By Robert R. Tomes
Prior to the Vietnam battle, American highbrow existence rested conveniently on shared assumptions and sometimes universal beliefs. Intellectuals principally supported the social and financial reforms of the Thirties, the warfare opposed to Hitler's Germany, and U.S. behavior in the course of the chilly struggle. by means of the early Nineteen Sixties, a liberal highbrow consensus existed.
The warfare in Southeast Asia shattered this fragile coalition, which quickly dissolved into quite a few camps, every one of which puzzled American associations, values, and beliefs. Robert R. Tomes sheds new mild at the death of chilly conflict liberalism and the advance of the recent Left, and the regular development of a conservatism that used Vietnam, and anti-war sentiment, as a rallying element. Importantly, Tomes offers new proof that neoconservatism retreated from internationalism due principally to Vietnam, purely to regroup later with considerably lowered ambitions and expectations.
Covering monstrous archival terrain, Apocalypse Then stands because the definitive account of the influence of the Vietnam struggle on American highbrow lifestyles.
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Extra resources for Apocalypse Then: American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954-1975
Would the people of South Vietnam follow their brothers in the North and become absorbed as a communist satellite, or would they retain their independence, with American assistance? Buttinger, a zealous anticommunist liberal, placed the local problems of civil war and communist development in South Vietnam in a global context. ”15 Buttinger’s “conversion” was clear and complete; the global purpose of American liberalism converged with the local policy of supporting the Diem regime in South Vietnam.
Though far less aggressive than Niebuhr on the subject of the Cold War and anticommunism, Merton, perhaps the most inﬂuential cloistered Catholic monk of this century, nonetheless accurately reﬂected the concerns of the 1950s in his writings. 27 In 1956, Merton wrote, “In an age when totalitarianism has striven in every way to devaluate and degrade the human person, we hope it is right to demand a hearing for . . ”28 Clearly worried about nuclear weapons and geopolitics, Merton emphasized repeatedly during the 1950s the need to preserve the dignity of the individual against the contemporary evils of totalitarianism, materialism, and automation.
From the beginning, the New Left sought to distinguish itself from the liberal mainstream it held in contempt. Studies on the Left promoted revisionist history, and viewed the American past negatively. Its bitter reassessments provided a sharp contrast to the liberal history of the day, which so often celebrated American exceptionalism. 49 It is important to recognize that radical antipathy toward the liberals preceded the Vietnam crisis. In this discourse, the editors discussed the contingency of cooperation with liberals as part of a joint effort to ward off a common enemy—the radical right.
Apocalypse Then: American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954-1975 by Robert R. Tomes