Monday, January 31, 2005

Column on Iraq, democracy & the war (sans typo)

Word from an Anti-War Advocate

Tibor R. Machan

It would be cowardly, I think, not to chime in at this time for those who
opposed President George W. Bush?s war in Iraq, given the apparent success
of the Iraqi elections. So, as an opponent of this war from the outset,
let me chime away for a moment.

Why oppose the war? Because the idea that it amounted to what the
military of a free country should be doing, namely, protecting the rights
of the citizens?in other words, defending the country from
aggressors?simply wasn?t credible. As to the claim that the military of a
free country may invade countries with tyrannical governments, that is
simply not the case. The military has as its proper job to protect the
citizenry, not to embark upon rescue missions around the globe.

It isn?t that such rescue missions are in principle wrong, but they may
not be conducted by the military that already has its job specified. The
reason we have government, as the American founders made clear, is ?to
secure [our] rights,? not to answer the 911 calls of the world?s
oppressed. For that mission some other solution must be found?perhaps the
UN needs to do this job, or maybe various civilian militias need to be
established. But it is wrong to send a military to do this job which is
already employed and thus committed to do another.

Of course, one can do a wrong and yet something good can come of it.
Getting Iraq to be more democratic is undeniably some measure of progress,
even if the full impact cannot yet be evaluated. (A democratic Iraq could
yet also be a tyrannical Iraq, since the ruling majority could be pretty
nasty to the minority. It remains to be seen.)

It isn?t true, however, that this move toward democracy vindicates the
Bush administration that has sent over a thousand American soldiers to
their deaths and a lot more to become severely injured in a war that the
American government should not have undertaken. Volunteers in a free
country sign up so as to be ready to defend their fellow citizens, not to
become the police force of the globe. So these soldiers were treated
badly. (This isn?t altered by the fact that some of them were willing to
fight in Iraq.)

It is difficult to remain principled in the face of all kinds of pressure
and, especially, when one?s fellow contrarians can be a pretty unsavory
lot. Many opponents of this war have rested their opposition on grounds
that are entirely inconsistent with their very own political philosophy.
All the beef about the preemptive nature of Bush?s war from those who have
absolutely no hesitation about violating individual rights for various
?precautionary? purposes?e.g., in the area of environmental policy or
other types of government regulation?belies their supposed outrage with
how the Bush administration has acted vis-à-vis Iraq. Nearly everything I
read from such folks against the war in Iraq reeks of hypocrisy and

Never mind. The crucial issue is whether a champion of a fully free
society can back a war that does not involve national defense. And I do
not believe such a person can do so. And since I think such a person is
right?which is to say, such a person holds a reasonable, sensible view of
the proper function of government and, thus, the military?the unsavory
company he or she happens to keep in this particular instance is
irrelevant. (Consider that in defending the right to private property, one
is also defending the exercise of that right for such purposes as racial
discrimination. This does not undermine the justice of defending the right
to private property.)

Of course, the move in the direction of a free society in Iraq is to be
welcomed. That?s so even if it is the fruit of a wrongheaded foreign
policy. But it should not blind us to the fact that going to war in Iraq
was wrong. Liberty is indeed a worthy goal for the US government to
champion and pursue, but not by means that undermines that very goal,
namely, embarking on military aggression, even if it?s against a dictator
like Sadam Hussein.

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