Parallels: League of Nations 1930s, UN today

Per request, I am moving a debate that developed between myself and Desertgeezer in this IMHO thread to GD. The title of the thread is “Should the US invade Iraq? Yes or no, folks…” My intitial post was this (for people who don’t want to read through the whole thing here, my position is best summed up by the paragraph I have put in bold):

Yes, absolutely. In fact, Bush has been much too timid about this for my taste. No, I am not kidding.

Although actually, my real preference would be for Mr. Hussein to be targeted for assasination. If he is too well protected, target the organizational layer directly under him, with the understanding that if he were deposed, the assasinations would stop. I think that once we got one or two of them, the rest would get together and depose Saddam straight away. If they go to ground and become as difficult to get as Saddam, then we go to the next layer. And so on down the line.

I think a strategy like this, perhaps along with selective incursions if and when Saddam tries to mass force, say in order to bring the northern territoies back under his control, and we can fight the kind of open desert battle we’re good at, and also special forces operations and precision bombing of strategic targets, would be the most efficient way to acheive the desired result.

Of course, Bush is not going to rescind the directive forbidding the US to get involved with assasinations. And he is not going to do that because he is, imo, too concerned about world opinion. Again, no I am not kidding.

**I find the parallels between the western democracies and the League of Nations vs Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and the western democracies and the UN vs Saddam, to be compelling. If there is anything that episode of history taught us, it is that it is both necessary and right to pre-emptively take down insane dictators before they become too powerful. In fact given the existence of nuclear weapons it is even more true today than it was then. **

Furthermore, I have this idea. I haven’t yet fully worked it out yet, but so far no one I have shared it with has been able to refute it. It is this: That if slavery exists, and people are being held as slaves by a slave owner somewhere, and we are capable of setting those slaves free comparatively very easily (comparatively meaning compared to, say, WWII, in which the moral pretext for us going to war was to free people from Nazi oppresion), then we have a moral obligation to do so. And, even though the label is not typically applied to them, the people of Iraq are Saddam Hussein’s slaves.

So, I care not one whit whether or not Mr. Hussein is or is not in compliance with, or “moving toward” compliance with, UN resolutions. I don’t care if there is an Al Queda connection or not. I don’t care if Mr. Bush is doing this to some extent for the wrong reasons, such as to avenge his father or please the oil companies (though I think that last one is silly).

I say: Free the Iraqi people. Depose Saddam Hussein

DesertGeezer replied as follows:


I responded:

Perhaps I was unclear. The immediate cause of our entry into the war was the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Hitler’s declaration of war against us. But the moral justification for sending the boys across the Atlantic to Europe was to free the people thereof who had been enslaved by the Nazis. Do you disagree?

Furthermore, while we didn’t actually join the war until Pearl Harbor, imo we clearly should have acted against Germany much sooner. You seem to agree:

I agree with you (and the history books) that we didn’t hit Germany before 1942 (although actually we were fighting an undeclared war against their subs in the North Atlantic by 1940), and I agree with you that we should have done something before that. Of course, I would say (in hindsight) that a pre-emptive strike against Germany would have been justified much earlier than 1940, but…you are familiar with the anecdote in which Winston Churchill asks a woman if she would have sex with him for $100?*

I believe there was also something about a Mr. Hussein’s defiance of a UN resolution, one which places the burden of proving he does not have WMDs on him. But, as this is irrelevent to you, it is also irrelevent to me, as I said in my previous post.

Clearly you are indulging in hyperbole when you talk about “raining bombs on a civilian population”. Nonetheless, in modern warfare on the scale we are contemplating, civilian casualties will be inevitable, not in the least because Mr. Hussein will doubtless use some of them as human shields. Also you are again correct in saying that the rest of the world will perceive us as aggressors. And the perception will be right!

What I am saying is that, in my opinion, none of these things relieve us of the moral obligation to stop Mr. Hussein before he becomes a major threat, the way Hitler was in 1941, ie by acquiring WMDs, and while we’re at it, to free the those civilians you were referring to, which he has enslaved. Civilians died during the fighting to liberate France, from D-Day until the Nazis surrendered, but that did not relieve us of our moral obligation to prosecute that war.

It’s where I belong.
*[sub]Just in case: Churchill asks a woman if she would have sex with him for a million dollars. She says yes. He then asks if she would do it for one hundred dollars. She says no, and angrily asks, “What kind of woman do you think I am?” He replies, “We’ve already settled that, now we are haggling over the price.” So, if you agree in principle that a pre-emptive attack can be justified, then we are now arguing over whether the present situation fulfills the requirements.[/sub]

DesertGeezer replied:

Herewith my response, which brings us up to date:

Several days later, and I’m still scratching my head over this one. I understand that you disagree with me, but I have no idea how what you wrote above is supposed to explain your position. People were opposed to going to war in the 40s both before and even after Pearl Harbor. The people who were for it justified their position, at least in part, by claiming that we had a moral responsibility to free the oppressed people of Europe from the Nazis. I honestly don’t see how you can disagree with that.

But the British weren’t formally our allies until after Hitler’s declaration of war against us. You appear to be shifting your position here. At what point do you think an American response to Nazi aggression would have been justified?

Once again, none of the European countries were our allies at the time they were initially attacked.

Let me ask you this. Would you agree with me that, in principle, there is some point at which the refusal of the UN to enforce it’s own resolutions makes that body irrelevent, regardless of what Bush says? If so, when do we reach that point? Bear in mind when you answer that the original resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm are now twelve years old.

We will be bombing where his military lives, and works. Though I wouldn’t put it past the man to put civilians at military installations as human shields.

No, as I said before, I don’t think this relieves us of our obligation to remove Mr. Hussein from power.

I don’t think that’s very responsive to what I said. Do you or do you not think it is under any circumstances the right thing to do for us to prevent an evil dictator from acquiring WMDs, or otherwise (as with Hitler) just becoming too powerful, and free the people he has enslaved?

One more time, the French were not our allies until after they were overrun by the Nazis.