Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Defending Libervention In Iraq

I do not believe that the duty of a liberty-loving polity to defend human liberty vanishes completely at lines drawn on maps by statists. It was reasonable (but not necessary) for American liberty-lovers to decide to liberate Iraq based on the conjunction of
  • Saddam's apparent threat to America, consisting of his
    • admitted nuclear ambitions,
    • hatred for America (regardless of whether some think it justified), and
    • support for terrorists who have targeted American civilians;
  • Saddam's record of aggression, in which he
    • killed over a million people,
    • invaded one sovereign neighbor,
    • annexed another by force,
    • fired ballistic missiles at two more,
    • defied UN nuclear disarmament mandates that Iraq was bound to obey as a 1945 UN Charter signatory,
    • used chemical WMDs in a war of aggression, and
    • used chemical WMDs in genocidal attacks on his own citizens; and
  • the existence proofs we had in Kurdistan and Afghanistan that the U.S. military could depose tyranny in even less-modernized Islamic societies and replace it with reasonably stable self-determination.
There are two predictions that could have changed my mind about liberating Iraq if before the invasion we had been given reasonable grounds for believing them. The most important is the prediction that, despite the stability in Kurdish Iraq under U.S. military protection, and despite the surprising success America had in deposing the Taliban, a sectarian civil war would be more likely than not to eventually undermine our effort to liberate the rest of Iraq -- a region much more secular, prosperous, and literate than Afghanistan. This prediction would have needed to be accompanied by evidence that this sectarian civil war was likely to be permanently avoidable under some alternative US course of action that had acceptable costs in terms of what evils Saddam and his sons committed or abetted (both in the region and against the West) during the rest of their tenure.

The other crucial prediction would have been that Saddam in fact had neither a nuclear WMD program nor the capability and intention of reconstituting the pre-1991 program that we found out in 1995 he had so successfully hidden from the West. On my blog I document an intensive but fruitless search for any Iraq Cassandra who credibly registered either of these two predictions. Indeed, the Iraqi people themselves were still failing to make the first prediction a year after the invasion. In an April 2004 CNN/Gallup nationwide poll of Iraqis, 42% "said Iraq was better off because of the war", and 61% "said Saddam Hussein's ouster made it worth any hardships." In a nationwide poll of Iraqis completed in Mar 2004 for BBC by Oxford Research International, "56% said that things were better now than they were before the war".

Was the invasion unconstitutional?
Art I Sec 8 grants Congress the power "to declare war" and "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying [that power] into execution". Public Law 107-243 (the Iraq War Resolution of Oct 2002) said "the President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to [...] enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." In the text of the resolution, Congress explicitly mentions its "war power" when discussing its authority to enact this law. Whether Congress believed it was exercising its Constitutional war power is not even a close question.

Was the invasion not justifiable under international law? Iraq is a signatory of the UN Charter and owes America and all other signatories a duty to obey UN Security Council resolutions.
From the end of the 1991 war until US troops started massing on his border in 2002, Saddam had consistently and repeatedly violated his obligations under the terms of the UN Security Council resolutions governing the 1991 cease-fire. The UN Security Council itself said in resolution 1441 that "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" -- i.e. the 1991 cease-fire terms. Thus a reasonable case can be made that the 2003 invasion was simply a resumption of the 1991 war, which was indisputably justified under international law.

We have now achieved our two most important war aims: 1) elimination of any WMD capability or international terrorist infrastructure, and 2) deposing Saddam's regime in favor of a federal democratic constitutional framework designed to protect minorities and fundamental human rights. We would have liked to also successfully transition security responsibility to the new Iraqi government, but Iraq's thirst for civil war has effectively exhausted the reconstruction and stabilization efforts we owed the Iraqis for having liberated them. It is now time to accept our partial victory and let the Iraqi people take responsibility for their own future.

Liberty has blessed America with the prosperity required to defend its freedom, and with the worldwide respect that has made such defense so rarely needed. However, modern weapons technology and our high expectations for near-perfect security have combined to make Americans feel vulnerable to those who oppose America's influence on the rest of the world. America has done more to advance the cause of human liberty than any other society in human history, and yet America's foreign policy has fallen tragically short of the standard of conduct on which any libertarian would insist. We are appalled at the loss of life and compromises against liberty that some American leaders have considered an acceptable price for advancing liberty and opposing tyranny. Reasonable and principled Libertarians hold good-faith views on both sides of the question of liberating Iraq, but we all can agree that our candidates when elected will hold America to the highest standards of conduct.

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