Hello forum, :o)
Let's start with an examination of what a "just war" means. I'll shameless pull a dictionary definition, as that's the easiest place to start:
We can dismiss the first, as the US is anything but honourable and fair. Were they honourable and fair, they wouldn't have left the Iraqis to be slaughtered after the previous Gulf War and they'd be fighting using the weaponry as the Iraqi military (as that would be an "honourable and fair" way of doing battle - technological superiority is anything but fair). The fifth also doesn't really apply in this context.
- Honorable and fair in one's dealings and actions: a just ruler.
- Consistent with what is morally right; righteous: a just cause.
- Properly due or merited: just deserts.
- Law. Valid within the law; lawful: just claims.
- Suitable or proper in nature; fitting: a just touch of solemnity.
- Based on fact or sound reason; well-founded: a just appraisal.
The second, third, fourth, and sixth may still apply under the context of the war. To prove that it's a just war, you need to show all of the following:
I say all of the following, as we're not talking about something as trivial as a jaywalker here. We're talking about what is arguably the most serious action in humanity. As such, the standards should be higher than anything else.
- that the US is doing what is morally right;
- that the war is "proper";
- that the war is lawful; and
- that the war is based on sound reason.
I could have used the following definition:
Conforming or conformable to rectitude or justice; not doing wrong to any; violating no right or obligation; upright; righteous; honest; true; -- said both of persons and things.
But, that immediately means that the war isn't just. There is demonstrable evidence that US has not been honest in its reporting on the evidence found and it has clearly violated both rights and obligations within the context of aftermath of the previous war (as that is directly related to the people) and this one (through violating the right to life of civilians). So, we'll stick with the first set of definitions, as it give you more room to move.
We'll look at them each in turn.
That the war is morally right.
Interestingly, one of the definitions for "morally right" is that it's based on a strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence. Under that definition, the war is moral. However, that immediately implies that detaining people without evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is morally correct, which is a clear contradiction to what is perceived as being "morally right" in our culture. As such, we must either conclude that we use higher standards than "morally right" (and thus we must use those standards), or that that definition cannot apply under the context within which we're dealing. Any other conclusion leads to a contradiction. So, we can discount that one.
So, let's turn to the philosophers, as it is they who are normally concerned with matters such as these. To determine whether a particular action is "moral", we need to have a look at normative ethics. We could use the golden rule, but that would immediately preclude your argument, as we should only be able to invade Iraq if we're willing to allow Iraq to invade us. That's clearly not the case. So, let's try another avenue.
We have a choice of three:
Virtue theory, while interesting, is accepted as being too simplistic. It's based on strong rules that we apparently must learn - namely, wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. The theories of Aristotle and Plato, while interesting, unfortunately don't scale well to nations.
- Virtue theory;
- Deontological theory; and
- Consequentialist theory.
If we have a look at deontological theory, Locke would say that we've already voilated our ethical position through killing people without just cause. A "pre-emptive defence" is immoral, as it deprives people of their god-given right to life. If they had actively attacked us first, such an action may be considered moral, depending on the circumstances. However, it cannot be considered moral if they have not attacked first. End of story.
Kant's categorical imperative may offer another path to morality. To be moral, we must treat people as an end, not as a means to an end. Taking the Iraqi's oil and using it to cover the costs of the war violates that principle, as is using the invasion of Iraq to create new commercial markets. The actions of the US would be moral if, after defeating Iraq, they handed over all control to the UN and stepped out completely (including opening up Iraq to full competition for services). There is still a chance they may demonstrate their morality here, but it's highly unlikely, especially given the recent debate in Congress about which US mobile phone network to install. So, that's another one down.
Ross's prima facie duties are also violated, as one core condition for them is that we have a duty to compensate people when we harm them. Again, taking oil from them to compensate us for the cost of the war is in direct violation of that. You could argue that the oil is to be used to rebuild Iraq, but there are other problems. There is also a duty to for nonmaleficence, whcih the pre-emptive defence also violates.
Consequentialism will be dealt with in the next post, but so far, there is no evidence that this war is "morally right". Philosophy, which is the only mechanism for determining whether something is moral or not, suggests very strongly that the war is immoral.
Consequentialism is your strongest hope, as it is strongly the domain of the conservative and economist. Consequentialism states that actions are moral if the results of the action are more favourable than unfavourable. We've got three choices here:
Ethical egoism would require that you be better off for the war. Given that middle east sentiment against the US increasing (and to some extent by proxy Australia too) and that the a downturn in the US economy is likely to increase the probablity of you facing unemployment, you have to conclude that you're worse off for the war. All of the benefits from the war (oil, contracts, etc) will flow to the US, not Australia. It is therefore unethical for us to be involved in the war.
- Ethical egoism;
- Ethical altruism;
Ethical altruism would require that everyone be better off after the war. That's everyone in Australia, everyone in Iraq, and everyone in the US. It requires you to put everyone else ahead of you. Again, the population of Australia is no better off, and we've increased the probability of both a recession and retaliatory terrorist attacks. So, that one's out too.
Utilitarianism has some fundamental flaws in it, but we'll ignore them for the time being. Broadly, however, the same arguments as above apply with regards to us. So, the war is still unethical.
Social contract theory falls down as well, as we've violated our agreement with other sovereign nations by invading a country without UN approval. So, it's still unethical.
Therefore, at this stage I don't need to go any further. The theories of Betham, Locke, Plato, Artisotle, Hobbes, and Kant would all suggest that this war is immoral, and as such, is impossible to be just.
I'll happily address the other points if you can show evidence that this war is "moral". I've only knocked down the first of four so far. However, the burden of proof is higher than just "we're liberating people" - that examines only a small part of the whole picture and is akin to putting blinders on. If you feel the need to continue this, please explain why a particular action is moral and how you came to that conclusion. Morality is a tricky thing, and I'd suggest using the thoughts of those smarter than either you or I to build your arguments, as anything we come up with, they're likely to have already considered. The third and the fourth points are probably the easiest hinge points. I shall say no more on this, however, for fear of giving you something to divert this discussion.
Thank you. :o)