Liberating Iraq — (also posted

Liberating Iraq — (also posted on Stand Down) After compiling a list of the truly sordid accomplishments of Saddam Hussein's government, “The Counter Revolutionary” writes:

“Again, I ask — how can a moral person stand against the liberation of Iraq?”

The quick answer is, well, a moral person can't. But that's not the question. The question is “Should these United States of America liberate Iraq?” It's a different question, and it has a different answer.

I'm unequivocally in favor of Hussein's ouster, and for his replacement by a relatively liberal regime. Indeed, I'm unequivocally in favor of the liberation of the entire world! I can hardly begin to enumerate the nations in which the people are oppressed, killed, allowed to die, starve, deprived of liberty, of the insitutions necessary prosperity and the realization of human capacities, and more. Yes, I'm in favor of the liberation of everyone, and what kind of moral imbecile isn't?

However, must a moral person support an invasion of Iraq sponsored by the hardworking taxpayers of the U.S.? By no means.

The depravity of a totalitarian regime makes it permissible for someone to liberate the people who suffer under that regime. But that does not imply that it is permissible for the U.S. to undertake the liberation of Iraq. There is no doubt that Hussein is beastly, and that he deserves nothing but the most terrible hell. However, that a criminal deserves punishment, or that a people deserve liberation, does not entail that just anyone may dispense it. For instance, I may not personally execute John Mohammed, although he richly deserves execution.

The wanton violation of rights is not a sufficient condition for the iniation of war. Those who wish to invade Iraq on liberal, humanitarian grounds need to show that other liberal conditions for a justified war are satisfied.

If it is morally permissible for the U.S. military to attack Iraq, then the moral purpose of a military is served by doing so. What's the moral purpose of the military? To provide the citizens of the nation the public good of defense against foreign aggression. That's why the pertinent question is whether there is evidence that Iraq is a palpable danger to the lives and liberties of U.S. citizens. And that's why the character of Hussein's regime, or the suffering of the Iraqis, is not pertinent to the justification of a U.S. invasion. Because the evidence that Iraq is a genuine threat is so meager, support for war at this point is not justified.

If the awful plight of the Iraqis under Hussein in fact required moral U.S. citizens to support war, then I believe that we would have to be comitted to very radical general principles of redistributive justice. If the fact of Hussein's evil, and of Iraqi suffering, is sufficient to create a claim on the earnings of U.S. citizens (to fund the invasion), then I cannot see how the evil visited upon people all over the world by predatory leaders and backward-thinking economic ministers does not likewise create a claim on the earnings of U.S. citizens. This should give pause to libertarians who are tempted to support war on humanitarian grounds. And perhaps some egalitarian leftists might wish to reconsider whether they are really opposed to this kind of war after all.