Rebellion and Reaction Civil rights activism was the catalyst for a heightened interest in social causes during the sixties, especially among the young. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) launched the New Left. Other prominent causes of the era included the anti-war movement, the women’s liberation movement, Native American rights, Hispanic rights, and gay rights. By 1970 a counterculture had emerged, featuring young people who used mind-altering drugs, lived on rural communes, and in other ways “dropped out” of the conventional world, which they viewed as corrupt.
End of the Vietnam War In 1968, Richard Nixon campaigned for the presidency pledging to secure a “peace with honor” in Vietnam, but years would pass before the war ended. His delays prompted an acceleration of anti-war protests. After the Kent State University shootings, the divisions between supporters and opponents of the war became especially contentious. The publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the heavy bombing of North Vietnam by the United States in December 1972 aroused intense worldwide protests. A month later North and South Vietnam agreed to end the war. The last U. S. troops left Vietnam in March 1973; two years later the government of South Vietnam collapsed, and the country was reunited under a Communist government.
Watergate In an incident in 1972, burglars were caught breaking into the Democratic campaign headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D. C. Eventually the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) was implicated, and investigators began to probe the question of President Nixon’s involvement. Nixon tried to block the judicial process, which led the public to call for the president to be impeached for obstruction of justice. In 1974, in United States v. Richard M. Nixon, the Supreme Court ruled that the president had to surrender the so-called Watergate tapes. Nixon resigned to avoid being impeached.
Middle East Crisis After the 1973 Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declined to sell oil to nations supporting Israel. President Carter brokered the Camp David Accords of 1978, which laid the groundwork for a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
U. S. Food and Drug Administration approves the birth-control pill
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique is published
U. S. planes begin a fourteen-month-long bombing campaign aimed at Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia
Ratification of the Twenty-sixth Amendment gives eighteen-year-olds the right to vote in all elections
The Watergate scandal unfolds
In Paris, the United States, North and South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong agree to restore peace in Vietnam
Congress passes the War Powers Act
Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese