Commenting on the concept of war, former president and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter recently said: “War is always evil. Sometimes necessary, yes, but always evil.”
Neither evidence of an imminent attack of grave nature nor any proven high-level links between Iraq and al-Qaida exist. Therefore, the logic of Colin Powell’s argument before the United Nations last week is highly unconvincing, especially given the ideological rift and mutually exclusive goals underlying the two entities – Hussein’s Ba’athist party is secular while al-Qaida adheres to an orthodox interpretation of the Quran. Let’s not forget that Hussein, militarily and financially supported by the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, felt threatened by a revolutionary Khomeini, the latter practising an unadulterated version of Islam.
Extrapolating the concept of war from the contextual and motivational aspects – the latter are necessary and inextricable preconditions for a just war – I would have to agree with the “necessary” part of Carter’s quote when considering the current impasse surrounding Iraq.
Ever since the revolution that brought Saddam Hussein to power, the answer to which decision serves the brutally suppressed Iraqi population better is more unambiguous than we might think. Appeasement leads to continued suffering and abuse for the Iraqi population while confrontation at least bears the potential for freedom, democracy and the possibility for the Iraqi population to determine themselves by creating representative institutions. Considering that hundreds of thousands of children have died of malnutrition and Hussein has still managed to stay in power, the continuation of economic and political sanctions cannot be a viable option for the future. The question is not whether Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but rather how to liberate the Iraqi people. Allowing the Iraqi population to determine its own fate through democratization would take care of all other problems.
Unfortunately, the U.S. administration is so busy talking war that it has forgotten to offer us a concept on how to win peace in Iraq after winning on the battlefield; the former consumes much more time and financial resources than the latter. Our experience in Afghanistan – when we left the country without building a viable infrastructure – should serve as an empirical guidepost of how it should not be done.
If executed properly and to its desirable end, vanquishing Hussein may be the foundation for future alliances with burgeoning democracies in the Middle East. Such a plausible result enrages pacifists who ignorantly oppose the option of war, even if the resulting victory potentially produces improved diplomatic relations, freedom and ultimately peace. It is hard to put this theory into practice, especially when considering potential Muslim backlashes. However, a war that is a means to an end, and not an end in itself, that is mediated by the U.N., and driven by just goals, will rectify the deep distrust against the West.
In the aftermath of the successful overthrow of totalitarian governments using military means, the U.S. reintegrated the respective countries into the world community, fostering diplomatic alliances, institutionalisation and the propagation of freedom, as it did with Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia and Russia. Although the degree of diplomatic and economic alliance varies within this group, the fate of all is inextricably linked with their democratic brethren.
The past has proven that sometimes war does serve a moral good.
War may be necessary in order to save the Iraqi population from a megalomaniac despot and brutal dictator, but not for the motivations the U.S. has been eagerly presenting and not without a detailed concept and a guaranteed commitment for the state rebuilding phase. This is a commitment that is, according to recent Washington Post polls, not supported by the majority of the American public.
Manuel Scherer is a senior political science major.