What Would Have Justified Invasion?

A lengthy and mostly unrelated debate in the “Dick Cheney’s Honor” comments has led to a good question posed by shcb. So rather than continue to abuse that thread, I thought I’d make a post of it. That question is:

“Now I have a question for you; I’ve already said many times I think we were justified to invade Iraq, and I know you disagree. I also think we are at war with a large portion of the Muslim population, and you don’t. What I would like to know is what event, events, evidence etc would it take to convince you we should have invaded Iraq and/or at war with the Muslims at large.”

A valid question indeed. Discuss.

18 Responses to “What Would Have Justified Invasion?”

  1. NutellaonToast Says:

    No, that’s not a valid question. That’s like asking “Under what circumstances would you commit murder?” or “Under what circumstances would you masturbate in public?”

    War is something you avoid unless there are extreme and otherwise intractable problems. You do not need to justify NOT going to war, you must justify going to war.

  2. shcb Says:

    Fair enough, Nutellaon Toast, what would those extreme and otherwise intractable problems be for you to justify this war. Tell you what, since you’re the first to respond, we’ll give you the early bird special, expand it out any war if you like. Remember, “there is never a justification” is a valid answer. That is why we allow conscientious objector staus.

    Short Haired Country Boy

  3. ymatt Says:

    Yeah, I think you’re misunderstanding the question, Nutella. Justifying going to war is exactly what is being asked here. I agree that there should be very strong arguments in order for America to go to war — so in the context of Iraq, think of a “minimum” condition to invade that you would support.

    I think we can all agree that if, say, Iraq was about to launch a nuclear-tipped ICBM at the US that we would have a pretty damn good reason to invade. But short of that, where would you draw the line? I have my own thoughts, but I don’t want shcb and I to take over this thread….

  4. shcb Says:

    I agree ymatt, I’ll hold my comments for a day or two unless there is a specific question as to the scope of the question.

  5. jbc Says:

    In my view, the argument that we are at war with Muslims generally is a racist argument. I don’t doubt that for a person who subscribes to that point of view it seems like a satisfying and emotionally compelling argument. But for me it’s no different than arguing that we are at war with black people (because many crimes in the inner city are committed by black people). Or at war with Jewish people (because they are secretly plotting to take over our political, financial, and cultural institutions).

    I talked about this in more detail in Wars Real and Imagined. I haven’t seen anything since then that has altered my views on that point.

    I think a fairly strong case can be made that the US invasion of Afghanistan was justified. I don’t agree that we should have done it, but I’m willing to stipulate that the actions of the Taliban in harboring al Qaeda provide a relatively strong case for invasion. Iraq, by contrast, had taken no overt hostile act against the United States that could be construed as grounds for invasion and the overthrow of its government.

    The core of the case that the Bush administration made for the invasion of Iraq was a tissue of lies. If you want to make some hypertechnical legalistic argument, shcb, that they weren’t actually lies, feel free, but personally I don’t find that argument persuasive. When someone knowingly creates a misleading impression in the minds of others in order to get them to support an action that they wouldn’t support if they were better informed, that’s a lie. At least, that’s what I call a lie. You can call it something else, or argue that it’s justified by the need to wage war on a substantial chunk of the world’s population based on their religion, or whatever you want. We live, thankfully, in a reasonably free country, where you’re free to express such views, and to base them on whatever arguments seem compelling to you.

    Knock yourself out.

  6. ymatt Says:

    Not to disagree with what you’re saying, jbc, but you haven’t answered the question at hand, particularly what would have justified an invasion of Iraq. I also will choose to ignore the “and/or at war with the Muslims at large” part, but the Iraq question is one worth considering.

  7. jbc Says:

    I guess I disagree with the validity of the question. I’m glad you and shcb are making nice and waxing respectful of each other; gives me hope for the future and all that. But I don’t see the point, personally, in constructing hypothetical examples beyond the one I offered: If Iraq did what Afghanistan did, there’d be a case to be made. As it is, there isn’t.

  8. ymatt Says:

    Alright, since this is getting buried in actual new posts today (not that I mind), I’ll jump in here.

    This isn’t about making nice, I think there’s a substantive debate to be had here (in which I think shcb is very wrong), that I haven’t heard in media. If the guy in power is doing something that you fundamentally believe is the right thing to do, you’ll tend to give him a pass on his methods, even if they’re questionable or dangerous. So as much there is a lot of argument over Bush’s methods, I don’t think that’s the crux of the pragmatic debate that needs to be had if we’re talking about the Iraq war. (Although it is the crux of the debate if we’re talking about Presidential power and accountability, which we aren’t here.)

    I’m going to use a quote shcb used earlier because I think it’s a good one:
    “…[Force] should always be used when less force guards against the use of more force at a later time.”

    Afghanistan I believe met that condition. If left alone, the Taliban would have become more and more entrenched, and further expanded the training camps creating soldiers capable of committing attacks on US soil. Those attacks could easily have become more and more organized and the force required to invade and hold a country with few city centers (and the associated tactical complications and civilian casualties) and little internal sectarian strife was practical, especially given the international support for that mission.

    So let’s look at Iraq before the war. We know this is a nation that was unconnected with the 9/11 attacks, a huge potential for internal conflict given its history, and many city centers to hold in an invasion. If we listen to Colin Powell, experts in the region, and other generals, we know that this means we will need a huge force to invade and hold the country, and this force will be tied up there for a long time. This is quite an investment, but worth it if it will take even greater force at a later time.

    Given this, invasion would be worth if it we had evidence that Saddam had a nuclear weapon and targetted strikes would be ineffective in removing the threat (the use of which in Israel would clearly lead to the application of great force in addition to the loss of life). It would be worth it if Saddam was in possession of a strong military intended for invasion of nearby nations. These are conditions that demand an invasion. And I wager that given those conditions, we would have enjoyed support from other nations that would have seen the need.

    But was there such justification? As many conservatives love to point out, Saddam had been flouting sanctions and gaming oil-for-food for a decade. And despite all that, all indications were that he had no more capability to make war than at the end of the first Gulf War (and probably less, given that the chemical weapons were expiring with age). Certainly Saddam hated us, but there was every indication that he was contained — more so than, say, Kim Jong-Il.

    The implicit flip side to shcb’s quote is that force should not be used when it does not guard against the use of more force at a later time. I believe this was clearly true of Iraq, and in fact by using force without international support and without a clear plan, we have ensured that we must now spend *additional* force to “win”, if winning is even possible now. And the only possible gains to be made were getting rid of a dictator that we no longer liked, and some oil and military resources in the region. Was it worth it for tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars? Do you really think it would have later cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars if we hadn’t invaded?

  9. NutellaonToast Says:

    In response to a couple of things, starting with the most odious:

    “If the guy in power is doing something that you fundamentally believe is the right thing to do, you’ll tend to give him a pass on his methods, even if they’re questionable or dangerous.”

    Wrong, I actually have a strong distaste for people who argue that the ends justify the means and I would not vote for someone who agreed with me if I felt they used questionable or dangerous tactics. I’m a pretty big leftie, and prolly agree with a number of Hugo Chavez’s positions, but I don’t think someone who will rewrite elections laws to maintain power is someone that should be in power. I actually don’t need to know anything else about the man to say that.

    “Yeah, I think you’re misunderstanding the question, Nutella. Justifying going to war is exactly what is being asked here. ”

    No, I don’t misunderstand the question. The question itself is a misunderstanding.

    Any hypothetical question as an infinite number of answer. There are therefore an infinite number of legitimate “justifications” for war, or anything else for that matter. The burden of proof lies with the person trying to convince you to do something risky, dangerous, and/or immoral not with the person saying that we shouldn’t.

    I was against the war at the beginning because I didn’t believe in the evidence being presented nor the motives of those presenting, for a number of reasons. I was for invading Afghanistan because there was damn strong evidence that people there were perpetuating exactly the kind of thing that happened on 9/11.

  10. knarlyknight Says:

    I was against the war from the outset because GI’s act like this to people when they invade foreign lands:

    Why I fled George Bush’s war
    What happened to make a patriotic, gung-ho soldier desert the U.S. army, and turn against the war in Iraq. EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT
    JOSHUA KEY | Feb 7, 2007 | 11:40 am EST

    Joshua Key, 28, was a poor, uneducated Oklahoma country boy who saw the U.S. army and its promised benefits — from free health care to career training — as the ticket to a better life. In 2002, not yet 24 but already married and the father of two , Key enlisted. He says his recruiting officer promised he’d never be deployed abroad, but a year later he was in Iraq. Only 24 hours after arriving, as Key recounts in The Deserter’s Tale (Anansi), he experienced his first doubts about what he and his fellow soldiers were doing there:


  11. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb, please listen to this: Muslim means one who submits to God. Terrorist is someone who spreads fear through violence. The term “muslim terrorist” is an oxy-moron, it is nonesense – except to those who have been brainwashed to believe in racist stereotypes. Listen to this, and feel free to laugh…


  12. enkidu Says:

    “what would justify invasion?”
    well the ‘evidence’ presented for invading Iraq was clearly ginned up fiddlefaddle (there are more colorful terms one could use, but I know how the right wing is so sensitive and PC and all). Please google “Office of Special Plans” and then go back thru w’s list of scary stuff and then for good measure go thru Powell’s. Not one claim ever panned out. If you believe that we found invasion worthy amounts of Iraqi WMDs then you would be mistaken. Despite wild claims that they are now in Syria, no Iran! No both Syria and Iran! (snipe hunt anyone?) none of this gigadeath ever struck Israel in the recent Lebanese conflagration. Why? Because it never existed in the first place.

    So let me see if I can answer your hypothetical. What would justify invading Iraq… how about if they bombed us repeatedly causing anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000 casualties? Ooops, sorry… we bombed them, invaded them and they have suffered anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000 deaths (and how many more wounded?) What if say 15 (out of 19 total) of their citizens rammed hijacked planes into American civilian targets? Oooops sorry again, that was the Saudis! Or if their government harbored and abetted the (still free to plot n plan, just like Cheney) mastminds of 9/11. oooops again! That was the Taliban in Afghanistan. Who we basically created (does the term Afghan freedom fighter ring a bell? Mujahadeen? Soviets? stinger missiles? CIA funding via the Saudis/madrasas? hello?) And in my opinion we were justified in invading (Afghanistan that is). What we weren’t justified in doing is letting Osama go free, pulling our troops out of Afghanistan to invade Iraq, and shredding the Constitution to give georgie boy the powers of a neocon dictator.

    Sure you can come up with tons of hypothetical reasons (they were harboring space aliens! nukes! boogeymen!), just as the conservatives and jingoists can always gin up a reason to torture (what if… you KNEW the guy you just caught jaywalking KNEW there was a nuke in a train station, why then you MUST torture him to save millions of lives!!!!) The problem is then you end up torturing virtually everyone you even suspect of maybe someday harboring bad thoughts about anything.

    The smart thing to do after 9/11 would have been to invest the 1 to 2 trillion we are spending in Iraq on changing our energy policy. A Manhattan Project to rid us of middle east oil – forever. Instead we got this lousy oil war.

  13. NorthernLite Says:

    Well, I guess if Iraq had any connection to 9/11 or Al Qaeda, actually had any WMD’s and posed a threat, and the UN mandated the mission, then I could see invasion justified. Just as it was in Afghanistan.

    However, I would have probably avoided the cowboy style arrogance that the US employed during the invasion: “shock and awe”, etc.

    Though I do have to say that 4 years later I am pretty shocked and awed that the mighty US military can’t even secure the City of Baghdad. The world over, terrorists are laughing it up and it’s evident that it’s driving GWB nuts. So I guess there’s at least one bright spot!

  14. ethan-p Says:

    I’ll weigh in a little on this one. I see this one in two ways: First, did the United Stated have the ‘legal right’ to invade Iraq and second, was it ethically right to invade Iraq (and what would it take to be ethical).

    I believe that the US was ‘legally’ in the right to invade Iraq. Iraq had breached the agreement under the treaties after GW I (sorry that I don’t have the name of the treaties and the specific acts). Never mind that the United States were using the agreement to spy — I don’t have a problem with that, Iraq effectively lost the original conflict and spying isn’t a problem, IMO.

    On an ethical level, I think that the United States invasion of Iraq is abhorrent. While the Neocon plan was the most forward-thinking middle-east plan that I’ve yet seen, it was wildly idealistic and risky. Furthermore, I do not believe that their ends justify the means. This does not mean that I did not have some faith that the plan (to get a foothold in the Middle East as well as win the hearts and minds of the citizenry of Iraq) might work.

    Even assuming that the United States had a legal right to invade Iraq and remove the government, I feel that the US could have used discretion and restraint in the matter rather than using a matter of treaty in order to pursue idealistic goals through warfare.

    Finally, before I answer the actual question, I want to ask if anyone remembers this photograph? This is what Colon Powell showed the UN security council that we knew Saddam Hussein had in his arsenal. In reading shcb’s post from last week, this kept resonating inside my head when he questioned the lies. Were they lies, or just carefully worded mealy-mouthed BS? If we can’t agree that anyone lied, can we all look at that picture now and agree that it was bullshit?

    To answer the question (sorry for the rant, but I’ve gotta prefix this with my position): I believe that if Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were harboring known terrorists (and I’m not talking about the reported $60K stipend to the families of suicide bombers who attacked Israelis) the same way that Afghanistan did, America would be justified in unleashing ground forces in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Any attack on US soil would also be grounds for an attack. Unprovoked attack on an allied nation or any sign of expansionist imperialism would also be grounds for invasion. If it could be proven that Hussein were providing WMD to terrorists, I’d even go far enough to say that an attack would be justified.

    Welcome to lies.com, shcb. It’s good to see another person with a viewpoint counter to that of the regular herd, who is willing to state and defend it in an intelligent manner.

  15. NorthernLite Says:

    Hi ethan-p,

    To be honest, I almost forgot about that picture. Were those mobile facilities ever found?

    I really liked Colin Powell prior to that presentation, too. But I guess he was just being a good soldier, not a very good patriot however. (if he knew that the facilties were BS)

  16. shcb Says:

    Thanks for answering my question guys, I didn’t think anyone was looking down here anymore, would you like me to respond here, or has this moved to ‘how bad is it?’. It looks like most if not all of you have a threshold to invade, you just don’t think we crossed it. That is pretty much all I wanted to know, but as always, I’ll be happy to respond.

  17. ymatt Says:

    You’re right. I think most people believe there’s a proper threshold to trigger invasion and war. And I think the range of thresholds expressed by most here are much more in line with history, with the concensus of the international community, and with the interests of our nation. And on those three counts, in order, I think Bush doesn’t know, doesn’t care, and is too blinded by ideology to notice. Unfortunately he and Karl have managed to convince much of America to ignore all that.

  18. big d Says:

    I agree .Bush isn’t smart at all and he is dumb. I think he is one of the worst presedents in the U.S.

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