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Students debate justification for Persian Gulf War (1)

In order to decide whether or not the use of force in the Persian Gulf is justified, I propose a two-prong criterion. One, that military action be in the self-

interest of the party using force and two, that using force is consistent with the party's moral values. This issue has direct relevance to protests against the US involvement in the Persian Gulf war.

The democratic process in this country is based on the idea that the majority rules except in exceptional circumstances. On the federal level, when a majority of Congress votes for a bill, it becomes a law and the residents of this country are expected to follow it regardless of whether they wanted it passed or not.

The exceptional circumstance is when the law violates some fundamental rights, in which case the Supreme Court is the arbiter. We must realize that a consensus can never be reached, and in order for decisions to be made, majorities must rule. It is only if the law violates our sense of morality that we have a right to object to the decision even if it is agreed upon by the majority.

Applying this two-pronged criterion to the issue of the United States using force to resolve the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait, one must prove that it is in both the self-interest of the United States and that it is morally acceptable. In the present situation in the Persian Gulf, I believe that the United States has satisfied this two-prong criterion.

The question of self-interest was effectively decided by Congress and the president -- the Congress agreed to give the president the right to use all means necessary to implement the United Nations resolutions requiring the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq, and the president implicitly decided that force was in our self-interest.

The reasons for justifying this self-interest are irrelevant. All that is important is that a majority agreed that it was. The issue of morality is clear-cut that we had the right to evict Iraq from Kuwait, and no case of occupation could be more cut and dry.

Protesters of the war are obliged to prove that they are morally opposed to it, not that the use of force is not in the interest of the United States. It is not in the spirit of democracy for them not to go along with the decisions made by a majority (in this case the Congress) unless they can prove that they find war morally objectionable.

I therefore ask them to state their reasons for being against this war. The slogan "No blood for oil" implies that the gains from war are not worth the costs, especially in human life, which is basically an argument claiming that war is not in the self-interest of the United States.

But the question of self-interest has been decided by representatives of the people and a majority decided that it is in our self-interest by passing the resolution authorizing the president to use force. Their burden to prove that they find war morally objectionable is is a much more difficult task.

Claiming that oil is not worth human lives is not a part of one's set of moral beliefs unless one finds the use of force for the restoration of possessions morally reprehensible under all


Yet I don't believe most people believe this, since if someone invaded your country and promised you that no one would be harmed, but your home and way of life would be taken from you, most people would agree that would be a situation worth fighting for.

Therefore, all those demanding that the United States withdraw from the Persian Gulf are obliged to find some reason why our involvement is morally flawed and why our majority decision is not valid, or yield to the democratic process on which our nation is predicated.

Jason Silver '91->