Monday, April 28, 2003

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IN TOUCH WITH MY INNER DOVE: Go figure. Tom Friedman writes one of his most hawkish columns to date, but I'm going to attack it from the left. I actually like most of what Friedman said. But there is one point I have to disagree with. Friedman writes that:
As far as I'm concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war. That skull [of a political prisoner], and the thousands more that will be unearthed, are enough for me.
Yes and no. If that skull is enough, why didn't a single advocate of war justify it on humanitarian grounds before it happened? Even OxDem's own Josh Chafetz argued that
Democratization itself cannot be enough to justify military action...But I maintain that democracy must always be the outcome of military action, even if it is not the cause. So what, then, is the justification for using force in Iraq? Simply put, it is security.
I agreed with Josh then and I agree with Josh now. Both of us have long believed that the case for humanitarian intervention in Iraq is even stronger than it was in Kosovo. Both of us knew that should Saddam fall, apalling evidence of his brutality would come to light.

But neither the President nor any of his principal advisers ever sought to justify the war on humanitarian grounds. The one context in which the humanitarian issue was raised was in response to anti-war protesters' irresponsible assertion that a war against Saddam would result in hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. As well he should have, Tony Blair shot back that the brutality of an invasion would pale in comparison to the brutality that the people of Iraq have suffered under Saddam. Yet the Prime Minister did not go on to argue that Saddam's brutality, by itself, justified an invasion.

This apparent contradiction within both Blair's logic and my own illustrates the importance of defining "justification" before asking if it has been found. On the one hand, a justification exists for all those acts that are inherently just. Thus, by virtue of being just, the liberation of Iraq was justified. Yet such a definition of justification fails to grapple with the importance of one's intentions.

In other words, if someone does the right thing for the wrong reason, are they justified? Even without providing a general answer to that question, I think one can apply it to the invasion of Iraq. If, after consulting all the relevant evidence, the President had good reason to believe that Saddam possessed WMD, then it is hard to condemn him for ordering the nation to war even if he turned out to be wrong.

Still, it would be fair for critics of the war -- and even moreso, its supporters -- to distrust the President from now on, given his constant insistence, without reservation, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the case for preemptive war against WMD-armed adversaries would suffer irreparably if the United States turns out to have been wrong about Iraq.

In fact, there is reason to believe that the United States' credibility will be damaged for years to come if it turns out to have been wrong about Iraq. Even on the homefront, voters will wonder whether the government knows what it is talking about when it comes to foreign affairs.

In such a climate of distrust, it will be very hard to either fight the war on terror or achieve any other important objective. If that is the price of not finding Saddam's weapons, then it becomes much harder to say that the war was justified.

Yet considered in isolation, one would still have to say that the war was right. When it comes to justification, one's answer is often a matter of context. There is no question that we should celebrate the liberation of Iraq. But that may be not enough to make it justified.
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