A growing segment of American society is calling for a scaling back of American forces overseas and even the end to American intervention in Afghanistan and Iran. The 1960s movement against the Vietnam War was part of a counterculture opposing war in general and it was led by the children of the Greatest Generation; by young Americans whose parents fought against the Nazi and the Japanese in World War II. It was a call (which we can agree or disagree with) for an end to war around the world.
The fear of Nuclear Armageddon in those days was focused on the uneasy balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was fear of a situation the average American could not control, and the fear that a Nuclear war would reach our own cities and villages. The movement against Nuclear armaments was a call to restore a feeling of safety to the American household, especially after the incidents in Cuba's Pig's Bay.
But along with these protest movements there was also a movement of innovation, of pushing the frontiers of science and expanding the world of Humanity. In 1969, the first Human beings set foot on a different planetary body, even if it was our own moon. The 1960s are remembered as a time of revolutionary change in music, art, science, social activism, etc. At the time, it was seen as the end of the world as we knew it. From a half-century perspective, it looks like a decade of profound transformations which resulted in the fight for civil rights among other great legacies.
What will people of the future say, fifty years from now, about the 2010s? Our times have already been transformed by 9/11, the war on terrorism, the most profound global economic crisis in many decades, the proliferation of Nuclear weapons in the hands of third world dictators, the successful challenge to American hegemony around the world, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and more. Outwardly our decade starts looking similar to the 1960s, but does it where it counts? What will be the legacy of this decade to the future?
A western world immobilized by terrorism and weary of war to the point of allowing Iran the development of Nuclear weapons. Our own Congress is unwilling to toughen the sanctions against Iran and is even talking about easing them as an incentive during negotiations. Our society is deeply divided between “Reds” and “Blues”, and while the colors reflect the monikers for both main political parties, they are also the traditional names for teams during war games...and politics in this country is resembling more and more a civil war (or uncivil) in which the main actors, our elected officials, appear to have forgotten they were elected to office to serve the people. A grassroots movement is beginning to question this state of affairs. As to where all this will lead, the jury is still out.
Whatever our legacy to the future will be, it is clear that the 1960s strengthened the image of America and consolidated its position on the world stage. It is also clear that our legacy will include a weakening of America's role in the world, the reigniting of a cold war with Russia, and maybe (I hope not) a renewed fear of Nuclear Armageddon.