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yes 3 10.71%
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Old 06-08-2003, 10:36 PM   #1
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Was Iraqi Freedom really a Humanitarian Endevor?

Operation Iraqi Freedom:
Just or Unjust War? Humanitarian Action, or Simply Geopolitics?
By RUTI TEITEL
----
Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2003

The pivotal question in the still swirling international debates regarding the United States intervention in Iraq is this: Is the military operation simply aggression, or can it somehow be justified as a humanitarian action, as the claim that it is a "war of "liberation" implies?

The U.S.'s Use of Humanitarian Arguments, Here and Elsewhere

The issue runs deeper than this war alone. For many years, much of the U.S.'s engagement in the Middle East has been framed as a form of humanitarian action - with the U.S.'s stated goal to bring peace to a troubled region.

More recently, the "war against terrorism" has been framed as a worldwide campaign to protect freedom-loving peoples. After 9/11, the war in Afghanistan was no doubt a form of self-defense; after all, it followed an armed attack on U.S. soil. Yet it, too, was largely characterized as a "war of liberation" - this time, from the Taliban.

Similarly, the arguments for interventionism in Iraq have been made in humanitarian terms, with the Bush Administration invoking human rights, democracy, and the security not only of the U.S., but of people worldwide.

In all these instances, despite existing geopolitical state interests, such as oil politics, the arguments for intervention have been made, instead, on humanitarian grounds. But were these grounds persuasive? Did they justify the wars that were, and are being, fought?

That leads to a question of intense relevance right now: To what extent is it fair to bring humanitarian arguments to bear in the war on Iraq, in particular?

Why the Humanitarian Argument for the Iraq War Is, at Best, A Stretch

The humanitarian argument for currently invading Iraq remains a stretch.

In Kosovo, ongoing attacks on civilians justified the NATO intervention. In contrast, no similar ongoing attacks were occurring at the time of the U.S./U.K. invasion.

Thus, in Iraq, the humanitarian claim must depend on one of two perspectives. The first is backward-looking - focusing on the regime's historical mistreatment of its citizens, such as the decade-ago gassing of the Kurds.

The second is forward-looking. One version of this perspective focuses on the unlikelihood of the Iraqi people soon attaining democracy except through invasion. The other - and much more speculative - argument from this perspective claims that the security of all humanity is at stake, and that anticipatory war is justified because it will avert a potential future humanitarian catastrophe.

What Counts As A Humanitarian Argument? Testing the Boundary

It may sound strange to call that final argument a "humanitarian" argument at all. It focuses not on current suffering, deprivation or injustice to particular people, but on the abstract possibility of future attacks. But in today's debates, the meaning of humanitarian intervention has, for some, taken on radically new dimensions. Indeed, it could even be called a "new humanitarianism."

The threat posed by terrorism - together with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction - presents the potential for great humanitarian disasters. This threat, and these weapons, strengthen the argument that self-defense may justify a preemptive strike, or even "preventive war." After all, the argument goes, in a post 9/1l world, the international community is more interconnected and interdependent. Fighting a common threat that would cause great human suffering, by this logic, is itself a humanitarian act.

The danger of such an approach, of course, is that it may lead to boundless unilateral action on the part of the United States.

What Legal Principles, If Any, Govern the "New Humanitarianism"?

There continues to be sharp international division over whether the Iraq war can be viewed as a legitimate humanitarian action. Is there any rule of law we can look to to resolve the question?

We might choose to simply look to the U.N. Charter, and the fact that the U.N. did not authorize the war. After all, there are reasons to go through the U.N.: It offers the benefits of multilateralism, transparency, and careful deliberation.

At least in theory, a deliberative, multilateral process such as the U.N.'s can sort out good from bad justifications for intervention - asking, for instance, is this justification plausible? Is it a pretext? Bringing diverse countries and their interests into the decisionmaking processes like the U.N.'s arguably offers a constraint against the false uses of humanitarianism for one country's self-interested, and perhaps neo-imperialist ends.

The U.N. process, then, has much to recommend it. But the U.N.'s decision to approve, or not to approve, war may not be the only legal source to draw upon. As to Iraq, it seemed Saddam Hussein had plainly materially breached prior UN resolutions. The U.S. argued that if the U.N. could not enforce these resolutions, the U.S. would do so.

More fundamentally, the fact that process has been complied with does not guarantee the protection of substantive rights. International law has a number of substantive aims. And complying with U.N. processes, doesn't mean those aims have been fulfilled. Process is not an end in itself. It cannot always guarantee the actualization of truly humanitarian aims. Consider, for example, the Kosovo crisis.

Why U.N. Process Alone Is Not Enough: The Kosovo Example

In the 1990's, multilateral efforts failed to effectively address the crises in Bosnia and Rwanda. Their failure created a demand for humanitarian intervention.

Accordingly, at that time, liberal human rights advocates were unilateralists. They argued that American power should be used in the service of humanitarianism. Necessity simply meant the U.S. was the only nation that could act, and that action needed to be taken. So if not us, who?

NATO used force in Kosovo without authorization under the United Nation charter. But it did so rightly, to combat ongoing atrocities. As a result, NATO's action gave rise to a grudging recognition that multilateral process could not be the only determinant of legitimacy.

For example, the Independent Commission appointed to evaluate the Kosovo action concluded that the intervention was "illegal but nevertheless legitimate"-- thus restoring for the first time in years the sense that justice could be found in war.

Kosovo taught us this lesson, then: A Security Council consensus, however defined, is not tantamount to justice.

This should already have been evident to some extent, for existing international institutions, legacies of the World Wars, are today far from representative of the world's actual distribution of power. Moreover, there is a deeper question: How much should power count? What about purer world democracy, as opposed to the Security Council's vesting of huge influence with the five veto powers?

Changes to these institutions could be considered, but consensus would be difficult to achieve - because there's a growing gap between the United States and Europe on the ongoing legitimacy of the use of force as a tool of foreign policy, and on the deeper questions of what national security means, and, as I have noted, on what humanitarianism is.

Of course, international institutions remain invaluable in many contexts. Consider the Middle East. One solution to regional problems may be akin to the post-World War II Marshall plan. Under the Marshall Plan, countries' transition to democracy came about through the establishment and support of international institutions premised on cooperation and reciprocity. But when such cooperation fails, it is possible that humanitarian intervention is justified nevertheless.

Beyond Process: Humanitarianism When the U.N. and Others Disagree

In the end, the meaningful advancement of lasting humanitarian aims will take more than short-term, reactive rescue missions. It will take systematic reflection upon the political and economic roots of contemporary ethnic and political violence, and on the tension between human rights values and a multilateral system of international law that sometimes will not enforce those values.

Thus, the U.S. should beware of too easily resorting to force to "solve" problems and achieve even humanitarian results, without seriously considering what it is sacrificing in the bargain. American power and world order may yet be made compatible.
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Old 06-09-2003, 12:03 AM   #2
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No, it wasn't.

The Bush administration is a lot of things, but altruisitic isn't one of them.

It would be brilliantly uplifting if the cause for war was to save people who had been suffering unspeakably for decades. But that's not what the administration said, that's not what they were arguing with their talk of resolutions, mobile chemical labs, uranium purchases, some vague al Qaeda links.

To now argue that this war was all about the poor Iraqis is patently untrue. Their liberation was a nice perk to the military hawks, but it was not the primary motivation and ain't nobody convincing me otherwise.
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Old 06-09-2003, 02:10 AM   #3
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I would define the operation as a vitally important international security operation that would also have large positive humanitarian results. The operation was launched for International security reasons, but could have been defined as a humanitarian operation because of its massive effect on that situation for the better.

In order to answer the poll I must ask you more specifically what you mean by the question.

Are you asking if the chief reason the operation was launched was for humanitarian reasons?

or

Are you asking if the operation could be defined as a humanitarian operation because of the positive effects and heavy involvement of the USA in the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
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Old 06-09-2003, 02:53 AM   #4
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nah, it isn't for humanitarian reasons. most governments just don't operate that way. but there are those who would certainly like us to think that, if you've noticed the "warm fuzzies" stories and images the media has provided for us.
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Old 06-09-2003, 05:27 AM   #5
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Hello,

I haven't voted yet, as I'm still in doubt. The US administration is making a lot of claims about the invasion. WMD, where are they? Humanitarian, is the situation so much better now (without clean water and electricity, etc.)? What about other countries (Birma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan), humanitarism isn't (wasn't) needed there? International security, was it really in danger a few months ago because of Iraq?

All kinds of questions floating in my head...

Marty
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Old 06-09-2003, 12:30 PM   #6
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I'm afraid the main motivation for the hawks in Washington was oil and they used a nebulous WMD argument as a reason to start the war when they did. No WMD, corporate big shots all over the place and big humanitarian problems like no clean water or electricity. I'm glad Saddam is out of power but this current situation has its disturbing aspects as well.
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Old 06-09-2003, 02:50 PM   #7
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I also voted no. Especially after I read some articles in some other threads (the quotes by Wolfowitz, etc.) I came to the conclusion that this invasion was not a humanitarian endavour. Oil, US control were the biggest reasons. Get rid of a dictator? Nice, just like maybe recovering some WMD (but not too important). Improving the humanitarian situation? Maybe, if we have to...

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Old 06-09-2003, 03:33 PM   #8
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Some have compared this to Desert Storm in 91.


As someone who was in my 30s when that took place I remember the day to day arguments and bits of information that was circulating at that time.

History boils it down to a few key events and leaves out the details.


Speculation was prevalent at that time it was a war for oil. That Bush 1 was an oilman protecting his Saudi relationships. And that the US only did things in it’s self interest.

Well, Bush 1 took the criticism to heart and came up with his “New World Order” policy that stated that coalitions could be formed to bring despots to justice and stop genocide. Somalia was a much hailed feel good humanitarian rescue. America was proud that we would do more than only protect oil interest in the mid-east.

Then Black Hawk down happened and the US lost their stomach for risking our soldiers for third world people.

I believe the Balkin Wars that Clinton pushed the US into can qualify as humanitarian wars. Almost every action Bush 2 has taken appears to be calculated for their own (constituent / contributors) interest.
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Old 06-09-2003, 05:54 PM   #9
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Deep,

"I believe the Balkin Wars that Clinton pushed the US into can qualify as humanitarian wars. Almost every action Bush 2 has taken appears to be calculated for their own (constituent / contributors) interest."

What people here don't understand when they bring up the "OIL" arguement is that the oil companies don't benefit when the supply and access to oil increases or becomes more secure and stable. Those factors drop oil prices! Oil dropped to some of its lowest prices in history in the years after Gulf War I. This actually created a crises for those in the oil business, but helped to fuel the US economic expansion of the 1990s. The person that benefited the most, were working class people that have to pay the same amount as the multi-millionaire to fill up their car with gas and pay the electric bill every month.

Once the Iraqi oil industry starts pumping at volumes above or close to pre-1990 levels, the price of oil around the world will drop. The economic benefits will be more substantial than any tax cut, but of course the effects may come to late to save Bush in 2004.

Majority of the American people, the intelligence community, and the US military, view the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as necessary to protect US and international security. Acting to protect a large portion of the worlds supply of energy is a very important and necessary tasks. Doing this reduces the price of oil and does not make the Oil man richer, it does reduce the cost of living though for many people who live from pay check to pay check, the economic benefits of which can be huge.
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Old 06-09-2003, 06:15 PM   #10
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Sting,

all that being said

would you agree that the Balkan Wars and Bush 1's Somalia campaign were humanitarian ventures that improved the image of the US.
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Old 06-09-2003, 07:19 PM   #11
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Deep,

I believe they were humanitarian ventures but unfortunately, they did not improve the US image. The USA had to twist arms in NATO to get the Bosnian operation to be a NATO operation although the USA did most of the initial work itself. The Kosovo operation caused major problems with Russia who refused to the end to see the evil crimes of Milosovic. Greece and others were not happy either. But both actions were clearly justified on humanitarian and to a lesser degree security reasons.

Does the Arab and Muslim world ever recognize which country came to the aid of the largest genoicide of Muslims in decades perhaps centuries in Europe? NO Were still the great Satan to many. Most of the Arab world will be able to tell you about the USA's support for Israel, but few no much about what the USA did in Bosnia or Kosovo or if they do, do not publically give the US credit for doing what it did.

Still, Bosnia and Kosovo were excellant operations that were totally justified despite domestic and international opposition to them. I consider it perhaps to be the Clinton administrations #1 accomplishment which can definitely be attributed to his hard work on it despite opposition on multiple fronts.

But unfortunately, I don't believe the operations improved the USA image abroad except in Bosnia and Kosovo itself. But a country should not be engaged in operations solely for image reasons anyway.
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Old 06-09-2003, 07:30 PM   #12
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[Q]For example, the Independent Commission appointed to evaluate the Kosovo action concluded that the intervention was "illegal but nevertheless legitimate"-- thus restoring for the first time in years the sense that justice could be found in war. [/Q]

This is what I am left clinging to, that there has to be some legitimacy of this war on humanitarian grounds. So far I believe that like Kosovo, it will be deemed an illegal war, because it violated the UN Charter. All that was fine with me! I was for the war illegal or not because over the past months, I have believed that we were in danger of an immediate threat due to the WMD's. Yes, I understand that it was Iraq's responsibility to come clean, so to speak. However, it was this administration's responsibility to make sure that if we were going to war, that we were told the truth from the start. Today the most compelling case, that even stood a chance at holding water is that this was a humanitarian mission. If only the administration believed that this would have sold the American public and the world. We would all be in agreement today.

The other interesting thing that the article pointed out was this:
[Q]In the 1990's, multilateral efforts failed to effectively address the crises in Bosnia and Rwanda. Their failure created a demand for humanitarian intervention.

Accordingly, at that time, liberal human rights advocates were unilateralists.[/Q]

Why is it acceptable to use force unilaterally when it is in the cause of human rights, but not when it is to defend ourselves? Ultimately, that is the case the administration made, was that this was to defend ourselves from Saddam.
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Old 06-09-2003, 08:01 PM   #13
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"Today the most compelling case, that even stood a chance at holding water is that this was a humanitarian mission."

I find Saddam's failure to account for 500 tons of mustard gas, thousands of liters of Anthrax, and 30,000 Chemical/Bio capable shells, all documented in 1998 by the UN inspectors to be a very compelling case.

Unfortunately right now, many politicians and various media outlets have forgotten this simple fact. But what better way for a current Democratic Presidential hopeful to get a little attention. As for media, objectivity does not sell, controversy and conspiracy do. So, lets not bring up the fact that the UN inspectors documented that Saddam did have this stuff. Saddam in turn never showed what happened to the stuff that the UN inspectors documented that he had. The only rational conclusion one could make in such circumstances is that Saddam still had all the material. Unless of course one feels trusting Saddam's "word" is a rational course to take.
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Old 06-09-2003, 08:51 PM   #14
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Sting,

Just a couple of questions,

You consistently make the case that the Iraq war was justified by UN resolutions.

Do you remember when the President gave the speech to the American people and the world that Thursday night?
When he walked down the hallway on the red carpet made his case, took a couple of questions and then turned and walked away?
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Old 06-09-2003, 09:08 PM   #15
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Cut....
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