Journal of Political Science - PSSU - Political Science Student Union

Journal of Political Science - PSSU - Political Science Student Union

The Case of the Iraq War

Exploiting Justice and


By Tyler Carlson

On 17 March 2003, U.S. President George

Bush delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam

Hussein. It demanded that Hussein must disarm all

‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMDs) and leave Iraq

within 48 hours or face a full-scale invasion by a coalition

led by the US military. Eight and a half years later,

one can refl ect on the horrifi c outcome of this ultimatum.

To this day, President Bush maintains the belief that

‘history will be his judge’, or that the ends will someday

justify the means. Yet history has thus far judged him

unfavourably: the belief that the War in Iraq was unjust

and immoral is widespread and the criticism of this confl

ict has expanded for long enough that it has become a

tiresome subject for many. Regardless of this, revisiting

this case is important to the present understanding of

unjust war and warfare, and the likely consequences of

preventative wars. Therefore, this paper aims to assess

the justness of the Iraq War in principle and practice,

and determine whether ‘consequentialist’ arguments are

adequate as a justifi cation for war. Moreover, using just

war theory to analyze whether the Iraq War is morally

unjustifi ed, I will explore and discuss what lessons can

be learned from its application to this case.

Employing just war theory requires two central

considerations: these are “justice of war” (JOW) and

“justice in war” (JIW) (Coady, 2002). When analysing

the Iraq War under the criteria of JOW, there are some

apparent shortcomings. Although the Bush administration

proclaimed the invasion of Iraq to be a just cause, the

assertion that Iraq posed an imminent threat gradually

became doubtful until it was refuted completely (“War

wasn’t justifi ed”, 2004). The initial accusations made


by the Bush administration were that Saddam Hussein

possessed weapons of mass destruction and he could potentially

supply these weapons to terrorist organizations.

Therefore, these weapons had to be forcibly removed

because of the threat they posed in Hussein’s control.

Whether or not this supposed just cause was nothing

more than a fi ctional pretext for invasion has been highly

debated in the past (Weigel, 2007; Fisher and Biggar,

2011). If Iraq was invaded only to achieve regime

change and a favourable shift in political relations, in

other words overthrowing the Hussein regime, then this

war becomes a lot less justifi able. Michael Walzer believes

that regime change is only a legitimate goal when

a regime acts with unyielding aggression against other

states, such as the military conquests of Imperial Japan

and Nazi Germany bringing on the Second World War.

It violates state sovereignty to remove a regime merely

for the benefi t of other states, he argues. Walzer’s legalist

paradigm can also be applied to this case: this concept

emphasises the sovereignty of a state and the principle of

non-intervention within other state a� airs except when

aggression is used (Walzer, 2006).

Under Walzer’s defi nition of aggression, domestic

a� airs are excluded, and only a clear attack or

intent to attack another sovereign state may constitute

aggression. Therefore, seeing as Iraq showed no aggression

towards the United States during the prelude to the

confl ict, it indicates that there was no justifi cation for

war. Meanwhile, others disagree with such an idea, and

claim that justifi cations for regime change in the context

of Iraq were legitimate. Michael Ignatie� considered

regime change to be a central argument in support of

the invasion (Ignatie� , 2003). After all, there was a presumed

threat at the time, and many Americans backed

the invasion and trusted the assertions against Hussein.

Regardless of the fact that this was later revealed untrue,

Iraq allegedly posed a potential threat to US national

security in 2003. However, even under the assumption

that governments and their intelligence agencies sincerely

believed the information they were disseminating,

this would still only classify Iraq as a future potential

threat, not an imminent threat. Therefore, this was a

preventative war rather than a pre-emptive strike, and

making a distinction between the two is essential in just

war theory (Walzer, 2006).

The Justness of the Invasion

According to Walzer, a preventative war is based

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