Janadas Devan, in his “Weapons of mass destruction: US can cry wolf only so many times” (ST, Mat 16), believes that the US’ credibility depends on there being Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq as it used the argument that their presence justified a pre-emptive strike. However, I believe America’s credibility is already lost and it is wrong to think that if WMDs were found in Iraq eventually, this would restore her credibility.
UN’s charter article 51 concerning allowing pre-emption only in cases of “imminent” danger was quoted – something that the Just War Tradition has also argued to justify any sort of pre-emptive self-defense.
America’s National Security Strategy (NSS) was then referred to when speaking of the Bush Administration’s current position on “imminent” danger – the NSS said the concept of imminent threat had to be changed in light of different threats and a whole new kind of politics we face today.
I think many will accept that the new environment we’re in may necessitate modifying our views concerning the concept of imminent danger, like the NSS suggested. However, even if WMDs are found in Iraq, I do not believe one can say from either the UN Charter, the Just War Tradition or the modifications of these doctrines present in the National Security Strategy that war in Iraq was justified. Even if WMDs were for Iraq “weapons of choice”, the inspectors were present doing their job and they wanted more time. They were never given any by the United States.
Despite the new situation the world faces, a strategy of containment was possible, but America did not take a liking to it. They wanted a regime change and needed a pretext for doing so. Truth be told, Iraq was no imminent threat. Even if they had WMDs, they were not even close to being a threat any time soon. The inspectors were there and containing any such possible threats.
Justifying the war in terms of self defense becomes a joke when there is nothing to defend oneself against. While one can argue for bombing a country if she’s going to be a threat very soon, one can’t argue for bombing a country when she is a long way (months or years) from being a threat. In matters of life and death, peace needs to be given the best possible chance. In the case of Iraq, the inspectors will very well tell you this was not the case. Had they been allowed to continue to do their job, two things could have happened. Firstly, they could have found WMDs and pressured Saddam to disarm. If he disarmed, peace won the day. If he didn’t, peace was given the best chance and then it would be more justifiable for America to go ahead with the war. Secondly, if no WMDs were found for a long time, it’s either that Iraq truly has no WMDs or they’re carefully hidden. Either case, there would be no need for war anyway. The inspectors can continue to be present containing any threat. With them there, there would be no imminent threats to anyone.
America’s credibility should not seen to be dependent on the presence of WMDs in Iraq. She has already lost it when she started the war. When aggression is the choice of the day and not the last resort, there can be no justifying one’s actions. Peace needs always to be given the chance. It was never in this case. If so, we would never have known whether peace was possible. It may very well have been so, but we would never know because America delights in taking things into its own hands.