MGC HOLDS ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ABOUT VIETNAM WAR
By: Tricia Purser Release Date:04/25/2012
(Cochran, GA) – Middle Georgia College recently held a Roundtable Discussion about the Vietnam War with MGC History, Political Science, and Psychology faculty participating. Faculty members discussed topics such as the context of the Vietnam War in U.S. society, how the war helped shaped the nation’s identity in the following decades, and how the war experience still affects how the U.S. deals with both foreign and domestic policy issues. Dr. Brooke Miller, Dr. Laurie Walters, Dr. James Collins, and Dr. Tracie Provost all participated in the event. The event was moderated by Dr. Stephen Svonavec, associate professor of history and the director of the Dublin Campus. The discussion was a part of MGC’s Big Read program.
Dr. Svonavec started the discussion by asking the panelists to explain the context of the Vietnam War in U.S society in the late 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Provost, an associate professor of history, said the war was either a colonial war or a cold war, depending on the perspective. “The Vietnamese were trying to get rid of outside influence, while America wanted to stop the domino effect of Communism,” she said. “The President, Lyndon B. Johnson, didn’t want to be seen as soft on Communists.”
Dr. Svonavec asked the panelists about the protests against the Vietnam War. “The protests and conflicts came several years after the war started,” said Dr. Collins, a professor of psychology.
Dr. Miller, an assistant professor of political science, explained the difference between war “doves” and war “hawks.” Doves are people who favor peace in debates about going to war, while hawks favor war,” she said. “The ‘dove,’ President Johnson, tried to look powerful, so he acted out of character, and got punished for it.”
Part of the motivation for the backlash against the Vietnam War was the media’s broadcast of the war, said Dr. Miller. “People weren’t prepared for what they saw,” she said. “They were not used to the fighting style. Once kids started getting drafted, the war hit home.” Dr. Walters, an associate professor of psychology, added that this was the first televised war.
Americans like to see results, but didn’t see any in the war, said Dr. Provost. “It didn’t look like we were making progress,” she said. “We didn’t take towns, just no-name hills. People wanted to see tangible results.”
Dr. Svonavec then asked the panelists to expand on the psychology of the war as it relates to soldiers. “Obedience is the cornerstone of the military,” said Dr. Walters. “What happens when you’re asked to do something that goes against your conscience? The role and situation is so powerful, it makes people act in extraordinary ways.”
After Nixon became president, the U.S began a “peace with honor” strategy, said Dr. Provost. “We tried to withdraw troops without losing,” she said. “We wanted to turn the war over to the South Vietnamese, and let them fight their own war.”
The panelists concluded that the Vietnam War has helped shaped our understanding of future wars. “We have a better understanding of group think, and what happens when you put different people together with a common goal,” said Dr. Collins.
Dr. Svonavec said he felt privileged to be involved with the discussion panel. “I saw the discussion panel as an excellent opportunity to just talk in a somewhat informal manner about some of the aspects of the Vietnam Era which affected the nation. Not only did the panelists bring in their professional training and experience, but most had connections to the Vietnam Era or the military which helped give the discussion a personal touch that made for a more interesting evening. I think the students, faculty, and staff who attended were able to take home with them a better understanding of how the war shaped American life both at the time and into the present as well.”
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.