2003's Biggest Story

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was the biggest story of 2003?  The US Government’s decision
to go to war with Iraq, that’s what.  Why?  Because, all
in all, despite the desirable result of bringing down a vicious
dictatorship, it was an unjustified military action taken by our

justifies going to war?  When a country is attacked; or when
another country with which a sound, just treaty has been established
is attacked; or when it is imminent, as demonstrated by solid intelligence
information, that a country or an ally will be attacked. Then it
is justified to initiate military action against a country waging
the attack or about to wage one.  That is what the military
of a just system of government is for, to defend the country, not
to wage war against countries with governments that may very well
deserve to be brought down.

are quite a few rogue countries across the globe, always have been
and probably will continue to be, given the propensity of governments
to be despotic, tyrannical, and oppressive.  Until very recently
there have not been governments with much merit anywhere in human
history because they have not done what justifies their establishment,
namely, protect the basic human rights of its citizens.

fact, probably all countries before the birth of the United States
of America have been illegitimate, strictly speaking.  Instead
of recognizing their inhabitants as citizens, they treated them
as subjects. Subjects are people subjugated by rulers, more or less
cruel and vicious, but in all case ruling wrongfully, ultimately
illegitimately in terms of just law, which is supposed to arise
from the full consent of those who are being governed.

hardly any wars have been justly waged by any of its participants,
although some were less guilty of injustice than others. But if
one takes the idea of individual human rights seriously, if, indeed,
such rights exist – as the US Declaration of Independence affirms
and the US Constitution attempts to render into law – then it cannot
be reasonably doubted that nearly all wars in human history have
essentially amounted to acts of mutual aggression.  They were
like bullies trying to rule the territory, with none of them having
any justification for their violent conduct.  No doubt, some
bullies are less awful than others, but in human history wars have
occurred mainly between bullies of more or less gravity.

however, only when a country’s citizens are attacked – or are
demonstrably about to be attacked – is it justified to go to
war, it is clear that what President George W. Bush decided to do
was wrong. Moreover, he and his staff clearly realized this, since
they so eagerly advanced plausible enough reasons for their actions,
reasons that had only one major flaw – they were mistaken or cooked

Iraq had had WMDs, or was on the verge of producing them, it would
indeed have been justified to attack it.  That is like one’s
pulling a gun against and shooting a person who is known to be about
to shoot one. But no matter how vicious a regime may be, if this
viciousness isn’t violently aimed at a country’s citizens, that
country’s military isn’t justified to attack the regime.

is an effective alternative, of course, but sadly it is out of fashion
and, indeed, largely illegal, although laws banning it are themselves
unjust.  That is for the citizens of other countries, along
with the subjects of the rogue nation, to stand up for the tyrannized
citizens as volunteers (who aren’t duty bound as are all soldiers
to defend the rights of their country’s citizens).  Look at
it this way, roughly: My body guard is duty bound to defend me but
not to go around and defend others, even if those others are being
attacked or oppressed.

if I want to volunteer to help these others, that could be fully
justified. Something along these lines characterized the Spanish
civil war in the early part of the 20th century.  That is why
thousands of civilians from around the globe went there to fight
against the government. This, however, didn’t happen in Iraq. Instead
what did happened in 2003 is that the US military left its proper
post to wage a war there was no justification to wage.  No
amount to double talk can make this right, even if some clear-cut
good consequences came of it all.  Some very bad ones did as

27, 2003

Machan [send
him mail
] holds
the Freedom Communications Professorship of Free Enterprise and
Business Ethics at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman
University, CA. A Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, he is author of 20+ books, most recently, The
Passion for Liberty

(Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

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