Iraq: the case against war
It seems to have been up to an old friend of mine to advance the principled case against war. Paul Robinson, whose lineage is Eton, Oxford, Sandhurst, the Royal Tank Regiment, the Intelligence Corps, the Canadian army, Oxford again and now the Centre for Security Studies at the University of Hull spells it out in The Spectator
. It's a conservative case, well put. An example:
If the truth be told, Iraq is in no position to launch an attack on anybody. Its armed forces are a shell of their former selves, lack the logistics for an invasion of any neighbouring country, and could not sustain major operations. Iraqi military spending is estimated to be about a tenth of what it was before the Gulf war. Even if the Iraqis have retained enough 1914-era technology to build some more mustard-gas shells, they lack the means to lob them at us. At the very worst, a handful of Iraqi missiles might just be able to make it to Cyprus if the launchers drove to the westernmost border of Iraq to fire. In short, the Iraqi threat to the West is next to zero. The interesting point is that we are well aware of that. That is why we are contemplating an attack.
Paul also mentions the Webster Doctrine, the American-invented doctine as to when a country can engage in pre-emption, which has been unilaterally abandoned by the US. That should indeed be a linchpin of any principled argument against the war. I don't think I have seen the anti-war case so well expressed anywhere.
My main argument for the war is that it is the second of a two part retaliation for September 11. The first part -- the toppling of the Taleban -- was designed to spell out to rogue regimes that any regime that harbors people that do harm to the United States. The second -- regime change in Iraq -- is to warn them that the United States will destroy anyone who it suspects of plotting to do harm to the United States or its citizens. Iraq is the perfect choice here precisely because, as Paul says, it is weaker than other potential candidates, but still stronger than many others. The policy is aimed at scaring leaders, I suspect. If Saddam, who has survived so much, can be toppled after so long, then so can anyone. This is, I think, the unspoken justification for the war. Ruthless? Yes. In keeping with "international law"? Probably not, but international law is an idea that needs to be rethought. This is not 17th century Europe or even 19th century America, but an era of modern nation states, modern rogue and ramshackle states and transnational organizations with state-level capabilities. Will the people of Iraq thank us? Yes -- and I'll have more to say on this -- and so the humanitarian justification is also clearly there.
The war is, I think, in America's interests. Is it in Britain's or Australia's? I suspect that, if those countries refrain from aiding America here, they will become the targets of the resentful in the Islamic world. Australia has already suffered from being easier to hit than America. An outrage aimed at British citizens is only waiting to happen. Iraq would be a demonstration of strength. On balance, I think it is in those nations' interests to demonstrate strength alongside America. I am certain others will disagree.
Paul has done us a favor in advancing real arguments against the war. Those are the arguments that need to be answered, in Washington, in London and Canberra. Feeling against a war will only grow if they remain unanswered.