The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 39.0°F | Fair


Illogical Arguments

Ken Nesmith

Deciding to invade Iraq may not be best for the United States right now. It may cost us far more than we could gain, and the attack could skew the regional dynamics messily and induce dramatic attacks against Israel or even other United States territory that otherwise might lie forever deterred. However, the standard bevy of objections laid out by the hodge-podge antiwar crowd are at various times inconsistent, inadequate, and irrelevant.

One principle objection is that the United States may not invade a country as it would violate that state’s sovereignty. If another nation posed a strong threat to our well-being or existence and had apparently sufficient hatred to strike us no matter the consequences for themselves, as did the perpetrators of 9/11, to do anything but preempt that attack would amount to suicide. Once we accept the inevitable truth that it is at times justifiable to invade a sovereign state to avoid huge losses of our own, the question merely becomes whether or not this is one of those times. The answer is unclear, but to shriek that we cannot violate a sovereign state until they hit us first is madness; it is equivalent to blindly insisting that you must wait for a robber pointing a gun at you to shoot before justifiably attempting to disarm him.

It is not acceptable to place the security of millions of people on deterrence, a situation which amounts to two enemies poking knives at each other’s throats and promising not to cut if the other guy doesn’t. If one person slips, both die. To pin opponents on the edge of death and allow them to do the same to us, and then proclaim the virtues of the stable situation, is crazy.

More dangerous is to employ deterrence against leaders who don’t care for their own lives or the lives of their people. Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea, has expressed the desire to launch a nuclear strike against the United States even if it means the destruction of his own country. He wants North Korea to be a martyr. Fortunately, he doesn’t have the capability to do that yet. He is not someone with whom we’d like to engage in aggressive deterrence.

Leftists argue in various terms that we cannot force liberal democracy and capitalism on the world. Simply parsing their very expository statement reveals an inexcusable ignorance. Capitalism merely amounts to freedom -- the freedom to enter into an agreement, or not to enter into that agreement. To “force freedom” on someone is oxymoronic. There is no legitimate moral alternative to granting humans their freedom, lest you make them slaves to someone else’s illegitimate and destructive demands and desires. To deny their freedom denies that which makes them human. Forcing capitalism and liberal democracy on others amounts to letting them do what they want. To object to that reveals some sad combination of ignorance and mistargeted resentment towards the nation that has promoted this ideal better than any other in history.

Some argue that bringing democracy to formerly unstable regions leads to instability and even violence. That does not mean that democracy should not be sanctioned in those instances. Tyrannical repression of a society poisons and handicaps it to no end. In various instances, no independent media can distribute simple information, even minimal trade and development are stifled, women cannot walk the streets -- or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, leave burning buildings -- unless they are properly covered in accordance with religious law. I do not need to expound long about the obvious problems with tyrannical or oppressive theocratic societies.

Objectors complain that after we destroy the oppressive leaders of these nations, we will unleash chaos, and we won’t have an “exit strategy.” That’s true -- we don’t have that roadmap. It’s difficult to build national success. Yet in making that objection, we ignore the damning consequences of our premises: that people in these nations are unacceptably oppressed. That granting them freedom would cause instability is not an acceptable response to their oppression, no more than is objecting to restoring the nervous system of a paralyzed man for fear that he would then feel the severe pain of an injured arm. Military action may not always be the best solution. Too often, though, none of the vocal objectors bother to present viable alternatives. They are content, it seems, to live in their own freedom and peace objecting to remote military action, but to again grow silent and withdrawn from the fate of the oppressed once the threat of war diminishes.

The most legitimate practical objection to attacking Iraq appears to be that we would encourage Saddam to use the weapons he has. The best argument hawks have mounted against this is that his commanders wouldn’t follow his orders for fear of later prosecution after Saddam fell. It’s clearly a wishful argument. Without coercive inspections, Saddam would simply be free to develop more biological and chemical weapons, and could cause more trouble later.

The best option, then, appears to be coercive and truly thorough inspections, with the first sign of hindrance by the Iraqis met with swift and punishing military reprisal. Saddam’s “presidential palaces ” a numerous set of buildings all over the country used for all sorts of things that are not presidential, would have to be included -- already, objectors line up to defend Saddam’s territory again.

Even though attacking Iraq appears not to be a good move right now so long as coercive inspections are implemented successfully, the most frustrating part of the national debate about Iraq is simply the weakness of the errant arguments made. Though approval of every United States action is by no means or suggested, some objectors no less reveal a lack of respect for principles of self-defense, morality, compassion, and human freedom, replaced by juvenile resentment towards a parent nation whose citizens, the children of its history, are occasionally spoiled by the moral and material blessings their sometimes imperfect forebears have granted. Let’s not forget how great we have it; let’s not allow others to suffer without.