Constant's pations

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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Iraq: New excuses to rationalize the unlawful

Here we are 18 months after the invasion, and still debating the war. There's a new argument going around to rationalize the war in Iraq.

This note outlines the reasons why the argument is absurd and should be rejected. These arguments should have been raised and rejected prior to the invasion.

  • The argument

    The argument goes something like this: "It's a good thing we invaded Iraq, because when we have a problem in Iran we'd be distracted by both Iraq."

  • The flaws with the argument

    Quantum foreign policy

    Iraq would be a distraction from Iran; but Iraq is not a distraction from either the war in Afghanistan or against AlQueda. This asks us to ignore the real distraction Iraq has been in the war in Afghanistan.

    Inaction cannot be a distraction

    By "not going into Iraq" would not simply be a delay, but no action. Can't suggest that "the decision to do nothing in Iraq previously" would suddenly become a conflict. We would not be in Iraq, and there would be no distraction if we go into Iran. The argument incorrectly assumes that inaction today mandates action in the future; yet there was no WMD, thus no basis for action today or in the future.

    Doing nothing is not a commitment of resources

    The problem of "waiting to go into Iraq" [or a "delay"] is then suddenly used as a basis to say, "Because we are in both Iran and Iraq" this would be a problem.

    Inconsistent premises

    The argument is premised that we would not have yet gone into Iraq; yet, the premise is based on the assumption that "we would not have gone into Iraq until later," then argue that we'd be in both Iran and Iraq.

    Can't argue that we'll have two states of reality: Either [a] we did or [b] did not take action in Iraq. A "lack of action in Iraq" doesn't mean that action would occur in the future; or that it would occur at the time we were to take action in Iran.

    That the US has chosen to take action in both Afghanistan and Iraq [and create a distraction] doesn't mean that future decisions are validated by "not having to create another distraction".

    Special pleading

    It's OK to use "distractions from Iran" as the excuse to invade Iraq today; but it's not OK to use the "distraction from AlQueda" as the excuse not to invade Iraq.

    Solution in search of a problem

    Fails to address why it is OK to invade Iraq [thereby causing a distraction from Afghanistan], but that the "distraction factor" suddenly becomes the basis to justify "having no distractions while we're in Iran." This merely justifies doing more of what wasn't originally lawful.

    False, weak premise

    Presuming invading Iraq was moral, legal, and justified. If the war was moral, there would be no discussion about defenses against Hague War Crimes.


    The argument fails to describe why invading Iraq is good, right, moral, or consistent with law; rather, the argument uses this unproven assertion as the premise.

    Special immunity

    Implies that some history can be explained/rationalized by looking to the future; while other arguments do not enjoy this exception, and that history cannot be brought into the discussion.

    Double standard

    History is irrelevant if we talk about bad things opposing the President's policy, or point out inconsistencies; but history is relevant when we care to focus on current issues.


    Uses a speculative future conflict to justify the certain past. Had Iran been a real factor, this would have been raised. It was not.

    Appeal to ignorance

    Uses an uncertainty as a basis for an argument. Whether we go into Iran is uncertainty; if the "risk of Iran" was relevant, this would have been raised prior to invading Iraq. This was not done.

    Opposition proves correct

    Can't assert "truth" simply on the basis of "the world opposes" this argument. That someone opposes a policy doesn't provide a foundation for that argument; rather the argument in and of itself fails to stand on its own merits.