It is difficult to assess which side had the better of this debate during the Vietnam War. The decision to send combat forces to Vietnam initially appeared to enjoy high levels of public support, and the National Party did not suffer unduly adverse electoral consequences, being returned to office twice - in 1966 and 1969 - during the Vietnam period. Nor was the government ever sufficiently concerned by domestic criticism to change a policy it had adopted largely for alliance reasons.
On the other hand, despite having no decisive impact on official policy-making and arousing hostility from some New Zealanders, the anti-war movement drew growing support, especially during the closing stages of the Vietnam War. This support was illustrated most visibly during the 'mobilisations' of the early 1970s, when thousands marched in protest against the war in all the country's major centres. The Vietnam conflict thus brought with it a polarisation of opinion and a questioning by many New Zealanders of the government's alliance policies, especially among younger people in higher education during these years - the so-called Vietnam Generation.
Another significant domestic impact of the critique championed by the anti-war movement was that one of the two major political parties came to embrace many of its premises. The Labour party was initially more cautious in opposing official policy on the Vietnam conflict. The party had stressed humanitarian and economic aid as more important than military action in helping to resolve Vietnam's problems from the early 1960s. Yet once New Zealand combat forces were sent, party leaders were reluctant to advocate immediate withdrawal, perhaps because of concerns about likely electoral consequences.
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