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Awkward Questions On War

 
 
Stinger
 
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 03:15 pm
While I've been watching / reading the news from Iraq over the last couple of weeks, many thoughts have passed through my mind. The pros and cons of war in Iraq. Alternative perspectives of the conflict.

I've tried to see things from different viewpoints, in order to reach my own conclusions about the war. During this time, I've been asking myself some awkward questions. Having an internal debate. I thought I might share some of my 'awkward questions' with you all, and then perhaps you can share your thoughts.

Has the concerns / objections raised by anti-war protestors, concerning the death of Iraqi civilians by US / UK military action, actually played into the hands of Saddam? Has he seen this as a potential weakness on our part (The west), and decided to use our 'weakness' against us, by moving Iraqi military units into towns and cities, thereby creating human shields out of Iraqi civilians? Is he willing to sacrifice civilians, in order to use public opinion in the west, for his own strategic purposes? Does that mean anti-war protestors who have been vocal and overt in their objections to war, because of possible Iraqi casualties, have ironically endangered the lives of innocent Iraqis? Would it actually have been better to show less concern about civilian deaths, and therefore left Saddam and his generals with a very limited choice of defensive strategies against the superior might of the US / UK military forces? Would this perhaps have brought about a quicker, and maybe even a non-violent resolution to the situation? Did the anti-war protests, give Saddam a glimmer of hope?

Many people feel that the war is really about securing oil fields, or that there is insufficient evidence of weapons of mass destruction, to justify war / invasion of Iraq. Although many of the same people who feel that the war is really about oil etc, are also willing to admit that Saddam is an evil dictator, and Iraq would be better of without him.

Is removing an 'evil dictator' who has tortured, imprisoned, murdered thousands of Iraqis, an insufficiently moral or just reason to go to war? Do we really need a 'better' reason to remove him? If Hitler & Nazism existed in Europe today, and we knew about ongoing, industrialized extermination of millions of Jews in concentration camps, would we feel it was better to refrain from war, and use diplomacy / sanctions instead? How many years would we wait for sanctions to take effect against a modern day Hitler and holocasut?

Obviously there may be a difference in scale between the level of genocide & fear in Saddam's Iraq, in comparison to Hitler's Europe. But what is the magic number of deaths that we need to reach, before we should act militarily? One hundred thousand? One million? How many innocent Iraqis should we sacrifice, in order to avoid war?

Of course you could say that going to war against Iraq, will also mean we have to sacrifice innocent Iraqis (Collateral damage). Many people perhaps feel this is immoral. But is it more moral for us to wait, and watch as Saddam kills / terrorizes innocent Iraqis? We could of course simply use sanctions instead of weapons to attack Saddam's power, but we've been trying that for a considerable period of time, with limited effect. Sanctions also harm the innocent. Indeed, it's unlikely that Saddam or his inner circle and supporters have suffered much at all from sanctions. Dictators tend to look after their own. While Saddam lives in a palace, ordinary Iraqis go without because of sanctions.

There are many questions about the west's previous support of Saddam, and the supply of weapons etc. Many lessons that need to learned. However, does the west's recent history in Iraq, and previous support of Saddam, preclude us from trying to remove him now. If we helped create a monster, does that mean we shouldn't help destroy it?

If the war is REALLY about oil, if there isn't any weapons of mass destruction, if there are various hidden agendas at work behind the scenes, does it really matter? If the final outcome of this war, is an Iraq free from Saddam's tyranny, should we be overly concerned that his removal is simply a by-product of a quest for oil?

Sometime between the year 2014 and 2025, many experts predict that the world's oil reserves will go into terminal decline. Gas supplies will follow within about a decade of this. When the realization of impending fuel / power shortages begins to take hold in the minds of the average consumer, will they feel that a war to simply secure and extend the period of oil supplies, was 'immoral', or a good idea? Will the avoidance of 'collateral damage', be a priority in our minds, as we scramble for the last remaining oil fields in the Iraqi oil war of 2020?
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 03:53 pm
Stinger, you have asked some very provocative questions.

I've been haunted by the notion that the Pentagon may using the media to disseminate inaccurate information to Saddam.

I'm baffled that many war supporters feel that being against the war is at worst an act of treason and at best an attempt to undermine the morale of the fighting men and women.

I'm deeply troubled by the further damage more war will to to the biosystems of the battlefield--and surrounding areas.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
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satt fs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 04:02 pm
Quote:
Has the concerns / objections raised by anti-war protestors, concerning the death of Iraqi civilians by US / UK military action, actually played into the hands of Saddam? Has he seen this as a potential weakness on our part (The west)..


As a general rule this is the strength on the part of the West, and in some strategic circumstances it can be a weakness.
(One can cling to one's principle irrespective of the situation, though.)
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 04:21 pm
Stinger, Saddam will use anything and everything that he thinks will favor him politically around the world. The problem with that theory is that most people in this world already know how terrible a leader he is. He only reinforces his sadistic nature, and nobody is surprised by what he does. On the other hand, most Arabs feel that this war with Iraq is an aggressive act on the part of the US and UK, and they are totally against it. Peace demonstrations around the world cannot be blamed for the inhuman treatment of his own people by Saddam. Saddam is a tyrant and a devil who kills at will. As for stopping Saddam's genocide, it was not the US and/or the UK's responsibility to stop him. It was the world communities reponsibility. No amount of deaths propogated through this war justifies any, because the US is the aggressor. Anybody that have lived through WWII knows about Germany's genocide. That's now in the past; it was a different world back then, and it is not correct to equate the 1930's and 1940's to the current period. Germany was an aggressor nation while they performed genocide. Iraq has not attacked anybody in the past 12 years. The fact that Iraq may have WMD is not justification to start a war with them. Many countries in this world now have WMD's. Finally, the fact that the US supported Saddam at one time is not of any consequence. Political friends and enemies will change many times during our life time. Japan and Germany were our enemies during WWII. They are now some of our best allies. We considered Russia and China as our allies during WWII. Many things have happened since WWII to change our relationship with these two countries. c.i.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 04:29 pm
Stinger

I think your "awkward questions" are not awkward questions at all. I think they are a rather craven way of stating a position in a pretend Socratic way.

If you have something to say about the war -- why not just say it instead of pretending that you are raising serious questions?

In my opinion, this move by George Bush will be looked at by history as one of the low points of the Republic. And I rather suspect that the law of unintended consequences will have all of us -- everyone on this planet -- suffering for decades to come because of the actions of a few truly miserable human beings.
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steissd
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 05:41 pm
Quote:
Psychological operations may become the dominant operational and strategic weapon in the form of media/information intervention. Logic bombs and computer viruses, including latent viruses, may be used to disrupt civilian as well as military operations. Fourth generation adversaries will be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion to the point where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. A major target will be the enemy population's support of its government and the war. Television news may become a more powerful operational weapon than armored divisions.[/i]


IMO, this quotation from the article The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation provides some kind of answer on the Stinger's question, that is not awkward at all, to my mind.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 06:16 pm
I don't think so, steissd. Television doesn't kill, but military operations do. When somebody sticks in gun in your face, they surely have 100 percent of your attention. We can always turn off the t.v. set. c.i.
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 06:31 pm
The resource is the property of the sovereign nation of Iraq. A swerious decline in its value by taking over the fields would do noone any good and would seriously further undermine US credibility. No, oil security would allow the continued pumping of the resource and the benefits would accrue to the new nations welfare(we hope). OPEC would still be the broker spokesperson .
BTW, gas has many more years of reserves and untapped unknown reserves. Weve actually not been looking very hard at all. We know that the continental margins are awash in methane , we just dont know how to mine it effectively and efficiently.

I believe that this war is truly the majorities belief that 9/11 and Iraq, are joined at the hip ( I dont as an individual but thats yesterday) We are in it and the only way to get out is by victory and removal of the boys from Baghdad. The rest is rebuilding and trying to patch a damaged credibility.
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au1929
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 07:25 pm
watching
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 07:38 pm
<bookmark>

Will be back - but those Qs deserve a longer answer than I now have time to give. have grappled with them, will continue to.

I think to many questions, the answer seems clear enough - in that sense frank apisa appears to be right that, considering the way you've phrased them, you seem to be proposing answers rather than genuinely asking questions - but that's ok. I gave the answers you are fishing for when it came to the war for kosovo, which i was for. "so what if the US intentions might not be sincere - if it'll save the kosovars and establish a new democracy in the balkans, it's worth taking the US ulterior motives in our stride" - et cetera. The reason my position this time is an opposite one is because of the counterquestions you can ask - and the balancing we have to do to weigh which questions are the more acute.

For example - to take a simple one, considering lack of time -

Quote:
does the west's recent history in Iraq, and previous support of Saddam, preclude us from trying to remove him now? If we helped create a monster, does that mean we shouldn't help destroy it?


The counterquestions would be: if we do acknowledge that we created the monster, how and why did we do that? Because he seemed to best represent our national and business interests? Because he was the lesser of two evils? Because we blatantly ignored what neighbouring countries and exiles from the country were trying to tell us?

If yes, isnt that where the lesson is, isnt that what we should do better this time? Shouldnt we listen to the countries in the region this time? Shouldnt we - considering the conviction with which we did it all wrong last time - exercize some modesty in thinking we know it all best, and act on a global consensus, through international institutions? Instead of again rushing forward into a new attempt to meddle and arrange something that currently seems to best serve our national and business interests? Shouldn't we beware more than ever of creating tomorrow's monsters? How many new recruits for al-qaeda are we creating with the way we're going about this, and how much more dangerous will they be, for both the Arab world and us, than the broken-winged Hussein was?

Same with this:

Quote:
Is removing an 'evil dictator' who has tortured, imprisoned, murdered thousands of Iraqis, an insufficiently moral or just reason to go to war? Do we really need a 'better' reason to remove him?


Counterquestions: are we really going to overthrow every evil dictator in the world? If you are idealitisc enough to say: yes, if possible, please - then how will this need to be done? According to what 'rules of the game'? If the only rule of the game is that the US is free to choose who is next, when it will be done, and who will take control in what way afterwards, how do the concepts of "liberation" and "hegemony" then balance out? what 'lessons' would the world learn from such arbitrary implementation of 'liberation' on the basis of one superpowers' interest - what political behaviors and responses would it promote?

Quote:
If the war is REALLY about oil, if there isn't any weapons of mass destruction, if there are various hidden agendas at work behind the scenes, does it really matter? If the final outcome of this war, is an Iraq free from Saddam's tyranny, should we be overly concerned?


What will be the outcome of the war? This is not a UN-operation - the US claim full control over what, how and who Iraq will be governed by after the war. It thus depends very much on the "hidden agendas" of the US government what post-war Iraq will look like. Will there be democracy, or a US military governor, or a 'friendly', more moderate authoritarianism?

If your estimation of what will be greatly depends on what you consider the hidden agendas to be, then so does the answer to the question whether the degree to which the outcome will be better than the current state of affairs justifies the political, economic and cultural costs of this war.
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satt fs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2003 07:46 pm
I hate a war, hate even talking about a war. However once it has begun, it must be endured to a reasonable extent. Otherwise it would be the weakness.
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Stinger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2003 01:12 pm
Thanks for the responses so far.

Frank..... Take a chill pill my friend. My posting is a genuine attempt to make sense of my own thoughts, which to say the least, are mixed, and vary from news report to news report. Which I imagine, is the same for many people around the world, although you seem to be unburdened by any doubts or internal debate. Lucky you!

The issues are extremely complex, and can not be summed up in mere sound-bites or glib comments. The questions I have printed on this thread, are just a sample of what is in my mind at present. While I am often quite happy to ask provocative questions, in order to start a robust debate or discussion, this is not that sort of thread. I'm not sure if this expression exists in your part of the world, but I think you have got the wrong end of the stick!
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2003 01:26 pm
Stinger wrote:
Thanks for the responses so far.

Frank..... Take a chill pill my friend. My posting is a genuine attempt to make sense of my own thoughts, !


COMMENT:

Take a chill pill yourself, Stinger. My posting was a genuine attempt to tell you what I thought of the way you presented your take on the issues.

The question format was a pretence in my opinion.

Present your opinions. I have no problem with that. But if you choose to ALMOST present your opinion and pretend that you are devising "awkward questions" I think my response was appropriate.

If it came across as over the top -- I apologize.

But pick out one of those "questions" -- present it as a statement of what you think or opine -- and I (and I suspect several others) will be happy to respond.
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Stinger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2003 01:47 pm
Frank

I think I mentioned that I haven't a set opinion on the war. Just a lot of questions, for which I'm trying to find answers. I imagine that I'm not alone.

That is not a 'pretence'. If you knew me better, you would realize that I'm quite happy to say what I think, even if others disagree. On this issue however, I have mixed feelings, and can not simply say I am 100% for or against the war. I think that makes me an 'undecided', (which for me is unusal!)

Now perhaps I should go somewhere with less 'incoming'.....like Iraq.

See ya!
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2003 01:51 pm
Well apparently Stinger would prefer not to discuss this matter with me further. For anyone else listening in, however, I have this comment to make.

Although in this latest post, Stinger says "I haven't a set opinion on the war"...

...a reading of his introductory "questions" indicates to me that he/she has.

My comments were appropriate.

I'm sorry if they seem like a personal attack. They aren't.

I am still trying to elicit a comment (not in the form of a question) to which I can make a reply.
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Stinger
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2003 03:32 pm
Frank

It is clear beyond doubt that you have already formed an opinion on the war in Iraq (And apparently on me too!). However, while you are lucky to go through life with such clear sighted certainty on complex issues, some of us lesser mortals actually have doubts, uncertainties, and questions. Sometimes we even get lost in the moral maze, and need time to find our way out on the other side. Perhaps that's a good thing. You know what they say...'Fools rush in....'

Having grown up in a society with a history of conflict, dating back to before your country was even discovered, I'm aware that the reality, the truth, is often more complex than the superficial view that outsiders glimpse on their TV. Therefore, when examining the issues of a foreign conflict, I try not to make the same mistakes - simplistic generalisations, stereotyping etc - that people have made about my country. Therefore I try my best to refrain from knee-jerk responses or hasty judgements, which is difficult in time of war, when the shooting has started, emotions are running high, and logical thinking takes a vacation.

Hence my questions. Just a selection, in no particular order, that exist in my mind. If you feel able to assess my bias one way or the other, you are mistaken. They are just questions, looking for answers.

So the short answer is, no, I haven't yet made up my mind on the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war. I can see pros and cons, but I am willing to wait until I can see the bigger picture, which alas, will probably not be visible until after the war is over.

All I did was to offer people the chance to share their thoughts and perspectives. As you may have noticed, I haven't been critical of, or praised any pro or anti-war views expressed by the other visitors. Everyone is entitled to their opinions on this thread. I'm not here to pass moral judgement. I was just hoping for some input from around the globe. Ideas, thoughts, hunches about war, that may trigger some thoughts in my own mind.

So far..........undecided.

Emotionally I'm supportive of the troops on the ground. There are many who were born and live near to my home. The integrity and professionalism they have so far displayed, is beyond question or reproach. A Lt-Colonel in a local regiment gave a speech to his troops on the eve of entering Iraq (Shown on TV here), which displayed more genuine morality, integrity, humanity, compassion and respect for fellow human beings and a foreign culture, than much of what I have heard from politicians, or the most vocal pro / anti-war campiagners. The regiment has now secured their area of operations, and are on surprisingly friendly terms with the local Iraqi population. Perhaps others may have something to learn from this!

Should they have been sent? Why were they sent? How long should they stay? Was war the only option? Is it morally justifiable? Did we wait too long? Did we not wait long enough? Was diplomacy a dead duck in the water of international relations? These, and other questions regarding the war, still need to be answered in my mind.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2003 04:01 pm
Stinger, I do not believe for a moment that war was the only option. The UN inspectors were doing their jobs - and preventing getting anybody killed. That was successful - to me. Many disagree with that position, and support this war with Iraq. Now that the war is engaged, I will support our troops. The individual soldiers do not have the luxury to decide for themselves whether this war is justified. They must follow orders. When faced with a military such as they have in Iraq, there is no doubt whatsoever that I must support our troops. The Iraqi troops will use innocent civilians for their cause in this political warfare. They are all criminals as far as I'm concerned. We have also learned that the Iraqi women and children that were killed yesterday were forced into their position by the Iraqi military by force. They were instructed not to stop when instructed by coalition forces. That makes sense to me, because what woman driving a vehicle would not stop when instructed by the "enemy" military? It's also my understanding that two British soldiers were relieved from duty, because they refused to kill civilians. I also support them. c.i.
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Frank Apisa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2003 05:28 pm
Stinger

Protest what I have said all you like. That is your prerogative.

Assume if you want that:

"Hence my questions. Just a selection, in no particular order, that exist in my mind. If you feel able to assess my bias one way or the other, you are mistaken. They are just questions, looking for answers."

That also is your prerogative.

I just went back and re-read your introductory comments.

You are full of soup!

My assessment of what you were doing -- and your bias is right on the money -- and anyone reading those introductory comments will see that instantly.

Try to deal with truth rather than getting peeved at someone calling the truth to your attention. Don't shoot the messenger.
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snood
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Apr, 2003 10:01 pm
Stinger wrote:
Thanks for the responses so far.

Frank..... Take a chill pill my friend. My posting is a genuine attempt to make sense of my own thoughts, which to say the least, are mixed, and vary from news report to news report. Which I imagine, is the same for many people around the world, although you seem to be unburdened by any doubts or internal debate. Lucky you!

The issues are extremely complex, and can not be summed up in mere sound-bites or glib comments. The questions I have printed on this thread, are just a sample of what is in my mind at present. While I am often quite happy to ask provocative questions, in order to start a robust debate or discussion, this is not that sort of thread. I'm not sure if this expression exists in your part of the world, but I think you have got the wrong end of the stick!


Frank was exactly right. If you believe you have actually been "trying to look at it from different perspectives", then from what you posted - you BS'ed yourself. It is obvious to any who look exactly where you stand on this war. The way you posed your questions was obviously slanted, and if you can't see that, you're in denial.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Apr, 2003 04:21 am
Yo people,

can we all go back to discussing the questions he asked, rather than how or why he asked them?

yeh, the questions may be posed in a slanted way, but they are no less interesting in themselves. frank, snood, you know that i'm against this war, but hey, i ask myself the same questions.

to repeat some of 'em: can removing an 'evil dictator' in itself be a good enough reason for military intervention? remember: for decades it was mostly parts of the left who urged interventions on such moral grounds, while the right preached realpolitik, preferring to act only on national interest. now the roles are oddly reversed: in rhetorics, at least, bush is waving the human rights banner, while his opponents use realpolitik arguments to defend why 'containment' would be good enough a solution for now.

until what point in time do we consider "diplomacy/sanctions" a good enough instrument to tackle brutish dictatorships? what are the criteria we ourselves have in mind when deciding when we consider military intervention justified, and when not? i'm sure the opponents of war on this board have widely different views on this, from the completely pacifist to the just-not-this-war. i'd be interested in what actual benchmarks we could come up with, on when giving up on diplomacy becomes justified.

if we do consider getting saddam out in itself a justified goal, but we reject the way the US has gone about starting and fighting this war, what are the alternatives we propose? the sanctions, its true, have not worked. many opponents of war in fact also lambasted the clinton gvt for the sanctions. so what would work? some people say: why dont they just send one sniper in to assassinate him. but would that really be any better - the US sending hitmen out to execute foreign leaders - in terms of international order?

i mean, i have some ideas myself, although admittedly all effective in the long term only: if the west, and the US in particular, finally started a serious policy of consistently supporting the democratic opposition in such countries, instead of ad hoc appeasing or attacking regimes dependent only on whether they are US-friendly or not; if they finally clamped down on arms trade and production; if they gave the UN more "teeth" to work with; then eventually there would be a lot less Saddams. But, again, it wouldnt work right now in this case. Is that what we are proposing then? Saddam is the proof of what was wrong with previous policy, we'll just have to live with him as the price for finally doing it right henceforth?

many point out the west's own responsibility for creating this "monster", but what is the lesson from that, apart from it delegitimising Bush's posturing as 'knight for democracy'? for some, the argument seems to go no farther than: well, we gave him those weapons ourselves, so we have no right to complain. but then what? is the lesson really only that we should now keep out, before we do any more damage? (i mean, that could be legitimate enough a position, but is it?). or what should 'we' do, instead of this dangerous war, to 'undo' our guilt in the past?

what about stinger's question about motivations vs outcomes? "If the final outcome of this war, is an Iraq free from Saddam's tyranny, should we be overly concerned that his removal is simply a by-product of a quest for oil?". some iraqi exiles, just like yugoslav exiles & dissidents in the past, distrust the US gvt as much as we do, but had/have no problem in 'using' whatever the real motivations of the US are/were to achieve their own goal: freedom for their people. that's reasonable enough in itself, isnt it? or is it dangerously naive? i tend to think its dangerously naive, but then again, it did work for the yugoslavs - and on an extremely basic level even for the afghans (or the kabulians, at least).

or - in the same vein - <big grin> - do we really need to care about what the motivations of stinger were at the precise moment he chose to open this topic the way he did, when the questions he asked in themselves are perfectly valid? ;-))
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