ThoughtStorms Wiki

This page, largely from 2003, 2004-ish (bloody hell, almost 20 years ago)

See also AfterAmericanWarOnIraq

Arguments Against The War

Intuitively, I'm against the attack on Iraq. But I'd like to understand why, and get a feel for the real arguments.

Off the top of of my head I can think of 7 categories of argument (there may be more), some of which are moral, some pragmatic and some dud.

Moral Arguments

  • 2) JustWarArguments : war can be justified on certain grounds. But this case fails them.
  • 3) UtilitarianWarArguments : All actions are acceptable or not based on their consequences. And this war fails to increase utility.

(How are 2 and 3 different? Well, 2) might allow a self-defence action which lowered global hedonistic utility that 3) would disallow. Alternatively, 3) might allow a pre-emptive strike against a potential dictator on the grounds it prevents greater harm, even if there's no self defence.)

Pragmatic Argument

The Pragmatic arguments, are arguments which are amoral, they are based on some other criteria for "desirability" of outcome which has nothing to do with "morality". These preferences are to do with material goods, power, freedom, etc.

  • 4) UsContainmentArguments : those which believe that the war is undesirable because works contrary to a need to contain unchecked consolidation of US power; or that the outcome of a successful war might be to encourage further unilateral actions.


Two kinds of arguments, which have an instinctive appeal, but which I think should be rejected as irrational are :

  • 6) "Pick on someone your own size" arguments ... that it's just unfair for big, powerful US, to attack small countries like Iraq.
  • 7) "Hypocrisy" arguments ... that
    • the US makes war on Iraq for things that the US also does (like develop chemical weapons.)
    • the fails to make war on equivalently bad nations (eg. Israel)

Having stated these are bad arguments, the claims may still play a role. For example, a valid hypocrisy accusation may be compelling evidence for bad motivation which then plays in one of the JustWarArguments.

However, on it's own ... hypocrisy is not an argument against a war.

Why do we have to be here?

There's another feeling, which I think is very strong with people on the left, including me, which is a kind of weary why do we have to be here? We don't need this shit!

It is the fault of years of western cynical exploitation, realpolitiking against the Russians and Iranians that we're here.

Unfortunately this isn't an argument against the war either. It isn't a dud in the way 6) and 7) are. It's a very rational and understandable response, but it isn't an argument.

Update May 2004 : I wish to God the war had worked out the way the US government planned and wanted. No one can take delight in the way things have got so fucked up now.

Interesting comparison for the criterion of humanitarian intervention here :

See also AntiAmericanism, EmergentDemocracyAndTheAntiWarMovement