Spring 2009

Law and the American War in Vietnam

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-37


David P. Delaney (Section 01)


The American war in Vietnam was, among other things, a watershed event in American legal history. Throughout the duration of the war there was vigorous debate about its legality in terms of international law, natural law and constitutional law. The conduct of the war and its relation to the draft and to dissent generated unprecedented public disagreement about such fundamental legal issues as authority, obligation, due process, civil liberties, crime and punishment, and the relationship between law and morality. The war was also the topic or context for a number of trials during which official legal actors endeavored to make formal legal sense of the war and of law’s relationship to it. As a historical event, the war may also be examined in light of more contemporary themes such as legal consciousness, law as violence, and governmentality. The course will explore legal aspects of the war both as a historical study and as a case study of law in extreme situations. Requisite: LJST 01 or 10 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.