To the editor Invasion Ethically Justified Editorial

Thursday, 01 April 2004


    To Company Director's credit, "The 21st Century Energy Wars" (June) provoked some heart-felt and forcefully-expressed commentary in two subsequent letters. Bob James (February) was vehemently opposed to criticism of the article, by Bob Foster (December). I add my own comments, with regard to recent developments.

    Invasion ethically justified

    To Company Director's credit, "The 21st Century Energy Wars" (June) provoked some heart-felt and forcefully-expressed commentary in two subsequent letters. Bob James (February) was vehemently opposed to criticism of the article, by Bob Foster (December). I add my own comments, with regard to recent developments.

    The article's abstract promises "compelling evidence" about "the US's real motives" for its "invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan". It certainly provides copious statistics in support of its very plausible claim that oil "is a non-renewable resource and exists in a limited quantity." However I failed to find any plausible evidence or argument to support its claims that "...Iraq's oil the prize" and that "the current US-led 'war on terrorism' ..." is just a pretext "conveniently resulting in the establishment of several US military bases in and around central Asia".

    I can certainly accept that the US acts in its own self-interest. In fact so will every other country in the world. Surely that's sufficiently self-evident to be quite unremarkable, let alone being a rationale for criticism. However, if oil is the primary motivator, then why would the US spend many tens of billions of dollars and sacrifice over 500 American lives in a war far from home, rather than just do a deal with Hussein to buy the oil? I suspect that the oil would be cheaper to buy than to take by force, provided one is prepared to trade with Saddam Hussein. And having occupied Iraq, why is the US expending every effort to help the Iraqis to re-establish the country's infrastructure (not just its oil production facilities) and hand over governing power as quickly as possible?

    The questions we need to answer (not necessarily in priority order) are:

    • Is the invasion of Iraq in our own self interest?
    • Is it in the interests of our allies and friends?
    • Is it ethically justified?

    Presumably no Australian wants terrorist atrocities to continue to spread and grow. The debate is about how to stop it - whether we should have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, or not. One side of the debate accepts that terrorist forces have long ago declared war on us, and our only response can be to defend ourselves in that war with full force.

    The other side of the debate focuses on "root causes" of terrorism and suggests that we modify our actions and allegiances in an attempt to appease the terrorists and reduce the risk of terrorist attack in the short term. This is like feeding the crocodile so it will eat us last.

    What about our allies and friends? As Mr Foster pointed out in his letter, the US self-interest, as perceived and pursued by its liberal democratic government (warts and all) is certainly far preferable to that of dictatorships like Hussein's or of a bunch of murderous fanatics like Al-Qua'ida, Jemaah Islamiyah and their cohorts.

    And our friends in Europe? They also express their rejection of terrorism, but France, Germany and now possibly Spain, oppose the invasion of Iraq. Those who claim it will increase the threat of terrorism are adopting the classic appeasement stance, hoping that refraining from defending themselves will protect them. Perhaps some Europeans perceive the invasion of Iraq as against their own self-interest. Certainly France has continued to buy oil on favourable terms from Hussein for many years right up until the trade was stopped by events leading to the invasion.

    What about ethical justifications of the war in Iraq? Stephen Morris, Australian Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins University succinctly provides four powerful justifications for the invasion: There is enormous humanitarian benefit in eliminating a brutal dictatorship that has murdered over 300,000 of its own citizens and killed over a million combatants in the Iran/Iraq war. The invasion has eliminated Iraq's aggressive expansionist ambitions and support of terrorism, both backed by the threatened use of WMDs. Even though WMDs have not been found in Iraq since the invasion, there is no doubt that they were there before, that the regime was prepared to use them even against its own citizens, and that there had been over a decade of non-compliance with international demands for disarmament.

    The liberation of one major nation from an oppressive regime, in a region full of dictatorships, creates an opportunity to strengthen liberal democratic ideals in the region, increasing the likelihood of defeating terrorist forces and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    The invasion demonstrates that US diplomacy in the face of North Korean threats to acquire nuclear force, is backed by the credible prospect of pre-emptive military action by the US. This is also a clear signal to all other dictatorships and rogue states with WMD ambitions.

    I can only conclude with unqualified support for the invasion of Iraq. It's in our own interests, it's in the US's wider interests (not primarily oil), its in the interests of the liberal-democratic free nations, and above all it's an ethically justified action in this dangerous world.

    Steve Lieblich MAICD lieblich+associates


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