Legal and Policy Issues of the Indochina War

Advanced Topics in National Security Law


Professors John Norton Moore and Robert F. Turner

University of Virginia School of Law

Fall 2016

Whether your goal is a career as a government attorney or merely to be an informed citizen and community leader, study of the field of national security law-­founded at Virginia and now taught at most of the nation's law schools-­is both challenging and rewarding. Few national security law issues have been more controversial or more misunderstood than America's tragic involvement in Indochina, and to profit from our past mistakes we must first ascertain what really happened and what went wrong. Not only is it useful to review the old Indochina debates in the light of recent evidence (e.g., what really happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964?), but the conflict provides a rich case study for examining a diverse range of broader national security legal and policy issues, including the legal regulation of the initiation of coercion and the conduct of military operations, the role of Congress in the use of military force (e.g., the 1973 War Powers Resolution), and legal regimes governing war crimes and the treatment of prisoners of war. Both Professors Moore and Turner were actively involved in these issues in and out of government during the war and have published extensively on the subject. Past guest lecturers in this seminar have included two former CIA Directors, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former Marine Corps Commandant, and a former prisoner of war. Several prominent guest lecturers have already agreed to address the group this fall, including a former West Point professor who has written one of the most respected histories of the war, and a former Marine JAG officer who has published extensively on war crimes in Vietnam. (Click on the guest speakers page for a complete list.) Once again, the Vietnam issues are front and center, this time raised in the debate about the Iraq war. As a result, this year’s seminar should be especially lively. In 2006 a collection of student papers from the seminar was published in a book on the war, To Oppose Any Foe: The Legacy of U.S. Intervention in Vietnam, edited by R.A. Fisher, J.N. Moore, and R.F. Turner.

Prerequisites: None. (National Security Law or International Law useful.)

Requirements: Students are expected to take an active part in class discussion and to prepare a substantial research paper. This seminar may be used to fulfill the Law School's Writing Requirement.

"Legal and Policy Issues in the Indochina War" meets on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the University of Virginia School of Law.