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The Case for War: a libertarian perspective


The Volokh Conspiracy has issued a challenge to pro-war bloggers to justify the war. I intend to take up that gauntlet. The challenge is in the form of three questions:

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

I did, in fact, favor the invasion of Iraq at the time, and my opinion on that matter remains the same. Here are my basic arguments, in order of importance:

  1. The potential for active cooperation with terrorists, in order to employ weapons of mass destruction against the United States.
  2. The evidence of continuing attempts to further the development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear.
  3. The continuing refusal to account for and dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their accompanying development programs.
  4. The continuing state of effective, if not declared, war between Iraq and the United States, in that US warplanes regularly patrolled Iraq airspace, were regularly shot at by Iraqi forces, and regularly retaliated by bombing Iraq air defense emplacements. Simply put, Iraq under Saddam was a continuing problem that required resolution.
  5. The potential to use Iraq as a strategic lever to create and maintain a democratic nation in the Middle East with a secular government, and thereby provide a visible example to the region, in the hopes of encouraging reforms within other governments and improved relations with the general population.
  6. Providing an attractive, easily-reached military target for terrorists and sympathizers, on the principle that it is better for the enemy to attack our military than to attack our civilians.
  7. The evidence of ties between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government, even if those ties did not extend to operational knowledge or assistance regarding 9-11.

So far as I am concerned, the plan is working. Although we have not found substantial stockpiles of WMD, we have found: evidence of violations by Iraq of many different agreements and UN resolutions; evidence of WMD programs either in operation or preparing to resume operation following the end of sanctions and inspections; evidence of limited stockpiles of WMD that had been concealed rather than declared or destroyed; evidence of corruption within the Oil-for-Food program administered by the UN; evidence of corruption within the government of France relating to Saddam's government.

So the absence of headline-worthy WMD finds does not change my opinion of the decision to go to war, because that decision was based on the potential for such finds rather than their actual presence, and also included many other considerations entirely unrelated to WMDs.

How does this square with the libertarian principle of non-initiation of force? Quite simple: since the invasion of Kuwait, America has effectively been in a constant state of war with Iraq. Although an official cease-fire was in place, both sides were still shooting at each other (or dropping bombs) regularly. In short, in Iraq, we were effectively operating in self-defense against a nation of demonstrated hostility and ill intent.

Even granting that Iraq had no official involvement in 9-11, with that as an example Saddam Hussein would certainly have taken that success as an object lesson in the effectiveness of terrorism. We can no longer afford to allow an openly hostile nation with the capability and intent to develop or acquire weapons of mass destruction to exist.

Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

Nothing that I have seen in the media makes me regret the decision.

I consider media accounts of Iraq untrustworthy. The media in Iraq are hampered by a language and cultural barrier, unable to perform real investigative reporting due to the continuing security threat, and have a prominent political bias against the war. They are not a trustworthy source of information regarding anything more than specific, verifiable events.

I understand that, having invaded and destroyed the present government, America has a responsibility to stay the course in Iraq, providing the resources necessary to ensure the formation of a stable democracy. At this point, this is not a choice; it is a duty.

The Iraqis are understandably unhappy about being governed by an occupying force and accurately view US troops as such. We invaded their country and removed their government, and we are currently occupying their nation. It is our responsibility to establish a legitimate government that has the consent of the Iraqi people, and we are well on the way to doing that.

One of the articles linked to was referring to a poll taken in June, before the official transfer of authority to a provisional government. Polls taken after that transfer tell a different story. Our role in Iraq is now to support the Iraqi government, to provide knowledge and resources for reconstruction, and to exercise a stabilizing influence.

If you want to truly know what is going on in Iraq, read the blogs posted by our soldiers there, or by Iraqis. Those sources paint a much different picture; not a rosy one, necessarily, but one where optimism is not unknown.

Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

I consider the Iraq invasion to already be a success. We have deposed the tyrannical dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, which was responsible for the decisions that prompted the invasion in the first place. We have removed a rogue government capable of and determined to produce weapons of mass destruction, and which would likely have given such weapons to terrorists once constructed. That was our goal, and we have accomplished it. It was not a complete success without setbacks; there is speculation that some weapons were slipped out of the country, for example. But it is a success, and no new weapons of mass destruction will be built in Iraq.

What would be more appropriate would be specific criteria for success in the reconstruction of Iraq. I feel it is far too soon to begin looking for either success or failure here. It takes time to allow the people to understand their new situation and to accept it. Nevertheless, criteria are appropriate. Here are those I would choose:

  1. Free and fair elections in 2005 throughout the entire nation.
  2. The establishment and ratification by elections of a constitutional republic in Iraq that protects the rights of the Iraqi people. The establishment of a government that assumes dictatorial powers or a religious foundation of authority should be considered failure.
  3. The transition of authority and operations in Iraq from our own military to Iraqi government and forces.
  4. Establishment of law and order under an elected Iraqi government throughout Iraq within 5 years.

As should be obvious, America is involved in Iraq for the long haul. If we are still engaged in guerilla warfare in 5 years, then we can talk about quagmire. But if the problem has been reduced to an essentially criminal one, which the Iraqi government is capable of handling without US troops, we will have succeeded.


This entry was published 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0 by matthew@triggerfinger.org and last updated 2005-09-24 10:43:35.0. [Tweet]

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