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The likely immorality of our preemptive war (long)(9 posts)

The likely immorality of our preemptive war (long)PdxMark
Feb 5, 2003 1:55 PM
The reason for a war with Iraq seems to be mainly based on one or both of the following reasons: (1) Iraq has WMD and might give them to terrorists and (2) Iraq is not complying with the UN mandates. Of course, the UN mandates were pressed for by the US because of reason (1) to give credence to reason (1) or legalize/sanctify an attack.

Iraq has had WMD for 20 years or so. Iraq used them on Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians. At no time in those 20 or so years has there been any evidence that Iraq has shared its WMD with anyone, terrorist or not. Iraq clearly did not use them during the '91 Gulf War when it was apparently made clear that there would be massive retaliation. So why is there a risk now?

Just in the past week have we heard that there are possible links between Iraq & Al Queida (other than the one meeting between an Iraqi agent & a 9/11 planner in Europe several years ago). It seems that the Administration is realizing that Iraq's possession of WMD, though illegal by UN mandate, is not a current risk to the US without a terrorist link.

This all leads to my main thought that preemptive war is rarely justified. The main examples of preemptive war I can think of, as I said a week or so ago, are the attacks launched by Axis powers during WW2 and Israel's attack on Arab forces massing at Israel's borders (in '67 or '73). The rationales given for Axis power preemptive attacks were basically contrived and morally corrupt. In Israel's case, a threat to the country's existence was looming on the borders, so the preemptive attacks were measured and justifiable (in my opinion).

So how does this apply to Iraq? Our new National Policy of Preemptive Attack seems to have a terribly low threshold for the level of threat to the US. Remember, Iraq has had WMD for 20 years. What has raised the level of threat posed by Iraqi WMD to Imminent? So far, all we have heard about is the Al Qaeida links we are just hearing about this week.

It seems to me that our government has not made the case the Iraqi possession of WMD poses an imminent threat to the US, or any of our allies. Distrust and the plausibility of attack are not the same thing as an Imminent Threat. Absent a showing of imminence, I think any attack we make will be morally wrong.

Some will dismiss me as being just an Iraqi Apologist. Instead, let's consider your oft-stated reasons to launch war against Iraq:

Iraq used of chemical weapons 20 years ago against Iranians & Kurds. Do you really believe that's what this war is about? Funny, our governemnt doesn't say that's the reason. On top of that, we were likely aiding on the use of the chemical weapons against Iranians, so it's hard to see those acts as being justification for war now. I think those acts confirm that Saddam is remorseless and willing to kill defenseless civilians/troops, but that's very different from attacking the US.

Saddam is evil and kills innocents and is bad. Well, if that were the criteria for US justification for Preemptive War, we could attack alot of African and a few Asian countries for the same reason, including North Korea, China, Myanmar, etc. Despotism is not the reason and it's dumb to raise it as a rationale for this new war.

Finally, Saddam has WMD and is hiding them from the UN. Yes, that is illegal under UN mandates, but does that pose a direct and imminent threat to the US? It hasn't for 20 years now. I would suggest that attacking Iraq gives it no alternative but to respond with WMD attacks IN THE US AND ISRAEL. Absent our attack, Iraq has every reason to keep its WMD quietly tucked away.

So, we can at least agree that Iraq likely has WMD, is hiding them, and obstructing inspections. All illegal acts. In my opinion, however, possession alone does not justify preemptive war. We need to show that there is a threat to the US posed by those weapons.

I suppose that one respons
what about this?DougSloan
Feb 5, 2003 3:18 PM
Iraq invaded Kuwait. The world responded, and at great cost, drove it out. Iraq, rather than risk further destruction, or potentially a scenario like Germany after WWII, agreed to certain terms as a condition of a ceasefire. But for that agreement, coalition troops may well have destroyed more Iraqi forces or even gone to Baghdad.

Now that Iraq got its ceasefire, it has breached its agreement that procured the ceasefire. I don't think there is any doubt about that. As such, it is back in the same position as if that agreement were not reached, the loser of a war it started, with all the exposure that goes along with that.

It either procured the ceasefire by fraud, never intending to perform, or it changed its mind and decided it didn't like the terms, all after the coalition troops had withdrawn.

This is not a sale of goods contract, in which the breach might be immaterial or simply cause to write a check. This agreement stopped a war that Iraq had started. It is back in the same position as if the agreement had not been reached. We are not starting fresh, as if nothing had ever happened. Basically, it deserves what would have been the result had there been no agreement.

Any problem with that?

Doug
what about this?PdxMark
Feb 5, 2003 4:49 PM
From a (my) moral perspective, responding to a breach of a ceasefire agreement is more supportable than most preemptive wars. And so in this case, possession of WMD could be a breach of the Gulf War ceasefire and so might be justification for a new war.

But is that why we're launching this war? It doesn't sound like that from the Administration - or maybe I need to listen closer. The Admin cites breaches of the sanctions/ceasefire, but they aren't making the same clear connection that you are.

I also wonder (I can't remember) if the inspections and WMD disarmament were part of a ceasefire deal or imposed as a sanction after the war -- after GB Sr. stopped the drive to Bagdad to preserve the coalition. I'm not sure that iraq sued for any terms in the first Gulf War. Our troops just stopped.

Interesting thought... A ceasfire deal would be a condition to ceasing hostilities, and so breach of the deal could maybe justify a new war as a continuation of the old war. But after-the-fact sanctions are not a condition to ceasing hostilities. So does a breach of after-the-fact sanctions automatically justify war?

Should Britain & Frnace have attacked Germany once it was discovered that the Bismark was built or when Germany had too many fighter planes? It might have made sense in retrospect, but it's hard to see it at the time.

Do we have historical precedents for launching a war for a breach of sanctions/ceasefire that does not involve direct hostilities? I'm drawing a blank on that one.

So what we have here is preemptive war (to eliminate a possible threat), or instead, hostile enforcement of sanctions/ceasefire for non-hostile acts (possession of illegal weapons). That still kinda sounds like preemptive war.

For lack of other words, I'm using hostile to mean shooting or exploding or spraying something or putting soldiers where someone doesn't want them. I'm excluding "mere possession" from being a hostile act, because we have chemical weapons and someone could justify an attack on us for mere possession. It saying here that you need "an act" beyond possession to be "hostile."

I'm not defending Iraq here, I'm trying to understand whether we remain above moral reproach in our rush to war. In retrospect, a drive to Bagdad and scouring Iraq to eliminate WMD might have been the thing to do, but we didn't. But do we now have the moral right to go do what we stopped short of before?
Exactly...Wayne
Feb 6, 2003 6:08 AM
they are in violation of the UN mandates, therefore it is the UN's responsibitlity to act, and our responsiblity as an important UN member to act through them. I don't think we are doing anything wrong by pressing the UN for military action, and I don't think we would be doing anything wrong by acting as the UN's "policemen". That is entirely different from saying Iraq might pose a threat to the US as a soveriegn nation and therefore unilaterally (well, Britain would probably support us) we are going to go take them out, just because we can.

If we do that we have basically justified all but the most spurious pre-emptive reasons given for war (certainly Japan at Pearl Harbor). That was wrong then, and I think us attacking Iraq now based on some supposed threat via terrorism is wrong now (unless there is some kinda of evidence that this is at least in the works).
not all up to the UNDougSloan
Feb 6, 2003 7:29 AM
Did the UN pay for the Gulf War? Did it reimburse the U.S. for all it's expense in going in and liberating Kuwait? If so, then yes, I agree, it has the sole right to dictate terms now.

However, we know that isn't true. Should we essentially let our Gulf War efforts go to waste because of the UN's timidity? It's like the UN is implying, "Thanks for spending billions of dollars and your lives to help out. We'll just ignore that now and take it from here."

Bottom line, IMO, is that the UN is good to have on board, but not essential.

Doug
Oh yeahWar on War
Feb 6, 2003 8:15 AM
might is right - great philosophy.

Funny - I can just see Sadam using your "argument" - UN - good to have on board but not essential.

So it's fine when the US goes it alone and invades someone else, but not when Iraq does it eh?
not the sameDougSloan
Feb 6, 2003 8:28 AM
I hope you are not equating Iraq invading Kuwait with the US. If so, I'm done discussing, as we must be on different planets.

Nice talking to you. BTW, have you been here before under another handle, or just dropped in for this discussion?

Doug
The latter.War on War
Feb 6, 2003 8:36 AM
Though "discussion" is not a term I'd use for your reply - you seem to be dodging the issue somewhat.
Not essential for what?Wayne
Feb 6, 2003 8:56 AM
I have every confidence that our military could run rough shod over almost any nation on this planet (I certainly hope so, given that's where a majority of our taxes go!). So, yes, the UN is not essential.

BUt your arguement is ridiculous! You seem to be saying if we don't get rid of Saddam now, we're getting a poor return on our investment, and that justifies military action!

How about a justification for us unilaterally going to War being some kind of threat to national security?

If not that, and the justification is violation of the UN rules, how about getting the UN (and by extension the world) to say that military action is indeed justified.

Think about the precedents those two different scenarios establish. The first establishes us as a bully who gets our enemies whenever the situation permits it, regardless of the strength of our justification or the evidence. (And lets not forget how that world view of us ultimately relates back to the war on terror, which if I'm not mistaken, is really what this was all about when it started).

The second scenario moves humanity forward (although not without alot of spitting and coughing, etc.) that the days of naked aggression of one nation against another are over and that if you engage in said behavior you will pay the price.