Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2013
Wars are undeniable events in history, and - as constantly reported in the daily news - they still occur all over the world, even in an age that has produced more legal and political mechanisms to avoid war and has drafted more manifestos to decry violent conflict than any other epoch in history. As soon as we embark on scrutinizing the meaning of wars more closely, questions arise that trigger heated disputes: Why are wars fought? What reasons justify the conduct of war? In which military, political, and ideological categories do belligerents couch their strategies and experiences? What impact does war have on the politics, societies, and cultures of combatants and noncombatants? How do wars affect the international community and international relations beyond the immediate events on the battlefields? Why do we label some military conflicts wars but not others?
The answers to these questions are highly contested; this holds especially true for one of the most dramatic conflicts in modern history: the American war in Vietnam, as it took shape with the deployment of U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam and the bombing of North Vietnam in the mid-1960s, and concluded with the Paris agreements between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1973. Accordingly, it is not surprising that the shelves of libraries and bookstores groan under the weight of a burgeoning literature on the topic. There can be no doubt that the Vietnam War is one of the most widely discussed, researched, and documented events in recent history