It's just a war
Posted by aogThursday, 24 April 2003 at 09:25 TrackBack Ping URL
I've just noticed a typical Tranzi manifesto against the invasion of Iraq in my comments. Since it was, as tends to be the practice, made in the comments of many weeks old post, I thought that I would deal with it in some new posts as it is too lengthy for a single response.

Seamus writes about the invasion of Iraq

Is this a “just” war?

Let's start with an examination of what a "just war" means. I'll shameless pull a dictionary definition, as that's the easiest place to start:

  1. Honorable and fair in one's dealings and actions: a just ruler.
  2. Consistent with what is morally right; righteous: a just cause.
  3. Properly due or merited: just deserts.
  4. Law. Valid within the law; lawful: just claims.
  5. Suitable or proper in nature; fitting: a just touch of solemnity.
  6. Based on fact or sound reason; well-founded: a just appraisal.
We can dismiss the first, as the US is anything but honourable and fair. Were they honourable and fair, they wouldn't have left the Iraqis to be slaughtered after the previous Gulf War and they'd be fighting using the weaponry as the Iraqi military (as that would be an "honourable and fair" way of doing battle - technological superiority is anything but fair). The fifth also doesn't really apply in this context.
My first response to this would be, “why should I care if the invasion is a just war?”. Certainly no other nation on the planet cares if their military activities are “just”. The use here is not from general principle but simply a rhetorical technique as no justification is provided as to why the “just war” label is relevant or why the US, alone of all nations, should care.

Seamus goes on to say

We can dismiss the first, as the US is anything but honourable and fair. Were they honourable and fair, they wouldn't have left the Iraqis to be slaughtered after the previous Gulf War and they'd be fighting using the weaponry as the Iraqi military (as that would be an "honourable and fair" way of doing battle - technological superiority is anything but fair).
There is so much here I’m not sure where to start.

Certainly I will admit that the abandonment of the Iraqis after the first Gulf War as shameful. One might note, however, that the reason that Saddam Hussein was still around to decimate the rebels was because of pressure from the international community, particularly Old Europe and Arabia. It is hardly a coincidence that the US both lacked approval from the world community and had a rapid, successful, complete campaign. It was President Bush's diplomatic “failure” that lead to success on the battlefield.

There is also the well beaten point that the failure of the US to support the Iraqis in 1991 creates a greater, not lesser, moral imperative to finally make some atonement for that failure. But Seamus would clearly rather have a morally tainted US than one that actively strives to correct its mistakes. Better that the Iraqi people suffer in perpetuity than to have the US perform a moral act, eh, Seamus?

But the true moral bankruptcy is evident in the very choice of what to use as an example. Who was it that actually had the rebels killed? Who was the author of their misery? And who reign is Seamus defending?

As for technological superiourity being “unfair”, so what? I'd love to see what historical precendent Seamus has for that claim or for the implication that one should restrict weapons to those of the opponent. WWII is generally considered a “just war” even by those who object to the invasion of Iraq, yet a critical characteristic of that war was the never ending effort to build and deploy weapons that were not available to the opponent. This comment alone tells me that Seamus has a severe case of reality dysfunction.

The rest of the manifesto consists basically of pedantry and the application of standards that have never been followed in the entire history of warfare to the US. There are a few interesting points to bring up which I will cover in a subsequent post.