Is Iraq a Just War?

Most of us would see this as an absurd question. The answer is clearly no. Not only is it unjust, but it is immoral, and illegal, and incompetently waged to boot.

However, an esteemed colleague of ours will be trying to argue otherwise this Saturday, as he shares with us his master's thesis. I applaud him for undertaking such a challenging effort and I greatly look forward to hearing it.

Nevertheless, as someone who devotes much time to researching current political events (perhaps moreso than any of my fellow students), I've taken it upon myself to refute him to the best of my ability in the following question and answer session. I'm not sure what argument(s) he will make, but I shall come prepared.

Toward that end, my good friend who goes by the handle "Crypthanatopsis" has undertaken a request of mine to compile some research and present a multi-installment essay on his blog, Prestimentitation, thoroughly refuting the justness of the Iraq War.

He's doing me a great favor here since other duties prevent me from devoting as much time researching this as I'd prefer, and his work is quite good. He's not an academic, but he has more than the requisite level of talent necessary for sound scholarship.

So do check it out.


Nathan said...

You might want to change the bottom link to the address of my summary post, at http://crypthanatopsis.livejournal.com/138348.html

It's been an interesting almost day. I've relearned things I had forgotten, none of them good, of course. Hope my multi-part rebuttal will come in handy for you.

Chris Parsons said...

Someone is writing their thesis on how Iraq is a just war? I'd love to know just how the hell their defining "just." I mean, I could make the same argument, but my definition of just would either a) differ so dramatically from any reputable definition of the word that the entire concept of framing the Iraq war as just would be absurd or b) be so situated within the dominant capitalistic/western mindframe that it would fail to meet the basic preconditions for something to be just.

Steven said...

Another wacky Steve thought: I feel that one of the more discomforting problems with the Iraq war is that the war is in alignment with the spirit of the times ans opposed to the spirit of the law. The changes in human technological capacity over the last 70 years has accelerated so rapidly that I wonder if the world that these new times are constantly remaking is moving too fast for anything that resembles a coherent set of mores and normative political values can keep up. Comparing the old world to the new turns out to be a difficult task because one has to know what is alike and what is different, and what the similarities and differences mean.

The point of all of this philosophic rambling is to get to a simple point: Any war, even if justifiable in secret, deserves the truth to be available to the public before war starts. The same thing is true about the torture policy. The same thing is true about the NSA wiretapping policy. Even if after the fact we found these policies reasonable, they are still gross violations of how the laws are SUPPOSED TO WORK. We are a democracy, not anaudience. We hould be involved in important decisions before they happen and not after. Violating this principle except in the absolute most extreme cases regarding sensitive information is anti-democratic, no matter how you slice it.

Jeff said...

Just for the record: Kevin (our colleague) won't be arguing that the Iraq war is just. I understand his project to be something like providing some idea about how can we move forward from where we are to ensure that the outcome of the war is just.

Like you, I don't think the beginning of the Iraq war can be justified. Steven is right on here. But his project interests me insofar as it is grappling with a current problem and trying to outline a path towards a just solution.(I wish we didn't have this problem, but we do...and I'll say somewhat controversially that it wasn't only George Bush and his policies that created the problem, but that the problem has long historical roots.) Perhaps there is no "just" solution, but we'd better think long and hard about how to end our occupation as justly as possible. The simple answer of "no" to the question of justice doesn't move us too far, if at all.

Alas, if only those who got us into the war were thinking about the question of justice...

anotherpanacea said...

What happened with this? I'd like to hear a follow-up. By the way, I agree that Bush Jr. was not singly responsible for our Mid-easy policy, but the CIA's operations in that region during his father's tenure as Chief, and going further back, the Eisenhower administration's decision to destroy the burgeoning parliamentary democracy of Iran by bolstering the shah.

Jeff said...

It was interesting. Actually, he was trying to argue that the war is just, mainly along the lines that the U.S. was enforcing U.N. guidelines. He drew an interesting (if problematic) distinction between the administration's WMD justification (obviously inadequate) and what he thought the better reason was (enforcement of post-Gulf War agreements). So, it was interesting insofar as he was highly critical of the administration but supportive of the war insofar as it was an act to enforce international law. He also left room to be critical of Bush for not building an international alliance, but also is rightly critical of the weak to non-existent European response to Hussein's violation of U.N. guidelines. His case was not totally unreasonable (given Walzer's guidelines for just war--which are certainly debatable), and he did a good job of exposing the motivations behind his arguments--mainly as an attempt to determine whether he and his friends were risking their lives in vain. He didn't get to finish his whole paper--we may meet again to here what he has to say about jus in-bello and jus post-bello.