Iraq and Just War: A Symposium
10 a.m. – Noon
Gerard Bradley is Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. A noted scholar in the fields of constitutional law and law and religion, his books include Catholicism, Liberalism, and Communitarianism. He is the director of Notre Dame’s Natural Law Institute and is a former president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
William A. Galston is Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. His books include Liberal Purposes and Liberal Pluralism. A widely respected political theorist who also participates in politics and policy, he served from 1993 to 1994 as President Clinton’s deputy assistant for domestic policy. His recent articles on Iraq have appeared in the Washington Post and The American Prospect.
John Kelsay is the Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion at Florida State University. A noted authority on Islam, he is co-editor, with James Turner Johnson, of Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Tradition and Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition.
Michael Walzer is Professor at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. He previously taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities. His writings address a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy. A broadly acclaimed authority on the morality of the use of force, he is the author, among other books, of Just and Unjust Wars, which has become a seminal text for just war analysis.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Good morning. My name is David Blankenhorn.
There are basically four ways to think about war. The first can be called realism, the belief that war is essentially a matter of power, self-interest and necessity, thereby making moral analysis largely irrelevant.
The second can be called holy war, the belief that God or some secular ideology of ultimate concern can authorize the coercion or killing of unbelievers.
The third way of thinking about war can be called pacifism, the belief that all war is intrinsically immoral.
And the fourth way to think about war as a human activity is typically called just war, the belief that universal moral reasoning can and should be applied to the activity of war, thereby helping us to determine together whether a particular use of force is just or unjust.
The four speakers today all represent this fourth school of thought, the just war school. Now, this is a very specific and, I suppose, in some respects narrow school of thought, but it’s also quite an important one. It has helped to shape, for example, the United Nations charter and international law with respect to war. Ethically, the just war tradition seeks to take seriously and reflect the sanctity of human life and the principle of equal human dignity, the idea that those who are different from us and even those who may oppose us in war have the same right to life that we do and the same human dignity and human rights that we do.
Historically, by seeking to surround the use of force with clear moral boundaries the just war tradition has served primarily to limit more than authorize or unleash the use of military force.
At the same time, the just war tradition tells us that sometimes the use of force is not only morally justified but morally necessary.
And what makes this panel, this event, this day interesting is that all four of our speakers today, along with several other of the nation’s most distinguished just war thinkers, publicly declared in a letter released earlier this year that the use of force against the killers of September 11 and those who assist them is morally justified.
This letter, which is available at the table outside, concludes, “Organized killers with global reach now threaten all of us. In the name of universal human morality and fully conscious of the restrictions and requirements of a just war, we support our government’s and our society’s decision to use force against them.”
Today the issue is Iraq and, of course, our challenge is to seek to apply these same moral principles of just war as honestly as we can, as absent political partisanship as possible to two questions: First, is where the U.S. administration seems to be going with respect to Iraq just or unjust? Secondly, is the administration’s recently announced doctrine of preemption just or unjust?
Even given their common philosophical starting points, or a number of common philosophical starting points in the just war tradition, today’s distinguished panelists are not of one mind on these questions. So let’s get to the debate.
I’d like to thank the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy for helping to organize and make possible this event.
And now let me briefly tell you the ground rules for today’s discussion. Each speaker will take up to 15 minutes to make his case. After that, we will have some time for them to question one another and, more importantly, to respond to your questions.
To make the discussion cleaner and smoother, to help make clear the real issues at stake, the panelists in advance have all agreed for the purposes of this discussion to the following factual assumptions or stipulations:
• First, Iraq now has biological and chemical weapons and is seeking, but apparently does not currently possess, nuclear weapons;
• Second, because of Iraq’s history of brutality and aggression, we cannot rule out the possibility of Saddam deciding to use these weapons himself in the future, as he has already done on his own soil with respect to chemical weapons, and/or deciding to make them available to terrorists.
These are the two factual assumptions or stipulations that we have agreed to for the purposes of this discussion.
Okay, let’s get going.
Our first speaker is Gerard Bradley. He is a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, a noted scholar in the fields of constitutional law and religion. His books include Catholicism, Liberalism, and Communitarianism. He is the director of Notre Dame’s Natural Law Institute and is a former president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
GERARD BRADLEY: Thank you, David.
Well, I cannot say whether all things considered the United States should launch a preemptive attack on Iraq, and, if so, when, for these decisions depend upon facts I don’t know and upon specialized judgment I’m not competent to make. I can say something, however, about the morality of a preemptive attack upon Iraq, relying upon David to make an initial stipulation and upon one more of my own, which I’ll state momentarily.
But upon this description of a proposed preemptive attack, my judgment is this: Such an attack would not be inconsistent with traditional teachings on just war. I contend, in other words, that on this description, a morally upright statesman, President Bush, for example, could launch a preemptive strike to disarm Iraq.
And that leads to my stipulation: I take it to be the central or justifying purpose of a preemptive strike upon Iraq to disarm Iraq and thereby to protect innocent people against the use or threatened use of weapons of mass destruction. I take the central purpose of a proposed attack upon Iraq to be the destruction of, or otherwise to deprive the Iraqi leadership of, weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological, nuclear – even though the latter is in its incipient stages. These things have no benign uses. Their destruction as such does no genuine injury to those who possess them. Destroying them violates no one’s rights. Destroying them would do many people a great deal of good, not least of all those in the neighborhood of Iraq who come under the possible intimidating effect or force of an Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction.
And I take it this point is not controversial, to think most of us would agree that, just so far considered, disarming Iraq is a morally good objective, and if it could be done so with proportionate losses or proportionate destruction or damage – collateral damage – by some legitimate authority, whether it’s the United States, the United Nations or some coalition of nations, that we could support that route.
And I take it to be that disarming Iraq is the central or justifying purpose. I emphasis that because I do hold that the purpose of attacking Iraq must be defensive. It must be undertaken to protect, finally, the safety of Americans and other innocent people by disarming Iraq.
My emphasis arises from the following judgment about the just war tradition, as I support it or appropriate it: An attack upon Iraq for any other reason than defense of innocents, Americans and others, would not be morally legitimate. An attack upon Iraq to avenge past injustices perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his regime, or to punish Iraq for alleged complicity in the 9/11 attack upon New York and Washington, or to subjugate the Iraqi nation or just for the sake of regime change would, in my judgment, be wrong.
This limitation to defensive warfare in the just war tradition is a rather late development. It is one that is not shared, we might say, by all adherents to the just war tradition. But the limitation of upright purpose in launching hostilities, limited to defense, is one that has become authoritative within the Catholic strand of the just war tradition. Although not all Catholic moralists agree with this development, I do.
It’s true that Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, who were leading figures in the development of this tradition, thought that nations could rightly punish outlaw nations to achieve retributive justice, somewhat as the governing authority within a nation use police powers to punish criminals, to bring them to justice. But by the 1960s non-defensive war had been categorically ruled out by some just war thinkers, and, as I say, within authoritative Catholic teaching.
To say that the central or justifying purpose of preemptive strikes must be defensive is not to say that there might well be predictable effects of a defensive strike, which we quite welcome. So-called regime change, that is a thorough uprooting of a corrupt political establishment in Iraq, replaced, hopefully, by more democratic elements, is a predictable effect of trying to disarm Iraq, and it should be welcome as a side effect of defensive war.
On the question of specifically targeting Saddam Hussein – say sending in teams of special operations forces, whose mission is to locate and to kill him – I’d say that that should be done if a preemptive strike is to be launched. Put differently, Saddam is surely in command of Iraqi armed forces. He is a combatant, not a civilian. He may be targeted. I think he should be, not as a matter of sort of punishing him by way of a death penalty for past injustices but in order to effectively disarm Iraq. Given Saddam’s pivotal role in any expected resistance to an American strike, it seems to me that it would be wrong, indeed unfair, not to go after Saddam Hussein as early and as vigorously as possible in a conflict. But we can reasonably suppose that Iraqi resistance to the death and destruction that will attend any attempt to disarm Iraq would be greatly reduced by Saddam Hussein’s demise. Perhaps, just perhaps, resistance would collapse.
One more thing about what it means to say that disarming Iraq should be the central or justifying purpose. This meaning is not as subjective as perhaps the term suggests this meaning would be. To say it’s a central justifying purpose to disarm Iraq is not a statement about the subjective state of mind of a statesman or a particular general’s motive; it is rather about the guiding purpose, the limiting principles which organize, explain, justify and limit the whole military undertaking.
So, even if – and fill in here a proper name of any leading statesman or general, fill in any name you wish – so even if that person is actually motivated now, today by a desire simply to kill Saddam Hussein and to punish him for 9/11 or for some other past injustice, let’s say gassing the Kurds, we could still support a preemptive strike if — if the strategic plan, the rules of engagement, the terms of surrender or armistice or truce and other operational aspects are what they should be, if the purpose is to disarm Iraq and not to punish Iraq for past injustices.
It matters not, I think, to the moral evaluation of a preemptive strike whether, in fact, President Bush has already decided that he is going to attack and that he’s just playing out the political strings in the meantime to see how many allies he’ll have for an attack, whether it’s just Tony Blair or whether it’s others as well. I don’t know what the president has decided to do. My point is that whether or not he’s decided to attack, come what may, doesn’t affect us upright, conscientious citizens trying to decide whether we could support a preemptive strike. That question again, I say, rests upon application of just war criteria and whether the rules of engagement, et cetera, are limited by defensive purpose of the use of war.
I turn to other criteria that is besides defensive in purpose of just war and describe three of them briefly.
One, probability of success: It refers to the likelihood that an otherwise morally acceptable military action will attain the good purpose that justifies undertaking it – in the current context, that is the relevant probabilities of success in protecting innocent people by disarming Iraq.
Two, proportionality or proportionate means: In the just war tradition, this points to the need both in going to war and in choosing among military options during hostilities for prudent judgment in accord with all relevant moral norms, not least the Golden Rule of fairness: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. By that standard of fairness, political and military decision-makers are forbidden to choose options whose impact on the innocent – that is, on those whose activities, whether civilian or military personnel, are not part of the ongoing Iraqi offensive threat – would be deemed unacceptable if those innocents happened to include some of the decision-maker’s own people, perhaps even some of their own friends and loved ones.
Just, for example, to illustrate this principle of fairness, with specific regard to damage or destruction or property, but especially with regard to the predictable effect of harming innocents – collateral damage you might say. Had President Bush ordered the shooting down of a hijacked passenger airliner last September, to prevent its being used as a missile to cause thousands of deaths, as perhaps he did, at least conditionally, last September 11th, the requirement of proportionality would have been fulfilled. But we surely would not bomb our cities and villages or those of our allies to get a terrorist who was hiding there, and we should not do that in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Fairness requires that we treat the people of other nations with the same consideration we treat our own, not different consideration merely because they differ from us in ways that are irrelevant to moral evaluations, such as having different language, ethnicity, religion or even different political beliefs.
The third requirement, which I propose to focus on in the remaining minutes, is the requirement of imminence. This seems to be perhaps the most common criteria of just war held up as an impediment to a preemptive strike. It’s easy to see why. Preemptive, by definition, I think, is not imminent; it is an alternative, so to speak, to waiting until an attack by Iraq is imminent. So it’s also a semantic requirement, a definitional requirement that we see that the traditional criteria that a grave offensive threat be imminent before defensive force may be used. It would seem to be almost necessary to say that a preemptive strike fails this requirement, and, therefore, those who are going to inherit these criteria have quite a job.
But wait a minute, I think not. I pose two questions. My judgment is that we should not so sharply oppose imminent to preemptive, because I think it derails clearheaded moral analysis. It distracts us from two important questions about the justice of a preemptive strike.
The first is, What does imminence include in today’s world of terror, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles? We have heretofore thought of imminence in sort of linear, chronological terms. Imminence meant that an attack is coming soon, it is nearing time, the enemy draws physically near, at least the enemy troops are embarking their transports, the cavalry has taken to horse; that is, the wheels of a sense of aggression are in motion and there is no mistaking the intention fueling the wheels.
Now, this is the conception of imminence that we’ve inherited, and there’s nothing wrong with it as an inheritance, but I think we need to look at imminence as a concept and consider whether a different conception of it may be appropriate for our time.
I think the concept of imminence – which I submit we should grab hold of and not the conception as such – the concept has to do with striking while there’s still time to do so effectively, striking before the damage is done. That is to say, we need to wonder whether given today’s conditions of ballistic missiles, terror radicalism, weapons of mass destruction, whether it would be too late to strike back effectively and therefore whether defensive means are required in anticipation of an assault. That is to say, we need to wonder whether the opposing force could strike without warning suddenly, and that once the attack is launched, it would be too late to protect innocents. This may well be the case, seems to be the case, at least for people residing with a few hundred miles of Iraqi territory.
The second question, which I mean to get to, and I think we can get to if we don’t so sharply oppose preemptive to imminence, is this: Is it fair to attack Iraq preemptively? Now, fair sounds too vague and general, and perhaps waffling and diffuse, to really push the analytical ball forward, but I think the truth is that the limiting conditions that I mentioned, all three of them – hope of success, probability of success I should say, proportionate means and imminence – are all manifestations of specifications or rules drawn from an underlying moral principle, and that principle is fairness. Again, those three limiting conditions I mentioned – proportionate, probability of success, imminence – I think are all concrete positions or rules drawn from an underlying moral principle, which is fairness. It is fairness, along with defensive purpose, immunity of noncombatants from direct harm – these are the principles of just war thinking.
To illustrate the relationship I’m describing, just very briefly, from the realm of constitutional law, which constitutes my day job, in fact, the relationship I’m talking about is illustratable by reference to the First Amendment, where we have a principle called separation of church and state. But then we have things like the three-part lemon test or other kinds of compelling-interest tests, where in law those are referred to as doctrines or tests, but they’re always understood to be specifications of an underlying principle; a second principle, Fourth Amendment, unreasonable search and seizure. That’s the principle of justification or, if you will, of justice.
Now, probable cause, warrant requirement, the exclusionary rule, those are rules derived from the principle, specifications of it; something similar in relationship I’m talk about with just war. The requirement of imminence is a specification of fairness.
Now, the requirement of imminence surely is fair in general. Given the awful destructive power and effect of war, war ought to be undertaken as a last resort. It ought to be forestalled until necessary and only undertaken to avert grave harm to innocents. Well, fair enough, but in present conditions the questions arise, how long is too long to wait? Is it unfair to potential victims of Iraqi intimidation to wait much longer?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Time.
Our next speaker is William A. Galston, who is a Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, which is a cosponsoring organization of this event. Bill’s books include Liberal Purposes and another book worth reading Liberal Pluralism. A widely respected political theorist who also participates in politics and policy, he served in 1993 through 1995 as President Clinton’s deputy assistant for domestic policy. His recent articles on Iraq have appeared in The Washington Post and The American Prospect.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Thank you very much, David, and the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy was absolutely delighted to be able to co-sponsor this event, which is necessary and, I believe, urgent.
Let me begin with a little bit of autobiography. I was and am strongly in favor of our response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and, as David mentioned, I am a proud signatory of the “Why We Fight” declaration. I was strongly in favor of the Gulf War a decade ago at a time when most members of my own party were not. And for what it’s worth, I wore my country’s uniform during the Vietnam era at a time when relatively few people of my social class did.
Nonetheless, I am opposed to war with Iraq, at least as the Bush administration has defined and defended it thus far. And therefore I must explain myself.
In my judgment, there are two noteworthy and unusual features of the administration’s proposed war against Iraq. The first is the war’s doctrinal justification, which Professor Bradley has already referred to, the idea of preemption, the idea that it is permissible in these circumstances to attack Iraq without having been attacked by Iraq. The second is the war’s end, and here is my first point of engagement with Professor Bradley. The administration has repeatedly defined regime change not as the collateral benign effect of other efforts but as the end in view, and it would appear that we are about to agree that that formulation, at least, is outside the just war tradition.
Now, we may be tempted to underestimate just how unusual these two features are, but to put it on the table, let me quote someone who’s not often identified with the just war tradition, namely Henry Kissinger, who wrote recently, and I quote, “The new approach is revolutionary. Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which, after the carnage of the religious wars, established the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states. And the notion of justified preemption runs counter to modern international law.” I’m going to qualify that second statement in my remarks, but it will do as an introduction to our topic.
So can this unusual, indeed revolutionary, new approach that the administration is very forthrightly advocating be integrated into the theory of just war?
The basic argument, as expressed in the national security document made public a couple weeks ago, and as summarized very ably by Professor Bradley, is that the rise of terrorism renders traditional doctrines of containment and deterrence obsolete and therefore necessarily extant to traditional notions of preemption. I agree with this formulation that what we’re talking about is a concept/conception relationship as philosophy philosophers would put it.
This argument has incontestable merit as applied to stateless terrorists themselves. What I want to suggest is that it is not so obviously true as applied to sovereign states. It is not enough simply to assert the equivalence. The proponents of this new expanded view of preemption need to make the case that the possibility of state cooperation with terrorists, especially in the deployment and use of weapons of mass destruction, somehow renders governments with known addresses and a great deal to lose immune to the traditional incentive structures of deterrence; that is an important factual question with theoretical and moral consequences. I would argue that neither theory nor practice is well served by the casual amalgamation of the case of stateless terrorism and the case of sovereign states.
Now, having put on the table what I regard as the central question, namely can the just war tradition be expanded to incorporate this revolutionary new conception, I want to approach it by examining seriatim and all to briefly the three kinds of justifications for intervention in Iraq that the administration has offered over the past six months. By no coincidence, all three of these justifications make an appearance, albeit in one case only a cameo appearance, in the White House’s preferred version of the joint resolution now under consideration by Congress.
The first of these justifications is what I will call a war of enforcement, which was the focus of President Bush’s U.N. speech. I think we can stipulate for purposes of this argument that Iraq has clearly violated numerous resolutions and undertakings to which it is party, but I would point out that the agreed party on the other side of the table is not any individual sovereign nation, it is the United Nations Security Council as a whole. One of the traditional principles of just war theory is competent authority and it is clear that if we’re talking about the war of enforcement it is the United Nations that is the competent authority to enforce U.N .resolutions and not any individual member of the United Nations acting on its own.
And to understand why, consider a domestic analogy: A government, a sovereign state, passes a law and then in some respects fails to enforce that law. Does that failure of enforcement give individual citizens within that sovereign state the moral right to enforce that law on their own? I think not.
I would also point out in the context of the word enforcement that the goal of enforcement is compliance with the violated resolutions, not regime change. Notably, the phrase regime change does not occur once in President Bush’s U.N. speech and the one sentence that even gestures in that direction presents regime change as an alternative to successful enforcement and not the goal of enforcement itself.
These considerations raise the question, Under what circumstances is regime change a legitimate aim of a just war? And my answer, which I think is consistent with a number of other answers, is that only under the most exceptional circumstances, and not determined here, is the standard example.
Now, this puts the following consideration on the table. Regime change as a goal of foreign policy is the moral equivalent of the unconditional surrender that constituted the war aims of the allies in World War II, and it carries with it the same moral imperative; that is to say, a comprehensive post-war responsibility for the political, economic and social reconstruction of the defeated and regime-changed nation.
And so the end of regime change, if it is applicable in this case, if we can analogize Saddam Hussein to Hitler – and I think we need to discuss that – is a package of acts, and not an act that begins and ends with the military conquest.
And I would feel much more comfortable if I were confident that that full package had been presented to the American people by the administration as forthrightly as the entrance strategy had been presented to them. And if we are going even to consider going forward on the basis of regime change, there must be an explicit embrace by the United States, through its elected representatives, of the full package. Those sympathetic to the administration have argued that regime change done right in Iraq will require an occupation measured in years or even decades, not weeks or months, as it did in the case of Germany and Japan. We still have troops in those two countries more than 50 years after the end of World War II.
The question of regime change also raises another key just war principle to which Professor Bradley has already alluded, namely, the probability of success. Would regime change produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated? We have to ask that question seriously, and, in order to ask that question seriously, we cannot take our moral bearings only from the best-case outcome. We also have to take seriously the possibility that we will break a regime easily and then remake a regime only with difficulty, leading to chaos throughout the region, drawing in most parties that border on Iraq and some that do not.
The second proposed ground for intervention in Iraq is humanitarian intervention, but there two quick points. First, I would point out that the major humanitarian abuses in Iraq occurred at least a decade or more ago at a time when we repeatedly failed to intervene to stop them, and in the 1980s failed even to protest very vigorously against them. And one wonders whether it is credible to invoke that history now.
Besides, it seems to me on casual inspection that the northern and southern no-fly zones that we have established and policed for the past decade are, in effect, already humanitarian interventions and reasonably successful ones in protecting the Kurds in the North and the Shi’ites in the South against renewed atrocities. So I don’t think that the argument for humanitarian intervention is going to get us very far.
Which brings us to the third and, I guess, the central category: a war of national defense. Here, of course, the problem is that Iraq hasn’t attacked us and, in spite of determined efforts by some in the administration, it is not yet clearly implicated in attacks on us by others. So the national defense argument stands or falls with the case for anticipatory responses to future threats.
Now, the category of anticipatory self-defense does have a place in international law and just war theory. Summarizing much legal and philosophical argument, I would suggest that there are four criteria that can justify preemption and each of them is a continuum of possibilities rather than an on/off switch. These criteria are:
• Number one, the severity of the threat;
• Number two, the degree of probability of the threat;
• Number three, the imminence of the threat;
• And number four, the cost of delay.
If we test the proposed intervention in Iraq against these criteria I think that we find the following:
• The threat is high in the worst case – that is, the acquisition of transferable nuclear weapons.
• The probability is contested. Many experts have argued that the logically possible transfer of nuclear weapons by Saddam Hussein to terrorists is contrary not only to his past behavior but also to his clear and present interests.
• Third, this threat is not imminent by any definition of imminence, and I don’t think anybody has argued that it is.
• And finally, the costs of delay, at least the delay measured in months sufficient to try and exhaust other options, is low.
Given this four-part analysis, I conclude that the case for a preemptive strike against Iraq has not been made.
Now, let me just ask the following question: If we have an overall requirement of justice to seek peace at all times and to maintain it whenever possible, what follows from that? And I would say three things follow from that. First of all, war has to be understood as a last resort, when all the other alternatives have been exhausted or obviously when it has been thrust upon us, and I do not believe that we have reached that point.
Second, the generic obligation to seek peace means that we must honor international covenants that aim at peace, and if I had more time, I would argue that the proposed strike against Iraq does not comport with that criteria.
And third, it is incumbent on us to think through and to preserve the system of international norms and institutions that aim at peace.
Even Henry Kissinger argues and I agree that it cannot be in either America’s national interest or in the world’s interest to develop principles that grant every nation an unfettered right of preemption against its own definition of threats to its security. And that raises the following rhetorical question, with which I will conclude: How can we announce a new doctrine of preemption as the centerpiece of our foreign policy while insisting that it applies to us alone and insisting that it should not become, and must not become, the centerpiece of foreign policy systems and practices everywhere else on earth?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Thank you.
Our next speaker is John Kelsay who is the Rubenstein Professor of Religion at Florida State University. A noted authority on Islam, he is the author of Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics, as well as co-editor with James Turner Johnson of Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Tradition and, a second book, Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition.
JOHN KELSAY: Well, I told David that for those of us from south of the Mason-Dixon line, we should get 18 minutes. (Laughter.) It takes longer to get around to what you want to say.
All of us here come to this discussion in the midst, obviously, of a wider discussion, and one of the things that we are trying to do is to utilize the framework of the just war criteria in such a way that it illumines the broader discussion, which sometimes is conducted in just war terms and sometimes not.
I’m also coming in, obviously, in the middle of this panel, and some of the things that have been said I agree with, some I disagree with. In some cases, I think that the way I would frame the fit between the criteria and our current situation is just a little different than our first two thinkers. I won’t really allude to that along the way, but I think it will be clear where there are some of those points.
What I want to do, then, is address two questions and then end with a little comment about Islam. The first question I can put this way: Does the United States have a right to employ military action aimed at regime change in Iraq? And I’m going to say that the answer is yes. The second question: Should the United States exercise this right? I’m going to say it depends. And then, as I say, I’m going to make some comments about Islam with respect to this issue.
Does the United States have a right to employ military action aimed at regime change in Iraq? The answer I’ve already suggested, for me, is yes. The just war categories at stake are right authority, just cause and right intention.
With respect to right authority, the primary issues have to do with international support. Ought the United States proceed without authorization from the Security Council or support from some important allies?
Now, I think everyone will or ought to agree that in this case, and really in most cases, it would be better for any action undertaken to have U.N. support or, failing that, that it would be good to have as much international support as possible. I think we should be encouraged by recent developments in that regard, and I certainly hope there will be a U.N. resolution of the type drafted by the U.S. and the U.K.
Given the nature of the Security Council and the vagaries of international coalitions however, the U.S. pursuit of justice in this case cannot be absolutely tied to such a resolution. International support, in other words, is desirable but not a requirement.
Continuing with right authority, many commentators express concern that the action contemplated involves regime change, which seems a kind of drastic step. It’s true that from the just war standpoint the establishment of governments is a good thing and that those who would utilize force to overthrow or alter an existing pattern of governance take on a heavy burden. However, in cases where an existing government shows a long-term pattern of unjust behavior towards its neighbors and its own citizens, one must consider then an unjust government seems to be no government at all. Citizens chafing under an unjust regime may take measures to remove it and other governments may assist them if necessary. The main limitations on those who would remove an unjust regime is that they consider the likely consequences of their actions. If removal would lead, for example, to an even worse state of affairs then one should forego action aimed at regime change. I’ll say more about that in a moment.
That involvement includes, and this is very important for my case, an ongoing program of diplomatic, economic, legal and military action. Throughout the past 12 years, the just cause and, I think, the intention of military action has been the same, limiting the Hussein regime’s capacity to do harm. Now, this means that I consider discussions of preemption largely irrelevant to this case.
All the members of this panel agreed to address the issue of preemption. In my judgment, the just war tradition can support preemptive action in certain cases and the Bush administration’s statement on national security strategy tries to point to some of those, or at least raise questions about what some of those might be. But with respect to Iraq, preemption is not a particularly apt category. We’re already involved militarily. And so what we ought to be asking is whether now is the time to increase the military aspect of our effort in hopes of creating a better political climate in Iraq.
And thus my second question: Granted, the U.S. has a right to employ military action aimed at regime change; should it exercise that right? With respect to the justification of resort to war, just war tradition presses considerations of prudence as well as of rights. The criteria of last resort, proportionality, reasonable hope of success and aim of peace are important here. These require that we consider our options and also that we take into account the likely consequences of military action. Further, they require that consideration of consequences include developments that will come about as a result of responses by parties other than ourselves; for example, in this case, responses by people living in Iraq and also by Iraq’s neighbors.
Now, with respect to last resort, I have to say I think the non-military options are limited at this point. In my judgment, a renewal of arms inspections does not particularly inspire confidence, and the failure of sanctions, in the sense that the Hussein regime has been able to manipulate these in ways that cause ordinary people in Iraq to suffer, is almost legendary.
With respect to the other prudential criteria, I’m not so sure about the case. Here we have to answer questions about various military options and their likely success, about the responses of various parties to any increase in U.S., and perhaps international, military involvement and about the likely political arrangements to follow removal of the Hussein regime.
Now, certainly I think, as all of you do, about these questions, and I even have a few opinions, but, ultimately, answering them requires information I don’t have. My own view is that these questions are far more difficult and important in this case than those involving right authority and just cause, yet public debate thus far focuses almost exclusively on right authority and just cause rather than on the really difficult questions raised by the prudential criteria of just war tradition.
My argument is thus that the U.S. has a right to use military force aimed at regime change in Iraq, but I’m less certain that the United States should exercise that right.
Now, I do think that the problems of Iraq cry out for action. I think our current policy is at an impasse, and we need to do something to break that if it’s possible. And thus before anyone leaves thinking that uncertainty means from my point of view that it would be better to forego military action in this case, let me say that no decision should be made regarding the wisdom of such action until military and political planners have made their best effort to find ways to bring about a course of action that will be proportionate, have a reasonable hope of success and issue in a political climate more suited to peace. If reasonable plans are not forthcoming, the U.S. should not exercise its right, but our leaders should make every effort to develop such plans before making a decision.
Now let me conclude with some comments about Islam.
Most of my scholarly work deals with what you might call the Islamic analog to just war tradition. I think it’s possible to run through the criteria of that analogous tradition and to make a case for action against the Hussein regime. I think the argument would look very much like what I’ve already said.
The question that follows then is why are so many Muslims opposed to or at least very worried about the Bush administration’s proposals regarding Iraq. No special expertise is required to answer.
First, Muslims worry because ordinary Iraqis, civilians are going to suffer again.
Second, even those Muslim majority states generally friendly toward the United States worry that the United States will overreach. There is, in other words, a specifically Muslim version of the worry that the status of the U.S. as the world’s only superpower creates special temptations for unilateral action. Recent developments at the U.N. seem positive in this regard, and movement in the Palestinian-Israeli impasse would certainly help as well.
Third, there are, of course, Muslim majority states and also non-state organizations, which are not friendly to the U.S. and believe implicitly that the U.S. and its allies are hostile to Islam and should be encouraged to limit their role in historically Islamic countries and regions. Some of these are already giving notice that they, too, can employ military force in the present circumstance. I refer to the movement of missiles into southern Lebanon. Some of these opponents of the United States may even hope that U.S. or allied military action against the Hussein regime will provide an occasion for general war in the region. The likely actions of these players have to be a factor as we think not only about whether the U.S. has a right to use force in this case but also about whether the U.S. should exercise that right.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Thank you.
Our final speaker before we open it up for your questions and comments is Michael Walzer. He is Professor at the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He previously taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities. His writings address a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy. A broadly acclaimed authority on the morality of the use of force, he is the author, among other books, of Just and Unjust Wars, which has become a seminal text for just war analysis.
MICHAEL WALZER: Thank you.
I pretty much agree with Bill Galston, so I will give some comments and footnotes to his analysis. But I do want to start a little farther back than any of my colleagues have done, because the stipulations that we all accepted have, in fact, been plausible for some years now, perhaps for a decade, and they suggest how wrong it was for us to have allowed the first U.N. inspection system to collapse. There was a just and necessary war waiting to be fought back in the 1990s when Saddam was playing hide and seek with the inspectors, and that would have been an internationalist war. It would have been Bill Galston’s war of enforcement, and its justice would have derived, first, from the justice of the peace agreement it was enforcing and, second, from its likely outcome, the strengthening of the U.N. and of the global legal order.
Though Iraq did not use weapons of mass destruction in 1991, the peace agreement imposed after the Gulf War, which was authorized and in part implemented by the United Nations, included restrictions on the development and deployment of those weapons. As an aggressor state, Iraq was subjected to a set of constraints designed to make future aggression impossible. Imagine it as a state on parole, deprived of full sovereignty because of its previous behavior. That was a just outcome of the Gulf War and the inspection system was its central feature.
Once the inspectors were in place, they revealed to the world how hard Saddam’s government had been working on a variety of horrific weapons and how far along some of the work was. And for a while the inspections seemed to be effective; in fact, I think they were effective. A number of facilities and large quantities of dangerous materials were discovered and destroyed. We were told in 1991 that Iraq was a year or two away from acquiring nuclear weapons; they are still a year or two away, and that is because of the success of the inspection system and the embargo.
But memory is short in political life and commitments and coalitions are fragile. The urgencies of the war and its immediate aftermath receded, and some of Iraq’s old trading partners, France and Russia most importantly, began to renew their ties. By the mid-’90s, Saddam felt he could safely test the will of the U.N. and the coalition of ’91, and so he began delaying the inspections or denying the inspectors access to the sites that they wanted to visit. And he was right: There was no will to enforce the inspection system, not at the U.N., which passed many resolutions but did nothing else, not in Europe and not in the Clinton administration. The U.S. was prepared to use its air power to maintain the no-fly zones but was not prepared for a larger war.
If the inspectors had been forcibly supported, their employer, the U.N., would be much stronger than it currently is and it would be very difficult for the United States or anyone else to plan a war without reference to the U.N. decision-making procedures.
But the failure of the ’90s is not easy to rectify, and it doesn’t help to pretend that the U.N. is an effective agent of global law and order when it isn’t. Many states insist they support the renewal of the inspection system, but so long as they are unwilling to use force on its behalf, their support is suspect. They profess to be defending the international rule of law, but how can the law rule when there is no law enforcement?
When the Bush administration worries that the return of the inspectors would be, in Vice President Cheney’s words, “false comfort,” it is reflecting a general belief, which unfortunately is shared by Saddam Hussein, that our European allies will never agree to fight. And until a couple of weeks ago, probably because they were reluctant to face the enforcement question, the Europeans were not seriously trying to renew the inspection system.
U.N. negotiators dithered with Iraqi negotiators in a diplomatic dance that seems to have been designed for delay and ultimate failure. It still isn’t clear that the dance is over.
Delay is dangerous because once Iraq has weapons – nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems – the threat to use force will be far less credible than it is today. But Iraq doesn’t have them yet, as we have stipulated.
If the administration thinks that Iraq is already a nuclear power or is literally on the verge of becoming one, then the months of threatening war rather than fighting it would seem to represent, from its perspective, something like criminal negligence. But if there is even a little time before Iraq gets the bomb, the rapid restoration of the inspection system is surely the right thing to aim at, far preferable to the preemptive war toward which the Bush administration seems to be leading us.
In a speech at West Point a few months ago President Bush made the case for the necessity and justice of preemptive war. But in the absence of evidence suggesting not only the existence of Iraqi weapons but also their imminent use, preemption is not an accurate description of what the president is threatening. No one expects an Iraqi attack tomorrow or next Tuesday, and so there is nothing to preempt.
“We don’t have to wait for them to attack,” said Condoleeza Rice on television the other day. Well, no, we don’t, but we do have to wait for some sign that they are going to attack. The war that is being discussed is preventive war, not preemptive, which means that it is designed to respond to a more distant threat.
The general argument for preventive war is very old; it’s been around since the time of the Greek city-states, and, in its classic form, it has to do with the balance of power. “Right now,” says the prime minister of country X, “the balance is stable, each of the competing states believes that its power is sufficient to deter the others from attacking. But country Y, our historic rival just across the river, is actively and urgently at work developing new weapons, preparing a mass mobilization, and if this work is allowed to continue, the balance will shift and our deterrent power will no longer be effective. The only solution is to attack now while we still can.”
International lawyers and just war theorists have never looked with favor on this argument because the danger to which it alludes is not only distant but speculative, whereas the cost of a preventive war are near, certain and usually terrible. The distant dangers, after all, might be avoided by diplomacy, or the military work of the other side might be matched by work on this side, or country X might look for alliances with states possessing the deterrent power that it lacks.
Whether or not war is properly the last resort – and I don’t believe in that doctrine – there seems no good reason for making it the first.
But perhaps we need to reopen the question of preventive war so as to take weapons of mass destruction into account and delivery systems that allow no time for arguments about how to respond. Perhaps the gulf between preemption and prevention has now narrowed so that there is little strategic, and therefore little moral, difference between them.
The Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 is sometimes invoked as an example of a justified preventive attack that was also in a sense preemptive. The Iraqi threat was not imminent, but an immediate attack was the only possible action against it. Once the reactor was in operation, an attack would have endangered civilians living for many miles around it, so it was a question of now or never, or better a single attack could be effective now but never again. Afterwards, only a full-scale war could have prevented the Iraqi acquisition of nuclear weapons.
But if this limited argument for prevention applied to Israel in 1981, it does not apply to the United States in 2002. Iraq was already formally at war with Israel and its hostility was visible and directly threatening. Listening these days to Saddam’s speeches, one might conclude that Israel still has a case for a preventive attack against Iraqi targets and some of its other neighbors may also have a case. At least they confront a real threat. But I don’t think that there is an American case, even if we claim to represent the neighbors, who have not authorized our representation and whose citizens would be radically at risk in any American war.
In fact, the now or never example would seem to strengthen the argument for inspection because the first U.N. inspectors supervised the destruction of facilities and materials that it would have been very dangerous to bomb from the air. There is still time for them to do that again.
Now, the administration’s response, so far as I can make it out, has two parts. First, the inspectors will never get into Iraq or will never be able to work effectively once they are in unless there is a readiness to fight, and no one at the U.N. or in Europe is seriously ready. Inspection means delay and again delay is dangerous; it’s better to fight now. But “now” seems to be a very elastic term. Clearly there are people in the Bush administration who think that the delays of the last month and the likely delays of the coming months are not so terribly dangerous, and the inspectors could probably be at work now, in the more precise sense of that word, had their been a will to send them back.
Second, however effective they were, the inspectors will not overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, and that’s certainly true, though their presence would weaken the regime. In any case, change of regime is not commonly accepted as a justification for war, nor should it be. The precedents are not encouraging: Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Iran, Chile, Hungary, Czechoslovakia twice, in ’48 and ’68, all reflect the bad, old days of the Cold War, spheres of influence, the ideologically driven military or clandestine intervention.
Regime change can sometimes be the consequence of a just war when the defeated rulers are moral monsters like the Nazis in World War II, and humanitarian intervention to stop massacre and ethnic cleansing can also legitimately result in the installation of a new regime. But now that a zone of relative safety has been carved out for the Kurds in the North, there is no case to be made for a humanitarian intervention in Iraq.
The only reason for targeting Saddam is the belief that he will never give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, but this is not persuasive. Faced with a unified international community committed to the enforcement of inspections, with soldiers ready to move, Saddam would almost certainly suspend his pursuit, and the suspension would last as long as the commitment did. It’s the commitment that is problematic.
In any case, many other regimes around the world, including democratic regimes like India, have developed or are trying to develop such weapons, so how can we be sure that future Iraqi rulers would not resume Saddam’s project? If we’re interested in the safety of Iraq’s neighbors, inspection is more reliable than regime change.
So the right thing to do right now is to recreate the conditions that existed in the mid-’90s for fighting a just war, and we should do this precisely to avoid the war the Bush administration wants to fight.
The Europeans could have done the necessary work by themselves months ago if they really wanted to avoid American unilateralism. No government in Baghdad could have resisted a European ultimatum, admit the inspectors by a certain date or else, so long as the states behind the ultimatum included France and Russia, who have been Iraq’s only protectors, and so long as the “or else” extended to both economic and military action. Why didn’t the Europeans do this? I think this is a great puzzle. They seem to have lost all sense of themselves as responsible actors in international society.
I can’t say right now if there’s a good chance of getting the inspectors back. There are a lot of people eager to repeat the old mistakes. The real and only argument for war is not that war is the right choice or the best available choice but that there is no international commitment to actions short of war, which require the threat of war. Prime Minister Schroeder has forsworn the threat as a matter of principle. I think it’s fair to say that many influential Europeans from both the political class and the intelligentsia would prefer a unilateral American war to a European readiness to fight, even if to misquote Shakespeare, the readiness is all and war could be avoided.
And so we may soon face the hardest political question: What ought to be done when what ought to be done isn’t going to be done? But we shouldn’t be too quick to answer that question. If the dithering and delay over inspections go on and on, if the inspectors don’t return or if they return but can’t act effectively, if the threat of enforcement is not made credible, if our allies are unwilling to fight or to threaten to fight, which is what I think is all that would be necessary, then many of us will probably end up very reluctantly supporting the war the Bush administration is much too eager to fight.
Right now however there are other things to do and there is still time to do them. Right now the administration’s war is neither just nor necessary.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Thank you, Professor Walzer. Thanks to all of our distinguished panelists. And now it’s time to open it up for questions and a more freewheeling discussion. I will say that I’m going to put the microphone in front of you. When you speak into it, for the purposes of recording it, if you could just briefly say your name and affiliation that would be great.
QUESTION: My name is Stanley Kurtz from the Hoover Institution. I guess I have a comment for both Professor Galston and Professor Walzer, but there’s no time, so I’ll just stick with Professor Galston.
First, you say, Bill, that the onus is on the proponents of an invasion to establish the fact that Saddam Hussein is not susceptible to the traditional incentive structures around deterrence. I believe that the case for that has already been made. It’s been made in a brand new book that you wouldn’t have had time to read, but I urge you to read it. That’s just the beginning of what I have to say. It’s called The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack. There he argues, as he did in his op-ed piece in The New York Times, and, in my opinion, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Saddam Hussein is not susceptible to the traditional incentive structure of deterrence.
It’s also important to point out that traditional deterrence is a lot more tenuous than we realize. We have really only had one good test of that, and that’s the United States and the Soviet Union. Even that came pretty close to the brink, on the occasion of Cuba, and we have to understand that when we’re dealing with people like Saddam, the traditional thing might not work.
But what I really want to say is that, in my view, if I understand them correctly, you have already accepted the idea that Saddam is not susceptible to traditional incentive structures because, if I understand it correctly, that’s what your stipulations say. The stipulations seem to say that Saddam is not going to act according to traditional patterns of deterrence. Now, either you’ve already accepted that or you don’t really accept it, which is what I suspect because you seem to challenge some of that in the course of your talk, or the stipulations themselves are meaningless.
And finally, what you focused on was the likelihood of Saddam giving a nuclear weapon to terrorists. That’s one key problem, and I think it’s a grave one. But in addition to that, there is the event greater likelihood, in my view, that Saddam is going to make a move on Kuwait or Saudi Arabia and threaten us with nuclear weapon blackmail as a result of it. That is the truly imminent threat. We just had weapons grade uranium seized – okay, it wasn’t as much as they thought. Professor Walzer’s distinction between imminence and having even a little time, to me, is a distinction without a difference.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, in spite of your fear that you didn’t have enough time, you did manage to challenge both of us. Let me just say very briefly, and this is summarizing a very extensive empirical debate, which will rage outside the halls of this room for a long time to come, I believe that the following is the most accurate description of Saddam Hussein and deterrence: That when we have sent a clear and unambiguous message that disastrous consequences will flow from his doing something that we emphatically do not want him to do, he has not done it. He has done terrible things when we have failed to send such a message, as we did on the eve of the invasion of Kuwait, or, even worse, when we turned a blind eye to terrible violations of justice and war and human rights as we did during the Iran-Iraq war, for reasons of our own, which seemed good at the time but weren’t, even then.
So I will have to read Ken Pollack’s book. I’ve read his article in Foreign Affairs, so I have some sense of what he thinks. But on first inspection I do not agree with the summary judgment that Saddam Hussein is a madman, reckless and outside the pale of the traditional structure of deterrence, but that is an important empirical question and we will just have to stipulate it as a difference between us for purposes of this discussion.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I’ve got to keep going, sorry.
MICHAEL WALZER: Can I respond also?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Oh yes, sure.
MICHAEL WALZER: I do not want to get into a system of deterrence with Saddam Hussein. I don’t believe that deterrence is what has worked in the past 12 years. We have had inspectors there for 8 of the 12 years. We have had an embargo in place for the whole time. We are bombing Iraq a couple of times a week on average. I think that’s what has worked. If Iraq were to get nuclear weapons, then we might have to rely on deterrence and I think that would be disastrous, because it would not just be an American-Iraq deterrence system; it would also have to be an Israel-Iraq deterrence system. The Israelis would have to acquire what I don’t think they have now, a second strike capacity. That means there would be ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea with nuclear weapons, and that would be, whatever our system of deterrence was, an Iraqi-Israeli system, which would be hair-trigger deterrence. That is not what we want in the Middle East, and that’s why I think that coercive inspections as soon as possible is the real alternative and the only substitute for a war designed to eliminate the threat entirely.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: I’m Nicholas Berry, foreignpolicyforum.com.
I’d like to you to explore the issue of nuclear blackmail. In effect, some of you are making the case that if, in fact, Saddam Hussein gets a nuclear weapon and issues threats for the use of that nuclear weapon offensively, that the United States would just back down, the international community would quiver and quake and, in fact, wouldn’t that create an awful, imminent, horrendous threat that the United States and the international community, including the U.N. Security Council must, in fact, deal with?
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, sure.
QUESTION: As a follow-up: Doesn’t that make the likelihood of Saddam Hussein actually going out on a limb like that where his destruction would be assured rather unlikely?
And let me add one thing, also, about deterrence. Not only did he test U.S. deterrence in late August of 1990 with April Glasby, and we, of course, sort of gave him the green light to invade Kuwait, but he was also deterred, if you read The Washington Post this morning, and probably many of you know, from using weapons of mass destruction because of the deterrent threat in 1991.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: On the wonderful example of our panel to let some other voices and questions be put on the table let’s let that happen. Hilell?
QUESTION: Hillel Fradkin of the Ethics in Public Policy Center.
It’s partially an observation. It seems to me that Professor Walzer’s footnote to Bill Galston was not merely a footnote but a real disagreement about the material or the historical background, which would enter into a potential judgment, and perhaps you’d like to comment on that.
But my question really is directed to Professor Walzer. Given what I thought was a very good and accurate description of the history of the last 12 or maybe even 15 years, your certainty about – well, perhaps, would it be fair to say that you’re just suggesting, let’s give coercive inspections one last shot? And if that’s the case, it really does mean that if war then comes, it really is not, on your own telling, really of first resort, but really the last resort after very many attempts. That’s question A, how you would describe your understanding.
The second thing is, given what you’ve described about the general will of the international community, the Europeans, their most recent behavior, and also it seems to be perhaps a certain oversight about what happened since the Bush administration took office and efforts he’s made to renew the sanction regimen, what reason do you have for thinking that another shot will really work, and how long, really, do you think it’s plausible to wait until it does?
MICHAEL WALZER: There has certainly been a very extended period of negotiation between Kofi Annan and his representatives and representatives of the Iraqi government over inspections, and I think it’s been an appalling spectacle to the humiliation of the United Nations and one that poses real dangers to the rest of the world.
It seems to me that, I guess, here, I do agree with Bill Galston. If Saddam is persuaded that the international community is prepared to use force, that his allies – that’s too strong a term – in Russia and France are prepared to go along with that, I think he will yield on the inspection question.
So I think that coercive inspection is a real option if there is a will to enforce it, and I think we should do everything we possibly can to produce that will in the international community, and we should stick with that for some time, even if we are preparing for war while we do it.
And if the inspectors get into Iraq and cannot function, if they are harassed and if there is a repetition of the mid- and late-’90s, then it would be time to use force, not as a last resort. Lastness is a metaphysical concept. You never reach it. There’s always something to do before doing whatever it is that comes last. Politics is a matter of try, try again.
So you want to do what you can to avoid war, and that has to be a serious effort. And the Bush administration has not even given us the appearance of making that serious effort.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Bill, why don’t you go and then we’ll – actually, quick response.
QUESTION: It seems to me though we have some things we can observe about the most recent period. I think it’s a little bit unfair to say that the Bush administration made no effort, because for at least a brief period of time under-rode Powell’s initiative on smart sanctions. There was no appetite for that at the U.N. so it was dropped.
But it would also seem to be the case that it’s somehow our apparent appetite for war that has gotten us to the possibility of coercive sanctions in the first place. So it seems to me a little hard to argue at this point that – I mean, I think it would involve very delicate diplomacy at least and I think you would agree that we would need to keep up somehow a very credible threat that we’re ready to go to war in order just to move France and Russia off the dime.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, three things briefly in response to Hillel. First of all, and because of poor time management on my part I didn’t have a chance to say this, I agree emphatically with something that Michael Walzer with his superior talent for time management did have time to say, namely, that I think the single most important and productive proposal for moving us forward has emanated from this building in the form of a well worked out proposal for coercive inspections, and I am surprised and dismayed that that idea, which it seems to me to draw its strength from a number of considerations that have been put on the table, has not gained more serious support at home and abroad. I hope that it will.
Number two, I think that you and I would agree, Hillel, that in grave matters of this sort it is not only the act that is at stake but also the nature of the justification of the act. And I would submit to you that if the president and the administration had been talking the language of enforcement rather than preemption starting in the spring and running forward consistently to the president’s United Nations speech of September 12th, we would be in a very different place domestically and internationally. And, I think, it is very, very regrettable that the justification that was put forward first and most emphatically, and which continues to figure centrally in the national security doctrine, is one that gives so many people at home as well as abroad pause about a venture which may be more nearly justifiable in other terms, and I think that that is a failure of prudence and statecraft.
Third and finally, and I want to repeat with emphasis something that I said hastily and poorly in my prepared remarks, and that is: We cannot assume that a justification for our own activity that we put forward will be without consequences for the behavior of other actors in the international system, because we have already seen in the past 13 months definitive evidence to the contrary. And so if we go with preemption as an official doctrine of U.S. foreign policy, it will become the world’s official doctrine. It will become the new centerpiece of the international system. Henry Kissinger is not alone in worrying that, for example, India’s appropriation of that doctrine could have truly horrific consequences.
JOHN KELSAY: Can I say something? Just two comments: First, on the last resort business, where I agree, I think, with Michael Walzer, that is that the way that criteria operates it has to be last reasonable resort or, even better, particularly, it catches up some nuances, in this case, timely resort. What you’re trying to decide is whether among the various actions that are possible for you or in concert with other efforts, diplomatic, economic and so on, raising the military ante at this time has a reasonable chance of delivering the goals that you want.
On the language of preemption, I made the comment in my remarks that I think it’s largely irrelevant in this case, and I’ll stick by that. I do agree with Bill Galston’s last comment. I think it is very unfortunate that that language came to be invoked early on in this discussion. I think it’s a red herring. I think it misses the point that we have been militarily engaged in Iraq, as Michael mentioned, dropping ordnance around the no-fly zones consistently over the last years, as well as engaged in other matters. We’re really asking whether it’s time to raise the military level of our involvement to achieve certain goals. Let loose just in the international forum, a doctrine of preemption is highly dangerous. It has the risk of taking on a life of its own with consequences that we will not like and shouldn’t like. I don’t think we need that language in this case. I don’t think it helps us to illumine the things we need to think about. I wish we would put it aside.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want to just bring your attention briefly to the fact that on the table outside there are a number of essays and articles, and among the documents is the letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and I wanted to ask Gerard Powers to ask a brief question or make a brief comment.
QUESTION: Jerry Powers from the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishops, in short, were concerned about the aspects of just war. One was just cause, and they basically took the view that Michael Walzer took, that this is really preventive use of military force, which raises troubling moral and legal precedents.
They’re also concerned about right authority, and it is very problematic in their point of view to pursue this unilaterally, without U.N. Security Council authorization.
And, finally, something that most of the panelists have referred to, the bishops would be concerned about the probability of success and proportionality, both, not so much military success in terms of trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but whether or not you’d be able to build a just peace after the war in Iraq, and also what the consequences would be for peace and stability in the Middle East.
I guess I’d like to, since the bishops’ position was heavily based on their concern about preemptive or preventive use of force, unilateral use of force, I’d like to ask Michael Walzer if he would respond to John Kelsay’s argument that this really isn’t about preemption at all; it’s really just about enforcement of the U.N. norms and resolutions.
MICHAEL WALZER: I certainly agree that the enforcement of the no-fly zones with air power, that those are acts of war that derive from U.N. resolutions. We are, in fact, enforcing with U.N. authorization a peace itself authorized by the U.N. And if we are to expand that war, I would think it would once again require U.N. support.
It’s an interesting argument. Bob Kerrey made this argument in The Wall Street Journal, the former senator from Nebraska, now president – in-congressly – president of The New School for Social Research.
JOHN KELSAY: Or out-congressly.
MICHAEL WALZER: He argued that we are already at war with Iraq, and there is no way of stopping this little war with Iraq, because if we stop, Saddam would overrun the northern and southern zones, and there might well be a massacre of the Kurds. There would certainly be a brutal repression of the current autonomy in the North.
So we can’t stop this little war except by fighting a bigger war. Otherwise, we are condemned to continue bombing Iraq into the indefinite future. And that struck me as one of the better arguments for a war, although Bob Kerrey emphasized the costs of the enforcement of the no-fly zones. And while there have been obviously financial costs, there hasn’t been a single plane or a pilot lost in the many, many years of regular bombing, so perhaps it would be better to continue doing that rather than to escalate to a war, which there’s just no evidence that this is necessary. If you think back at the way the Iraqi threat was described in ’91 and the way it is being describe now, the descriptions are so close in some ways, we know he has fewer missiles now, he has far smaller stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. The peace system, putting Iraq on parole, all the constraints imposed by the U.N., there’s every evidence that they have worked. So why not keep them, why not sustain the system?
JOHN KELSAY: It was the point of my comments that if we can put aside the debate over preemption with I don’t know quite what word to use, it’s just not an apt term for this case and as a doctrine I think it’s highly dangerous, then the case I was trying to make sounds very much like what Michael just said, that this has to do with enforcement of agreements put into place or policies put into place to restring injustice.
Now, what the difference between us would turn on then is a question of authority, of right authority in this case, since he rightly makes the point that many if not all of the policies put in place after the Gulf War were under international auspices.
The problem with seeing U.S. action tied strictly to that in this case I think comes from the almost complete failure of the enforcement parties to carry through with consistency on the policies that they have in place and with the fact that right now we really are at an impasse. It’s not only a problem of the suffering or relatively — they’re actually doing reasonably well, the Kurds in the north — it’s the Shi’a in the south, we have a number of ordinary people in and around Baghdad and in the east of Iraq who are suffering because of the way that the regime of sanctions has been turned by the Hussein regime.
I think we need to think very hard about whether or not we have some options to break this policy impasse that we are in, which doesn’t work to the advantage of people in Iraq or to our advantage or the advantage of the international community. I don’t know that raising the military ante is the answer to breaking that impasse. I don’t know what options we have fully. That’s why I stressed the question, Should we exercise a right to make war in this particular case? But I think we need to think very hard about it and it’s something that we have not been doing for most of the last 10 years.
QUESTION: Jerome Segal, University of Maryland.
A question for Michael Walzer and then for Bill Galston: Michael, the report that was in the news yesterday about the discovery, I think it was in a car, in Turkey of a certain quantity of highly enriched uranium a couple hundred miles from the Iraqi border – I would think that the effect of that incident on one’s thinking would be to have one reach the conclusion that our judgments as to how imminent Iraqi obtaining nuclear weapons, in fact, are judgments that we can’t have much confidence in at all, that what we have heard all along is that the problem for Iraq was obtaining the fissile material, that if it had it, it would only be a matter of months before it could have a weapon.
And whatever it turns out to be with respect to that particular incident, the fact that it could happen, it seems to me, is kind of an epistemic wake-up call that just simply tells us that we don’t know whether or not another car, uncaught, in fact got into Iraq yesterday with X amount of highly enriched uranium, and so that on one of the most crucial questions here, we’re simply in the dark, and not abstractly, but very really in the dark.
And to Bill, as I understood the difference between your position and Michael Walzer’s, it was that while both of you were strongly supportive of intrusive inspections, Michael’s perspective was that he at least was unwilling to rely on a deterrence regime, and that if he believed that it wasn’t possible to prevent Iraq from obtaining nuclear weapons, then that would be at least a good part of a case for going to war; whereas your comments about Saddam being deterrable seemed to me, at any rate, to accept the possibility that even if one thought that he would obtain nuclear weapons we could still rely on deterrence. You’re shaking your head, so I guess I misunderstood, but if you could clarify that.
And let me just push it a step further. What I was going to ask is this: If Saddam was to get nuclear weapons, I would assume the very first thing he would try to do with them is to find some way to deter the United States, especially given all of our clear now intentions, so that whether it was in terms of delivery systems or smuggling such a weapon into the United States and so on.
Now, if one accepted that as a stipulation, that what Saddam would do with nuclear weapons is not to use them but to try to set up a deterrence regime with the United States, would that change your thinking about the importance of going to war first with Iraq before they got nuclear weapons?
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, I can clear this up very quickly. Deterrence is a general term, which in order to have a precise application and specific case needs to be filled in – deterring whom from doing what. And I was not talking about setting up a system of nuclear deterrence in the Middle East. There Michael Walzer and I are entirely in agreement. My broader point was that I think that I believe that there is a reasonable chance that through a regime of more vigorous, more coercive, more sustained and less restrained inspections, plus a number of other blandishments and threats, we can bring about not only the diminution of various sorts of domestics acts that we don’t like, but also a reasonable probability that he will not obtain the weapons that we most fear.
And if I did not believe that as a matter of fact my argument would be very different, but I agree with Michael as to the entire litany of parade of parables that he trotted out if Saddam Hussein were to obtain a nuclear weapon. It has been a fixed position of U.S. policy through thick and thin that he must not be permitted to do so and it is formerly ratified as a condition for the ceasefire in the Gulf War. There is no reason to revise that requirement or stipulation. I am certainly not recommending that.
So I’m afraid that my generic use of the term deterrence, as in creating incentives to prevent Saddam Hussein from doing what we don’t want him to do, created the mis-impression that what I’m in favor of is sort of a Cold War balance of nuclear power in the Middle East. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
MICHAEL WALZER: And can I just ask Jerry Segal what conclusion do you draw from the Turkish incident?
QUESTION: Well, I guess my conclusion is that it’s much more pressing than we thought, that, in fact, if we’re going to have an intrusive inspections regime it has to happen very quickly and that if it doesn’t happen then the case for using force, not necessarily the way the administration is planning to and in that framework, but that the case for using force is a great deal stronger.
(Michael Walzer nods.)
QUESTION: Jim Matlack with the American Friends Service Committee.
I want to test two boundary conditions, you might say, to your very thoughtful discussion. The first is the role of oil. It’s not any part of the initial pretext offer by the administration. I don’t know what role it does play. But if Saddam is displaced, any new leadership in Baghdad has at its command, or at the command of those who influence it, the second largest reserve of petroleum in the world, known reserve.
If that’s a factor at all in those planning the war, from what you’ve all four said, I think that’s a disqualifier for being a just war. We do not go to war for oil; we go to war to protect innocents. But whether that plays in any part of your calculation.
The second is some of the same people who have urged the administration’s case for attacking Iraq seem to have made roughly a comparable case for attacking Iran, which is equally apparently seeking weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear, is much more clearly involved in active links to various terrorist activities, doesn’t have the same history, of course, with the invasion of Kuwait. But as you think about that argument that is advanced not quite so publicly, is there any just war rationale for an attack on Tehran?
GERARD BRADLEY: Let me respond to the first of your two questions. As to oil, I guess I would emphasize something I said earlier, perhaps too quickly, more quickly than it deserved to be said, and that is that we should focus upon the kind of undergirdings, morally speaking, of any attack, plan of attack and execution of the attack. I would assume that there are a host of motives at work in the various people involved who actually are carrying it forward and out, and I simply don’t know who is thinking about oil and how much they’re thinking about oil.
But I wouldn’t agree with the proposition, if it’s your proposition, that if some number of administration officials are more or less secretly coveting Iraqi oil, that it’s somehow disqualifying. No. I would say what is the focus of our attention or what should be the focus of our attention is the plan of attack and what appears to be or what are the moral justifying principles of the attack. So to play that out, if the attack looks like one to seize control of oil fields as opposed to disarm Iraq, well, then, we have a real problem from the moral perspective.
But I take it that at most I would say that if there’s a more customer-friendly oil regime in Iraq after this is all over, it might be a secondary or tertiary side effect that would be welcome, but it certainly isn’t a disqualifying factor if other people in charge have a more kind of high octane desire for oil.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, just very briefly I think that as this very grave debate goes forward – and I don’t intend this as a rebuke, but really as a statement of principle on my part – I think it is very important that we take the administration at its word, that we take authoritative statements like the president’s U.N. speech of September 12th, his West Point speech of June 1st and the national security document issued a couple of weeks ago as the authoritative statement of the real convictions, the real reasons and the real motivations, because if we get into an imputation of motives exchange, then my fear is that this debate will degenerate very, very quickly. And we already saw some signs of that in the past 24 hours with Congressman McDermott’s statements from Baghdad and the political response to those.
So I don’t think it would be useful to go down that road, and, in addition, I associate myself with Jerry Bradley’s remarks about why it wouldn’t make that much of a difference if other things are dominant.
With regard to your second question, I mean, you’ve sort of raised the question of whether Iraq is the Mini-Me and Iran perhaps is the real Dr. Evil, and I do think that, to the extent that one is focusing on acquisition of nuclear weapons and known links to terrorists, that you have raised a serious question. I think that there are some important prudential differences. The Iranians have been conspicuously less aggressive territorially than the Iraqis have been, and they are not enmeshed in the sorts of enforcement regime that the Iraqis are enmeshed in right now, so that it is not possible to talk about a war of enforcement with regard to Iran in the same way it is with regard to Iraq.
JOHN KELSAY: On the question of oil, I think the most important things to think about are probably things that affect how one applies the prudential just war criteria; that is, what is the danger that oil wells will be hit in the midst of military action and bring about environmental and other kinds of damage, and then what happens in the political arrangements in Iraq afterwards in terms of the various parties fighting over who controls oil. If you imagine one of the possible scenarios in which the present no-fly zone in the North becomes part of a federated Iraq with largely powers devolved to the Kurds for self-governance, a number of the large oil fields would be under their control, and one could imagine some kind of struggle within Iraq among the various parties over how to distribute the benefits from those. So I think it’s important to think about oil that way more so than in terms of categories of intention and so on.
As to Iran, that would clearly at present be a war that would have to be either described as preemptive or preventive. I’ve been trying to argue that those terms aren’t really applicable in Iraq, meaning that the case of Iraq is different because we’re already there, and in some sense the policy impasse that we’re at is not the direct and intended result obviously of our policies, their failure and/or successes over the past several years but there certainly are some difficulties that have come about for the people of Iraq because of the ways those policies have worked out for them, and, I think, we have to consider ourselves in some sense deeply involved and therefore responsible to try to bring about a resolution. That’s a very different kind of thing.
MICHAEL WALZER: Just one word of partial disagreement with Bill Galston. I think we are already down that road because I believe that the problems we are having with France and Russia derive in part from their anxiety that the Bush policy in Iraq would result in their displacement and that America would become the dominant economic partner of the new Iraqi regime, and so it might be a sign of our commitment to fight a just war in Iraq that we commit ourselves in advance to respect the economic interests of the French and the Russians.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want to get one more comment on the table and then we’re going to turn to the panelists for any closing thoughts.
QUESTION: My name is Thabet El-Bardicy and I’m with Al-Jazeera TV.
Excuse my layman question, but this is a question for Mr. Gerard Bradley. And it is known that almost half a million Iraqi children have been killed because of the sanctions. According to your definition of proportionality, how many innocent people can be sacrificed for a just war?
GERARD BRADLEY: It’s an important question, although the way you put it is probably not the right way. I would say that it’s impossible to say that a certain number of innocent people, children or otherwise, is the right number, and beyond that there is no end, which could justify such sacrifice of innocent persons.
My answer is simply this, and alluding to what I said earlier, is that the test is to regard the death of enemy civilians, noncombatants, consider them in a calculus of fairness as if they were people like you. I do think that that’s probably one of the first casualties of actual hostilities; that is to say, to get into a war I’m sure it’s very, very difficult for planners, military planners, not to prefer their own, perhaps even their own combatants to enemy noncombatants, as I think happened in the Kosovo bombing campaign, where apparently, if I understand the facts, we were determined to fly high enough so that none of our pilots was ever downed, and that led with statistical certainty to a much greater incidence of death on the ground of noncombatants.
Now, I think that’s immoral, but I think that’s the calculation or that’s the comparison or the calculus is fairness and whether we’re treating other people, in this case Iraqi children, if you will, differently than we would treat them if they were like our own.
And other than that, I don’t think I could say anything that’s sort of general or helpful.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want now to ask our panelists if they have any closing comments briefly. We have about five minutes left. If you could, please, if you see fit, offer a summary of where you see the center of gravity, the key differences, disagreements among you.
I want to read four – this may not work, and ignore these, if you wish – but I want to read four statements, sort of mainly agree, mainly disagree statements.
• The essential goal of our policy should be the disarmament of Iraq not regime change.
• Two, the main goal now should be coercive inspections.
• Three, the doctrine of preemption is inconsistent with prudence and just war tradition.
• Four, the administration’s current approach to Iraq is consistent with just war tradition.
Those are four statements. If that helps you in any way to sort of summarize for all of us where you think you are in relationship to the other panelists or anything else you want to say, and let’s start in the reverse order, with Professor Walzer, and just move across the table.
MICHAEL WALZER: Well, I agree with the first three of those statements, but I want to stress that I feel a very high level of anxiety about the current situation and about my own response to it and everybody else’s. At this moment, I think this is an avoidable war, which we should do everything we can to avoid. But there has to be a collective will to avoid it, and that isn’t yet apparent in the international community. A lot of my recent writing on this subject has been aimed at European audiences not at American, for I really believe that they can save us from that war. Bush said it’s a test of the United Nations. I think it’s a test of our European friends, and I hope they meet the test.
JOHN KELSAY: The first two propositions seem to me to rest on judgments about empirical matters, that is what’s possible, what the current policy state is. I’ve already stressed that I think we’re at a very serious impasse and we need some changes.
So is the goal or should the goal of our policy be disarmament rather than regime change? If you say regime change, what you’ve said is you think the existing policies have run aground of the obstreperous behavior of the Hussein regime and you might as well call it what it is. You’re out to deprive certain people of the power to make decisions to affect the course of events for their own country people and people around them, and that’s regime change.
Disarmament is a kind of finer-tuned way to put things, and it depends again on how one estimates the current situation.
Coercive inspections. I’m not very confident about the arms inspections and what has been accomplished or what might be accomplished. I’d be willing to be persuaded on that. One could certainly try them in concert I think with maintaining a certain level of awareness of the military prospect.
Preemption, how did you phrase that one?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: It’s not a good idea, not consistent with just war.
JOHN KELSAY: Not a good idea, yeah, and irrelevant in this particular case. As something that one has to deal with in just war thinking or in any realistic thinking about war, preemptive strikes might be necessary in some kind of case. In this one it’s an irrelevant part of the debate, a red herring.
And is the current movement of the Bush administration in line with just war tradition? Well, I take it that part of the problem we’re all having with assessing that is how much weight we put on the different kinds of public justifications that are being given, whether we think it really is being construed as preemptive or a preventive war, or whether we stress more the enforcement language. I stress more the latter. I wish people would stop talking about the former.
But I also think that answering that question ultimately has to do with the prudential criteria and a serious attempt to try to find our way out of this impasse and assess whether or not a military option is a timely way to do that or not, I don’t think we know the answer at present.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Very quickly, I obviously would have to look at the wording more carefully, but, just listening to you, I agree as to the first two propositions. I may disagree as to the third. I think that there may be a limited role for preemption within a just war doctrine, but preemption is going to be an exception to the general rule and is not and ought not to be the general rule of conduct, and that’s another way of formulating my disagreement with the Bush administration’s declaratory doctrine. And with regard to your fourth question, I agree with both my colleagues so far. It depends on what happens and how it’s justified.
Now let me make a closing statement on my own hook, and that is, I believe, that although Michael Walzer is right in principle that this is an avoidable war, I believe that we will not avoid this war in the last analysis. I believe that we are going to war with Iraq.
That being the case, there are better and worse ways of going to war with Iraq, and let me state three conditions that would reduce the harm of doing what I think we will almost certainly do, even though if I were the decision-maker I would not do it in this way at this time.
Number one, we have to make a visible and credible effort to explore and exhaust all other reasonable options – not logical options but reasonable options.
Secondly, I think we have to state a public rationale that focuses to the maximum feasible extent on enforcement within some viable vision of the international system rather than preemption.
And third, and this, to my mind, may be the most important condition of all, if Saddam Hussein is analogized to a regional Hitler and if regime change means unconditional surrender, then right here, right now, before we go to war, we must, as a nation, commit ourselves to doing for Iraq what we did for Germany after World War II. We cannot have a drive-by regime change, right? We must commit ourselves to the political, economic and social reconstruction of that country, such that a decent regime that can stand on its own will be the likely outcome of our efforts. If that means an occupation measured in decades rather than months, and if it means the expenditures of tens of billions of dollars a year in order to sustain that, we must commit ourselves to that here and now, because if what we really have in mind is some version of drive-by regime change, that, in my judgment, is absolutely the worst outcome imaginable.
GERARD BRADLEY: Well, my judgment is that the central questions about a final decision by those in authority to go to war with Iraq have to do with the probability of success and take into account all of the foreseeable consequences of an invasion, including, as Bill Galston has reminded us, consequences for the global legal order. The question, not in these words, but, I think, this is the question he put to us is what behavior by other nations is the United States committed at least by consistency to endorse or at least tolerate if we go to war unilaterally with Iraq or bilaterally with the help of Britain. That is a serious question. I don’t know the answer to it.
Related to that is the question of rightful authority. You know, I think it’s worth stating that in a limit case, not an unrealistic case but a limit case of the possession or imminent possession of nuclear weapons by Iraq, I think rightful authority belongs to that body, that institution, that nation, which actually has the power to destroy those weapons. I think in that case, given the consequences of possession of nuclear weapons by Saddam Hussein, I think if the United States has the power and the opportunity to destroy them, it has the moral responsibility to do so, regardless in the end of what the positive law, the international positive law says.
Now, finally, I think no matter how this important episode in our history, in world history, shakes out, we’re going to see a development of inherited doctrine concerning just war, whether it’s the elimination or eclipse of the notion of the imminence or whether it’s a modification of the notion of rightful authority, as I’m suggesting it could be in the end. We’re going to see a development of doctrine, and I think that that can only come about in a legitimate way by reaching down to the principles, which underlay the norms, the standards, the tests, and I do think those principles are just cause, which is defensive, is only a defensive war is just, noncombatant immunity and fairness with regard to all of our facts.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want to thank each of you for spending the time to be with us today, again thanking the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Melissa Rogers and her team. Is E.J. Dionne here? Jean Elshtain, co-chair, the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, thank you. Thank each of you. It’s an honor for me to be associated with a panel of people who, although they clearly have some disagreements, I believe have kind of honored us and elevated this subject by trying to bring a kind of moral seriousness to the discussion, and for that I thank you. (Applause.) And thank you so much for joining us again.[END OF EVENT.]