This is an essay question I've done in preparation for the H.A.T. It was Qu. 1 (c) from the 2010 paper. Could one very kind person who knows what is expected in the H.A.T review quickly. It's not very good, but... here it is:
Write an essay of one and a half to three sides assessing the interaction between
government and the views of the governed that lay behind any major political event,
act or movement. You may answer with reference to any society (40 marks)
The Vietnam War is a strong example to cite when pursuing this assessment. Clearly in this event it is evident that the interplay between the electorate and the incumbent administration was crucial to the eventual termination of the war in Vietnam.
Firstly, Nixon won the two successive terms for the presidency on the idea of eventual peace in Vietnam. Clearly, the man was responding to the pressures of the public who, witnessing the rising death tolls and horrors of war for the first time in their living rooms and homes, were anxious to seek at end to war. This suggests that the active partner in this relationship was the view of the governed. Nixon was an instrument in the process of political change, reacting to the whims of the people. The best evidence to represent this idea is that he renewed diplomatic relations with China, in order to pacify Russia and reduce the risk of further escalation of the war in Vietnam. This contrasts with the aggressive pursuit of containment by previous presidents such as Lyndon B. Johnson, and John F. Kennedy, who indulged public hostility to communism following the Korean War and the McCarthy witch-hunt. However, this only serves to empower the idea that the dominant strain in the relationship that lay behind the termination of the Vietnam war, was the view of the governed. The bigger picture of the war highlights that the importance of the views of the governed was not simply confined to the termination of the war in isolation, but was also crucial to its escalation and continuation throughout the 1960s. This lends great weight to the argument.
However, whilst there is evidence to suggest that the interaction between the government and the views of the governed favour the latter as the driving force in the relationship which lies behind political change, this idea must not be studied in isolation. There is compelling proof to suggest that the Government often manipulates public opinion and moulds it to its own advantage, or ignores it completely. For instance, Nixon insisted that to end the war in Vietnam, there needed to be ‘peace with honour’. Yes, this was responding to public outcry for an end to the war in a sense; but inherent in Nixon’s message is a personal belief that the United States had to leave the war with its dignity intact. Nixon had therefore put his own personal slant on the pressures imposed upon him by the views of the governed, and manipulated it to serve his own interest. From this it is possible to see that whilst the views of the governed were certainly important in driving the government to political change, it was not a one way relationship. The government can also present a case to the public, creating a much more fluid interaction than previously suggested. This is possible to see in the fact that the last great popular demonstration against the war in Vietnam was in 1968, when nearly a million congregated in Washington D.C. This suggests that during Nixon’s years a more fluid exchange existed between the views of the governed and the government since discussion did not stagnate to the extent that the masses believed a mass demonstration was necessary. Therefore the interaction between the two parties in termination of the war was as much driven arguably, by the views of the governed as the government, or so the evidence suggests. Indeed perhaps the best evidence to suggest that the government also had a strong part in the two-way relationship with the views of the governed was that prior to terminating the war in Vietnam, Nixon executed the most intensive bombing campaigns hitherto experienced in the war – a complete antithesis to the views of the governed. This shows that whilst the views of the governed were certainly important in terminating the war, there existed a dynamic relationship, in which their ideas, and indeed the ideas or the governed could be moulded, adapted rejected by both parties according to their interests and motivations.
Therefore in conclusion, the interaction of the government and the views of the governed existed in an active, mutually responsive state, in which both parties acted and reacted according to their owns decisions and the decisions of the other party. This idea could be extended to suggest that indeed it was a dialectic that was the motor for political change in the early 1970s, producing a synthesis which was the close of the war in Vietnam.