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Thursday, February 3, 2011

On the Legitimacy of the US Invasion of Iraq

George H.W. Bush had not sent the US military all of the way into Iraq; he decided to go along with the consensus in the coalition of the time that the invasion would go just far enough to remove Iraqi forces from Kwait.  Undoing an invasion is a lauditory military venture.

George W. Bush went all the way in, occupying Iraq ostensively because of WMD and a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11.  Karl Rove states in his memoirs that the fact that no WMD was found under Bush’s watch critically damaged the Bush Presidency.  In addition, the presumed link between Hussein’s government and 9-11 turned out to be spurious.  Rove claims that the invasion was justified nonetheless as a response to 9-11.  ”Having seen how much carnage four airplanes could cause, Bush was determined to do all he could to prevent the most powerful weapons from falling into the hands of the world’s most dangerous dictators,” Rove notes.  From this criterion, however, at least two problems are evident.

First, presumably other dangerous dictators, like those of Iran and North Korea, would have been subject to American forces.  That is to say, the criterion does not justify singling out one dictator.  It does not, for example, say “…dictators who are thought to have a WMD.”  The criterion is broader, yet George W. Bush applied it dogmatically (i.e., too narrowly, meaning to just one of several cases that would apply).

Second, the criterion does not justify removing a government from power; the goal is to keep WMD from falling into a government’s hands.  It could be argued that because the Bush administration thought that Saddem had a WMD, the only way to reach the goal was to remove him from power, but then the justification of the invasion would be invalid because there is no evidence that he had WMD at the time of the US invasion.  He had had chemical weapons, but then I’m sure Iraq is not the only “dangerous” country that has them.  Again, the criterion would have to be applied to all such cases.  To apply it to one and ignore the rest is dogmatic, or arbitrary, and thus points to an ulterior motive other than acting on the basis of the criterion.

In short, whereas his father restrained himself in keeping with the coalition at the early 1990s, George W. Bush went all the way, and without sufficient justification even by the criterion that his advisor, Karl Rove, provides.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  When there is a rubber-stamp Congress and a President willing to declare war (a Congressional power on account of the structural conflict of interest in having the commander in chief declaring war—meaning declaring that he would be using his power), it is difficult for him to hold back, even when his own father provides an illustration of self-restraint.   Perhaps Congress is too close to the US President’s Office to be vested with declaring war; maybe 2/3 of the governors should be required in lieu of the Congress.  In any case, the imperial presidency is a dangerous thing to have in a republic built on republics (i.e., an empire).  Rome went from being a republic to having an emperor…and then on to ruin.  The US may be following a similar course.  The lessons from the invasion of Iraq can go well beyond foreign and military policy as we search for reforms that pertain to our system of government.

Source: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/35706823/ns/today-today_books/