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Vietnam and Grotius’s Standards for Just War

The Vietnam War and Grotius’s Standards for Just War

The Vietnam War resulted in the deaths of more than three million Vietnamese combatants and non-combatants in North and South Vietnam. America lost 58,000 combatants. Both countries were split by opposing camps. Both countries suffered great losses in economic resources and political credibility (Shermer, 2017, pg.1). But was America’s involvement in the war a just cause?

Grotius’s Standards for Just War

According to David Armitage (2018), “Grotius was the first theorist of the law of nations . . . to grapple with the meaning of civil war” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius generally defined war as “armed execution against an armed adversary” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) and made distinctions between public and private wars. Public wars resulted from “the public will, or the legitimate authority in a state” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Private wars resulted from private entities or individuals and did not depend on the public’s endorsement (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius further defined civil war as a “public war waged ‘against a part of the same state’” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Later, he elaborated on “mixed war . . .  a war fought on one side by the legitimate authority, on the other by ‘mere private persons’” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius denounced private war against the State at any cost and even condoned “submitting to an unlawful government” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) in order to avoid civil war.

Although Grotius is widely touted as one of the founders of international law, he is best remembered for his defense of the use of force by the Dutch East India Company against the Portuguese (Lang, 2018, pg. 133). He insisted “that no state could control [the seas]” (Lang, 2018, pg. 133-134), therefore, the use of force was justified, even though the Dutch East India Company was a private company. It followed that the State found it necessary to control such private companies in order to give them legitimacy and sovereignty as part of the State (Lang, 2018, pg. 134).

Grotius still affirmed the three traditional bases for just war – “self-defense, retaking of property unlawfully taken, and punishment of wrongdoing” (Lang, 2018, pg. 134). He still relied on natural law to guide people morally and saw no conflict between natural law and divine law (Lang, 2018, pg. 134-35). He concluded that natural law and the law of nations worked in tandem to support the guidelines that shape the jus in bellum between warring nations; and he did not condone breaking either natural law or the law of nations (Lang, 2018, pg. 135).

We, therefore, see Grotius condoning war that conforms “to both natural law and the law of nations” (Lang, 2018, pg. 136). A private war is just when someone (or a private entity) is acting to defend himself from harm (Lang, 2018, pg.136). However, he condemns “insurrection by subjects of a sovereign, arguing that once they enter into the relationship of a formal community there is a need to ensure that peace is the outcome rather than continued war” (Lang, 2018, pg. 136).

Was the Vietnam War Ethically Justifiable in Terms of Grotius’s Standards

According to Greenspan (2019), “the Vietnam War was ostensibly a civil war between the communist North and pro-Western South” (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 1). After the French were ousted from colonial rule of the country in 1954 by communist leader Ho Chi Minh, civil war broke out between Viet Cong forces from the North and Ngo Dinh Diem’s U.S.-backed forces in the South. Under pressure from the Cold War that was going on between the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, American leaders elected to back Diem’s forces in the South to prevent a communist take-over of South Vietnam. The U.S. eventually overthrew the Diem government in a coup in 1963 (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 2, 3).

In 1964, President Johnson committed “combat troops and launch[ed] a massive bombing campaign” which cemented America’s investment in the war. By the time of the U.S. troop withdrawal in 1973, the war had cost American taxpayers $111 billion in military costs alone (Greenspan 2019, pg. 3), and America could not claim victory in the war. In 1975, South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam, becoming a communist country against the will of the people (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 6).

The Vietnam War has many layers to it. In the first phase, the Vietnamese people staged an insurrection against the French colonial government in order to win their own freedom and become a sovereign nation. In the second phase, when the country was divided with the understanding that it would be re-united, elections were not held, and the Viet Cong from the North started hostilities against the South in order to turn the whole country communist. In the third phase, the United States and other countries intervened in the hostilities, with opposing countries supporting opposite sides. In the fourth phase, the United States pulled out of Vietnam, and the North defeated the South, turning Vietnam into a communist country against the will of the people (Greenspan, 2018, pg. 1-6).

If we are to take Grotius literally, he would have condemned the insurrection against the colonial French government by the Vietnamese (Lang, 2018, pg. 136) and then the civil war that broke out because he did not condone either instance of war. He himself said that “submitting to an unlawful government” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) was better than ripping a country apart with civil war. Elections had not yet been held to reunite the country, so neither government was legitimately elected by the people. When the North attacked the South, it was attempting to take over the South against the will of the people. Grotius’s defense of self-defense against harm would apply here because the people in the South were defending themselves from harm against an illegitimate government (Lang, 2018, pg. 136).

When the United States got involved in the war, we were helping the South Vietnamese defend themselves against an aggressor. It may have been foolish to get involved, but the right intention was there – charity in helping one’s neighbor defend himself. Grotius, as a Protestant Christian, said, “we must also take care that we offend not against Charity, especially Christian Charity” (Lang, 2018, pg. 139). The paranoia about the communist threat was real at that time, and America’s leaders acted to minimize that threat, however misguided. The Viet Cong did not follow any rules of war – their goal was just to win, and they did (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 6). So, although Grotius would not have agreed with insurrection and civil war, I believe he would have lauded the United States for attempting to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves against the aggressors in the North.

Works Cited

Armitage, D. (2018). Civil war time: From grotius to the global war on terror. The american

       society of international law, 3-14. doi:10.1017/amp.2017.152

Greenspan, J. (2019, June). Which countries were involved in the Vietnam war? History.com.

       http://www.history.com/news/vietnam-war-combatants

Lang, A.F. (2018). Hugo grotius (1583-1645). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (21-33). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Shermer, M. (2017, December). Can we agree to outlaw war – Again? Scientific american.

       Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we/agree-to-outlaw-war- 

       mdash-again/?

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 3, 2021; April 29, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Christ’s Sorrow – A Sonnet

Christ’s Sorrow – A Sonnet

by Dawn Pisturino

I was not born for pleasure but for pain;

For blood and thorns and thirst beneath the sun;

And ev’ry man who doubts I am the One

Has lost the only treasure he could gain.

Blasted with hate, betrayed, and marked like Caine,

My fate was sealed; nor was there place to run.

Standing trial and defended by none,

The case was clear; acquittal was in vain.

You hung me high; you nailed me to the cross;

On either side, the outcasts hung with me.

O enemies mine, I died on that hill

With bitterest gall; but mourn not my loss:

You have helped fulfill my great destiny.

My pain is this: — You do not love me still.

September 16, 1986; April 14, 2022

Published in Great Poems of Today Anthology, 1987.

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 1986-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY EASTER!

27 Comments »

Jesus Wept

(Eastern Orthodox icon showing Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead)

“Jesus wept” is the shortest and one of the most profound verses in the New Testament. In those two words, we see Jesus’s humanity and feel his pain. It may have taken scholars a few hundred years to officially decide that Jesus was both human and divine, but the people who encountered him during his lifetime felt his Presence and his Power and witnessed both his human nature and his divinity. They were touched and forever changed.

John 11:1 to 12:11 tells the story of Lazarus’ illness and death and Jesus’ miracle:

When Jesus hears that Lazarus is seriously ill, he tells his disciples, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Two days later, Jesus (knowing that Lazarus is dead) and his disciples set out for Judea. By the time they arrive at their destination, Lazarus has been dead for four days. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, remind Jesus that their brother would not have died if Jesus had been there. Surrounded by mourners, Mary falls at Jesus’ feet in despair. Touched by her faith, her love, and her grief, he begins to weep.

At the entrance to the tomb, Jesus cries, “Lazarus, come forth!” Lazarus hears him and emerges from the tomb. The result of this event is two-fold: believers are confirmed in their beliefs and doubters believe; and people who witnessed the miracle inform the Pharisees.

The Pharisees, concerned about their own positions and survival, conspire against Jesus and plot his death. In the meantime, Jesus and his disciples return to Judea to visit Lazarus and his sisters. It is during this visit that Judas Iscariot questions Jesus and his mission and begins to plot against him.

The significance of Lazarus’ resurrection cannot be underestimated. Jesus used Lazarus – someone he loved – to illustrate the glory and power of God and his own role in God’s plan on earth. Lazarus’ death and resurrection foreshadow Jesus’ own fate and emphasize his promise that anybody who believes in him will also be resurrected into a new life.

(“Jesus is Just Alright” – The Doobie Brothers)
(Superstar Scene – Jesus Christ Superstar)
(“Put Your Hand in the Hand” – Ocean)

Happy Easter!

Dawn Pisturino

April 8, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

13 Comments »

Church of All Russian Saints Ukraine Message

(Church of All Russian Saints Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Burlingame, California, USA)

When I lived in California, I used to walk by this church all the time. It always fascinated me with its blue and gold domes, magnificent painting of the Virgin Mary, and clean, white walls. I rarely saw anybody there, and it seemed like one of those mysteries of life, kept locked up and tucked away, that strikes us with awe but never gets solved. For some reason, I was thinking about this church in relation to Easter and the disaster in Ukraine and decided to look it up.

Established in 1952, the church is part of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This Diocese is also called the “Russian Church in Exile” because it has always seen itself as “part of the suffering Orthodox Church in Russia during the decades of Soviet turmoil, persecution, and subjugation of the Church and its faithful.” In 2007, the Diocese reunited with the Mother Church in Russia.

Like everybody else, our Russian immigrants here in America are shocked and dismayed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here’s the message of hope and prayer posted on the church’s website:

“We are overcome with grief over the tragic events in Ukraine, for many of us the land of our forefathers, and for some the land where our relatives live today. We pray to the All-Merciful Lord and His Most-Holy Mother for speedy secession of all hostilities and long-lasting peace.

Prayer to the Lord:
O Lord, Lover of mankind, King of the ages and Giver of good things: having destroyed the
divisions of enmity and granted peace unto the human race, grant even now peace unto Thy
servants, planting within them the fear of Thee and establishing them in love for one another.
Quench all strife, and remove all dissensions and temptations; for Thou art our peace and to
Thee do we offer up glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever
and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Владыко Человѣколюбче, Царю вѣковъ и Подателю благихъ, разрушившiй вражды
средостѣнiя и мир подавшiй роду человѣческому, даруй и нынѣ миръ рабомъ Твоимъ,
вкорени нихъ страхъ Твой и другъ къ другу любовь утверди: угаси всяку распрю,
отыми вся разногласiя и соблазны. Яко Ты еси миръ нашъ и Тебе славу возсылаемъ,
Отцу и Сыну и Святому Духу, нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣковъ. Аминь.


Prayer to the Mother of God:
O much sorrowing Mother of God, more highly exalted than all other of the daughters of the
earth, according to thy purity and the multitude of thy suffering endured by thee on earth:
Hearken to our sighs and soften the hearts of evil men, and protect us under the shelter of thy
mercy. For we know no other refuge and ardent intercessor apart from thee, but as thou hast
great boldness before the One Who was born of thee, help and save us by thy prayers, that
without offense we may attain the Heavenly Kingdom where, with all the saints, we will sing
the thrice-holy hymn to One God Almighty in the Trinity, always now and ever and unto the
ages of ages. Amen.
О, многострадальная Мати Божiя, Превысшая всѣхъ дщерей земли, по чистотѣ Своей и
по множеству страданiй, Тобою на земли перенесенныхъ, прiими многоболезненныя
воздыханiя наша и сохрани насъ подъ кровомъ Твоея милости. Инаго бо прибѣжища
теплаго предстательста развѣ Тебѣ не вѣмы, но яко дерзновенiе имущая къ Иже изъ
Тебѣ рожденному, помози и спаси ны молитвами Своими, да непреткновенно
достигнемъ Царствiя Небеснаго, идеже со всѣми святыми будемъ воспѣвати въ Троицѣ
единому Богу нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣков. Аминь.”

(Parish Choir Lent Recital, 2018)

Whatever your faith – Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, Russian/Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Wiccan – please pray and extend your best wishes and hopes for the people of Ukraine!

Dawn Pisturino

April 4, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

5 Comments »

III. The Heart in Anguish – a Poem

III. The Heart in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino

Here in my heart
Is a tiny prayer
That the world would
Grow in kindness and love,
That the pain of a million
Voices would cease,
And laughter run wild
Over all the world.

I closed my mind and heart
Because I could not bear
To hear the tears
Or feel the pain around me.
I lived in a void
For many years,
But nothing changed.
The world remained the same,
Even when I was not.

I lived in the safe world
Of grocery stores and J.C. Penney,
Counting my money,
And learning how to spend it.
I bore my child
And adored my loving husband.
They became for me
My fixtures, my sanity,
The sum total of my life.
But life does not end
With safety and happiness,
For while you are safe,
Others are in danger.
While you are happy,
Others suffer.
And it is not right,
No, it is not right
To shut the door behind you.

A heart in anguish
Is a heart which feels
The pain of a million suffering people
And knows that death is near.
A heart in anguish
Touches the open wound,
Binds the broken limb,
Tastes the salty tears,
And does it lovingly,
Reverently, without fear.
The heart in anguish knows life
And death and suffering,
But lives ultimately, and dies happy.

Dawn Pisturino
1985; March 9, 2022
Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

II. A Soul in Anguish – a Poem

(Artwork by Michelangelo)

II. A Soul in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino


A soul apart from God
Is a soul in anguish,
Lost in the wilderness,
Out of touch with its own creator.
Like a child without its mother,
It cannot function on its own.
Creator and created: they are one,
Inseparable, indivisable;
And when one is lost,
All is lost.

I need my Lord, my God,
Every day of my life
To give me courage and strength;
To fight the invisible
Battle of life
And resign myself to death;
He IS Life
And He IS death:
I do not agree
With all He is or does,
But He is all, everything, there is.
I cannot argue
With His greatness
Or doubt His power and strength;
He may be wrong or right,
But He is,
And I cannot close my eyes to that.
The tall mountain rises into the sky
And I see His majesty before me;
The tiny flower in the grass,
And it is his tenderness;
Man may have proven to be
HIS GREAT MISTAKE,
But all else, at least, is perfect,
Fits into a logical order,
And intertwines beautifully
With each other.
Man stands on the outside of the puzzle
Seeking answers, seeking answers,
And making the picture more complicated.

God is good and He is bad,
He kills his enemies and makes
Innocent people to suffer;
He draws the darkness of night
Around the big, wide world,
And causes the sunshine to fall.

And I will fight Him as I love him,
And I will fight for what is right,
Unto the death,
       As He would.

Dawn Pisturino
1985; March 8, 2022
Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

17 Comments »

I. A World in Anguish – a Poem

(Photo from Pixabay)

A World in Anguish

by Dawn Pisturino

A world in anguish

Is a world at war,

Suffering the throes of poverty,

Living in fear,

Desperate for freedom

From unfeeling despots;

One man kills another

And crowds cheer for more:

A bloody holocaust screams

The victory cry.

Women weep for children

Dying in the womb,

And fathers beat

Their screaming brats in rage,

Placating the demon-gods.

The dark-faced villain

In the streets

Pushes his deadly wares

To the wayward and unsuspecting,

Supplies the knowing,

And murders the human spirit.

The Godly are intimidated

By the unholy-ungodly

And cry out in vain for vengeance.

God does not hear

Or does not want to.

“Let them fight their own battles,”

He must say; and looks down

In amusement at the skirmish of ants

Crawling in the streets.

It is not a funny sight, no,

But a sorry commentary

On the uselessness of the human species.

God Himself must weep

At the awful destruction wrought

By pitiful creatures.

It is not worth His powerful strength

To save them or His loving heart

To love them or His abounding mercy

To forgive them.

Let those who will survive, survive.

Death to the others.

The battle is just begun.

Dawn Pisturino

September 20, 1985; March 7, 2022

Copyright 1985-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

My Christmas Prayer – a Poem

by Dawn Pisturino

May I never lose the Joy of Christmas,

Though my Tree of Life grows withered and rots,

Standing stark and gaunt in the cold winter light:

Please, Lord, may I never lose the Joy of Christmas.


May I never lose the Love of Christmas,

Though my heart grows feeble and weak,

Beating like a broken drum in my chest:

Please, Lord, may I never lose the Love of Christmas.


May I never lose the Meaning of Christmas,

Though the shadow of Death hovers over me,

Drawing farther away from the Circle of Life:

Please, Lord, may I never lose the Meaning of Christmas.

Dawn Pisturino
December 4, 1986; December 24, 2021


MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Copyright 1986-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

19 Comments »

St. Thomas the Apostle and the Three Wise Men

The Gospel of Matthew recounts how the Three Wise Men followed the Star of Bethlehem to the Christ Child in the manger, worshiped Him, and brought Him gifts. Then they left, feeling it wiser to bypass King Herod and his murderous intentions. 

Matthew 2:1-12:

 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.'”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” When they heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

~

Later stories in the apocrypha elaborate on this account. The Three Wise Men meet St. Thomas the Apostle, who baptizes them as Christians, gives them the Eucharist, and sends them out into the world to spread the message of Christ as his disciples.

During the baptismal ceremony, St. Thomas recites this prayer:

“We praise you, O mystery of salvation,

which was given to us in oil by grace for anointing. 

Glory to you, O hidden mystery,

which was given to us in oil by grace for salvation,

for anointing. 

Glory to you, O hidden mystery,

which was given to us in oil for salvation and

and absolution.

 And by it (you) enlighten us and drive away

 darkness and error from us.

And again, by its mystery the athletes of the contest 

defeat their enemies.

Glory to you, O mystery of the oil,

since you became worthy to be in fellowship with

Christ.

With you the victorious are crowned in the contest, 

and you are twinned with the Spirit.

And you fly over the water like your (twin,) 

the Holy Spirit,

you mix the soul with mind,

and you renew the body with the birth of salvation.

Come, O partner of the firstborn;

Come, O renewer of humanity by the birth to eternal 

life;

and rest upon these believers, the beloved ones of our 

Lord Jesus Christ, and purify them and sanctify them

from all the stains of their bodies,

and may they become for you temples for your

dwelling

and rest for the Son of perfect mercy. 

And may you perfectly sanctify them with the birth of

salvation.”

(Translated from the Syriac by Brent Landau)

May we all become wiser, closer to God, and better disciples of the Christ Child in the year ahead.

Amen!

Dawn Pisturino, RN

December 23, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments »

Holiday Wellness

The holidays can represent the most joyous and spiritual time of the year. They can also be the most stressful and unhappy. How can we enjoy the holidays and maintain our balance?


We all have our own expectations of what the holidays should bring. And as that special day draws closer, the excitement builds. So does the stress. Did we buy enough presents? Did we spend enough money? Are the presents we bought good enough? How will we ever get them all wrapped, the cards mailed out, and the decorations put up?


It all seems very overwhelming. But maybe, in truth, we are doing too much. Is it really necessary to spend all our savings on presents? Is it really prudent to run up the credit cards and spend the rest of the year paying them off? The long-term consequences of our holiday actions can be just as stressful as the holiday itself. Sometimes it is better if everyone agrees to celebrate Christmas in a more spiritual way and to forego the abundance of gifts. This can be very liberating for everyone involved, for everyone feels the economic pressure at Christmas.


This year, try to keep things simple. Spend less, do less, and share more of the responsibility with others.
Decorating the Christmas tree, putting up lights, and decorating the house are family events which should provide the opportunity to share special moments with one another. It should be fun — not an annual chore.


Writing out Christmas cards can be done in quiet moments when the kids are asleep. Sometimes, this is the only communication we have with distant friends and relatives.


Show gratitude for blessings received during the year by donating to charity. Ask other people to make a donation to charity instead of buying a gift. In this way, the gift benefits more people.
Simplify expectations. Don’t expect everything to be perfect or to run smoothly. Don’t expect to receive the most expensive gifts or the greatest number of gifts. Don’t expect anything at all. Go with the flow. Find inner peace rather than outer chaos.


Seek to serve others during the holiday season. Concentrate on family bonding and growing closer to God. Enjoy the peace of Christmas and extend it to others by offering tolerance and forgiveness.
Christmas can be a dreaded stressful event or a wonderful opportunity to bring peace into your life. Simplify. Relax. Enjoy the spirit of the holiday. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Dawn Pisturino, RN
November 2006; December 14, 2021

Published in The Bullhead City Bee, December 22, 2006. 

Published on Selfgrowth.com, December 4, 2011.

Copyright 2006-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

20 Comments »

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