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Some more war links

January 31st, 2003

While we wait for the next critical date on Iraq (Powell’s peek at the evidence on Saddam’s weapons), I find myself without much new to say, except for the obvious point that the odds on war have shortened considerably, going against my predictions on the subject. So I’m going to keep linking to people with whose arguments I broadly sympathise. Gene Healy says:

I understand people who argue for war with Iraq because they want to (1) liberate Iraqis; and/or (2) help Israel; and/or (3) spread democracy. I think those are illegitimate reasons in a constitutional republic whose governing document speaks of the “common defence” of the United States, and not the general good of the world at large. More important, I think they’re damned frivolous reasons for killing American soldiers, innocent Iraqi civilians, and, for that matter, Iraqi conscripts. But I understand the arguments: if these Wilsonian goals are worthwhile to you, invading Iraq is something you might want to do.
But I’m having an increasingly hard time understanding why any rational person would argue that invading Iraq is something we need to do in order to protect the lives, liberty, and property of Americans (you know, the legitimate goals of American foreign policy)

Risking getting things badly wrong again, I’ll classify Gene as an antiwar libertarian similar to Jim Henley who makes the excellent point (which I’ve previously touched on) that pro-war parallels with pre-1939 appeasement can be matched with an anti-war comparison of current US policy with the 1914 ultimatum to Serbia.

I part company with Gene in that I am prepared to take a Wilsonian view that the world community should be willing to act to overthrow dictators. My problem is that breaking with the doctrine of absolute national sovereignty is full of perils and should not be undertaken lightly. The idea that any country should have the right to overthrow another country’s government if it judges it to be dictatorial, threatening etc is a recipe for disaster. The idea that the US alone should have this right is less dangerous in the short run, but will come to the same thing in the end. That’s why I (and I suspect many others) are so concerned about getting a UNSC resolution clearer than 1441.

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