Degree Year

1982

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Advisor(s)

Clayton Koppes

Keywords

Peace, United States, Vietnam War, Reform

Abstract

This study offers an overview of the peace movement in the United States during the decade preceding the Vietnam War. This movement, unlike its forerunners, was led by liberals who attempted to reform the system from within. A coalition of established and new groups was forged, with the major constituencies drawn from world federalists and pacifists. This seemingly unlikely combination is analyzed through historical investigation with some aid from the political science mathematically-based theory of coalition formation. The creation of this coalition was facilitated by their championing of a nuclear test-ban in a period when the health hazards of atmospheric nuclear explosions were becoming known to the public. It was this issue that carried the movement until its final demise upon the signing of the limited test ban treaty in August of 1963.

Given the generally negative assessment of the achievement of this peace coalition, the study attempts to analyze what the true goals of the various factions of this movement were and the shortcomings built into these objectives. Furthermore, alternative strategies and tactics are suggested for current and future activists looking to history for direction and precedent. Several pitfalls of the liberal peace experiment should be noticed throughout the study. The gradual co-opting of the peace movement into the government camp was possible because of the coalition liberal's desire to maintain legitimacy, especially through its anti-communist vigilance. Secondly, liberals held a preponderance of power in the coalition, not the radicals, who were in the position of outsider so necessary to lead a reform movement to success.

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History Commons

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