Should We Have Invaded Iraq?

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Here's a blast from Reason's past: An online debate over invading Iraq between political scientist John Mueller and Contributing Editor Brink Lindsey. This originally took place in late fall of 2002 and posed the question:

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has articulated a new foreign policy for the United States. The "containment" of hostile states has been replaced by a policy of military "pre-emption" and "defensive intervention," which sanctions U.S. military action even against states that are not imminent threats. War with Iraq may be the first major expression of this new policy (as of press time, no shooting had yet begun).

Is such a preventive war justified?

The debate is here.

NEXT: The Reaction to Saddam's Capture

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  1. Well, there’s a big difference between justifying something and explaining it. Let’s look at a less controversial situation.

    Why was Hitler able to get Germany whipped up into a nationalist fervor and embark on a program of genocide and world conquest?

    Explanation: Undoubtedly people here will have all sorts of alternative (“what THEY don’t want you to know!”) explanations, but a commonly accepted one is a thirst for revenge after the various measures imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. This made them (however wrongfully so) vulnerable to the manipulations of a lunatic.

    Justification: Absolutely none. No prior wrongs can justify what happened.

    In other words:

    explanation = cause and effect relationship (people did A because they were angry about B). Usually there is one.

    justification = reason why an action should not be judged immoral/illegal/etc. Often there is no justification.

    So, to go to 9/11, explanations are plentiful (“they hate our freedom”, “they hate our foreign policy”, “they hate our secular lifestyle”, etc.). Justifications are entirely non-existent.

    justification

  2. Don’t know why I accidentally left the word “justification” hanging there at the end of my last post. Must have started typing something, then gone to a previous point to change something, then forgotten to return to it.

  3. Thanks for an interjection of sanity, Thoreau.

    Another way to look at it is that there can simply be more than once cause to any particular phenomenon. And there’s a distinction between immediate causes and indirect causes. For instance, libertarians like to point out that the criminalization of victimless crimes leads to more crimes of violence. That doesn’t mean that drug dealers shouldn’t be held accountable for killing people over turf wars. It just means that if you want less violent crime, legalize drugs. Anyone making similar statements about US foreign policy is not excusing the hijackers of culpability for their crimes. Okay, can we get over that now?

  4. Actually, fyodor, I think it would be productive to get past the personal responsibility angle for the purposes of this discussion. I’m stipulating (contrary to what I think is really true) that the blowback thesis is correct. Even so, I still think it would be dangerous to react to 9/11 and other provocations in the isolationist, pacifist way that some advocate.

    Make the thugs very, very nervous about attacking the U.S. Don’t make them think that terrorism against Americans will make us change our policy, as this is a dangerous precedent to set. And also, if you like, work to reduce the American profile in the Islamic world over time so as to invovle us less in longstanding disputes.

  5. A side note would be asking who is guilty and innocent in a democracy, especially in a time of total warfare. I forgot to put in my post on columbine that the group that does nothing sees themselves as innocent, which is also the way we see the kids that were mowed down, while again the “bullied” see them as letting it happen.

    When everyone is either arguing, leave them to their own dictator or the US should go in and fix things, it seems like a reasonable question to determine who is innocent and who is guilty. More so to the point, if you are guilty of an immoral act by “being a good man, and letting evil go unpunished” are you also guilty when your country does evil and you let it go unchecked?

  6. The United States should do everything in its power to fight fascism and reduce the number of dictators in the world. Sometimes this means going to war, sometimes it doesn’t.

  7. I hate to be cynical with regard to our military’s capture of Saddam Hussein, but all we accomplished is finally reining in a monster the U.S. itself helped to arm and unleash on his people decades ago as an expedient counterweight to Iran. Like the arrest of U.S.-backed Panamanian thug Manuel Noriega on drug charges during the Reagan era, flushing the Iraqi dictator from his spider hole was simply the least we could do for the Iraqi people.

    The most cogent argument for internationalizing the situation in Iraq – indeed for more cooperative multilateral involvement in the entire Middle East – is that the U.S. and Europe bear historic responsibility for the unrest and instability there. Europe, particularly the U.K., in leaving puppet-kingdoms and unstable, artificial nation-states like Iraq in place of their former colonies, and the U.S. in playing one tin-horn dictator against another have done much to stir the pot in that most unhappy region.

    We and our allies need to be there not to foist our way of life on an unwilling people, but to undo the damage a century and a half and more of colonialism left behind.

    (Forwarning – I’m cross-posting this bit into the next item, where it seems equally relevent, at least to me.)

  8. They had a reason to hate Americans

    Sure, let them hate Americans. But hating them and blowing them up by the thousands are two slightly different things. It was a policy decision by al Qaeda to kill Americans everywhere they were. It was a tactical decision by al Qaeda to start 9/11 planning. al Qaeda chose the date, places, times, and manner of attack. al Qaeda chose the participants.

  9. 9/11 attacks were caused by American foreign policy mistakes, by asserting US power into regions and conflicts in which we had no proper governmental interest.

    But, rst @11:52 opines that this is :

    “a silly thesis. The 9/11 attacks were caused by 19 guys getting onto planes and flying them into buildings.”

    Of course, rst confuses the nature of the attacks with their cause.

    We were attacked because our government finances the Israeli government’s inhumane and thieving occupation of the Palestinian Land. Our government supported sanctions against Iraq that caused malnourishment mal-medication for the Iraqi people but Strengthened Saddam’s ruthless dictatorship (btw, he was brutal on fundamentalist Islamics). Also the government stationed troops in Mecca. (That ongoing idiocy has finally been remedied)

    Bin Ladden told us the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.

  10. The counsel of the founders of our republic was wise. Don’t meddle in other nation’s affairs and we avoid “harmful foreign entanglements”

  11. We were attacked because someone chose to attack us. THE ATTACKS WERE CAUSED BY TERRORISTS. Rick has GOT to be trolling, nobody can be this irrational.

    The real questions are 1) were they justifed and 2) if not, what to do to stop others from attempting the same.

  12. Was that before or after our Founders invaded Canada, fought a war with Britain, fought an undeclared war with France or sent troops to attack and bombard Tripoli?

  13. “Our government supported sanctions against Iraq that caused malnourishment mal-medication…”

    I’ve heard this so many times, how long will this line go unchallenged? Sanctions do not cause malnourishment and mal-medication. Tyrannical dictators and backward social systems do. Sanctions merely expose this.

    We were attacked on 9/11 because the attackers were governed by emotion and hatred rather than reason. I think taxation is wrong, but I don’t support the destruction of government buildings.

  14. thoreau, I was going to make a similar point re: cause/ explanation and justification. I would add that justification itself is ‘in the eyes of the beholder’, so to speak, e.g., to the Islamo-nutcases (and to many others, judging by the dancing-in-the-streets crowds in many places in the Muslim world), the actions of those 19 vile pigs were entirely justified. Justification is, after all, an individual value judgement. The sad thing is that so many individuals can share such a value system where the murder of 3,000 innocents arouses such ebullience.

    Another point is that the causation of these acts by US policy is a sort of stochastic process. There is no way to say for certain that US policies A, C and K specifically caused Joe Shmoe (or in this case, Abdul Shmoe) to commit mass murder. Only that US policy MAY influence crazies out there to do horrible, despicable things. So, while we may say that Abdul Shmoe CHOSE to commit murder and in the process die in the name of his hatred, it is also possible (not contradictory) to say that US policy caused it. This in no way absolves the evil bastard.

  15. From A1:

    “There is no valid reason for what they did. Trying to find a reason for chosen evil is futile and stupid.”

    Think objectively for a moment. Your objective is to prevent such events from occuring again. You can either believe that the motivation for such actions is the random incarnation of evil, or that perhaps a pattern of cause an effect might exist.

    If it is just a case of groundless evil-doing, then you’re going to have a very hard time rounding up every potential evil-doer before they have the opportunity to act.

    Alternately, you might pull your head out of the sand and notice that there is a pattern. The attackers were all young Arab Islamist males. The US has been an active and unwelcome presence in the middle east for the greater part of the lives of these young men.

    Why might they decide to uproot their lives, travel to the other side of the world and devote themselve to a suicide mission targeting just any old country? Why not target Canadians? Or the Japanese? Other countries are equally in contravention of Islamic law. But they chose to attack the USA. Just like the WTC bombers in 1993, and the USS Cole bombers, and the variety of attackers of embassies and barracks and other American interests around the world.

    The only answer is that they hate America much more than they hate other non-Islamic nations. The next question is “Why do they hate specifically hate Americans?”.

    I’ll give you three guesses.

  16. thoreau: It seems explanation is more often applied to past events, while justification is also applied to future actions. It is easier to look at some data and make a theory which fits, hence the multitude of explanations. It is harder to look at the same data and predict future outcomes. The distinction is interesting, but maybe not so useful here.

    If justification is the act of giving an explanation some moral or ethical support, then justification depends on each person’s moral assumptions. In OBL’s world, his history and his plans are entirely just and justified. This is the sort of single-minded view I was thinking of. OBL’s followers probably don’t hear many varying viewpoints and have likely zero personal interaction with the basic human persons they plot to kill. The power structure cracks and crumbles when the terrorists and the terrorized interact without violence. Palestine may be a long way from peace, but we are seeing elements on both sides recognizing the opposition’s humanity and the pointlessness of war.

    If US intervention evolved into something more personal (and economic), it would be harder for anyone to dehumanize US citizens to the point of blowing them away. This still represents an assualt on the existing powers, and those powers may through force of history and charisma, still attack in attempt to preserve their power. These attacks and threats must handled in the old way, ultimately with violence.

    When bringing down a god, there’s the temptation to remake the world in one’s own image, to be the new god. To see the US as doing so is credible/explainable/justifiable to me. I would like ot believe that the US doesn’t really want to be the new god, but to let eveybody else pick their own. If they want to be more like us, that’s a compliment, not an imperative.

  17. In response to the original question, “Should we have invaded Iraq?”, I’m reposting my contribution to another thread:

    Having spent a little time (4 years) at a military academy (which I will decline to name), I had a lot of opportunity to look a the concept of “The Just War”. We had more than a few classes that dealt with the question of “When is the use of military force justifiable?” and “How should that force be applied?”

    As a libertarian, I was quite pleased to see that the majority of our military leaders espouse the belief that armed military force is ONLY justified in a nation’s self-protection. Yes, there were other opinions, but they were all minorities.

    The general school of thought went something like this…

    Military force is justifiable in 3 situations.

    1. Defensive action: To repel and defeat any actual attack from an adversary.

    2. Retaliatory action: After suffering an actual attack, to destroy the capability and will of the adversary to stage further attacks.

    3. Pre-emptive action: To avert an imminent attack, only where the adversary has demonstrated capability, opportunity and intent.

  18. Rick:

    Also the [U.S.] government stationed troops in Mecca.

    Please tell me you didn’t mean to write this. No way would the Saudis have allowed U.S. troops in Mecca. As I understand it, non-Muslims aren’t allowed near the place. If you are referring to the general issue of Islamists complaining about American troops in Arabia, that was a very strong reason why deposing Saddam Hussein was in our interest — the decade-long blockade was costly in dollars, civilian lives, and U.S. rep.

    As to the “entangling alliances” argument, you have to put this comment in its proper historical context. The argument was that a young, small, and militarily weak power needed to be careful not to insert itself into foreign conflicts that would only get it in over its head — and that American interests did not lie entirely with one side or the other in various European wars. Indeed, many Founders argued that a balance of power among European countries was in our interest, and some have interpreted the Monroe Doctrine as essentially adopting British policy regarding balance-of-power considerations.

    It is simply false if the assertion is that early American presidents did not consider affairs outside of the borders of the U.S. to be deserving of federal attention or action. They simply calibrated their actions, including military ones, to what they considered to be America’s then-limited means. They didn’t always bet correctly, of course, and then there is the whole sordid affair of Jeffersonians urging the invasion of Canada and fooling themselves into thinking that America’s conscripted, poorly trained, and untrustworthy militia would prevail in the endeavor.

    Also, while I would not have been a 19th-century conservative by any means, many 19th-century liberals were not isolationists. They did believe in asserting military power on occasion, but did not agree with the conservatives about the value of far-flung empires, a position with which I would have agreed.

    To get hawkish libertarian types like me, you have to grapple with the fact that America has long had a tradition of limited-government, hawkish foreign policy — the Jackson-Polk tradition and its descendants. Probably not an accident that this tradition was disproportionately Southern. There is nothing new about this.

  19. Bin Ladden told us the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.

    Yes, and maybe Hitler told us his reasons in Mein Kampf. Maybe the Allies should have retooled Versailles to give Germany a better shake. Maybe we should have stopped to ask ourselves, what did we do to make Hitler want to kill the Jews? What a failing of the international community, that they had to resort to bombing Germany without examining its own culpability in driving zee poor Germans to throw Jews in ovens.

    So now that you’ve found some generic Arab “causes” and tagged them onto the 9/11 plot, would you say these are just or unjust causes?

  20. The attacks weren’t “justified”, but they were caused by a stupid, hyper-interventionist government foreign policy.

    The founders didn’t say we shouldn’t defend ourselves but they warned of the harmful results of meddling in other nation’s affairs. Read their writings. (see:: “James Madison and the Future of Limited Government”,Chap.3,11and 12. Ed. John Samples.)

    Sanctions do not cause malnourishment and mal-medication.

    When food and medications are prohibited from going into a country, of course they do!

  21. confuses the nature of the attacks with their cause.

    The event was planes crashing into buildings (and a field). Had those 19 Saudis not been on those planes, the planes would most likely have taken off from their starting point and landed at their destination unharmed. The changes to what was supposed to happen to those planes were caused solely by the 19 hijackers. No hijackers, no crashes. WTC still standing. status quo. However, none of the policy problems, etc., have any causative link to the specific actions taken on 9/11. They may have a causative link to the fatwa, but even then that link hinges on a conflict with an invisible-man-in-the-desert-sky philosophy. Why I should take a fatwa as response to foreign policy, and just cause for 9/11, with any more seriousness than I might take a papal bull as a response to abortion, and as just cause to blow up an abortion clinic, you may feel free to explain if you can.

    Without the fatwa, with Palestinian statehood, and no sanctions, you have no reason to believe that 9/11 would not have happened. You just think it wouldn’t have.

  22. “but they were caused by a stupid, hyper-interventionist government foreign policy.”

    You have no evidence of this. While we have plenty of evidence that it was directly caused by terrorists deliberatly flying airplanes into buildings filled with innocent people.

    “The founders didn’t say we shouldn’t defend ourselves but they warned of the harmful results of meddling in other nation’s affairs.”

    Yes we should be wary of intervening. But they didn’t issue divine commandments to not invervene at anytime, no matter how much you pretend they did.

    “When food and medications are prohibited from going into a country, of course they do!”

    I actually agree. It is better to arrest a tyrant rather than punish his victims.

  23. “Why do they hate specifically hate Americans?”

    Why did Stalin hate the Kulaks?

    Who cares? Hate is an irrational emotion.

  24. “When food and medications are prohibited from going into a country, of course they do!”

    That’s as relevant as saying “People starve from lack of food”, well, in that case, of course. My point was to evaluate the situation where-in a nation is entirely dependant on food/medication coming in from one source and is simultaneously unable to trade and behave peaceably. Given an honest analysis of the situation the onus of responsibility cannot be on a nation that ceases to supply food/medication.

  25. they warned of the harmful results of meddling in other nation’s affairs.

    I’m not sure how close to cardinal law I’d take the warnings of rich slave-owning hemp-growing politicians from the 18th century. You might as well ask Ben Franklin what’s wrong with your computer.

    I didn’t ask you whether the attacks were justified. I asked you whether the causes were just.

    When food and medications are prohibited from going into a country, of course they do!

    That wasn’t what was starving the people. See, there’s this thing called distribution. Part of the supply chain. When it doesn’t happen, food doesn’t go anywhere. cf. Somalia. Why that didn’t happen, well, ask that poor innocent man we’ve wrongly dethroned.

  26. “Why do they specifically hate Americans?”

    “Who cares? Hate is an irrational emotion.”

    And how does that response help you prevent more terrorist acts?

    I suppose that it makes you feel better to think that there is nothing that your government could possibly have done that might have contributed to the air of anti-American hostility that pervades the Middle East.

    All these people just arbitrarily decided to hate Americans instead of the citizens of any other country in the world, and they’re a bunch of irrational rag-heads so who cares what they think.

    You don’t need to condone their actions to recongnize that your own actions might have been a contributing factor to the hostile environment that breeds acts of terrorism.

    However, denying that American intervention had anything to do with it, and increasing the level of intervention is only likely to increase the hostility and ultimately lead to more acts of terrorism.

  27. Russ, I don’t much care why they hate us. Once they’re dead, we can discuss it.

  28. “And how does that response help you prevent more terrorist acts”

    The attacks are injust. THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTNACE, as much as you want to dance around it.

    We prevent such attacks by killing the attackers, or making the cost of such attacks higher than they want to pay. To do otherwise is submit ourselves to the will of the attackers (the very purpose of terrorism) and invite them to attack us again over whatever else they want to.

    Listen I know our government has acted like a shithead in the realm of international relations. Perhaps they have a valid issue to discuss with us. Fuck, if they were using non-violent protest (like Ghandi did) I would probably be on their side!

    But disucssion is a world of difference from extortion at the point of a gun, which exactly what the threat of terrorism is.

    “Hostile environments” do not cause terrorism. Terrorists do by their own choice and they must be stopped.

  29. ultimately lead to more acts of terrorism.

    Yes, and that’s exactly why we need to make abortion illegal again. Because as long as abortion is legal, we’re giving cause to all the weird God freaks who blow up abortion clinics.

  30. “Sure I do, see my 2:08 post”

    No you do not. Your premise is incorrect.

    “Policies,” “finances” and “sanctions” cannot fly airplanes, much less make a choice to deliberatly fly airplanes into skyskrapers teeming with thousands of innocents.

    Only people can act. Their individual actions are either just or not.

  31. The Fatwa was a list of reasons given for the attack, not one of the reason’s itself.

    Again, no more compelling in and of itself than grievances against abortion, or against society as a whole. But to what degree does that exculpiate Rudolph or Kaczynski? How about Tim McVeigh? Was he guilty because he didn’t write a manifesto beforehand? Did he have no grievance with the U.S. government? Should U.S. gov’t policy have changed in response to any of his grievances?

  32. Snoopy,

    The Ghandi analogy is a good one. If I remember correctly, Ghandi admitted that his method worked specifically because of the advanced nature of Britain culture, and that nowhere else could he have succeeded with the peaceful approach. Similairly, a “rational” approach by al quaida may have had better results than their prefered method of violence. Once they cross that threshold to violence, debate and reason become impossible. Hence there are two different issues at hand: a) we can debate about foreign policy with regard to the middle east
    b)we can debate the most efficient means of destroying our enemies. They can exist simultaneously.

  33. To Snoopy:

    “The attacks are injust. THERE IS NO JUSTIFICATION UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTNACE, as much as you want to dance around it.”

    Yes, the attacks are unjust, I don’t intend to dance around it. Using civilian aircraft to targeting civilians (WTC, tourist resorts, etc…) is clearly off-side. However, targeting military units (USS Cole, Pentagon, etc…) or government buildings (Capitol, Embassies, etc…) while taking efforts to minimize civilian casualties (thereby ruling out the hijacking of passenger aircraft) is fair game in armed conflict.

    Nonetheless, justified or not (and we agree that they’re not justified), terrorist attacks have happened and will continue to happen.

    “We prevent such attacks by killing the attackers”

    And at what point should the 19 hijackers have been killed? It’s pretty hard to identify a terrorist before the fact. Unless you just want to round up and kill potential terrorists… which certainly won’t cause any more hostility or lead to more attacks, right?

    To rst:

    “Yes, and that’s exactly why we need to make abortion illegal again. Because as long as abortion is legal, we’re giving cause to all the weird God freaks who blow up abortion clinics.”

    Did you think before you equated positioning troops in foreign lands where they are generally not welcome with not having government intervene in individuals actions? One involves more government intervention… the other involves less.

  34. One involves more government intervention… the other involves less.

    Yes, Russ, I did. To the extent that they are “causes” of terrorists, they are the same. Whether one is with more gov’t intervention or less, it is still about a policy which creates conflict with a certain philosophy. What that philosophy or that policy is does not matter, what matters are the actions taken on account of the conflict, which do not differ greatly given the nature of the issues in question.

    positioning troops in foreign lands where they are generally not welcome

    The Saudi Arabian gov’t asked the U.S. to put troops there (b/c of Hussein, actually). If the people of Saudi Arabia had a problem with this, maybe the gov’t of Saudi Arabia should have done something about it. The domestic affairs of S.A. were the resposibility of the S.A. gov’t to control. That they could not make an amenable decision about the American Army they requested be there is their fault, not ours. Unless it would have been wiser to meddle in S.A.’s domestic affairs by acquiescing to the will of its people and leaving its gov’t hanging.

  35. beanie: That is my point exactly!

    Russ: I agree that attacking military targets is fair game in war. Hell, it is their job to prepare against that! But unarmed governement targets? Not as clear, as most of our government are civilians.

    ” terrorist attacks have happened and will continue to happen.”

    Maybe, but that doens’t mean we can’t minimize their effects.

    Nice selective quote, but my full point was…”or making the cost of such attacks higher than they want to pay.” Folding to terrorism (as you seem to advocate, not sure) lowers the costs and makes an increase in terrorism more likely.

  36. As to the abortion analogy issue, as much as I oppose compulsory taxation (an anti-interventionist cause)a violent reaction on my part would remove any rational credibility I have and rightly render me “enemy” (good or bad notwithstanding). RST’s analogy still works even if both issues were anti-interventionist.

  37. Russ: no anti-abortionist has flown a plane into a building…yet. Were one to crash a plane into an abortion clinic, would that cement the analogy for you any better?

  38. It’s interesting to me how divided this forum is on international affairs. On domestic issues, we seem to more or less agree on some basic principles. Sure, we squabble over details, but our differences are small compared to what we do agree on (i.e. the government is way too big).

    But as soon as we cross the border, a very stark polarization sets in. To some here, it is self-evident that violent thugs around the world plot against us (instead of, say, their neighbors) because of what we’ve done wrong: Various bad foreign policy maneuvers. To others, it is manifestly obvious that violent thugs around the world plot against us (instead of, say, their neighbors) because of the things we’ve done right: They resent a secular, free, and prosperous society.

    Now, undoubtedly there’s probably some component of each explanation in the motives of terrorists. The odds are that Bin Laden hates our support for Israel and the fact that women can vote and wear short skirts. So we could always cop out and say it’s both. But it’s worth asking whether one factor is (usually) more significant than the other.

    I could make an argument for why I think one explanation is more significant than the other, but I know I won’t change anybody’s mind with my arguments. So I’ll toss out a question: Does anybody have any idea on why this division exists, what might explain it, or how to reconcile it?

    I know, I know, it’s obvious that if we just look at some basic axiom of libertarianism it will all make sense and we’ll all agree if we’re just reasonable about it. It’s OBVIOUS that an aggressive foreign policy is paramount to the government’s mission to protect people and property. It’s OBVIOUS that an aggressive foreign policy is big government. But for one reason or another these arguments haven’t worked. Any new ideas?

    And yes, I know that the question “Why do they hate us?” doesn’t matter when you have an actual terrorist in custody. He needs to be punished harshly, no two ways about it. But people on one side of this question are asserting that an aggressive foreign policy will produce substantial blowback, while people on the other side are asserting that blowback is a minor component of the terrorist threat. So this question may have some practical significance.

  39. …”or making the cost of such attacks higher than they want to pay.”

    Which is pretty tough to do when your adversaries engage in suicide attacks. How do you increase the cost to someone who’s already dead? The Israeli approach of targeting the families of suicide bombers may or may not be effective, but it certainly fails the criterion of avoiding civilian casualties.

    “Folding to terrorism (as you seem to advocate, not sure) lowers the costs and makes an increase in terrorism more likely.”

    Retaliation against terrorist organizations is perfectly acceptable (and I would encourage it).

    In terms of “The Law of Armed Conflict”, an organized terrorist attack constitutes a declaration of war, even though the organization itself is not a sovereign state. As such, reasonable measures against the attacking organization are justified (such as routing out terrorist camps in Afghanistan). However, I have yet to see any tangible evidence of a terrorist presence in Iraq. Citing the War on Terrorism as justification for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, falls well short of the mark. Now that Mr. Hussein is out of the picture, maybe the US will hasten their departure and lessen the animosity they are creating for themselves. Otherwise, expect that the next generation of suicide-terrorists will be Iraqis instead of Saudis.

    The reason that such intervention should be avoided is that it is not a justifiable use of military force. The consequences of such intervention aren’t the deciding factor (as the abortion analogy would suggest) but merely an overlooked measure of the costs of pursuing such foreign intervention strategies. Is it worth engaging in unjustified military activities when you consider the repercussions that may ensue? For a justifiable campaign (eg. targeting terrorists instead of unsavory regimes), the costs are less significant since much less resentment is generated.

  40. I believe that it is fairly obvious that the war in Iraq is a one time affair; the U.S. has demonstrated that has limited ability to invade and occupy a foreign land, and little willingness to do so as well unless it feels compelled.

    Pre-emption as foreign policy, in other words, is (a) too expensive, (b) too risky politically, and (c) as a policy was created specifically for one conflict.

  41. Thoreau,

    I agree that many hate Americans for both reasons, what they’ve done wrong, and what they’ve done right.

    Their hatred is no reason to stop doing what you’ve done right, but is one of many reasons to reassess what you’re doing wrong.

    Admitting that one’s own actions haven’t been entirely blameless in no way absolves the guilt of terrorists. In fact, an acknowledgement of culpability, combined with a less invasive foreign policy would probably do a lot to foster some international good-will and a general “live and let live” attitude.

  42. Russ,

    Instead of “an acknowledgement of culpability, combined with a less invasive foreign policy,” why don’t we put up a sign that says, “Please make us your bitch”?

    Their goal is a world under the Caliphate, with all bowing to Allah or bowing to the headman’s tulwar. “Can’t we all just get along?” just won’t cut it.

  43. Tom,

    Instead of “Please make us your bitch.”, how about “We’ll leave you the hell alone unless you choose to fuck with us, in which case, prepare to have the full force of the United States military rain down upon you… with great vengeance and furious anger…”

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist that last Pulp Fiction bit.

  44. thoreau –
    I think the two competing theories are not really about terrorism or foreign policy or anything like that. I genuinely think that they both flow out of more fundamental beliefs about ourselves individually and as a nation.

    I think the anti-war blame-America crowd recognizes the incredible power and wealth of the US and also sees the poverty that much of the world lives in. They can’t see justice in this blatant inequality and therefore actively (and sometimes militantly) engage in a self-loathing guilt-ridden quest to right this wrong. In doing so, they make curious bed-fellows with those opposed to further American global (military, governmental, or commercial) influence, which can sometimes include terrorists. Are they supportive of terrorist? No, except for a pocketful of wackos, but they do allow for a level of empathy not generally granted by the rest of the public.

    The pro-war America-above-all crowd doesn’t necessarily ignore the poverty of starving nations, but does refuse to see any American cause to it and therefore removes American culpability. They assume that the global community is a fair playing field for our commercial and governmental enterprises and assume that all other nation states are playing by the same rules that we do: a general freedom of individuals to chose their own destiny and at least moderate resources with which to pursue it. And that’s not really a good assumption. There are still people groups and nation-states that are not operating with the same goals and the same rules as we are. Maybe that would be fine, but once the two worlds begin to mix (see: Israel, oil, immigration, periphreal military conflicts), well, you can see where we are.

    What to do? Mmmm, hope that the Arab world decideds that it wants to modernize? Allow the Arab world complete isolation? Neither one seems very likely. Good luck.

  45. Russ –
    Because they have oil that we want and they have people that want to sell it. Because Israel is in their geopolitical sphere and they don’t like it. Because not everyone in the Arab world wants the status quo.

  46. “Because they have oil that we want and they have people that want to sell it.”

    Sounds like a good reason to be buying Iraqi oil. It would cost a lot less than $87 billion.

    “Because Israel is in their geopolitical sphere and they don’t like it.”

    Sounds like an issue for the Israeli defence force… how it has anything to do with Americans I don’t quite understand.

    “Because not everyone in the Arab world wants the status quo.”

    Sounds like a good reason to sell them weapons and cheer them on from the comfort of home. Even the French figured that one out long ago.

  47. Is terrorism really a reaction to U.S. foreign policies? al Taqwa’s and Islamic Jihad’s stated goals are the destruction of America and Israel. Not Palestinian statehood, an end to American presence in S.A., Iraq, nor any other “injustice” which can be corrected. Simply, the destruction of these two bodies which stand in the way of the establishment of a global Muslim Caliphate.

    For them, the injustice is the existence of states that do not kowtow to the dictates of some silly desert deity. Maybe that’s why Jordan turns away Palestinian refugees. It’s apparently far better to rack up political currency than to provide safe harbor for their homeless Muslim “brethren”.

  48. Picking up Nick’s challenge, here’s a notion I had bouncing around my head yesterday that might be relevant — but not identical — to the pro-war,anti-war debate that’s gone on here for a while.

    Assume, for the sake of argument, that the Raimondo/Chomsky thesis is correct: that the 9/11 attacks were caused by American foreign policy mistakes, by asserting US power into regions and conflicts in which we had no proper governmental interest. Some adherents to this thesis (e.g. various Catons) granted that the subsequent coalition effort in Afghanistan was justified on strict national-defense terms, since the Taliban was shielding al Qaeda and had enabled it, while others (e.g. previously mentioned doves) argued that a military response even in Afghanistan would cause more trouble than it would solve for the US. The latter’s proposed solution was, apparently, to address the underlying problem: American presence,alliances, and activities in the regional conflicts in the first place. Pull out and mind our own business, they argued.

    Whatever the response to the Afghan campaign, adherents of the blowback theory were nearly universally opposed to the Iraq campaign.

    Here’s where I would part company, again assuming the original thesis. Whatever the cause of the conflict with the Islamists, it would be exceedingly dangerous for the US to respond by pulling out and yielding them the field. Assuming that we would ever have a legitimate interest in asserting our power outside our borders — for example, to forestall a gathering force of enemies near our own shores — the example of the 9/11 bloody nose yielding an American retreat would embolden our enemies. It would encourage terrorists to target Americans domestically and abroad on a variety of spurious or misleading pretexts. It would encourage potential enemies to pick fights with us to establish their bad-ass reputations and assert their international influence. And it would reduce the trust that any future ally, even one that the isolationist might welcome as helping to protect our narrow territorial security, might have in American resolve.

    In short, don’t run from a bully, even if you had no business being on that side of town in the first place, because maybe the next time a bully will come to your side of town and expect the same wimpy response.

    Just a thought. Doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to reduce America’s profile in the world over time, to prevent future blowback incidents, but you would want to do so in a way that doesn’t imperil American security in future, unforeseen conflicts.

  49. I wrote:
    they (the founders of our republic) warned of the harmful results of meddling in other nation’s affairs.

    rst responded
    You might as well ask Ben Franklin what’s wrong with your computer.

    Ridiculously illogical! Franklin and the other founders studied the history of, and wrote about international meddling. rst’s silly little comparison isn’t even congruent! Seriously; read the relevant chapters of, “James Madison and the Future of Limited Government” for how their admonitions are applicable in today’s world. It will be time well spent.

  50. that the 9/11 attacks were caused by American foreign policy mistakes, by asserting US power into regions and conflicts in which we had no proper governmental interest.

    What a silly thesis. The 9/11 attacks were caused by 19 guys getting onto planes and flying them into buildings. There are a number of ways to deal with the assertion of US power in regions; al Qaeda and company chose this path. That they felt it was their only option in the face of certain circumstances is their own lack of vision. You are responsible for the choices you make. The damage a person causes out of their lack of being able to resolve a conflict without blowing up buildings full of people completely unrelated to the issue at hand is the fault of that person and no one else.

  51. Here’s where there hasn’t been enough discussion: Should the US military go whomping on leaders of countries who persecute their own people or should the US restrict itself to whomping leaders who threaten US citizens?

    Then, assuming a variety of potential targets, who should get whomped first, second, etc?

  52. Just a thought, Mr. Hood: I believe the anti-war with Iraq crowd presumes that the US is the bully.

    I don’t remember the bullies using hit and run tactics in High school. It was more of shock and awe. “Did you see that? He just took that guy’s back pack and threw in the pool. What a dick.” Meanwhile the prey just takes it, fishes his backpack out of the pool and goes to class the whole time thinking of “terrorist- like tactics” to use as revenge that he knows he’ll never use since he doesn’t have the balls or the strength to pull it off.

  53. Should the US military go whomping on leaders of countries who persecute their own people or should the US restrict itself to whomping leaders who threaten US citizens?

    The latter. Of course, there tends to be substantial overlap in the two categories (including Hussein’s Iraq, which funded terrorists such as Hamas who were eagerly slaughtering Americans wherever they could).

  54. rst: I agree that who pulls the trigger is responsible for the effects of the bullet. But how to encourage broader vision and peaceful negotiation in people who have no significant exposure to anything other than a strict, single-minded view?

    Philosophical (religious) differences coupled with the US influence, power, and presence nearly everywhere makes us an easy focus for the frustration that grows into hatred and rage. The islamists have a problem with the US as an idea. Even what the US views as entirely charitable intervention, such as giving food and medicine, will be seen as part of a sinister plot to subvert the islamist purity.

    It seems appropriate to consider reducing the American profile, making the US a less-obvious target, while the subtler process of communication between foreign spheres open that vision and negotiation. It may take centuries for some to tire of suffering and killing.

    Meanwhile, in moving toward a policy of calm, there are existing entanglements. I agree with John Hood that to walk away usually encourages further bullying. Perhaps the way out is to remove the more discernable threats by escalating diplomacy into war when necessary, in a sense “sterilizing” the germs of anti-US factions, thus leaving the field empty of both the enemy bullies and the US bullies.

  55. thinking of “terrorist- like tactics” to use as revenge that he knows he’ll never use

    And if he does use them, whose fault is it? The bully, who could have gotten his comeuppance in any number of ways, or the victim (the Columbine kids, for instance), who chose to dole it out in one very specific and final way?

    It would seem that the leftist/anti-war crowd wants to pass the buck from the terrorists/SH to the US. Good thing, because now I can go blow up an abortion clinic and say that the American policy of allowing abortions caused me to do it. I can go stockpile some anthrax, too, because as long as nobody finds it, I don’t have it.

  56. rst, you’re thinking with the blinders on here:

    “What a silly thesis. The 9/11 attacks were caused by 19 guys getting onto planes and flying them into buildings.”

    If you look past the blatantly obvious, you might pause to consider that 19 guys don’t just arbitrarily get together one morning to kill themselves and thousands of others.

    They had a reason to hate Americans, and to imagine that American activities in their part of the world had nothing to do with that hatred is incredibly short-sighted.

  57. Russ: There is no valid reason for what they did. Trying to find a reason for chosen evil is futile and stupid.

  58. rst-
    While I did use the term terrorist like tactic- I actually wasn’t referring to columbine. I was simply referring to what revenge ideas any kid who has been picked on runs through their little head at some point. It’s quite natural. Most of the time people don’t act on it. Funny, though, columbine is an excellent case in point. A group of people that feel they are repeatedly picked on and have no way of standing up to the individuals or group on the terms that the “bully” chooses to initiate conflict- verbal or physical. The bullied then begin to feel resentful, they begin to hate. The bully thinks nothing of it. His/Their prey is weak and can’t do anything back. Then one day the bullied can’t take it anymore. They assault not only the bully, but the group whom they perceive as strong enough to stop the bully, but just stood by and essentially passively aggressed the bullied. Are there some valid comparissons between columbine/9-11/terrorism in general? I think so. That means that Mr. Hood and several others need to reconsider the use of the term “bully” when referring to terrorists.

  59. But how to encourage broader vision and peaceful negotiation in people who have no significant exposure to anything other than a strict, single-minded view?

    I would avoid patronizing folks by implying that they have no will save that which we give to them on account of our foreign policy. That’s just me, though.

    A broader vision comes from the pervasion of a secular philosophy. Religious philosophies are exclusive and restrictive. Secular philosophies, likewise, but to a far less violent or severe a degree. At the end of the day, if you’re still checking your constitution against some religious document. When the Iraqis adopt a more consumer-oriented society, the accumulation of wealth will begin to take on a greater significance. This is important because we’ve essentially taken Iraq from the secularists and given it to the fundamentalists. Something has to counterbalance, and it might as well be the Almighty Dollar.

    Is it dangerous to kill gods? I think we will find that it is not. The Iraqis, and hopefully the Saudis and Iranians as well, will eventually realize they’ve been eating soup from a stone.

  60. rst,
    You may thank the founders of our republic, whom you belittle, for the freedom of expression, which you are presently enjoying.

  61. rst,
    You may thank the founders of our republic, whom you belittle, for the freedom of expression, which you are presently enjoying.

  62. Sorry about the echo effect…Damn Bunnymen!

  63. Obviously yes. The murderers who attacked us told us the reasons: Bin Ladden told us those were the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.

    Terrorism existed before 9/11.

  64. studied the history of, and wrote about international meddling

    the history of until the early 19th century. This is now the 21st.

    You may thank the founders of our republic, whom you belittle, for the freedom of expression, which you are presently enjoying.

    “Thanks, guys. Like what we’ve done with the place?”

  65. rst and Rick-
    The founders studied human nature. If you’re of the opinion that man’s nature is somehow different now, then the constitution, bill of rights, and anything else the founders had to say is irrelevant and should be scrapped.

    If you feel that technology changes (affecting peoples attitudes and outlook only), but human nature has not changed then everything the founders have to say is quite relevant and worth considering.

    I happen to fall into the 2nd camp. Human nature is the same. Technology and perceptions of reality are different, but we are still plagued with love, pride, greed, hubris, lust, revenge, etc. If things weren’t the same then we wouldn’t be able to read the Illiad or Cato the elder or shakespeare and relate to the humanity that is blatant throughout the texts. Hammurabi’s code and the ten commandments attempted to deal with all of the same problems we’re still dealing with.
    Every primary document is an example of this so I won’t ramble on.

  66. Snoopy:
    “Policies,” “finances” and “sanctions” cannot fly airplanes, much less make a choice to deliberatly fly airplanes into skyskrapers teeming with thousands of innocents.”

    True, but they can make those choices more likely.
    We can have a foreign policy that is unfair and invites retaliation and leads to 9/11 or one that doesn’t.

  67. If our government quit supporting the Israeli government’s inhumane, racist, and thieving occupation of the Palestinian Land there wouldn’t be Palestinian refugees and we would realize less of a risk of terrorism in retaliation.

    Is terrorism really a reaction to U.S. foreign policies?

    Obviously yes. The murderers who attacked us told us the reasons: Bin Ladden told us those were the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.

  68. “They (9/11 terrs) had a reason to hate Americans, and to imagine that American activities in their part of the world had nothing to do with that hatred is incredibly short-sighted.”

    They hate Americans because America is a success and their own culture is a failure. Note that most such terrorists become such after living in the West. It ain’t about what we have done, but what we are.

  69. Rick Barton wrote: “Is terrorism really a reaction to U.S. foreign policies?

    Obviously yes. The murderers who attacked us told us the reasons: Bin Ladden told us those were the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.”

    Prior to that, Bin Laden NEVER mentioned the Palistine issue as a reason for his previous attacks. Most likely he mentioned it post-9/11 was to galvanize more Arab support (or at least more Arab opposition to the US).

    Bin Laden specifically turned against the US when the Saudi government choose the US over Laden & his merry men as a defense against Saddam in the build up to Gulf War 1. Prior to that, he was anti-US, but that seems to have given him the opinion that US was enemy #1. On the face of it, this would seem to support your “our-forign-policy-is-the-root-cause” theory. But, the point is that he is upset that we were there TO DEFEND Saudi Arabia. The fact is, he is going to hate us whatever we due, as long as we are successful and Arab Islamic nations are not.

  70. “We were attacked because our government finances the Israeli government’s inhumane and thieving occupation of the Palestinian Land. Our government supported sanctions against Iraq that caused malnourishment mal-medication for the Iraqi people but Strengthened Saddam’s ruthless dictatorship (btw, he was brutal on fundamentalist Islamics). Also the government stationed troops in Mecca. (That ongoing idiocy has finally been remedied)

    Bin Ladden told us the reasons in his 9/11 Fatwa.”

    And of course, you always believe whatever Laden says, right?

    Do you really believe those 19 terrorists gave a damn about the people in Iraq suffering under Saddam & the embargo? Do you really think Laden gave a damn?

    Do you really think he gave a damn about the Palistinians? Any more than, say, the government of Jordan?

    No, it isn’t about people in Iraq or Palastinians, and it never was. American troops in Mecca is more to the point. But the real point is American success, and Islamic failure. That is what Bin Laden et al can’t abide.

  71. But, WE were the targets of 9/11 !

  72. Russ stated the military thought:
    Military force is justifiable in 3 situations.
    1. Defensive action: To repel and defeat any actual attack from an adversary.
    2. Retaliatory action: After suffering an actual attack, to destroy the capability and will of the adversary to stage further attacks.
    3. Pre-emptive action: To avert an imminent attack, only where the adversary has demonstrated capability, opportunity and intent.
    ================

    That is the public face of the ideal,
    but what has been the reality?

    The Revolutionary War – we revolted

    The War of 1812 – no clear reason to fight

    The Mexican-American War – We were not threatened

    The Indian Wars – From the Trail of Tears to Wounded Knee and Little Big Horn, was it a cultural clash and land grab or what?

    The Spanish-American War – They didn’t blow up our ship in Cuba, and the US took more than Cuba.

    WWI – Our support was one sided for four years

    Korean Conflict – we were fighting Russia/China Communism, how were we threatened in the US?

    Vietnam – ditto

    Persian Gulf (Kuwait)- We used the UN to further our interests
    and Iraq twice, the second time was to finish the first war, and to establish a military ground threat in the volatile region.

    WWII – we pushed ourselves into the European War,
    and had FDR followed his campaign promises of 1940, we could have avoided war with Germany.
    Hitler declared war first, but face it, we were
    the arms dealer, supply depot for the Allied Forces for three years.
    Afghanistan (The Taliban didn’t attack us)

    There is even a case for the Southern ‘STATES’ thinking they could secede from a government of the people, by the people, for the people when in the course of human events….

    History wasn’t written, but happened, and the USA made things happen. I don’t say go back and undo it all. Don’t fool yourselves about war. It isn’t about morality and ideals, but war requires some use of them.

    The military minds seem to have forgotten about alliances and affilations such as with the UN.
    Is the UN going to be constrainted by those three reasons for war listed above? NO.

    The people of the US can’t even leave their house and car left unlocked. If we don’t feel safe from our own citizens, then why would a rich country feel safe in a poor world?

    The US should not only have invaded Iraq,
    which was a brilliant strategic move,
    but should use our military position & advantage
    to leveage some sensible “WORLD ORDER.”

    Americans think life in the real world is a game,
    and we can say, OK this is it! We have what we want, so let’s all be satisfied and leave all the borders alone, the way they are, and live happily ever after. The march of world history is a book that we can’t close after saying, THE END.

    Bush’s failure is not in Iraq, but in the US.
    He can’t bring both parties together to act in our common self-interest.

    The Democrats have an active subgroup that HATE Bush. A defeat of Bush is a victory to them. The Democrats fail in that they can’t find a common leader to LEAD them. They all live to defeat Bush.

    Bush isn’t the enemy. Get the Ego out of it.

    The idealists, whose ideas are wonderful on the domestic side of things, can’t seem to realize that the world doesn’t play by rules, but by the manipulation of them.

    Democratic idealists are weak, and Republicans too realistic. They need to come together NOW. Failure of leadership on both sides will doom our interests in the long run.

    There is a reason the word UNITED is the first name of these 50 States, or are we to become, as the South once wanted, 50 states?

  73. You people have too much time on your hands 😀 email me with your thoughts. I love you all!

  74. Boy, oh boy…

    People should analyze history more before dismissing Vietnam,Korea, the War of 1812, etc. etc… as meaningless wars… if that is not what you meant dj of Raleigh, you must write more clearly…

    Personally, I am writing because I happened to find this page in a google search…

    I partially agree with Sam…

    Use your time constructively intead of writing garbage… no wonder we all are writing on a website that will never be known to the public…

    I take offense to those who believe the wars in Asia during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s were a waste of this country’s money. I believe things could be much different today had our leaders not done what they did. For all we know, Kennedy could have had to deal with the imminent threat of nuclear war (which he thought so; Krushchev was a nasty fellow to be talking with).

    Watch the History Channel more; ask your war veterans…

  75. It is easy to say it was the “choice” of the suicide bombers to get in a plane and crash it into a building – but im afraid that it is not as easy as that! These people are raised with these fundementalist beliefs – they will do anything for their religion – And being brainwashed and threatened does not help you make a clear decision when deciding whether or not you are going to take the lives of many not to mention your own. While we sit in our own little ivory towers making judgements such as these we don’t understand what it must be like to live in these conditions – where fear is a way of life.
    I am not condoning suicide bombing – i am merely stating that it is not as easy as making a “choice”.

  76. It is easy to say it was the “choice” of the suicide bombers to get in a plane and crash it into a building – but im afraid that it is not as easy as that! These people are raised with these fundementalist beliefs – they will do anything for their religion – And being brainwashed and threatened does not help you make a clear decision when deciding whether or not you are going to take the lives of many not to mention your own. While we sit in our own little ivory towers making judgements such as these we don’t understand what it must be like to live in these conditions – where fear is a way of life.
    I am not condoning suicide bombing – i am merely stating that it is not as easy as making a “choice”.

  77. It is easy to say it was the “choice” of the suicide bombers to get in a plane and crash it into a building – but im afraid that it is not as easy as that! These people are raised with these fundementalist beliefs – they will do anything for their religion – And being brainwashed and threatened does not help you make a clear decision when deciding whether or not you are going to take the lives of many not to mention your own. While we sit in our own little ivory towers making judgements such as these we don’t understand what it must be like to live in these conditions – where fear is a way of life.
    I am not condoning suicide bombing – i am merely stating that it is not as easy as making a “choice”.

  78. hey sorry for the repeated message – i didn’t think it was sending – oops!!!

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