Journal of Political Science - PSSU - Political Science Student Union

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Journal of Political Science - PSSU - Political Science Student Union

The Case of the Iraq War: Exploiting Justice and Consequentialism

on a perceived threat in the distant future, and is more

likely to be an attempt to weaken an enemy or shift the

balance of power to certain state. On the other hand, a

pre-emptive strike is used against an immediate threat

in which the aggressor has already shown intent to attack,

capability of attacking, and the consequences of

not striking the aggressor are too great to risk. In short,

a pre-emptive strike requires a state to be a target of aggression

while a preventative war does not. Preventative

wars are based more on a sense of uncertainty, and

Walzer fi nds that uncertainty in the balance of power is

always present and must be accepted; otherwise, it will

only provoke confl ict and irrational actions in international

politics (Walzer, 2006).

The supposition that Iraq was capable of producing

nuclear weapons was one of the uncertainties

present before the Iraq War. This uncertainty, which

was also an unsubstantiated claim, turned out to be false.

Iraq’s attempt to develop a nuclear program came in

the late 1970s when it purchased a nuclear reactor from

France. However, it was bombed and severely damaged

by the Israeli air force two years later. Afterward,

Iraq made no further attempts to recover the facility

or continue a nuclear program (“Israel bombs nuclear

reactor”, 1981). The absence of relevant facts such as

this in media discourse during the lead-up to the invasion

had a signifi cant e� ect on public perception of

the war. This omission of historical events in politics

is sometimes intentional, as obscuring certain perspectives

allows aggressive actions to seem more just than

they should. This phenomenon is best summarized by

Walzer when he expresses that “governments lie so as

to absolve themselves from the charge of aggression”

(Walzer, 2006, p.74).

Understanding the context behind the war becomes

imperative when assessing its justness, which

requires a clear distinction between the factors of postinvasion

Iraq and Iraq prior to the invasion, especially

with regard to political violence. Shortly after the time

of the invasion, Ignatie� , who had cautiously supported

the invasion, wrote an article in defence of the war. He

had taken concern more with the risks of the invasion

rather than the regime change aspect, and he had swiftly

concluded that the moral justifi cation of overthrowing

a ruthless dictator is unquestionable. Seeing as Saddam

Hussein had previously demonstrated his ruthlessness

when he used chemical weapons on the Kurdish population

of Halabja in 1988, it was rational for Ignatie� to

presume that the US-led invasion was a moral action

6

(Ignatie� , 2004). Although this does not consider the

sectarian confl ict within Iraq that was present even

before the massacre in Halabja, the confl ict between

Shi’ites and Sunnis within Iraq was forcibly restrained

under Saddam’s rule, whereas in post-invasion Iraq the

confl ict had re-emerged (Ignatie� , 2007).

The internal confl ict that transpired between

Sunni and Shia Iraqis only intensifi ed after Hussein’s

overthrow, as his removal triggered a political power

vacuum within Iraq. C. A. J. Coady elaborates on this

point speaking of the US’s failure in removing Saddam

from power during the Gulf War. He found it is uncertain

what “the internal political consequences of external

military overthrow of Hussein would have been,

given the divided opposition forces, the ethnic hostilities,

and the religious oppositions in Iraq” (Coady, 2002,

p. 30) Likewise, Ignatie� (2007) questions whether these

ethnic groups can “hold together in peace what Saddam

Hussein held together by terror” (p.2). The confl icts

and secession movements in Iraq were harshly repressed,

which to some extent prevented violence through deterrence.

Removing Hussein has altered this political

landscape (Coady, 2002).

Under just war theory, the overthrow of Hussein

could not constitute a just cause, even if it appeared

morally justifi ed to do so because of his history. The

overlooked fact that Hussein’s actions in 2003 did not

constitute an imminent threat remains substantial to the

case against the justness of the Iraq War. There was no

immediate danger posed to any foreign state, on the

contrary, the only threat at the time was to Iraq in the

form of an invasion by coalition forces. As per Walzer

(2006), hypothetically, a pre-emptive strike by Iraq on

the United States would be just; however, it had no capability

to do so. The absence of any imminent threat

ultimately deprives this case of a just cause, which in

turn diminishes the justice of this war.

In addition to this primary criterion of the imminence

of threat, Coady (2002) outlines four other

conditions for JOW: right intentions, probability of

success, legitimate authority, and last resort. Proceeding

with these in order, the intentions surrounding the invasion

need to be examined to determine if they are the

right ones. If the UK and US had the right intentions,

without any economic incentives presented by such an

invasion, there are more subtle ways to implement regime

change. The failure of containment through economic

sanctions and other diplomatic methods did not

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