Was The Vietnam War Justified?

Was The Vietnam War Justified?

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Today, when many look back and study the Vietnam war, they may ask themselves whether it was justified. Did America need to go to war with Vietnam? Those are all complex and challenging questions.

The Vietnam War was not justified. The war was based upon the principles of the Domino theory, which later proved flawed; the Domino theory believed that if one country fell to Communism, others would follow. Most scholars also feel that the war was not “Jus Ad Bellum” or a Just Cause.

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The Vietnam War Was Not Justified

Many historians believe it was not a justified war when they look back on Vietnam war. That America should have had no part in this war that many considered an internal conflict between the Vietnamese.

Here are some of the reasons the Vietnam War Was Not Justified

The Faulty Domino Theory

One of the core beliefs for the Vietnam war was the domino theory; a large part of the American involvement in Vietnam was based upon the domino theory.

The domino theory believes that an increase or a decrease in the democracy in one country spreads to other neighboring countries in a kind of domino effect. But what the United States did not account for was that Ho Chi Minh, the leader of Vietnam, wanted freedom for his country.

In 1975, following the spread of Communism to South Vietnam, Laos became communist as well, as the Khmer Rouge overtook Cambodia. But it can also be argued that the American involvement in the Vietnam war, and in particular the fact that America was also involved in these countries, heightened their takeover of these communist governments.

When you travel to Cambodia, many Cambodians will tell you that the Khmer Rouge came into power mainly because Kissinger and Nixon secretly bombed Cambodia. They said that acts of aggression by the United States allowed the Khmer Rouge to gain support and eventually get into power.

Furthermore, in Lao, the United States actively used Hmong and other forces to help them during the Vietnam war. I have friends who had to escape from Lao and became refugees in the United States as their families were on the wrong side of the war effort.

Even this can be argued that the domino theory was never a real threat. Instead of helping the region, the United States involved in the Vietnam region destabilized this region of the world, including Lao and Cambodia.

In 1996 Robert McNamara, who was the US Secretary of Defense and a key figure in the Vietnam War, said this to CNN and the Domino Theory and Vietnam War:

“The domino theory… was the primary factor motivating the actions of both the Kennedy and the Johnson administrations, without any qualification. It was put forward by President Eisenhower in 1954, very succinctly: If the West loses control of Vietnam, the security of the West will be in danger; “the dominoes will fall” in Eisenhower’s words…And I think that this was fully accepted by President Kennedy and by those of us associated with him. And it was fully accepted by President Johnson when he succeeded as President. The loss of Vietnam would trigger the loss of Southeast Asia, and conceivably even the loss of India, and would strengthen the Chinese and the Soviet position across the world, weakening the security of Western Europe and weakening the security of North America…Kennedy hadn’t said before he died whether, [if] faced with the loss of Vietnam, he would withdraw – but I believe today that had he faced that choice, he would have withdrawn rather than substitute US combat troops for Vietnamese forces to save South Vietnam. I think he would have concluded that US combat troops could not save Vietnam, if Vietnam troops couldn’t save it. That was the statement he in effect made publicly before his death.”

Robert McNamara – CNN Interview, 1996

Robert McNamara later in his life said that he believed that the Domino theory and the Vietnam War were unjust. Furthermore, he said if they had the knowledge they had today, they would not have gone into the Vietnam war.

Having traveled to both Lao and Cambodia and living in Vietnam, I can tell you that Lao, Cambodia, and Vietnam are culturally very different places. Even the languages, food, and culture are very different. If anything, both Cambodia and Laos are closer to Thailand in their culture and food than Vietnam.

Usually, countries want to take over and become part of a country or nation with which they have a closer alliance. In the case of Vietnam, they had spent 1000 years under the Chinese, so in north Vietnam, many aspects of life here can have some Chinese elements, culture, and traditions.

Jus Ad Bellum – Just Cause And The Last Resort For War

An international doctrine known as the case of war is the “Jus Ad Bellum” or the “Just Cause” for war doctrine. Jus Ad Bellum essentially means that there is no other way to solve this conflict than to go to war.

For Jus Ad Bellum, a country must show the right intention and a reasonable chance to win the war. In the case of the United States, since the war has ended, most have said the Domino theory or the belief that if the United States allowed Vietnam to fall to Communism, a large part of the world would soon follow was not “Jus Ad Bellum” or a “Just Cause” for America to go to war in Vietnam.

Vietnam Conflict – US Congress Never Declared War On Vietnam

At the heart of the Jus Ad Bellum is that in the United States, the Vietnam war was referred to as the Vietnam conflict. One of the reasons why this was called a conflict and not a war is that the United States Congress never declared war on North Vietnam.

Legally, President Dwight D Eisenhower used the US constitution to win a supportive resolution by Congress to conduct what he said would be a police action in Vietnam. It was under Pres Lyndon Johnson who escalated the military involvement starting in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a joint resolution that Congress passed due to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which occurred on 2 August 1964 between North Vietnamese and US forces in waters off the Gulf of Tonkin or waters off the shores of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Call It The American War

When American’s come to Vietnam, they are surprised to hear the Vietnamese call the Vietnamese War the American War; for some Americas, this will surprise them, or they feel offended by this notion.

But the Vietnamese view this war as not a war where Vietnam was the aggressor but the Americans were the aggressors. The Vietnamese were fighting for their country and their liberty and freedom.

Ho Chi Minh said this about the Vietnamese desire for independence and liberty.

“Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty.”

Ho Chi Minh

The Vietnam War was not justified; many believe it is a conflict that should have been avoided. The Domino theory that the United States-based war was flawed.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What was the Domino theory, and how did it contribute to the justification of the Vietnam War?

The Domino theory was the belief that if one country in Southeast Asia fell to communism, neighboring countries would follow. The theory was used to justify U.S. intervention in Vietnam, as it was believed that stopping the spread of communism in Vietnam was crucial to preventing its spread throughout the region.

Why is the Domino theory considered flawed, and how does that affect the justification of the Vietnam War?

The Domino theory is considered flawed because it overestimated the likelihood and speed of the spread of communism. In reality, the domino effect did not occur as predicted, and the theory’s failure weakens the justification for the Vietnam War based on preventing the spread of communism.

Were there alternative non-military approaches that could have been pursued instead of going to war in Vietnam?

Yes, there were alternative approaches that could have been explored, such as diplomacy, negotiations, and supporting political solutions within Vietnam. These alternatives were not given sufficient consideration and could have potentially avoided the need for military intervention.

What were the major justifications put forth by the United States for its involvement in the Vietnam War?

The major justifications put forth by the United States included the containment of communism, defense of its allies, and upholding the principle of the Truman Doctrine, which aimed to prevent the spread of communism.

Why do scholars argue that the Vietnam War did not meet the criteria for a “Just Cause” (Jus Ad Bellum)?

Scholars argue that the Vietnam War did not meet the criteria for a just cause because the threat posed by communism in Vietnam did not constitute a direct and imminent threat to the United States or its allies. The war was seen as more of a civil conflict with nationalist undertones rather than an aggression against the United States.

What were the human rights concerns associated with the Vietnam War?

The Vietnam War was marked by numerous human rights abuses, including civilian casualties, indiscriminate bombings, use of chemical agents like Agent Orange, and atrocities committed by both sides. These concerns further undermine the justification for the war.

What role did public opinion play in questioning the justification of the Vietnam War?

Public opinion played a significant role in questioning the justification of the Vietnam War. Widespread protests, both in the United States and internationally, reflected growing skepticism and opposition to the war, forcing policymakers to reevaluate their justifications and actions.

How did the Gulf of Tonkin incident contribute to the escalation of the Vietnam War?

The Gulf of Tonkin incident involved alleged attacks on U.S. naval vessels by North Vietnamese forces. The incident provided the justification for the U.S. Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which significantly escalated U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.

What Was The Main Reason For US Involvement In Vietnam?

The main reason for the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War was the belief in the Domino theory; the Domino theory was a principle used to describe the effects on the world if Vietnam fell to communism. It was believed if Vietnam became communist, the rest of Asia, New Zealand, and Australia would eventually become communist. At the time, American leaders felt they were fighting for the survival of democracy throughout the world.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading What Was The Main Reason For U.S. Involvement In Vietnam? 

How Many Vietnam War-era Bombs Are Still in Vietnam?

It is estimated that at least 350,000 tonnes of bombs, or about 5% of Vietnam War-era bombs, remain in Vietnam. At the present clear-up rate of the explosives, it will take at least 300 years to remove the unexploded ordinances from Vietnam’s landscape.

By clicking here, you can learn more by reading How Many Vietnam War-era Bombs Are Still in Vietnam? by clicking here.

Why Did The U.S. Army Call The Vietnamese “Charlie” During The War?

In Sweden, most of the population can’t speak fluent English. But even if they can not speak English, the Swedish government offers many courses to immigrants and professionals who will live and work in Sweden. They offer these courses because they believe learning Swedish will help you integrate into Swedish society.

To learn more, you can read our blog on Why did the U.S. Army Call The Vietnamese “Charlie” During The War? by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel
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