James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

Four Years After

Four years after the "liberation" of Iraq commenced, people are still wondering how the whole thing happened. I'm more and more convinced it wasn't about oil or any other economic or strategic reason, because the sheer lunacy of the enterprise does not suggest a rational motive (even a criminal one like economic plunder). I suspect it really was about ideology, that President Bush really did believe the Iraqis would greet the Americans as liberators and establish a stable democracy. But this supposed benign and noble motive does not excuse Bush. Starting this war was still an act of pure evil.

Perhaps this war will be a step in the evolution of civilization and human progress, a mistake that will not be repeated, an evil that will one day be acknowledged as such. If there is to be peace on earth, interventionism will one day be looked upon with the same shame and horror that we look back on chattel slavery or state communism today. Disaster in Iraq may yet avert similar disasters in Iran, Syria, and Darfur. Freedom can't be imposed on people by the point of the gun, and we can't expect foreign peoples to bow down to us and our values any more than we would bow down to them and their values.

Empires of the ancient past would conquer and enslave, because they could, and to prove the divine power and authority of their King/Emperor. Later empires would move in and colonize sparsely-populated lands, soon overwhelming, pushing back, and exterminating the natives, justifiying their actions as "progress." Other empires would take it upon themselves to take over and govern distant lands, not to exterminate the natives but to bring religion and civilization to them (while at the same time exploiting their natural resources).

In each case, the aggressor empire defends the indefensible by claiming this aggression was sanctioned by God or was otherwise morally necessary. But ironically enough, the more "noble" the excuse is, the more perverse it is. Wars of conquest, for the sake of slaves, gold, or oil, are bad, but wars for purely ideological or religious reasons are worse. Economic plunder is a criminal but rational pursuit; wars of aggression to promote "democracy" and "freedom" are both criminal and irrational. It was criminal in that it was non-defensive; it was irrational in that the United States had nothing to gain from it except an increased sense of its own omnipotence and righteousness.

The war was not defensive, and therefore could not be just. If you kill someone who's trying to kill you, that's self-defense. If you kill someone who is not trying to kill you, that's murder and no excuse like "it was to promote democracy and freedom!" will change the fact that it's murder. And to invade an occupy a foreign country that didn't attack you is aggression, pure and simple. It violates the very basis of the Law of Nations. Promoters of such a policy are essentially the enemies of peace, no matter how noble their claims sound. As such, they are the most evil people in the world.

The only just war is a defensive war. An army full of mercenaries out for plunder may kill with impunity and be quite good at it, but the equation is different when one enlists because he has a quasi-religous sense of "duty" to one's country. Slaughtering soldiers and militia defending their own country, and killng civilians who happen to get in the way, is a pretty bizarre way of promoting moral universalisms like human rights and human dignity. Self-doubt will inevitably creep into the occupying army, and the more they question their mission, the less effective they become.

Moreover, those who fight in defense of their own country on their own soil have the moral upper hand, the home field advantage, and the role of underdog in which every non-defeat is a victory. The men and women of the invading/occupying force have nothing to gain, for themselves or their country, for fighting a non-defensive war.

No cause, no ideal, is more noble than the defense of one's own home and family. To start a war for the sake of an ideal, is to destroy the ideal. Freedom and human rights were made for man; man was not made to sacrifice himself and kill others for abstract principles called "Freedom" and "human rights." It's not that the ends don't justify the means, but rather that the means undermine the ends.

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