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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.

22 Comments »

People will Never Forget

(Artwork from Parle Magazine [http://www.parlemag.com])

Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

COVID-19 put the whole world into a panic. There’s been a lot of verbal abuse, finger pointing, bullying, outright lying, extreme government overreach, hysteria, hypochondria, anxiety, hostility, and fear to last a lifetime. Everybody’s life has been upset in one way or another, with no end in sight. We’ve seen people at their worst.

The question is: if the pandemic ended tomorrow, how would we heal the broken relationships, reverse the mistrust that people feel, overcome the lies, forgive the hurtful words and accusations, and unite as a people? The damage has already been done. People turned on each other like rabid dogs. Some people are still expressing their hatred; their desire to hurt others; their need to segregate; their willingness to kill others who don’t comply with their demands.

The long-term social effects of COVID-19 — and the inept and malicious way in which it has been handled — is a mountain we still have to climb. Will you trust your doctor again? Your teacher? Government bureaucracy? The CDC? DHHS? NIH? The president? Congress? Facebook? Twitter? Big Pharma? Corporate America? The twisted media? The unions? Your interfering ex-friends? Your spying neighbors? Your stressed-out boss? Divisive family members? Attention-seeking celebrities? Will you ever trust ANYONE again?

Will you ever feel safe again? Feel healthy again? Or will you live in fear of the next germ that shows up to affect our lives? Will you still douse yourself in hand sanitizer and wash your hands 10 times a day? Will you still stay 6 feet away from everybody, thereby preventing new relationships into your life? Will you keep popping the tranquilizers, sipping the booze, smoking the weed to alleviate your anxiety? Will you suffer from permanent social anxiety and fear as a result of your experience with the pandemic?

What about the children? Will they be able to trust our authority figures again? Their teachers? Their parents? Their pediatricians? Will they have long-term anxiety and lung problems from wearing masks all day? From social isolation? Inadequate learning? Have they lost valuable social and language skills that would have contributed to their success in life?

And who’s addressing these issues? And does anybody really care?

Dawn Pisturino, RN

January 31, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

Why Biden is to Blame for Afghanistan

Der Spiegel Photo

For those of you who don’t understand why Biden is to blame for Afghanistan:

Biden ignored his own advisors and pulled out of Afghanistan the wrong way. The disaster has nothing to do with Trump or the agreement with the Taliban. That’s a liberal fantasy with no basis in reality propagated by The New York Times and other liberal propaganda rags. Biden did not follow the original plan for troop withdrawal, violated military protocols and precedents, and screwed up big time trying to be a cowboy like George W. Bush and a tough Commander-in-Chief like President Trump. He failed; and because of what he has done, the whole world is less safe, and you will see a rise in terrorism around the globe. But some people, who refuse to wake up and open their minds, will have to see it for themselves – even lose a loved one – before they will listen or understand.

And that is a terrible shame because a lot of people are going to suffer because of this guy’s stupidity and incompetence.

Kamala Harris is equally to blame! In an interview, she bragged about being “at the table” with Biden when the decision was made and praised Biden for his disastrous results. Then she disappeared from the limelight – her usual modus operandi – the silly, cackling fool!

The Department of Defense released the names of the thirteen heroic soldiers killed on August 26th:  

  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California.
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California.
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana.
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas.
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri. 
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming.
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California.
  • Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio.
  • Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee.

Please pray for the souls of these heroic, brave young soldiers who died unjustly as a result of the decisions made by the two blithering idiots in the White House. Please pray for their grieving parents and give them the strength to speak up and fight back. Please pray for America, to restore American values and traditions, to raise up strong American Patriots as leaders, to preserve freedom and the U.S. Constitution, to wake up the American people from their COVID-induced coma, and to give them the strength and will to fight back against Democratic Party tyranny, oppression, dishonesty, and Fascism (yes, the Nazis were considered the “progressives” in Germany.) Conservatives, please continue to BOYCOTT any corporation or business that promotes the ridiculous “woke” agenda. Do not give your tourist dollars to California, Oregon, New York, and Washington, D.C. There are better places to visit. DO NOT FEED THE BEAST! Do not donate money to Republican RINOS. Like the Democrats, these misguided monsters have to go.

Dawn Pisturino

September 6, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

4 Comments »

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