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Just a short note 
13th-Dec-2006 08:43 am
Inspiration
I've gotten enough emails on my comments that Iraq was a good idea from those who don't think so. Sadly, your skills at arguing for a conclusion, as opposed to assuming it, have continued to fall short. Some of you have responded that I'm attempting to excuse Iraq as a good idea not executed properly. While I have many problems with the execution, Iraq has been a success compared to other wars (WWII comes to mind). And for those who want to believe that execution disproves the worth of the idea, I remind you of your own words, not too many years ago, about the worth of the ideas of Marx. 'Nuff said.
Comments 
13th-Dec-2006 07:53 pm (UTC)
Well I'd be an impolite neighbour if I didn't try to provide a line of reasoning from which a counter-argument might be launched. :-)

My own disposition, before the war in Iraq was engaged in, was essentially that it would be a very bad idea to fight a second war on a completely different front from that of Afganistan. I didn't think for a moment that the American military could hold the front in north Afganistan, maintain the cease-fire line in S.Korea, and launch a long-term campaign in Iraq without re-instituting the draft.

In the few days before the invasion, it seemed apparent to me that the Administration and the Coalition were not going to pay much mind to international law (IL). Given that perception, I considered (and still do consider) such a decision to be morally outrageous - IL is not simply a tract of rules drawn-up by lawyers at the UN after all, it is a distinguished entity that draws upon over two-thousand years of Greco-Roman-Judaeo-Christian philosophy and theology. I'm very skeptical of anyone who is willing to simply ignore the advice St. Augustine and St. Aquinas; if one were to do so, I'd expect some very well reasoned counter-arguments to be offered if one were to maintain a morally valid position...

Well, I could provide more fodder for discussion, but that's probably enough for a good run; that the war and occupation of Iraq was militarily inviable, and that its proponents seem to have spent too much time reading Hegel and Francis Fukuyama, not enough time with Aquinas and Charles Taylor, and thereby had no idea of what they were getting themselves into.
14th-Dec-2006 07:01 pm (UTC)
I've never thought you were impolite.

The argument from military weakness disregards the fact that America has had much more far flung multi-front wars before (see WWII if you're a history channel buff), when we were a much smaller and weaker country. At that time we had a national policy that no more than thirty percent of our resources were to be committed to the war. In addition, there has been a revolution in the way wars are fought by the US, which also affects the calculation: and the change affects Lanchester's Square Law, which had previously determined many battles in modern warfare.

With regard to International law, it is still very much under development rather than a thing to be relied upon.. There are good reasons both to oppose those whose agenda promotes it and to do our best to actively subvert some particular cases of it. In other words, while I am willing to discuss the war in those terms, a careful reading of the actual reasons I supported it and my perception of the real situation are somewhat distant from the "international law perspective," and much more in line with the "facts on the ground." In addition, I view the United Nations as a corrupt, unsuccessful, and poorly managed NGO, rather than as a repository of hopes. If the UN is what international law is like, I'm in favor of ignoring it.

I know, a lot of links. But you would expect that from someone who spent a lot of time developing the reasons for the invasion, rather than listening to the news services, which concentrated on the least important one because it had drama potential (WMD, on which see link 12 above.) Take a moment and read them.
15th-Dec-2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
Very nice references! I'll have to actually divide this into two posts to reply. For what it's worth, I don't have as broad a problem with the wars as I might let on (I wouldn't easily fit in with the 'anti-war' crowd, methinks), though I am quite noticeably critical. :-)

With regards to your point on the American military, I very much agree with your observation of its strengths and abilities. I'm not certain that I'd agree with the assessment of the American military position with regards to WWII - I believe that the country, as a community and economy, was much more geared into the war effort than is currently the case. Certainly, the draft and the rate of volunteerism made quite a difference as well, and it would be a mistake to disregard the indirect contribution made to the American shipping lines by the added protection of the Commonwealth fleet and air-force.

When however, one expands the term "war" to include the necessity of occupation (which, given my background, I tend to do), the comparative advantages of the military in WWII are much more striking when compared to the Iraqi situation. By the end of WWII after all, both Germany and Japan had been almost literally flattened, and a very significant percentage of their potential military manpower was either dead or maimed. Perhaps just as significantly, however, the ideological beliefs that might have sustained the will to fight were shattered; defeat deadened faith in Nazism and fascism - with their promises of collective invincibility - and militant communism was never allowed to gain a foothold in Western-controlled areas.

Compare that situation with that of Iraq, and one could come up with a very disturbing conclusion: that the war against the Iraqi Baathists ended too quickly, and too easily. It left most of the country in tact, and most of the regions potential military manpower alive and healthy. Worse yet however, though Baathist fascism was largely discredited, other dangerous ideological viewpoints retained their cachet among their respective supporters. Thus, the American military is faced with the problem of militant radical Sunnis and militant radical Shi'a in the south, and nationalistic Kurds in the north.

Whether or not it was realized before the war, it should have been suspected that the occupation forces were being given a much larger job than they could handle on their own. Coming from a country with a peculiar political and military history - and that is recent colony of the British Empire to boot - engenders a certain perspective of the problems of occupation. Canadians are perhaps more familiar with how difficult it is to keep a country together, and the British of yore had greater familiarity with the occupation of territories wherein every group dearly want to kill every other group. From this perspective, the occupation of Iraq was apparently not led by persons with sufficient practical knowledge to identify the problems the military would face before they became dangerous.

Broadly speaking then, I'd propose that the *military* argument against the invasion of Iraq would thus be that their was neither strategic need nor will (thankfully) to utterly devastate the population of men of military age, and that there was insufficient understanding of the dangerous and conflicting ideologies that were at work among certain segments of Iraqis. When combined, these problems end in the sort of conflicts we see now in Iraq, but have seen historically in Germany, India, pre-revolutionary Russia, France, China, and in other places besides.

(For the record, I don't advocate putting men and boys to the sword to secure a military victory. ;-P)
20th-Dec-2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
In the few days before the invasion, it seemed apparent to me that the Administration and the Coalition were not going to pay much mind to international law (IL). Given that perception, I considered (and still do consider) such a decision to be morally outrageous - IL is not simply a tract of rules drawn-up by lawyers at the UN after all, it is a distinguished entity that draws upon over two-thousand years of Greco-Roman-Judaeo-Christian philosophy and theology. I'm very skeptical of anyone who is willing to simply ignore the advice St. Augustine and St. Aquinas; if one were to do so, I'd expect some very well reasoned counter-arguments to be offered if one were to maintain a morally valid position...

I don't buy the "against international law" argument regarding Iraq for one big reason ...

... the 1989-90 war was ended by a truce which Saddam's government signed. Saddam then proceeded to egregiously violate the terms of the truce, in ways including Kuwaiti prisoners he promised to return but murdered instead, refusal to allow inspections of his nuclear facilities, firing upon American and British aircraft attempting to enforce the agreed-upon "no fly zone," and an attempt to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush, in 1995.

When one party to a truce violates the truce, the other party may consider the war to be resumed. Which is exactly what George W. Bush did, in 2003 -- with disastrous consequences for Saddam's regime.

The notion that Saddam was not morally bound to abide by a truce signed "under duress" is absurd. All truces, and for that matter peace treaties, which end war are signed under some kind of "duress," because "duress" is the nature of war.

If you really want to go by that theory, international law itself disintegrates, because it becomes impossible to end any war short of the total destruction of one side or the other.
22nd-Dec-2006 12:46 am (UTC) - Sorry for taking so long: 'tis the Xmas season and all.
I don't buy the "against international law" argument regarding Iraq for one big reason ...

It's a good argument, and I was strongly tempted to agree with it before the war began. The trouble I ended-up developing with the whole situation was not that the invasion necessarily went against international positive law - one could make a compelling case either way - but rather that it was not in accord with international natural law; hence why I brought-up Saints Augustine and Aquinas.

International natural law is of course, by its very nature, a flawed thing. It might be known only through the limits of human reasoning, and could be described as an attempt to reflect eternal law or the law of the truly good, despite the impossibility of finite creatures ever developing a complete reproduction of the later. That being said, philosophical and theological reasoning has come up with some very remakable understandings of what "the good" and "good acts" are, and it would be, by this definition, a bad thing to not follow the guidelines discovered by those flawed philosophers and theologians that preceeded us.

In the case of the Iraq war, I myself have become convinced that the American administration, and Congress to some extent, fell short of those guidelines. In particular, Aquinas' theories of proportionality, intent, and motive seem to have been left aside during the planning stages.

For motive, the Administration clearly tried to rely on international positive law to provide the legal motivation for the war; I think that was a mistake, but as you've observed, other arguments could have been made that were in accord with natural law, so we might let that one slide.

For proportionality, things got very far out of whack the moment the invasion turned into an occupation; some people might argue it shouldn't have gone that far, but I'd argue that the invasion itself could be construed as just given the aforementioned motivations. Why would I say that it was out of whack? Only because there aren't any very good natural law arguments for the occupation of a territory when the occupants aren't clearly in support of it; to the contrary, there are many, many good arguments against it. It's only in the modern age, and the last fifty years specifically, that people have begun to think that imposed peacekeeping is a good idea; I don't think that it is, because it tends to end very badly.

For intent... Well, it seems now that the Administration's basis for intent was not in keeping with the natural law to begin with. When I mentioned Fukuyama and Hegel, I was actually alluding to this point - and I might also have mentioned the Neo-Straussians and some others. To put it simply, the aforementioned individuals have been very influential in the educations of many Administration-members. This is unfortunate because, frankly, Fukuyama's an idiot, Hegel is better in theory than in practice, and the Neo-Straussians should only be taken in small doses at best. These are the modernist "thinkers" who are responsible for the idea of "spreading democracy" and whom helped convince the White House that the occupation would work. No classicist that I know (not those in their right minds anyways) would have ever advised the President to try anything of the sort; they would have told him that it wouldn't work. The Administration's intent in conducting the war was not "evil" as some wags have put it, it was just very, very, very out of sync with reality, and they were helped along in getting these ideas. (Fukuyama, for his part, has since done an about face, and claimed that the whole thing was a bad idea. 'Rather good of him, eh?)

Essentially then, from this perspective, the war in Iraq was doomed to the status of "illegal" in the sense of being "injust" from the beginning, because of the influence of a few half-baked philosophers who skewed the intent of the war, thereby skewing the motivation for its commencement and the proportinality with which it has been pursued.
23rd-Dec-2006 01:52 am (UTC) - Re: Sorry for taking so long: 'tis the Xmas season and all.
If there are no natural law arguments in favor of occupation after conquest, I'd suggest that both Japan and Germany demonstrate that natural law is seriously flawed as a lens though which to understand human affairs. Both were messy occupations (Life Magazine, in 1946, ran several articles detailing the utter failure of the occupation, and there are other references), and yet West Germany was finally created: and Japan, in different ways, tried to subvert before finally acceding to the new order imposed upon it.

I think I'd say that the result was a success. While I would have preferred to turn Iraq over to Iraqis immediately, that decision went against me, and they were elected, so I had to go with it. I still think I'm dealing with a culture sufficiently dysfunctional and diseased that I don't pay much attention to their cultural demands that democracy doesn't fit.
23rd-Dec-2006 01:59 am (UTC) - Re: Sorry for taking so long: 'tis the Xmas season and all.
In addition, I'd suggest that a tradition that has not achieved the agreement necessary to produce a postitive body of law may not be sufficiently developed as a base from which to criticize international positive law.

In other words, if there was a good reason in international positive law (the ceasefire that wasn't), then that was a good reason in your philosophy, unless you can produce a compelling case against it. The burden of proof shifts dramatically: otherwise you are asking me to trust those unguided by postive law over positive law. And at that point, I start a rebellion and kill them. It's an American thing.
29th-Dec-2006 11:04 pm (UTC) - Re: Sorry for taking so long: 'tis the Xmas season and all.
As far as I can tell, one of the more interesting problems that seems to be facing Islamic communities today is an attack by ideologues upon those bodies of positive law and natural law that were built-up over time. What many of the Al-Queda and Taliban 'types' seem to have in common is an abundance of disdain for exgenical interpretation of the Koran or its sisters texts, and an eagerness to narrow sharia to a rediculous extreme. Forget the fact that they have no actual legal or historical authority to do so (at least under Sunni Islam, to which they all seem to belong), they intend to do it anyways.

In effect, what they seem to be eager to do is reproduce the worst aspects of the Protestant Reformation. Many media pundits call these folks 'fundamentalists', but I think it would be more accurate to call them something different: radical revolutionaries in the stripe of the Puritans or the Jacobins. They're not conservatives, they're innovators of the worst kind; innovators whom style themselves as a revolutionary vanguard much in the way Leninists or Maoists would. All they need is the little red book.
29th-Dec-2006 10:46 pm (UTC) - Re: Sorry for taking so long: 'tis the Xmas season and all.
Oh, I wouldn't say that there are no natural law arguments for occupation - just that the criteria are pretty stringent. In the instances of West Germany and Japan, for instance, I think that many natural law jurors could argue that there was, in a sense, a demand by the local populations for the occupation; "better the Western Allies than the Soviets", and all that.

When that sort of willingness (on the part of the domestic population) is lost however, it's generally pretty difficult to make a natural law argument for continuing an occupation.
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