Right of Conquest/War is Murder - Double Standard?

There were previous threads (I won’t reference them, you’ll have to take it for what its worth) where the term “Right of Conquest” was brought up in relation to why the US is the sovereign power in Iraq. Secondly, in another thread, the concept of state-approved killings being murder or not was brought up.

I do not mean this thread to be specifically anti-Iraq or anti-military or anti-anything else. I want to talk about why these justifications can “fit the bill” for the United States, but not other countries. Several examples of the US intervening in an invasion of another country, a popular uprising, or state-approved killings can be found just in the last 50 years. But what gives the US the right to invade another country and change its government, but no one else can without facing US military intervention? Does might make right? Are we enforcing some higher law that gives us moral authority? Can this be taken too far? (I’m not asking these questions sarcastically, I mean them)

OK, let me take a stab.

But what gives the US the right to invade another country and change its government, but no one else can without facing US military intervention?
I’m not sure that this is accurate. Several countries have invaded others in the last 50 years, and many more if you go back farther. I’m not sure that the US has asserted a broad right to invade any country and change its government. We have asserted a willingness to intervene when other do this, but have not always done so.

Does might make right?
Unfortunately, to some extent, and especially in international politics, yes. It is truly unfortunate.

Are we enforcing some higher law that gives us moral authority? Can this be taken too far?
I’m not entirely sure what you mean by these question. Are we enforcing a higher law when we do what exactly?

When the U.N. (General Assembly) agrees that it is justified and passes a resolution to that effect?

Of course “legitimacy” (U.N. agreement) is not the same thing as “justification”; did you mean to discuss when it is justified but not legitimate?

I must’ve been asleep the day the UN passed a resolution that said the US should invade Iraq and replace its government. :rolleyes:

Zagadka I don’t think that in general the “right of conquest” is the general reason that the US is exercising power in Iraq- rather the US is taking on the (more or less) internationally agreed upon responsibilities of an occupying power. If you take out a government you are responsible for all the things that government used to handle until such time as a new government is established.

I am not sure that “right of conquest” is seriously used these days (outside of certain circles WRT Israel in the West Bank and, according to the OP, the US in Iraq). When was the last time a successful a war of conquest was waged that was not rolled back within a fairly short period of time? Even when wars are waged by expansionist powers the justifications are irridentist in nature, not naked power.
Pervert I thought that much of the concern with the Bush administration’s preemptive war doctrine was that it was so loosely stated that it essentially said we reserve the right to go to war with any country that might conceivably be a threat to us sometime in the future. It was not quite saying we’ll invade anyone anytime, but not all that far off, either.


The whole state approved killings part doesn’t seem to be too well integrated into the OP. Could you elaborate on what angle you wanted to cover there?

You should have given the link to put it in context. Brainglutton brought this up, and it was further explained. Here’s what he said:

So, what he meant (and was later amplified by others) was not that the US has the right to go forth and conquere other nations based on some kind of ‘right’ we have (or don’t have). No one needs a ‘right’ to do that…they simply need the power to do it. He would never say such a silly thing. What he meant was, the US and the coalition has the right to dictate the law in Iraq because we are the only authority there. The reason we are the only authority there is because we destroyed the regime that was there before through invasion (i.e. ‘conquest’). So, the ‘right of conquest’ as BG was using it simply was to make the point that we ARE the authority in Iraq, right or wrong. Its ridiculous to ignore reality and try and say the coalition ISN’T in charge of Iraq, can’t make laws, doesn’t have the authority to make and inforce proclaimations, etc.

This was all explained in the listed thread btw.

Well, the ‘no one else’ is a bit of a false statement, don’t you think? Its not like the US is the only loose cannon out there, no? What gives the US (or NATO, or China, or Russia, or blah blah blah) the ‘right’? Why do you suppose they need a ‘right’ to do what they want? Power gives them the ability. Hopefully their people give them the restraint NOT to go forth and indiscriminately use that power. Nothing gives anyone the ‘right’ to invade someone else, reguardless of circumstances. Sometimes its the right thing to do…but that doesn’t mean you have the ‘right’ to do it. Clear? lol, probably not, thats so convoluted. I’ll try again in the next paragraph.

No…nothing gives a nation the ‘right’ to invade another, IMO. Even if you were invaded or attacked first, you still don’t have the ‘right’ to invade and destroy another country. You might have the duty to do so, the obligation to help a friend in trouble, it might be the right thing to do, you may have no choice…but you don’t have the ‘right’. To me, the word ‘right’ smacks of an absolute, a license to do what you please as you choose. Perhaps my definition of ‘right’ is too rigid.

However, power gives a nation the ABILITY to do as it wishes. Thats just reality. And certainly the US has the power to do what it wishes. We as citizens are supposed to be a restraining force so that our government doesn’t run hog wild…or if it does, we hold it accountable for its actions and get a new government that will more truely follow our collective will.

Not sure what you are getting at here. Certainly there is an ideal in the western world for a higher standard of behavior (not sure ‘morals’ comes into it). The US, as part of that western world, is certainly a part of that. But do you mean some kind of religious ‘higher authority’ here? If so, I don’t think the US is enforcing some kind of authority from god or anything like that.


That may have been the concern, yes. But there have been a lot of concerns about Bush and his policies. I’m not really sure that this “doctirne” is treally al that new. It is perhaps an extension of the preemptive war dactrine already enshrined in the United Nations charter. But given the state of international terrorism I’m not sure the the doctirne is all that unreasonable.

Certainly we can argue whether or not it was applied reasonably in Iraq. But the idea that certain states are dangerous, have ties to international terrorists, and are therefore an imminent danger in a slightly different way than imminent danger was envisioned in the United Nations charter is not unreasonable.

Well, it seems to me that we need to rewrite the various rules of war (the set of international treaties, conventions, and other agreements that make up accepted international law) to include more about 1) terrorism, the support of terrorism, duty of a nation to stop terrorism within itself, and 2) intelligence concerns regarding terrorism. Now, like the other “international laws,” these wouldn’t have immediate concrete change, but they would clarify the lines of justification nations can use to deal with terrorism. Maybe set up another expensive and ineffective branch of the UN. Whee!

Been a while since I read through the Geneva Convention (like 20 years when I was studying about WWII), but aren’t military personnel who are caught in the act of sabotage or other military type activities without a uniform on considered ‘spy’s’? And under the convention, I thought I recalled that those designated ‘spy’s’ could be summarily executed, tortured, whatever. Perhaps I’m misremembering (this could be the older code of warfare I’m remembering, or mis-remembering).

Still, it seems that terrorists would fall into this category, perhaps. I’m not sure what the convention says about ‘civilians’ who are caught engaged in military type activities. Anyone know the answer to this? I would guess again, they would fall into the ‘spy’ category, as they certainly wouldn’t be considered military prisoners of war…least, I wouldn’t think they would be.


Would that mean that the US defense contractors would be determined as “spies”?

If that is the case, it is horribly outdated! Maybe we do need another Convention. O_o

Well, its kind of a moot point, as the insurgents/AQ doesn’t follow the convention in any case. But yes…I think they WOULD be considered ‘spy’s’, if I’m not totally misremembering this point.

It certainly doesn’t take into account the modern world we find ourselves in, with small brush fire wars, insurgencies, and terrorists. I’m all for updating the thing. God knows what blocks are in the way to doing so though.


The definition does not fit the insurgents in Iraq.

We weren’t talking about the dictionary definition, we’re talking about how they are defined under international law (specifically, the Geneva Convention). As ununiformed organized armed combatants, they have to have SOME legal place in order for us to talk coherently about the subject - for instance, the gov’ts statement that the Geneva Convention does not apply to the Iraqi prisoners. Something that may fall under a legal definition may not meet the same requisites as a dictionary definition.

Now shhhh, this is one of the few times xtisme and I have to actually agree about something. Don’t ruin the moment.

Reeder, I don’t think that this is the definition by the Geneva Convention. If I EVER get out of work today I’ll see if I can find out if the convention is online and see if I can dig through it.

lol. Its probably more frequent than you think it is.


I’m subscribing to this thread. ISTR there was a website with a very comprehensive listing of international law as applies to warfare and it specifically referenced the sort of thing being discussed here. I don’t have time to look for it now, but will return with some links when I can (Lunch is over – Gotta go back to work!)


Clovis, eh SSgtBaloo. :slight_smile: I’m up in Placitas. Good to see some dopers in my neck of the woods.


In any definition…a spy is a person gathering information.

Read about it.


Maybe they could be collecting information. INFORMATION OF DEATH.


I believe you are forgetting one use for a spy - sabotage and assassination. Spies are not just for information gathering purposes - they can be used to eliminate targets (people or buildings or deadly neurotoxins or space lasers). A spy is merely an undercover (read: ununiformed) agent of an organized party.

I must respectfully disagree. If the “spy” does the things you mention, then they become something more than a spy do they not? Assassins perhaps?