Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Iraq War Conservative Skepticism

Tibor R. Machan

Since the start of talks of invading Iraq, it has been my view that it was a bad idea, in conflict with the principles of the foreign and military policy of a free society. I ended my first column written against the war on September 9, 2002, as follows:

"Perhaps Iraq needs to be moved on and fast, to stop Saddam Hussein from destroying us and our friends abroad. Perhaps some people do have the needed information that would justify such a preemptive retaliation.

"But with all the evidence showing the lack of credibility of the U.S. Government in so many matters, and the evasion of the process of getting Congressional authorization, how can someone support a mission that involves such serious risks as a war does?"

Later I kept reiterating my skepticism, based mainly on the idea that the government of a free country is established so as to secure the rights of its citizens, not to solve problems abroad unless some very carefully draw treaty has been entered into which requires getting involved there.

Slowly but surely quite a few early supporters or fellow travelers joined in and by now many conservatives such as Senator Chuck Hegel and William F. Buckley, Jr. have gone on record opposing President George W. Bush in his refusal to relinquish his irrational objective of building a functional constitutional democracy in Iraq. These are, it bears keeping in mind, not a bunch of America hating Leftists. These are men and women who came to realize that there is no rational justification for America to be fighting this completely mad war, a war against an enemy that amounts to, as I recently put it, a deadly heavy fog with no clearly identifiable substance that could be construed as a disposal enemy.

I admit that my opposition to the war was what some folks call "ideological"—in that tone that has surrounded this term ever since Karl Marx made it into something insidious. (An ideology, for Marx, was a simplistic rationalization for the ruling class’s efforts to make its exploitation of the people seem acceptable.) What, in fact, guided my thinking is the plain, unambiguous wording in the Declaration of Independence about the purpose of government in a country that is founded on the idea that human beings have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If this is a sound idea—and it is eminently sound, in comparison to others on which political regimes are founded—then government are akin to a body guard one may hire to provide one with proper protection against aggression from others. The body guard isn’t supposed to go around looking for other people who may need help. The job is to protect the clients and the clients of the government and military of the United States of America are its citizens.

Sure, sophists among us may scoff at this as simplistic—but basic principles are supposed to be clear, unambiguous, understandable by all to whom they apply, whose conduct they are supposed to guide. The complexities, and there will be plenty when those principles are applied in concrete situations, need to be worked out but never at the expense of those basics.

For this reason such apparent slogans—which are, in fact, sound, clearly articulated principles—as Benjamin Franklin’s observations that "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither…" have been my guiding ideas and all the talk about pragmatism and how the world is too messy to stick it out with principled policies, have never deterred me from my stance.

It is somewhat gratifying that early Bush loyalists are beginning to appreciate this, although it’s like that it comes too late for all those who were sacrificed on the altar of hubris. But then this has now become clear about the American government, be it under the administration of Democrats or Republicans. Its officials would not recognize a principle such as those laid out by the American founders if it came up to them a bit them in the face.

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