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November 24, 2008


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» The Iraq War – A Humanitarian Success? from The Volokh Conspiracy
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The Iraq Family Health Survey, conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization, found that there were about 400,000 excess deaths in Iraq up to June 2006 associated with the invasion. The second Lancet survey69491-9/fulltext) conduc... [Read More]


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PS. Bosch,

You're right that the way in which the removal of Saddam was carried out "contributed to the carnage."

But then you have to answer these questions: 1) How much of this carnage could have been reasonably foreseen? 2) What were the alternatives to war in 2003? (What was the future of the sanctions? The no-fly zones? The inspections?) 3) Even if the US had made far fewer mistakes in the handling of the occupation, how much influence could it have exerted to prevent first the Sunni insurgency and then the Sunni-Shia civil unrest? 4) How many deaths would have been unavoidable in the cleanest and most brilliantly devised removal of the regime? 5) What would have happened to Iraqis when Uday and Qusay Hussein inherited the country (and possibly fought over it)?

I tend to think that a great number of deaths were unavoidable simply as a consequence of releasing a country from three decades of totalitarianism. As numerous accounts have suggested, every year of Baathist rule brought further decay and despair to Iraqi society, and further degeneration of the nation's infrastructure. If Baathist Iraq was moribund in 2003, what would it have been like in 2006?

Seems to me that by any standard of humanitarianism the American intervention in 2003 and the sponsorship of a democracy (which, yes, includes a free press) is infinitely preferable to the likely alternatives - a total collapse of the sanctions and inspections regime, the implosion of the regime (inviting the interventions of the Saudis, Iranians, and Turks), an Uday-Qusay tantrum, etc. But that's an argument worth having.

kris k.

Bah, what a straw man argument.

No self-respecting humanitarian interventionist would be in favor of a war on humanitarian grounds unless:

a.) Military action would prevent an immanent major humanitarian disaster, e.g. genocide: 'immanent' being a key word here.
b.) All other reasonable means of preventing the disaster had failed.
c.) The possibility of making things worse is known to be exceptionally low.

Not one of these three conditions was met in the case of Iraq.

And on strictly utilitarian grounds, if you want to evaluate the decision to go to war in Iraq, you have to remember that things could've turned out much, much worse than they did for the Iraqis. Acting recklessly with other people's lives is immoral, even if you get a bit lucky.

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