Was the Vietnam War Justified?

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“No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War.” (Richard M. Nixon, 1985) Despite almost half a century of retrospect, numerous studies, and the declassification of military documents, former President Nixon’s assertion still holds truth. Of all the wars that the United States has fought in, the vietnam-war' class='brand-secondary'>Vietnam War has compelled the most Americans to question what we were fighting for and why. Was the Vietnam War a just war?

The Just War Theory

The Just War Theory has been shaped over the centuries by historians and philosophers. However, the most systematic account of the Just War Theory was formulated by Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologicae. According to the Just War Theory, the moral reality of war is divided into two parts. Wars are judged twice, first with reference to the reasons nations have for fighting and secondly, with reference to the means they adopt in the actual fighting. (Walzer, 21) The first judgment is referred to as jus ad bellum, or justice of war. The second judgment is referred to as jus in bello, or justice in war. Jus ad bellum provides guidelines for assessing whether a war is just or unjust while jus in bello outlines proper conduct in war. Jus ad bellum does not imply jus in bello. Likewise, jus in bello does not necessitate jus ad bellum. It is possible for a just war to be fought unjustly just as it is possible for an unjust war to be fought justly.

The principles of jus ad bellum are having a just cause, being declared by a proper authority, possessing the right intention, and having a reasonable chance of success. A war must meet all of these requirements to be regarded as a just war. The first and most important condition of jus ad bel...

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