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Since the creation of human beings there have been conflicts. Some conflicts blow over; others escalate, some even to the point of war. Declaring war is perhaps the gravest act of international relations since the very essence of war involves slaughter. Yet, as twisted and cruel as it may sound or be, war is sometimes necessary. World War II, for example, shows that going to war here was far less terrible than the prospect of a world dominated by Nazism. Another example, which occurred more recently, would be the United States’ war against Afghanistan. This war was warrented because Afghanistan was being run by the Taliban, a widely known terrorist organization who, among many other cruel acts, were harboring Osama bin Laden, one of the masterminds behind the September 11th attacks. We can know for a fact that these wars were indeed required by consulting “the most influential perspective on the ethics of war and peace,” (orend1) known as ‘the Just War Theory’. Just War Theory is divided into three parts; jus ad bellum, which concerns the requirements needed to declare war, jus in bello, which concerns rules of engagement throughout the war, and lastly, jus post bellum, which concerns how to properly terminate wars (orend 1). The most difficult part of the just war theory, concerns when a country is to declare war or not, otherwise known as jus in bello. In order for a war to be justified under the just war theory, the following six requirements must be met: there must be a just cause, the state must have the right intentions, there must be a public declaration, it must be done as a last resort, there must be a reasonable chance of success, and lastly, the benefits of wagin war must be worth the costs of war. If all of the six requirements are met then it is simple and clear: war can be justly declared. However, if just one of these requirements is not met, then declaring war is therefore deemed unjust. An example of an unjust war that failed to meet the criteria of the just war theory, yet preceded with war anyways, was the United States declaration of war against Iraq in 2003.
The central case for war made by the Bush Administration to Congres, the American public, and the world community, revolved almost completely around the claim that Iraq had and was building weapons of mass destruction (Bovard 246). To many this seemed quite probable for two reasons. One, Iraq had used weapons of mass destruction in the past, both against Iran and its own people, the Jurds. Secondly, Iraq was extremely uncooperative with UN inspectors who after the 1991 Gulf war attempted to inspect Iraw to ensure that all of their weapons of mass destruction were destroyed. Yet they were unable to fully complete their job, as in 1998 they were kicked out and unable to return as order by Saddam Hussein (Iraq war 1). Knowing both of these facts it seems likely that perhaps, yes, Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction. However, what many do now know is that when threatened with war in early 2003 if they did not allow for the re-admittance of UN inspectors and allow them to finish their work, Iraw at last complied. Seemingly a huge victory for the Bush Administration, since with final inspections they would have concrete proof before waging war with Iraq, the United States stunned many by opting for war before receiving UN inspector’s final report. This sequence of events totally undermins the weapons of mass destruction argument. “It is as though a police officer ordered a subject to put his hands up and submit to a pat down for a concealed weapon, the suspect compliedâ€¦and the policemen shot the suspect anyway” (Ricks 80). Why the United States did not wait the final report makes it appear that the United States was simply out for a fight with anyone, especially after 9/11.
Time and time again, powerful leaders in the United States used their good name to gain people’s trust and beliefs that indeed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In 2003, Colin Powell went to the UN and declared that “Iraq had a stockpile of between 100-500 tons of chemical weapons agentâ€¦[and] remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons (Ricks 52). Powell also touched on the possible connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda and used his own credibility to assert that the information he was giving was true. However, the information in Powell’s speech was based almost entirely on a false informant’s (nicknamed Curveball) testimony (ricks 90). After Powell’s speech, inside military intelligence circles, many were aghast and simply shook their heads. One military intelligence officer recalls after the speech looking at his boss wondering “What was going on?” Both were stunned at “how weak the intel” Powell had was (Ricks 92). Another flawed source that encouraged war was a summary prepared in 2002 called the National Intelligence Estimate. This estimate consisted of what the United States supposedly knew about Iraq’s continuing programs for weapons of mass destruction. However, truly what the Estimate essentially did was to “pull together in one place the core data of the Bush Administration argument for going to war” (Ricks 52). It asserted that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, was making advances in ways of administering these weapons, as well as “reconstituting its nuclear program” (Ricks 52). It was through this document that the President Bush became convinced that tgoing to war was the right decision. However, a year later, upon review by the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was found that the information in the National Intelligence Estimate was completely incorrect. They determined that the purpose of the National Intelligence Estimate was not to really assess Iraqi weapons program but to instead sell the idea of war (Ricks 55). Both the National Intelligence Estimate and Powell’s speech were just a few of the many supposedly trusted and credible sources the American public were given for going to war. Not only have no weapons of mass destruction turned up in almost seven years of conflict in Iraw, but it is also apparent that, from the beginning, there clearly was lack of evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It seems instead that Saddam Hussein was merely bluffing the whole time and the United States fell for it. Due to this, the United States failed to meet the first of six necessary criteria for justly declaring war since their alleged reasoning for going to war (to stop Iraq from using, making, and selling weapons of mass destruction) was completely false.
Since it has been proven that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the United States government essentially knew this upon entering the war, what exactly were the United States’ intentions for entering the war? Some argue Bush wanted a quick was to enhance his re-election prospects in 2003, while others argue he wants to avenge his father for the 1991 Gulf war (Bovard 251). However, the most believeable claim for invading Iraq, if not for weapons of mass destruction, was to gain some sort of control or influence over Iraq’s abundance of oil. Although flatly denied by Bush and his administration, it is hard to ignore the possibility that the United State’s growing reliance and necessity for oil might have been a contributing factor towards the war in Iraq.
The sand of Iraq holds lots of oil. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, “Iraq has more than 112 billion barrels of oil the world’s second largest proven reserves” (Iraq: Oil and Economy 1). It is also estimated by the Energy Information Administration that nearly ninety percent of the country remains unexplored due to constant years of war. These unexplored areas could possible yield an additional 100 billion barrels. Statistics such as these make it difficult to believe that the United States’ motives for going to war in Iraq were completely pure. It seems odd that the United States singled out Iraq when other countries have weapons of mass destruction as well, such as the countries Bush has deemed the “axis of evils” which includes Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan (Jehl 1). Although these countries are thought to have weapons of mass destruction, the United States did not go charing into a war with them. This raises the question: Why is that?
In the months precipitating the war with Iraq, many questioned why the war was being dealt with “not as a last resort, but as a first resort” (Ricks 62). As just war theory states, in order for a war to be justified, “all plausible, peaceful alternatives to resolving the conflict in question must be exhausted” (Orend 2). This was clearly not done with Iraq. An example of a peaceful or alternative measure the United States could have taken in the years, perhaps even decades preceding the war with Iraq, can be seen through an American named Greg Mortenson. To explain it simply, Greg Mortenson has spent the last fifteen years promoting peace in the Middle East “with books, not bombs” (Mortenson and Relin 272). By building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mortenson is fighting terrorism because of his belief that “terrorism doesn’t happen because of some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simply to decide to hate us. It happens because children aren’t being offered a bright enough future” (Mortenson and Relin 292). Children in these regions’ only means of education are through institutions called Wahhabi Madrassas, schools paid for and supported by the Taliban which teach extremist Islam and support militant jihad. Although these schools do not exist in Iraq, the same argument still pertains to Bush’s justification for the war which, after no weapons of mass destruction were found, morphed into creating a free society in Iraq. Bush argued that “free societies do not breed terrorism” (Koring 1). Mortenson argues that you must attack the source of your enemies’ strength and “in America’s case, that’s not Osama or Saddam or anyone else,” (Mortenson and Relin 310) but it is ignorance, ignorance of the people of these regions, not of their own fault, yet the fault of the dictators and terrorists who run those countries. “The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever” (Phares 118). Education is just one of the many peaceful options the United States failed to attempt before going to war. No such options were implemented or even considered for that matter because many just deemed a war with Iraq as imminent (Ricks 31-32). Opting for war before even discussing alternative methods, fails to meet the just war theory.
The fifth rule concerning jus ad bellum is that the states should not wage war if it is foreseen that “doing so will have no measurable impact on the situation” (Orend 4). The main objection or dfiance that against the war in Iraq regarding this fifth criterion stems from the question “how is success in Iraq defined?” Is success toppling Saddam Hussein? Establishing a democracy? Finding and destroying all weapons of mass destruction? Throughout the war, the declaration for being at war was so twisted from saying Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, to Iraq “had the ability to make weapons of mass destruction,” (Bovard 250) to freeing the Iraqi people, that it is hard to understand what the end goals of the United States involvement in Iraq was. What is more, the poor planning for postwar Iraq gave the United State’s military little chance for ultimate or even definable success.
From the beginning, many high ranking officials in the military were strongly opposed to entering the war with Iraq. They had a number of grievances, such as feeling incredibly burdened planning and entering into an invasion of Iraq just moths after invading Afghanistan. Also, there was extreme doubt with regard to Saddam’s actual possession of weapons of mass destruction (Ricks 81-84). Yet the military’s greatest concern or objection to the Iraq war revolved around actual planning of the war, more specifically the planning for the aftermath of the war.
The United States has undoubtedly one of the strongest armed forces in the world. This being said, the problem with the Iraqi war for the military lay not in winning battles, but what to do after winning. Upon entering war with Iraq, there was little planning for postwar Iraq. The military’s main argument stemmed from a quote from Prussian military theorist named Karl von Clausewitz which emphasizes the main requirement of war is to “not take the first step without considering the last” (Ricks 59). The Bush Administration would later argue that the difficulties brought this up time and time again and were repeated ignored (Ricks 59). The army unhappily planned for war the best they could, yet all the while knew that in a few years the politicians, who ignored planning for postwar Iraq would be gone, yet they would remain, “burdened by the poor decisions of long-gone former bosses” (Ricks 69). Even heeding Middle Eastern experts concerns over the seriousness and long-term requirements of going to war in this region were ignored. In short, the post-war planning was shoddy and despite months of work, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellos stated “no [postwar] plan was produced” (Ricks 79). The lack of definition of success as well as failure to plan for the aftermath of war did not give the United States military a reasonable chance at success.
The last requirement of jus ad bellum concerns proportionality that is a nation is only to wage war “if benefits are proportional to, or worth, the costs” (Orend). To determin if the United States met the last requirement of jus ad bellum, both the positive and negative aspects of the war must be examined. Invading Iraq was moral because Saddam Hussein was a terrible man whose removal from power was needed as he had clearly broken international laws and treaties and abused his people. On the other hand, invading Iraq was unfavorable because there were no weapons of mass destruction found, the people in Iraq did not rise up in support of the United States when it attacked, little post-war planning was done, the task, as well as cost of rebuilding Iraq, was far more complicated and expensive than the Bush Administration envisioned, the United States received no aid from its allies, and lastly, the amount of United States soldiers that have been killed or wounded far exceeded initial estimates.
It is clear that the costs, both literally and figuratively, of being at war with Iraq are much greater than the gains. That is not to say that Saddam Hussein should have been in power, clearly he was an evil man that posed a serious threat to his own people and the world. However, dealing with him should not have been the United States’ burden alone. Help from its allies should been given. It is not the responsibility of the United States alone to police the world. It is true that what America had done had been a noble deed for the Iraqi people but as Capt. Scovill Currin, a tanker pilot from Charleton, South Carolina, puts it, ” at some point you’ve got to say, I love my country, but I can’t stay away from family for eight years” (Ricks 45). Another serious factor to consider is the cost of being in Iraq, especially when the United States is in the midst of a serious recession. Since 2003, the war in Iraq had cost over 700 billion dollars (Bovard 110). That is 700 billion dollars (and counting), of American taxpayer’s hard-earned money given to a war that should not have been waged to begin with.
Of the six requirements as dictated by jus ad bellum for a state to justly declare war, the United States only fully met one of the requirements; declaring war by the proper authorities and publicly declaring it. As for the other five, the United States has failed by some means. Thus, we can firmly assert that the American war against Iraq was an unjust war.
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