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COMPARE THE JUSTIFICATIONS FOR GETTING INTO WAR TO THE JUSTIFICATION OF AFTER-WAR STRATEGY | 2003-03-22

The minute any country starts talking about an ideal government for another country, it is ridiculous. The instant anybody starts talking about how much they owe other countries, they get silly.

So let us look at the justifications we use to get into this war: We have to argue that getting into this war is in our national interest.

It may be true that this war is in our national interest or it may not be true that this war is in our national interest, but the discussion on that point makes sense. We are talking about our own national interests, which is something we know about.

When we are talking about self-defense or our national interest, the whole world can agree that that is a justification for going to war. We may make a right decision or we might make a wrong decision, but the decision itself is not ridiculous.

The instant anybody starts talking about a post-War Iraq all self-interest is forgotten. We begin to debate what is good for the Iraqis. We begin to assess how much of our money we owe Iraqis. We join OPEC, because if we got Iraqi oil at a price below that set by OPEC we would selfish and imperialistic.

We go into every war with a debate on whether we have a national self-interest in doing so. That is why we win wars.

We go into all post-War planning worrying about the well-being of the people we defeated and those we fought with. Our discussion of post-War Iraq, like our earlier discussions of post World War Europe, does not include a single word about our own self-interest. It is our proudest boast that we fight wars and get absolutely nothing out of it.

It has never occurred to anybody that if we looked to our own national interest in the post-War period, we might actually win a peace for a change.