Wider War: American Force in Vietnam, International Law, and the Transformation of Armed Conflict, 1961-1977


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation examines the relationship between international law and the American use of military force during the Vietnam War. It investigates both how law influenced American conduct of the Indochina conflict and how the application of force by the United States in Vietnam reshaped the legal architecture of war. The major historiographical debate concerning law and war in Vietnam focuses on whether or not the US generally adhered to its legal obligations during the conflict; this project moves beyond the question of compliance to focus on the contested and contingent meanings of the law itself. Interpretations and innovations of law developed during the war were crystallized into new, more diffuse parameters for the legitimate application of international violence in the years immediately after the war. Those new parameters matter for how war is imagined and waged today.