War has been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, I've been wondering about the essential nature of war. Is it ever justified?
Many Americans agree that, in the aftermath of 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan was warranted. Most Americans agree that the subsequent invasion of Iraq was unjustified, a mistake of epic proportions. What's the difference?
People say that our right to invade Afghanistan stemmed from the attack by Osama bin Laden, who was currently hiding there, and the compliance of the Taliban in aiding him. So, we invaded and deposed the Taliban (though they're coming back now) and began the biggest manhunt in the history of the world.
This was, according to most Americans, a completely justified action, from a revenge standpoint, though it certainly wasn't called revenge. It was proclaimed a measure to keep us safe from further attacks, but in the end, the implication was simple: you hurt us, we'll kill you. That may sound entirely justified to some, but I'm going to play devil's advocate.
First, I wonder if maybe the terrorists won. Their stated aim, as terrorists, was to cause terror, to demoralize the United States. It certainly seems like they scared us: acting quickly, we masked our terror with rage and invaded another country.
Rage lies at the center of the question of justification, I believe. If I punch you, enraged, I am completely in the wrong. If you punch me, and I become enraged and punch you back, I am also, according to our society, in the wrong. Looked at on a larger scale (and I know a lot of people will say this is apples to oranges), the United States punched Afghanistan back. Were we right?
And what makes the invasion of Iraq unjustified? Ostensibly, our mission in Iraq was to recover nuclear or biological arms, which we never found. Our mission in Afghanistan was to recover Osama bin Laden, who we never found. Similar missions, similar outcomes, different view of justice.
Further, we executed Saddam Hussein, the sovereign of Iraq. Arguments about inhumane practices aside, the sovereign of a nation was executed. I may be mistaken, but isn't it laid down in our own Declaration of Independence that, "…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce [a people] under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government …"?
However much of a despot Saddam Hussein was, we had no right to overthrow him. Based on our own interpretation, that was the express right of the Iraqi people.
Some say we've done Iraq a favor, but I'm not sure. We have invaded their country, killed their leader, thrown out their form of government, installed our own and upset the Sunni-Shiite balance of power. And we wonder why they hate us. To the Iraqi people, America is the conquering despot.
In summation, I disagree with war. I will likely always disagree with war, because it is not for us to decide the quality or duration of the lives of others. It is the right of others to live as much as it is my right to live, and to choose the shape that life will take. No number of wrongs against us, real or perceived, will make the breach of that right justified.
Aaron Davis is a sophomore English major who would've made a great hippie.