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Thursday, December 29

A comment on War and Anti-War

Kit said...
According to this article we are a third of the way there to equalling the 300,000 deaths Saddam buried in mass graves and it's only taken us a single year. We've destabilized an entire country and reduced the rights of women, forcing them to wear burkas where they haven't had to do so before. Further, we did all this not to remove Saddam but on the lying pretence that we would find weapons of mass destruction. If you feel the war is justified now, or that anti-war believers are short-sighted, then how long will it be justified for? Is avenging the death of 300,000 worth the death of 100,000? 200,000?

I never mentioned revenge. I mentioned stopping killing and that it might be right to kill some to stop the killing of many. Revenge is a different concept - the idea that a person should have "consequences" imposed on him that are somehow equal to his wrongdoing. I don't see the point in that and it seems likely to be a wrong idea.

I was criticizing the idea that being anti-war on principle makes sense or at the least just flatly not understanding it. Whether any particular war, including the Iraq war, should be fought is another matter. I don't think crunching numbers is a reliable way to decide what to do, but it does seem like relevant information to consider. One way I don't think to decide it, though, is to decide beforehand that wars should never be fought. I'm not excluding the possibility that it could be true, I'm just not assuming it. I would need a lot better information than I've had so far to come to that sort of conclusion.

The question is whether killing 100,000 or 200,000 will prevent the deaths of 300,000 more people or perhaps allow the freedom of millions more. I don't really know the answer to that. From what I've been reading (granted I'm barely touching the tip of the iceberg of information about it), it seems that Saddam's rate of killing had subsided before our recent invasion. I don't know why it subsided. That would be important to know when forming an opinion about the morality of the situation. I definitely have my doubts about it all. I haven't seen much yet about the "freedom" or lack of it currently in Iraq. There's no guarantee that "Democracy" will protect the rights of everyone. People don't always vote in ways that enhance freedom and rights. Dictators are sometimes more benevolent than "the people".

How does getting revenge for those deaths Saddam caused help the world, especially given that we helped him with financial and military assistance before we put him in power?

Again, the concept of revenge isn't something I have advocated. Of course, I would be opposed to giving aid to someone who we know intends to murder a lot of innocent people. On the other hand, what to do once the harm has been done is another matter. If the choice remaining is to continue to allow Saddam to murder innocent people or stop him from doing so, then it still might be right to stop him. As to what should be done to stop American governments from making such mistakes, I don't know. The presidents who gave him financial and military assistance are no longer in power. Perhaps they should be tried as criminals or ways of preventing such events in the future should be looked at. Saddam, on the other hand, was still in power.

Is it justified for us to do this when we don't have support from the UN or the rest of the world?

I've not been very impressed with the UN so far. Granted, I have much to learn about them and the world. From what I understand, multiple European countries were continuing to rely on Iraqui oil and helped to support Saddam and oppose our intervention there. I'm disgusted with the whole group.

Ah, but right, whoever is alive in however many years it takes us to get out and give the Iraqi's whatever is left of their country will surely, of course, be much better off when we're done. Frankly, I think that hanging your justification of the war on numbers is a bad idea. Remember that a lot of people who are currently anti-war are simply anti-this war, for a number of reasons -- it's not an either or position, necessarily.I also think your civil war example is erroneous as it assumes there were only two options -- continuing slavery or a civil war. While I feel differently about that war than the current one (it was, after all, a US-US or US-former US conflict, rather than the US going to attack another country) I don't think we have any way of knowing how history would have gone without a war.
12:56 PM

I agree, I don't think number crunching is a good way to determine whether a particular war is a good idea. I meant to clarify that in the first post. I thought of it because many anti-Iraq war and many generally anti-war sites have counters with numbers of dead (generally in the thousands but not hundreds of thousands) and I was genuinely shocked by the sheer number of dead due to Saddam. Then I read about the numbers of dead because of the US (possibly 100,000). 300,000 is a low estimate for Saddam. I've seen numbers as high as 1 or 2 million. Possibly the numbers for the US are higher too.

I also agree that we don't know what might have happened with slavery had war not taken place. The south would have been a separate country. Maybe it would have crumbled while the North would have become stronger and abolished slavery willingly. Maybe the North could have allowed freedom to all slaves who made it to their borders. Still, certainly lots of people who were slaves at the time would have continued to be slaves for some amount of time afterwards. I'm doubtful that there would be even the degree of equality there is in the south now for African Americans (however racist it still is now, it's improved a lot in some areas).

I don't see why it matters whether it was US-US or US-other country. If it's right to intervene on behalf of innocent people, it doesn't matter what country they're in. The details might be an indication of whether it will be the best way to proceed but I don't think it's a good reason to avoid action in itself.

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