PDA

View Full Version : Deconstructing the 'Liberation' argument for the invasion of Iraq


Gomez
01-16-2004, 04:45 PM
It seems to me that people who advocated the invasion of Iraq and dismissed casualties as a price worth paying were overdeploying Utilitarian (The greatest good for the greatest number) reasoning.

Utilitarianism has its place but I feel that the blanket application of Utilitarianism can be dangerous and can lead to great evils (as I believe the war in Iraq to be).

Before I carry on I would like to present an analogy which I think neatly identifies some of the problems with a blanket application of Utilitarian Principles to all moral dilemmas.

A beggar and a doctor find themselves (by a convoluted set of circumstances which aren'r really important) stuck on a raft at sea. Neither of them can swim. The raft is flimsy and the odds of it reaching shore bearing the weight of two people are slim to none. However, if there was only one person on the raft then it would most likely reach dry ground.

To make this interesting let's make our doctor a world famous heart surgeon, a man who saves lives for a living. He has the potential to save the lives of at least a hundred patients before he retires. His expertise is such that only a handful of other doctors can perform the life saving operations and make the instant expert diagnoses that he can.

Our beggar on the other hand, most likely wouldn't save any lives. If he survived he would have to go back to living on the streets. He may pull himself up, he may not.

Using utilitarian reasoning (specifically what I believe to be the same sort of utilitarian reasoning that proponents of the 'Liberation' argument apply) the doctor would be perfectly justified in pushing the beggar into the water to drown to increase the chances of his own survival. It would be the most moral thing he could do in the situation.

However, in spite of the fact that, objectively, the heart surgeon can do more good with the rest of his life than the beggar could ever hope to, the doctor has still committed murder.

In much the same way, the act of invading Iraq and killing innocent civilians to save more innocent civilians is still an act of mass murder.

To me (and I don't mean to be disrespectful but I think this is the clearest way to explain it) proponents of the 'Liberation' argument are like the woman in the old joke who agrees to cheat on her husband and sleep with another guy for a million dollars. The guy then offers her five bucks. She slaps him and says "What sort of woman do you think I am?" The guy retorts "Well, we've already established that, now we're just haggling over the price".

In other words, what they don't get is that a whore is a whore. The pay off may make the immoral act more understandable but it doesn't change the label, nor does it change its connotations.

The bottom line is that we put the civilians of Iraq in harms way by invading. The Iraqi people, 40% of whom are under the age of 14, were unable to make their conformed consent to take the risk of being put in harms way. I think that for the Iraqi dead, the Iraqi's maimed, widowed and orphaned by our bombs the solution was worse than the problem and we didn't have the right to make that decision for them.

The application of Utilitarian reasoning to this situation was misguided.

Thoughts?

Captain Amazing
01-16-2004, 04:53 PM
The bottom line is that we put the civilians of Iraq in harms way by invading. The Iraqi people, 40% of whom are under the age of 14, were unable to make their conformed consent to take the risk of being put in harms way. I think that for the Iraqi dead, the Iraqi's maimed, widowed and orphaned by our bombs the solution was worse than the problem and we didn't have the right to make that decision for them.

It seems like, if you take that position, it could never be moral to fight a war. If you invade a country, for whatever reason, innocents are going to die. But, by the same token if somebody is invading you, and you fight back, innocents are going to die that way too.

While, of course, you can take the position that "war is never justified", I think most people would agree that, at some times it is.

Gomez
01-16-2004, 05:09 PM
I take your point but my post is directed at people who believe that the 'Liberation' argument alone is enough to justify an invasion of another country. If a country presents an imminent threat to yours or has invaded yours then it is your Government's duty to use whatever means are necessary to ward off the aggressors.

Sam Stone
01-16-2004, 07:12 PM
So... Let's say Hitler had never invaded another country. He just sat home, rounding up Jews and forcing them into gas chambers. Millions have died already, and there are millions more in camps that will die unless you do something.

Are you saying that in this case a war to stop the slaughter would not be justified?

PatriotX
01-16-2004, 08:11 PM
So... Let's say Hitler had never invaded another country. He just sat home, rounding up Jews and forcing them into gas chambers. Millions have died already, and there are millions more in camps that will die unless you do something.

Are you saying that in this case a war to stop the slaughter would not be justified?

Whether or not it would be justified would depend on what the other options available were. The best option available should be chosen. From the info provided, it's not clear if the best option is to invade in a manner similar to how we invaded Iraq.
Surely, ther're other options in your hypothetical analogy?

Gomez
01-16-2004, 08:42 PM
Good point Sam. I don't think it's 100% watertight, though.

In your case I think a war would be justified but what you're talking about is methodical genocide. Saddam Hussein was not engaged in any such genocidal program (at least not to my knowledge) so I don't think the situations are analogous. In your case the victims conformed consent isn't necessary because they have absolutely nothing to lose. In the case of people who were championing Liberation as an argument for war every Iraqi in the country was a victim in spite of the fact that the vast, vast, overwhelming majority would have lived out their lives under Saddam without becoming a victim of his.

Moreover, I submit that the same amount of Iraqi's did not feel that they were under a direct threat from Saddam (at least, not on the same level as a Jew in a concentration camp) and we will never know how many of them died for the sake of a liberation they didn't want.

To be honest, however, I'm equally as interested in the limits (if there are any, which is debateable) of applying Utilitarianism to humanitarian situations. I used Iraq as an example of where I think it's wrong to apply blanket Utilitarianism. Are there any circumstances which would cause you to shy away from a Utilitarian stance?

Rashak Mani
01-17-2004, 08:47 AM
I agree with the "whore is whore" example...

Still the point that must be driven always is that who determines when liberation is necessary or correct ? Bush alone ? So even if one sincerely thinks the liberation was justified, one must wonder the dangers of such precedent. Also invading a country should be a last ditch effort...

In the end Iraq was invaded due to false WMD and other reasons... to put "liberation" as an excuse AFTERWARDS never would justify it.