulation magazines, recruiting posters and pamphlets were widely distributed, and a network of "Four Minute Men" was organized to deliver short patriotic speeches in movie theaters and any other places where a crowd had gathered. These orators urged the public to purchase Liberty Bonds, and reminded men of their obligation to register for the draft. At the same time the CPI was seeking to mobilize public opinion behind the war effort, the government took strong measures to crack down on antiwar sentiment, as discussed in the Civil Liberties Timeline. By the time Germany was defeated and the Treaty of Versailles was concluded in November 1919, hundreds of antiwar activists had been prosecuted under the Espionage and Sedition Acts. In establishing the CPI, Wilson had acknowledged the critical role of public opinion in American foreign policy, but these prosecutions revealed that only certain opinions would be tolerated. Did You Know? The encrypted ―Zimmerman Note" was intercepted and decoded by the British Naval Intelligence Unit.
Woodrow Wilson, the 28 president of the United States, graduated with law degree from the University of Virginia.
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1941: World War II—FDR Fights the "Good War"
More than six decades after its conclusion, World War II is still regarded by most Americans as the "Good War," a noble and morally justifiable campaign against the dark forces of Nazi fascism and Japanese aggression. As we continue today to celebrate the triumphs of the "greatest generation," it is easy to forget that, before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, American public opinion was deeply divided on the question of whether to intervene in the second major military conflict to engulf Europe in the span of 25 years. In the 1920s and 1930s, Americans became fervently isolationist with respect to international affairs. American participation in World War I came to be regarded as a mistake, brought about by a combination of excessive idealism and European manipulation. The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 further served to focus public attention on domestic matters. As Germany and Japan became increasingly aggressive toward their neighbors, President Franklin Roosevelt grew concerned, but he correctly sensed that the American public had little appetite for military action. When Hitler's army invaded Poland in September 1939, an overwhelming 94 percent of Americans were opposed to declaring war on Germany. The American response was limited to supplying ships and armaments to the British and French, but even this move generated controversy amongst the isolationist members of the "America First" movement. While the nation debated the merits of getting involved in another European conflict, the Japanese made secret plans to attack the United States. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes nearly wiped out the entire American naval fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The following day, Congress declared war on Japan. Four days later, when Hitler also declared war on the United States, the nation was once again committed to war in Europe. The "Good War" had begun. Although the attack on Pearl Harbor had erased nearly all vestiges of isolationism, President Roosevelt recognized that he still needed to mobilize public opinion behind the war effort. While racist attitudes made it easy to sustain war against the Japanese, in 1942 nearly one third of those polled indicated that they would be willing to negotiate a separate peace with Germany. Furthermore, once reviled as a brutal communist dictatorship, the Soviet Union was now America's temporary ally in the war against Germany. The government's campaign of public persuasion took many forms during World War II. An Office of War Information was established in June 1942 to coordinate the campaign, and Hollywood was enlisted to mobilize public opinion. Well-known director Frank Capra was hired to produce a series of films entitled Why We Fight. Although initially shown to American military personnel, the films were played in movie theaters across the country at the president's urging. Even cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny were recruited to sell war bonds. One of the most important persuasion efforts was directed at American women, who were needed to work in armament factories while the men were off fighting. Posters featuring strong women such as Rosie the Riveter were widely distributed, reminding women that their contributions were crucial to the war effort. Ironically, once victory had been achieved in 1945, women were once again reminded that "their place was at home," so that male veterans could have their jobs back. Did You Know? NAZI (National Socialist German Workers Party) was headed by the German Chancellor, Adolph Hitler.
Rosie the Riveter represents the six million women who took charge of manufacturing plants to produce munitions while the men were on the battle ground during World War II. ID P113 Image Copyright Info
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Rosie the Riveter
1954: The Cold War—McCarthy Goes To Extremes
The temporary alliance with the Soviet Union in the fight against Hitler soon dissolved in the aftermath of the victory over Germany. By 1947, the Cold War was under way, and President 2 Truman announced a policy of containment, designed to halt any further spread of alleged Soviet aggression. The American public, which had demanded a rapid demobilization of troops after World War II, was not generally inclined to commit to the level of military expenditures necessary to maintain America's role as a global policeman. Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg told President Truman that in order to get the money for his foreign policy agenda, it was imperative "to scare the hell out of the country." Accordingly, anticommunism became the new American gospel. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a number of events contributed to the spread of anticommunist sentiment. As recounted in the Civil Liberties Timeline, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, known as HUAC, began conducting hearings in 1947 into alleged communist infiltration of the Hollywood film industry. Testifying before HUAC the following year, journalist Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss, a former high-ranking official in the State Department, of being a Soviet spy. Hiss vehemently denied the charges, but he was eventually convicted of perjury in 1950 and sentenced to prison. In 1949, Mao Tse-tung led a Communist takeover of China, and the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb, ending the American monopoly on nuclear weapons and instilling fear of a Soviet nuclear attack in the American public. In July 1950, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were accused by the FBI of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. A jury found them guilty of conspiracy, and they were sentenced to death after their well-publicized trial. They were eventually executed in 1953. Such was the nature of the political environment when Senator Joseph McCarthy decided to step onto the national stage. A first-term Republican from Wisconsin in search of a campaign issue, McCarthy gave a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, in February 1950 in which he claimed to have proof that more than 200 State Department officials were members of the Communist Party. Although the charges were never proven, they helped McCarthy to win reelection. With American soldiers now fighting against Communist forces on the Korean peninsula, McCarthy stepped up his anticommunist crusade in 1951 and 1952, accusing President Truman and other Democrats of having been too "soft on communism." In 1953, McCarthy became chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, a position he used to launch a new round of hearings investigating alleged Communist infiltration into the highest echelons of government. When McCarthy took on the Army in late 1953, the Army fought back, accusing him of trying to obtain a special draft exemption for one of his committee staff members. President Eisenhower, who detested McCarthy but feared him as well, finally told Vice-President Nixon in March 1954 to go after McCarthy publicly. This in turn encouraged more media scrutiny of McCarthy's malicious "red-baiting." When the public finally had an opportunity to witness McCarthy's bullying tactics during nationally televised hearings of his committee's
The doctrine of containment was at the center of American foreign policy after World War II. It was based on the belief that the Soviet Union was committed to expanding its power around the globe and promoting communism as a superior alternative to democracy and capitalism. The objective of containment was to prevent the spread of communist influence using a combination of political, economic, and military strategies
investigation of the Army, it spelled the end of McCarthy's power. He was formally censured by the Senate in December 1954 and died just a few years later of alcoholism. Did You Know? Joseph McCarthy served as a U.S. Republican senator from the state of Wisconsin. He often accused his political opponents of being communists. After the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, Harry S. Truman succeeded him as the 33 U.S. president.
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Joseph Raymond McCarthy
1968: The Vietnam War—LBJ Divides the Nation
After the end of the French colonial presence in Vietnam in 1954, the country was effectively divided in two, with Communist forces in control of the northern half of the country. With backing from the Soviet Union and China, the North Vietnamese continued a guerilla war in an effort to take control of the entire country, leading President Kennedy to quietly dispatch American military advisors to South Vietnam in 1961. After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson inherited the Vietnam situation. In August 1964, two American ships provoked a North Vietnamese attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, and Johnson asked Congress for authorization "to take all necessary measures to prevent further aggression" against American forces. Both Congress and the American public were solidly behind the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Following his landslide victory in the 1964 presidential election, Johnson sought to implement his "Great Society" domestic political agenda. Recognizing that the public would be opposed to withdrawal from Vietnam, but would also be unwilling to bear the tax burden necessary to achieve both the Great Society and a definitive military victory in Vietnam, Johnson opted instead for a policy of gradual escalation of U.S. military intervention, starting in early 1965. Despite the presence of a small but growing antiwar movement, public opinion was solidly behind President Johnson's Vietnam policies throughout much of 1967. Nightly "body counts" on the network television news suggested that the United States was winning, and victory over Communist aggression was predicted to be "just around the corner." All this changed, however, in January 1968, when Communist forces launched a massive operation known as the "Tet Offensive." The American public, watching on television as the U.S. embassy in the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon was occupied for six hours by Communist troops, became skeptical of government claims that victory would soon be at hand. Television journalist Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America," returned from Vietnam shortly after the Tet Offensive to inform his viewers that it was "more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." The antiwar movement gained strength, and calls for an immediate American withdrawal grew more and more strident with each passing day. The tide of public opinion had shifted. At the end of March in 1968, President Johnson went on television to announce his intention to de-escalate the conflict in Vietnam. He also stunned much of the nation by declaring that he would not seek reelection, an implicit recognition that his Vietnam policies were to a considerable degree responsible for the deep divisions in American society. Throughout the summer of 1968, antiwar protests continued, culminating in the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Promising a "secret plan" to end the now unpopular war, Richard Nixon was narrowly elected to the White House in the fall of 1968. Once in office, he instituted a policy of "Vietnamization," which essentially consisted of withdrawing American troops and replacing them with South Vietnamese troops. In 1970, Nixon authorized the "secret" bombing of neighboring Cambodia (secret only to the American public), which prompted further protest when the secret became known to the American people. In 1973, Congress refused to appropriate any more funds for the war, and the last American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. Two years later, Communist forces overran South Vietnam, finally achieving their longstanding goal of unifying the country. Did You Know? John F. Kennedy was the 35 President of the United States. He was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas at 12:30 p.m. (CST).
Richard Nixon served as the 37 president of the United States from 1969 to 1974. He resigned from office on August 9, 1974, following the Watergate scandal. ID P044 Image Copyright Info
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Nixon Says Farewell
1991: The Persian Gulf War—George H. Bush Cures the Vietnam Syndrome
In the 1970s and 1980s, America's bitter experience in Vietnam was reflected in a strong public distaste for military intervention in foreign conflicts. For top Pentagon officials, a legacy of the "Vietnam Syndrome" was the belief that any future military intervention by U.S. forces required well-defined goals and had to be in such overwhelming numbers that a swift victory with minimal American casualties was all but guaranteed. Operating on the questionable assumption that the media was largely to blame for the American failure in Vietnam, political and military leaders also sought to manage public opinion by severely restricting media coverage of military campaigns. These "lessons of Vietnam" were applied during the brief invasions of Grenada in 1983 and of Panama in 1989, both times with successful results. In 1991, they would once again prove to be at the heart of official doctrine during the Persian Gulf War. In August 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his army to invade neighboring Kuwait. Fearful that Hussein would then move his forces into Saudi Arabia and thereby gain control of a huge share of the oil supplies vital to the industrial economies of the United States, Europe, and Japan, President George Bush quickly ordered American military forces to take up defensive positions in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, he orchestrated an impressive international coalition to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Iraq. Over the course of the next several months, American troop strength in the region increased to half a million soldiers, including many reservists, as the nation debated what to do next. Determined to secure public support for the liberation of Kuwait, President Bush cast about for a reason that the American people would find acceptable. Because Kuwait was not a democracy and there was little interest in trading "blood for oil," this task proved to be a challenging one. President Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler, and claimed that the Iraqi leader was prepared to use weapons of mass destruction. With the White House's knowledge and assistance, the huge public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton arranged for a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, whose identity was kept secret, to testify before Congress that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers seize incubators from Kuwaiti hospitals, leaving babies to die on the floor. Only much later did the public learn that this witness was the daughter of the Kuwait ambassador to the United States; her story was never corroborated. Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis were unsuccessful, and President Bush declared January 15, 1991, as the deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. As the deadline approached, the American public was evenly split on the merits of going to war, with many convinced that it would be "another Vietnam" and preferring instead to give economic sanctions more time to force Iraq out of Kuwait. Shortly before the deadline, the Congress narrowly approved a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force to achieve the liberation of Kuwait. On the night of January 16, the United States launched Operation Desert Storm. For six weeks, an intensive air campaign targeted thousands of military and civilian installations in Iraq and Kuwait, encountering almost no resistance from the Iraqi military. Media coverage of the war was restricted, but Americans watched in amazement on television as Pentagon videos showed laser-guided "smart bombs" and Patriot missiles destroying their targets with apparently incredible precision. To the American public, the Persian Gulf War was quickly turning out to be anything but "another Vietnam." The country was bedecked in yellow ribbons, symbols of public support for American soldiers. There was an organized antiwar movement, but it proved largely ineffective in swaying public opinion.
At the end of February 1991, American ground forces routed the Iraqi military, evicting them from Kuwait in a matter of four days. Total American casualties in the brief conflict numbered less than 200, and President Bush declared that the United States had "licked the Vietnam Syndrome." His public approval ratings stood at 91 percent, the highest to date ever recorded for a president. However, public opinion proved to be incredibly fickle. In November 1992, despite his triumph as commander-in-chief, President Bush lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton, whose campaign adviser James Carville never tired of reminding his staff "It's the economy, stupid." Did You Know? The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, was built in about sixteen months. It was completed on September 11, 1941, with the overall cost of $83 million. Saddam Hussein headed a dictatorial regime as the president of Iraq from 1979 to 2003. His administration came to an end as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on April 9, 2003. ID P115 Image Copyright Info
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2001: The War on Terrorism—George W. Bush Leads an Angry Public
Ten years after the Persian Gulf War, the politics of the Middle East once again dominated the public consciousness. On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men of Middle Eastern origin, motivated by a fanatical brand of Islamic fundamentalism, hijacked four American jetliners. To the horror of the nation and much of the entire world, two of the planes were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, causing the huge towers to collapse. Another plane was crashed into the Pentagon building outside Washington, DC.; the fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field, prevented from doing further damage only by the courageous actions of some of the passengers. All told, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on a day that many compared to December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Once again, a man named George Bush – the son of the former president – was in the White House. On the evening of September 11, President Bush addressed the nation, promising to "find those responsible and bring them to justice." (Listen to an audio of President Bush at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbush911addresstothenation.htm.) Within days, evidence emerged linking the hijackers to al-Qaeda, a terrorist network led by Saudi expatriate Osama bin-Laden, whom President Bush vowed to capture "dead or alive." An angry nation rallied behind the President as he declared that all countries were going to be considered either friends or enemies in a war against terrorism that would cover the entire globe. Much of the world rallied behind the United States, as even the anti-American French newspaper Le Monde announced that "We Are All Americans." Osama bin-Laden and the al-Qaeda network were headquartered in Afghanistan, protected by the fundamentalist Taliban regime there. In October 2001, American military forces, working with local opposition groups, launched attacks in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was quickly toppled, but Osama bin Laden eluded capture. Claiming that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were also involved in the attacks of September 11, and that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States, President Bush invaded Iraq and toppled the regime in March 2003. After demise of the regime, the United States entered a difficult period of transition from the authoritarian Iraq to a more democratic Iraq. As other Timelines have discussed, doubt about the very basis for U.S. involvement in Iraq – the existence of weapons of mass destruction, concern about the civil liberties of those suspected of terrorism, an escalating death toll, and bureaucratic failures have led a growing number of Americans to question the Bush administration’s approach to defeating terrorism; yet many other Americans firmly support U.S. military efforts as necessary to prevent further terrorist attacks. The administration has suffered several judicial setbacks as well. Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalism continues to prosper, and support for anti-American terrorism among admittedly small elements of the world’s population remains strong. What price this war will ultimately exact from the American people, measured in blood, treasure, and constitutional rights, remains to be seen. Did You Know? Osama bin Laden’s first attack on United States citizens is presumed to have taken place on December 29, 1992, bombing of the Gold Mihor Hotel in Yemen. American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, and crashed into the west side of The Pentagon.
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9/11/2001 World Trade Center Attack
People William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)
William Hearst was a renowned newspaper mogul in the 19 and 20 century. At the young age of twenty-four, he developed a succession of high-ranking Newspapers. In 1887, he started the San Francisco Examiner, followed by the New York Morning Journal and many more. New York Morning Journal caused a political controversy when Hearst, in an effort to increase newspaper sales, covered the Cuban conflict with a sensational flare. Some historians have argued that Hearst went so far as to help initiate the conflict. Hearst Corporation, a media conglomerate based in New York City, is now owned and managed by the Hearst family. Quick Facts Born to George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson Hearst in California Father was a wealthy U.S. Senator from California Married Millicent Veronica Willson in 1903 Had five sons Served in the U.S. Congress Was twice unsuccessful in his attempt to become the Mayor of New York City (1905 and 1909) Image Copyright Info
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Adolph Hitler (1889-1945)
Adolph Hitler headed the German government as the Chancellor from 1934 until his death. It was believed that the origin of his anti-Semitism started in Vienna—Hitler blamed the Jews for the crisis Austria was facing. He led the NAZI party (National Socialist German Workers Party) and established a dictatorial regime. He triggered World War II in Europe in his attempt to expand the German territory. Germany succeeded in occupying much of Europe but was eventually defeated by the Allies. Adolph Hitler led Germany throughout their World War II campaign. Hitler was responsible for the genocide of millions of people including about six million Jews, now known as the Holocaust. His aggression and atrocities were instrumental in galvanizing American public opinion around the U.S. involvement in the "Good War." Quick Facts Born to Alois Hitler and Klara Pölzl in Austria Was once a struggling painter Became a German citizen in 1932 Was mentored by Dietrich Eckart, a German politician Served in the Bavarian Army during World War I As Germany faced defeat, he committed suicide in Berlin in 1945
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Walter Cronkite (1916- )
Television journalist Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America," is considered a legend and an American icon in the field of journalism. He returned from Vietnam shortly after the Tet Offensive to inform his viewers that it was "more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." This statement helped legitimize and expand the antiwar movement in the United States. Quick Facts Born to Walter Leland Cronkite and Helena Fritsch in Missouri Schooled at The University of Texas at Austin Anchored the CBS Evening News First anchor to acquire a 30-minute nightly news program slot in American network television First anchor to break the news of the death of President Kennedy Retired on March 6, 1981 Succeeded by Dan Rather
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Osama Bin Laden (1957- )
Osama bin-Laden is currently number one on the United States government’s most wanted criminal list. He is a militant Islamist who has been indicted as the principal architect of various attacks on United States establishments and citizens both on the United States soil and in foreign countries. He headed the al-Qaeda network and was a principal organizer of the 9/11 (September 11, 2001) attacks on the United States that killed more than 2,000 people. Quick Facts ID P111 Born to Muhammad Awad bin Laden and Hamida al-Attas in Saudi Arabia From a wealthy family Raised as a Sunni Muslim Schooled at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah Earned degrees in Civil Engineering and Business Administration Has 24 children Publicly disowned by his family in 1994 as a result of his anti-government activities Image Copyright Info
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Osama bin Laden
As this Timeline has illustrated, every time the United States has been involved in a major war, public opinion has played a significant role. In some instances, public opinion appeared to push a reluctant president into declaring war, as was the case in the War of 1812 and the Spanish-American War. On other occasions, presidential foreign policy goals could not be pursued until significant segments of a reluctant public were convinced of the need to go to war, as was the case during the Persian Gulf War, and to a lesser extent, World War II. Finally, we have seen that public opinion can force political leaders to withdraw from a war before victory has been achieved, as the American experience in Vietnam demonstrated. This Timeline began with two quotes. The first, by Walter Lippman, represented the view that the public should leave foreign policy-making to the so-called "experts." The second, by Edward Bernays, suggested that public opinion could not be ignored when it came to questions of war and peace, but that it could be successfully manipulated for the best interests of society. Even if Walter Lippman is correct—and many people would disagree with his basic premise -it is unlikely that today's public will allow questions of war and peace to be decided only by the "experts"" -- not when communications technology can provide us with instant images of events on the other side of the globe. But if Bernays is correct -- and history reveals that political leaders have indeed attempted to use the media to "engineer consent" -- then those interested in upholding the principle of popular sovereignty must take responsibility for paying closer attention to world events and making their own informed decisions regarding fundamental questions of war and peace.
Public Opinion and Leadership (Roundtable) Public opinion can be an expression of the consent of the governed, one of the core values of our democratic system of government. Public opinion can also be important for public officials and others interested in representing the interests and ideas of various communities. Political Knowledge (Roundtable) Democracy is based on the ideal of popular consent. Popular consent is expressed by things like voting, volunteering for campaigns, joining organizations, obeying the law, etc. Public opinion surveys provide another method for measuring consent.
Test Yourself [Existing MC Questions (Questions 1-10)]
1. Senator Joseph McCarthy's crusade ended when he accused ________ of being infiltrated by Communists. the Army labor unions the State Department Hollywood the White House
2. The Committee for Public Information was established to mobilize public support for which war? World War I The Vietnam War The Korean War The Spanish-American War World War II
3. The "War Hawks" supporting the War of 1812 mainly represented which region of the United States? The West The Mid-Atlantic States The Great Lakes The South New England
4. The "Vietnam Syndrome" is best described as: public reluctance to support a long and protracted war without clear goals. public intolerance of antiwar opposition groups. public opposition to any form of military intervention. an active effort on the part of political leaders to shape public opinion. a commitment on the part of Congress to support overseas military campaigns.
5. Attacks on American naval vessels played a central role in causing the United States to engage in a military response in each of the following conflicts EXCEPT: the Mexican War. World War II. the War of 1812. the Vietnam War. the Spanish-American War.
6. The most fervent endorsements for war against Spain in 1898 came from: newspaper publishers. Great Britain. President McKinley.
New England. Republican Party leaders.
7. In response to terrorist attacks on American cities in September 2001, President George W. Bush dispatched troops to which country to capture the alleged leader responsible for the attacks? Afghanistan Saudi Arabia Kuwait Iraq Israel
8. The "Zimmerman Note" involved connections between which two conflicts? The Mexican War and World War I World War I and Word War II The Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War The Spanish-American War and World War II The Cold War and the Vietnam War
9. The event which marked the turning point in American public opinion toward the Vietnam War was: the Tet Offensive. the secret bombing of Cambodia. the election of Richard Nixon to the White House. the assassination of President Kennedy. the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
10. Which of the following statements regarding media coverage of war-related issues is false? The media have been influential in shaping public attitudes about war only during the last 100 years or so. Televised coverage of congressional hearings helped to change the public's view of Senator McCarthy's Cold War tactics. Some military and political leaders blamed the media for the American defeat in Vietnam. Sensationalized media coverage of developments in Cuba helped to push the United States into war against Spain. Restrictions on media coverage helped to increase public support for the Persian Gulf War.
[New MC Questions for New Content (Questions 11-15)]
11. In an effort to increase newspaper sales, William Randolph Hearst covered the war in _______ with in sensational flare. Cuba Japan Germany Vietnam
12. Adolph Hitler led Germany throughout: World War II. World War I. The Vietnam War. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Civil War.
13. Television journalist ___________ was nicknamed "the most trusted man in America." Walter Cronkite David Brinkley Bernard Shaw Peter Jennings Tom Brokaw
14. Osama bin-Laden headed the al-Qaeda network and was a principal organizer of: 9/11. Pearl Harbor. D-Day. Pickett's Charge. Bunker Hill.
15. The War that became known as the "Good War" was: World War II. World War I. the Vietnam War. the Civil War. the Revolutionary War.