Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Question 2: Does Iraq Set any Precedents

As part of our continuing debate series on the War on Terror and the Iraq War, we offer the second question:

Does the war in Iraq set any precedent for how we decide to go to war in the future or was this a unique situation that won't be repeated? Did it create a doctrine we can follow? Should there be set guidelines for deciding to wage preemptive warfare?

As always, keep the answers focused on the opinions and avoid personal attacks.

Question One: Why did we invade Iraq?


At 12:04 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

I think the conditions that led to Iraq do not set a precedent because they were so unique. For one, no other nation that might be a threat to us has a history of aggression against its neighbors. Neither Iran nor North Korea (the next two biggest threats in my mind) has a history of military invasion (at least in over 50 years). And Syria just pulled out of Lebanon, thus making it hard to say they can't be worked with peacefully.

That said, I am uncomfortable that we don’t seem to have even the outline of a doctrine that establishes how we decide when preemptive warfare is necessary. The so-called Bush Doctrine merely establishes preemptive warfare as an option but doesn’t provide a sense of when it is justified. Obviously, known to hate America, WMD, terrorist ties and human-rights abusing authoritarian rulers would all be on that justification list but, if that’s all that were required, why are we not invading Iran or Syria? Should we also include that there needs to be a consensus that a peaceful resolution to the problem is hopeless? But is that for a U.S. to decide unilateraly or for the UN to decide as a body? Or for, say, NATO to decide.

Yep. I’m answering a question with more questions. But I think they’re important for us to consider. We may again have need for preemptive war and I, for one, would like to be able to base that decision on more than a just gut-feeling that another nation is a threat. Or, at this point, are we done with preemptive warfare as part of the War on Terror? The world knows how big our stick is and how ready we are to use it, maybe it's time to just carry it and see what we can change by speaking softly.

At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Corey said...

I don't think that this war has set any precedent. Each war, and the events that lead up to it, are unique. I think we need to allow any future decisions to be made based soley on current conditions.

While I don't particularly like the idea of just leaving the decision up to gut feeling either, I think that it is important that a president is able to react quickly whenever a totally unexpected situation comes up. I think that establishing some sort of doctrine or checklist that must be meet could be a greater risk.

What happens if a country meets all 4 (or however many...) conditions that are needed to justify a pre-emptive strike? Is the President then pressured to send in the troops, despite what his gut tells him?

Theoretically, the person who gets elected President should be somebody that the nation has decided is trusted enough to make this kind of important decision.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

Answer to question #2: No… I too believe that the conditions that led us to war in Iraq where UNIQUE and by no means set any PRECEDENT for future wars. As I said in my short answer, on the first posting of this question... Every war has its own unique parameters. The Iraq War was no different.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

I don't think this invasion and occupation set any precedent other than, unlike our prior wars, we didn't need to be attacked before we invaded.

We can now simply claim the country could be (might, maybe, is possibly and any other synonym you can come up with) a future threat. Of course those kind of parameters would make it plausible to invade Canada. After all, they do share our border and they can be pretty liberal with their marijuana laws. And of course, we don't know what they'll be like in 50 years.

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does, but Iraq posed absolutely no threat to the United States of America and we invaded them.

At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

it's hard to say that a war "set precedents" when it just followed along with the precedents already set throughout history (Panama and the US entry into World War I, for example)

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Ronald said...

Of course this war on terrorism with its movement into Iraq set a very dangerous precedent. It was the first time that the United States invaded a soverign nation without that nation having first attacked us our our allies. So we conducted a preemptive first strike against them. That is not to say that Iraq was a friendly nation and didn't have some evil ways about it; but it did not attack us first. That is a precedent.

At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Objectivist said...

The word precedent signifies a previous instance or legal decision upon which future instances are based, a usage dating from the early 1400s. In British and American law it more specifically refers to a legal decision that may be used as a standard in subsequent cases.
Complements of

Any more questions regarding whether it set a precedent? (Then again, having read the comments, there probably are.) Oh, for pete’s sake, yes, yes, it DID. And no, it’s not up for discussion (some things, those that are NOT facts are, but this IS a fact, and therefore isn’t up for discussion (hope it’s not overly complex logic). If you have doubts, ask any lawyer.

I was a bit encouraged by what you said after the first paragraph. But “uncomfortable”, “important for us to consider?..” You ARE cool-headed, I’ll give you that. But by now, if all you are is “uncomfortable”, there is a problem with your perception of the situation. You have also had sufficient time to “consider” these questions and form an opinion (beyond the infantile range of comfortable or not).

Admittedly, I came across this blog on recommendation of another blog, and as such, expected it to be more centrist in opinions and ideas. But again, centrist not lukewarm. There are some aspects about this situation that are not up for debate – the facts. We can agree to disagree on the motives and on the commentaries; so let’s try to abstain from subjective beliefs. But the facts are such, that they demand an outrage and a call to action (Conyers has the right idea) regardless of your political affiliation.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Objectivist: First, forgive me for not using the exact legal delimitation of precedent. I meant the more colloquial variant. Even then, how does Iraq set a precedent? Given all the multiple reasons we went into Iraq, how could any other nation meet all possible criteria? Some, sure. But all?

Second, try reading more than one opinion of mine before calling me lukewarm. It's rather unfair to judge me on one comment on one post.

Third, you are confusing calm with lacking conviction. You don't change minds by being outraged. You gotta lead people. I'm not going to waste my time shouting and being heard only by those who agree with me. I want people who DON'T agree with me to listen too.

Fourth, other than my misuse of "precedent," what did I fail to get factually correct? I agree facts aren't up for debate. But in the War on Iraq, I have discovered that "fact" is an awfully elusive creature as both sides seem to call any half-truth a fact. I don't even think we know all the facts.

Fifth, I would like to hear your answer on to this question. And, if you are interested in Centrist thought, I ask you to read more of this site. I think you'll find a large dose of conviction.

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Objectivist said...

Of course we set a precedent. (and it is a fact.) “Given all the multiple reasons we went into Iraq, how could any other nation meet all possible criteria?”
There’s a logical error in your question. It implies that our reasons for invading Iraq stem directly from some criteria that the country met. Well… We can debate all the reasons why we went in there for a while. But I think we’ll all agree that the primary reason given by this administration was the threat of WMDs. And as reasons go… well this was a non-existent one (I have a feeling lots of other countries qualify). What are the other reasons? That Saddam was a bad, bad man? Now there’s a unique qualifier. Ever heard of an Iraqi terrorist before the invasion? No? Well, I have a feeling you will in the future (we’ve pretty much assured that). The country posed no imminent threat, had nothing to do with 9/11, and didn’t produce terrorists. Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that it was a utopian society, but I’m yet to hear a convincing argument that would establish why we HAD to invade Iraq, why it HAD to be Iraq, (and since I’m sure there’ll plenty of volunteers to enlighten me on the subject), how other countries don’t qualify for an invasion based on the reasons provided.
Finally, a precedent acts as a guiding principle, and as such the circumstances thereof don’t have to be perfectly recreated in order for the same course of action to be considered.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


With 20/20 hindsight I see no compelling reason to invade Iraq. The primary reason given was the possession of WMD coupled with an imminent threat. Neither turned out to be true.

Given how bad our intelligence was (and arguably how incompetent some of our leadership was) I don't see how a precedent was set in the specific conditions necessary to invade another nation. Again, I might be using this word wrong, but I simply can't foresee a situation where the justification for invading Iraq can be successfully used to justify invading another nation (I'd really hope no one would buy it). Then again, if you want to say a broader precedent of pre-emptive warfare was set, then you are absolutely right. I can certainly see us going into Syria without direct provocation--but the rationale would be different.

I'm probably parsing the meaning of precedent. I chose the word as a debate starter and didn’t personally interpret it in the "may be used" fashion. More of the "will we use it" fashion.


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