Man Without Qualities

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Wrong Side of History

The "movement" opposing war with Iraq has a curious focus, as related by this item on CBC and elsewhere:

It isn’t a matter of groundswell support or sympathy for Saddam Hussein. Rather, the new anti-war movement zeroes in on the fear that any campaign against Iraq – especially the expected urban warfare on the streets of Baghdad – would imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Now it is surely true that any campaign against Iraq would "imperil" the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

But Saddam Hussien's regime already "imperils" the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and, in fact, has been responsible for ending the lives of hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of Iraqi civilians. A very substantial fraction of those innocent civilians were and are raped and tortured while being so "imperiled" and ultimately murdered.

But there is a big difference between the U.S. "imperiling" and Saddam's "imperiling" - the U.S. brand would end with the war ending. But Saddam will imperil, rape, torture and murder his people indefinitely and in ever-increasing numbers if he is not stopped.

So the antiwar movement's focus on eliminating "imperiling" of civilians should lead them to urging immediate U.S. war with Iraq.

The main arguments against war with Iraq are based on versions of international law - which is focused on the rights of states, not the safety of civilians. That focus on states' rights is a remnant of the European 17th Century influence on international law. Prior posts have pointed out that this influence should yield to the political insights of the 18th and later centuries that focus on individual rights. If it had, Iraq would have essentially no argument under international law or otherwise against military action to oust it’s hideous regime.

This antiwar movement seems to be quite literally on the wrong side of history.

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