Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Another Australian column supporting John Howard's choice.

The Howard Government will be pilloried by its numerous critics for committing its forces to war with the United States and Britain against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Its decision is one for which Australians should feel no shame, and for which they will soon feel proud. There are four powerful reasons why the allied invasion of Iraq is justified.

The first is the security threat posed to Western nations by Saddam's regime. It may not be an immediate or direct threat, but Iraq possesses highly lethal chemical and biological weapons. There is reason to believe that Saddam is pursuing nuclear capability, although that may be several years away. Despite 17 UN resolutions calling on him to disarm, he refuses to do so.

How do these weapons constitute a threat? Saddam used chemical and biological weapons in the war against Iran and against the Kurdish civilians of his country. He could use them to facilitate his longstanding ambition to conquer Kuwait and the Saudi oilfields. More importantly, such weapons, placed in the hands of terrorists, could pose a much greater threat to the US than the attacks of September 11.

Two arguments are presented against these scenarios. First, that Saddam can be contained. After all, containment worked for 45 years against the more powerful Soviet Union. But containing Saddam's military forces would require a permanent US military presence in the Middle East, something that Arab governments do not want - it is the US presence in Saudi Arabia that has fuelled the rise of al-Qaeda. By contrast, while a US military occupation of Iraq may create some political tensions for a few years, that presence will not be indefinite, unlike the presence a containment strategy requires.

The second justification of war is that it will liberate a long-suffering people from a bestial tyranny. There are two standard counter-arguments. First, Western powers often befriend dictatorships in other countries - surely our concern with Iraqi freedom is selective? It is indeed. Yet befriending dictators can be justified when there is no political alternative in the face of a greater evil.

Such was the justification of many Cold War alliances. It is today the justification for befriending central Asian dictatorships in order to defeat the greater threat of al-Qaeda.

The other counter-argument is that we cannot liberate all the peoples of the world by armed force. Yet this is not an argument against liberating some.

We have to provide moral criterion for selecting whom we liberate. One criterion is selecting the worst regimes. Saddam's tyranny passes that test with flying colours. The second is attainability. We need to be able to achieve the liberation, with a proportionately acceptable loss of civilians and liberating forces. Thanks to US precision weapons, the attack on Saddam will easily pass that test.

The third argument for war is that the political outcome will provide a model to change the moral balance and quality of political life in the Middle East generally in favour of a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and away from dictatorship and poverty and towards democracy and prosperity.

The threat of North Korea provides a fourth argument for going to war, and for going sooner rather than later. The Stalinist regime in Pyongyang signed a set of agreements to renounce nuclear weapons development with the Clinton administration in 1994. Yet before Bush's emergence, Pyongyang broke those agreements.

Many will complain that the credibility of the United Nations has been damaged by war without the Security Council's approval. Yet there are recent moral precedents. It was without and despite the UN that a US-led coalition intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s to stop ethnic cleansing. No one could argue that Milosevic and his henchmen remotely threatened the US or its European allies.

John Howard has taken the only moral choice available. The catastrophes that nuclear or even biological terrorism will wreak upon the West will dwarf the horrors of September 11, not to mention Bali, many times over. The legitimate and noble causes of Australian security, the security of Australia's democratic allies and the liberation of the oppressed people of Iraq will be served by our victory in this war.

< email | 3/18/2003 11:28:00 AM | link

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