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According to Shaws book on International Law:

The Soviet Union made considerable use of legal arguments in its efforts to establish its non-liability to contribute towards the peace-keeping operations of the UN [sic]. And the Americans too, justified their activities with regards to Cuba and Vietnam by reference to international law.

Q. What were the US arguments, I assume at the UN, with regards to its war in Vietnam?

If it's not clear, I'm not asking here about the political dimensions but it's legal dimensions; (although the political dimension would be welcome).

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They were there at the invitation the government of Vietnam

This is the justification.

The government of South Vietnam was the internationally recognised government of South Vietnam (at least by the USA and it’s allies - it’s not a requirement of international law to be recognised by everyone). They were engaged in counter-insurgency against internal rebels. They asked the USA and other nations to help. Those nations agreed to help.

  • Oh the history here - the US refused to help while Ngô Đình Diệm was in power in South Vietnam, so the South Vietnamese military arrested and then executed him and his brother in a coup, which opened the door to US assistance. Fuller involvement of the US military was then sold to the American public and the international community with the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. – Moo Nov 23 '20 at 21:31
  • @Moo but none of that changes the assessment that US military presence in South Vietnam was by invitation, does it? – phoog Nov 28 '20 at 23:48
  • @phoog it adds a huge caveat to the invite - the Soviet Union was “invited” into Afghanistan under similar “circumstance” for example and yet everyone considers that an invasion... – Moo Nov 29 '20 at 0:31
  • @Moo The OP asked for the legal justification- people can disagree on if it was valid- that’s why we have courts and tribunals. And politics. – Dale M Nov 29 '20 at 2:44
  • @DaleM i dont disagree with your answer, Im just pointing out the history of it. The entire US involvement in the Vietnam war was based on some extremely questionable things - but then the same thing has been done over and over, see for example the US and other countries recognising opposition groups as the “legitimate government” of countries such as Syria, Libya etc when they are anything but - whether those groups can legally request military aid as a result is why those recognitions are done. – Moo Nov 29 '20 at 4:06

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