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    Globalization Is Freedom
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    Predefinito Le ragioni di un liberale contro la guerra (in inglese)

    Free Life Commentary
    Issue Number 71
    Wednesday the 11th September 2002
    Posted from Deal in Kent
    For contact details, see the foot of this message

    Why Britain Should not Join in the War against Iraq
    Sean Gabb

    The newspapers - at least, those that I read - and virtually all the
    politicians, seem agreed on war with Iraq. There is, as ever, much dissent
    from the Establishment position, not least in the opinion polls. But the
    only questions outstanding among those who matter in this country are when
    and with how much force. I am among the dissidents. I believe that war
    with Iraq would not secure any sufficiently great British interest, and
    therefore that it would inflict unnecessary suffering. In this article, I
    will explain the grounds for my belief.

    I accept that war is a legitimate instrument of state policy. This being
    said, it is a terrible instrument. It brings immediate death and maiming
    to serviceman, and nowadays to much larger numbers of civilians. It also
    can have longer term and still worse consequences in terms of further
    commitments and lingering hatreds. And it is commonly used as an excuse
    for higher taxes and losses of freedom at home. Before going to war, then,
    we need closely to examine whether the full weight of certain and probable
    suffering can be justified in terms of the national interest.

    This is, I know, a loose concept, and can be twisted by bellicose
    politicians and journalists in defence of any number of foreign
    interventions. Even so, it can be given reasonably clear meaning. We can
    divide the national interest into primary, secondary and tertiary. For
    Britain, as for other countries, the primary interest is the security of
    our home territory, so that we can go safely about our everyday business.
    For us, since we are a trading nation largely dependent on imported food
    and other resources, primary interest also includes securing the sea
    approaches to our islands. Our secondary interest includes remaining on
    friendly terms with our immediate neighbours - and, where convenient,
    enjoying a loose and benevolent dominion over them. Our tertiary interests
    are the protection of British lives and property in other countries.

    The first of these interests is about as absolute as can be imagined. A
    credible threat of nuclear annihilation, without hope of retaliating,
    might justify abandoning it. But short of that, territorial defence
    justifies any degree of force - always granting it is reasonably
    unavoidable, and no more than is needed to secure its object. The second
    and third depend much more on circumstances, and require nice judgements
    of whether the force needed is worth the desired object.

    Of course, even primary interest is not always easy to define in detail,
    and there is room for disagreement. I do not think, for example, there is
    any doubt that our first big war with Louis XIV was justified. He had
    taken in the exiled Stuart King, and was actively working for his
    restoration. That would, if successful, have entailed the voiding of our
    constitution and our becoming a satellite of France. But was our second
    big war with him - over the Spanish succession - equally justified?
    Perhaps the effective joining of France and Spain would have enabled a
    more successful attack on us in the future. Perhaps not. Some claimed it
    was a war of national defence, others that it was an excuse for the Whigs
    and the moneyed interest to entrench themselves still further. There are
    similar debates over our two big wars of the last century, and over the
    Cold War. I take a pacific line on all three, though accept that there are
    often persuasive arguments on the other side. But, while there is room for
    debate over its meaning in any given set of circumstances, primary
    interest usually can be defined, and even defined without controversy.

    What makes these arguments over interest so important it that a clear
    understanding of them is the best means of avoiding or containing wars.
    When a country's interests are settled and stated to the rest of the
    world, they can be taken into account by other countries. Sometimes, they
    will conflict with those of other countries, and there may be a war. At
    least as often, though, their statement will provide a stable framework
    within which other countries can pursue their own interests in the most
    economic manner. For example, in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Bismark
    knew that helping France was not in British interests, and that its
    reduction would in itself bring no adverse consequences. At the same time,
    he knew that trying to shorten the war by an attack through Belgium, or a
    long occupation of France, or a seizure of its colonies, would provoke
    some level of British response. There are many other cases where wars have
    been avoided or contained by turning foreign policy into a game of chess.

    To be sure, a country can try to widen its primary interest to include
    more than territorial security. The Romans and British did this in defence
    of their empires, and the Americans in Indo-China when they announced the
    containment of Communism to be part of their primary interest. However,
    unless - as with the British and Romans - the additional territories are
    seriously regarded as part of the home territory, this will tend to
    destabilise international relations. Despite all the was said in
    Washington, the Soviets and local Communists knew that the American
    commitment to South Vietnam and Cambodia was not absolute, and that enough
    escalation of the war would get the Americans out.

    Nor is it merely prudential for a country to narrow its definition of
    primary interest to defence of the home territory. A state is nothing more
    than the agent of the people who live in a country. It is therefore
    morally obliged to take a narrow - and even selfish - view of the national
    interest. If a man, acting in his personal capacity, gives money to
    charity, he is rightly praised for his virtue. If he does the same as a
    trustee, without taking instructions, or against the clear terms of his
    trust, he rightly opens himself to action in the courts. It is the same
    with politicians. It is one thing for a minister to resign form office and
    sign up for some foreign cause in which he passionately believes. It is
    something else for him to commit the lives and money of other people to
    going about the world as a knight errant.

    And so, before starting a war with Iraq, it is necessary for our
    Government to show as clearly as possible what British interests will
    thereby be secured and at what probable cost. So far, this has not been
    done.

    We are told that Saddam Hussain has, or soon will have, "weapons of mass
    destruction", and that he plainly intends to use these against us. If
    true, this would justify war. However, there is no credible evidence that
    he has these weapons. His country has been under close blockade since
    1990. Nothing enters or leaves without knowledge. For much of this time,
    it has been subject to close internal inspection by the United Nations.
    Notoriously, the inspectors have found nothing. Claims that Mr Hussain is
    "about" to develop such weapons are based on simple assertion: any
    evidence on which the claims are based remains unpublished. Even if he
    does or soon will have these weapons, there is no reason to suppose he
    intends to use them against us. Where are his means of delivery against a
    modern, well-defended country like ours? What reason have we to believe he
    would even try? We are told that he might try using them. He might try
    doing any number of things. He might dye his hair green, or have a sex
    change operation. But there is no reason to suppose he will do any such
    thing. Until 1990, his main objectives were to keep himself in power by
    murdering anyone who got in his way, and to bully his neighbours whenever
    he thought the Americans would approve. His known character is as black as
    can be imagined, but does not seem likely to endanger any primary British
    interest.

    There is the oil. Iraq has large reserves, and the invasion of Kuwait
    would have greatly increased these - as would whatever degree of control
    over Saudi Arabia Mr Hussain might have contemplated in 1990. But there is
    a lot of oil in the world outside his reach; and at best, he might simply
    have increased his own revenues by selling oil at prices set within a
    larger market. Tertiary British interests might have suffered by his local
    hegemony - and might still suffer if he were freed from the blockade of
    his country. But the necessary action in defence of these would not be
    proportionate to their value.

    Even without the Americans to do most of the fighting and spending, we
    could probably invade Iraq at little immediate cost. But we are not just
    talking here about immediate cost. Destroying the present Iraqi Government
    would almost certainly fragment the country, leading to threats of partial
    annexation by Turkey and Iran and Syria, and to chronic instability in
    those parts that remained. Conquest must therefore entail indefinite
    occupation. This in turn must raise hatreds throughout the rest of the
    Islamic world that we now know cannot be ignored. We cannot know exactly
    what would be the final costs of war would be, but we have excellent
    reason to know that they would be heavier than of any previous
    intervention in that region.

    There is another attempted justification - still passing round by word of
    mouth. This is that the Iraqis were behind the American bombings last 11th
    September. If they were, this might justify war. As I have granted
    elsewhere, these bombings were rather like piracy, so far as they could
    easily be repeated against any other Western country; and therefore, a war
    of punishment could possibly be justified in terms of primary interest.

    The problem here, though, is credibility. We were repeatedly assured that
    Osama bin Laden had directed those bombings. On the strength of these
    assurances, we invaded Afghanistan. We are now stuck there, trying to keep
    order between various gangs of bandits; and the evidence on which we went
    in has turned out so insubstantial that it is being quietly withdrawn in
    favour of a new set of accusations. Without firm, published evidence for
    an Iraqi connection, I for one do not intend to give a moment's belief to
    these accusations.

    I can think of one other valid reason for war. This is that we have a
    strong interest in keeping friendly with the Americans. Sooner or later,
    some mainstream British politician will squeeze together enough courage to
    argue for withdrawal from the European Union. This argument will be more
    easily won if there is the alternative open of joining NAFTA. I would
    prefer withdrawal to be followed by no other connection. To twist the old
    Socialist Worker slogan, I want neither Brussels nor Washington, but
    complete national independence. However, domination by the second would be
    less humiliating and more accountable than by the first. And if we are to
    keep that option open, perhaps we need to show willing in whatever crusade
    Mr Bush cares to announce.

    The argument against is that there is probably no such need. The Americans
    encouraged the formation of the European Union back in the days when they
    wanted a local counterweight to the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. Those
    days have passed, and the Americans are now beginning to see the European
    Union as at least an annoying competitor for world influence. Weakening
    it, by pulling Britain out, is in their interests regardless of whether we
    join or fail to join in their war against Iraq. Indeed, for the British
    Government to take the European line, of neutrality, might bring the
    weakening of the European Union closer to the top of the American foreign
    policy agenda.

    And so, for what little it may be worth, my sentence is for peace. If the
    Americans really want a war with Iraq, let them fight it by themselves,
    and let them by themselves pay whatever costs it may entail.
    "Non spargerai false dicerie; non presterai mano al colpevole per essere testimone in favore di un'ingiustizia. Non seguirai la maggioranza per agire male e non deporrai in processo per deviate la maggioranza, per falsare la giustizia. Non favorirai nemmeno il debole nel suo processo" (Esodo 23: 1-3)

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  2. #2
    Globalization Is Freedom
    Data Registrazione
    05 Mar 2002
    Messaggi
    2,486
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Predefinito Le ragioni di un liberale contro la guerra (in inglese)

    Free Life Commentary
    Issue Number 71
    Wednesday the 11th September 2002
    Posted from Deal in Kent
    For contact details, see the foot of this message

    Why Britain Should not Join in the War against Iraq
    Sean Gabb

    The newspapers - at least, those that I read - and virtually all the
    politicians, seem agreed on war with Iraq. There is, as ever, much dissent
    from the Establishment position, not least in the opinion polls. But the
    only questions outstanding among those who matter in this country are when
    and with how much force. I am among the dissidents. I believe that war
    with Iraq would not secure any sufficiently great British interest, and
    therefore that it would inflict unnecessary suffering. In this article, I
    will explain the grounds for my belief.

    I accept that war is a legitimate instrument of state policy. This being
    said, it is a terrible instrument. It brings immediate death and maiming
    to serviceman, and nowadays to much larger numbers of civilians. It also
    can have longer term and still worse consequences in terms of further
    commitments and lingering hatreds. And it is commonly used as an excuse
    for higher taxes and losses of freedom at home. Before going to war, then,
    we need closely to examine whether the full weight of certain and probable
    suffering can be justified in terms of the national interest.

    This is, I know, a loose concept, and can be twisted by bellicose
    politicians and journalists in defence of any number of foreign
    interventions. Even so, it can be given reasonably clear meaning. We can
    divide the national interest into primary, secondary and tertiary. For
    Britain, as for other countries, the primary interest is the security of
    our home territory, so that we can go safely about our everyday business.
    For us, since we are a trading nation largely dependent on imported food
    and other resources, primary interest also includes securing the sea
    approaches to our islands. Our secondary interest includes remaining on
    friendly terms with our immediate neighbours - and, where convenient,
    enjoying a loose and benevolent dominion over them. Our tertiary interests
    are the protection of British lives and property in other countries.

    The first of these interests is about as absolute as can be imagined. A
    credible threat of nuclear annihilation, without hope of retaliating,
    might justify abandoning it. But short of that, territorial defence
    justifies any degree of force - always granting it is reasonably
    unavoidable, and no more than is needed to secure its object. The second
    and third depend much more on circumstances, and require nice judgements
    of whether the force needed is worth the desired object.

    Of course, even primary interest is not always easy to define in detail,
    and there is room for disagreement. I do not think, for example, there is
    any doubt that our first big war with Louis XIV was justified. He had
    taken in the exiled Stuart King, and was actively working for his
    restoration. That would, if successful, have entailed the voiding of our
    constitution and our becoming a satellite of France. But was our second
    big war with him - over the Spanish succession - equally justified?
    Perhaps the effective joining of France and Spain would have enabled a
    more successful attack on us in the future. Perhaps not. Some claimed it
    was a war of national defence, others that it was an excuse for the Whigs
    and the moneyed interest to entrench themselves still further. There are
    similar debates over our two big wars of the last century, and over the
    Cold War. I take a pacific line on all three, though accept that there are
    often persuasive arguments on the other side. But, while there is room for
    debate over its meaning in any given set of circumstances, primary
    interest usually can be defined, and even defined without controversy.

    What makes these arguments over interest so important it that a clear
    understanding of them is the best means of avoiding or containing wars.
    When a country's interests are settled and stated to the rest of the
    world, they can be taken into account by other countries. Sometimes, they
    will conflict with those of other countries, and there may be a war. At
    least as often, though, their statement will provide a stable framework
    within which other countries can pursue their own interests in the most
    economic manner. For example, in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Bismark
    knew that helping France was not in British interests, and that its
    reduction would in itself bring no adverse consequences. At the same time,
    he knew that trying to shorten the war by an attack through Belgium, or a
    long occupation of France, or a seizure of its colonies, would provoke
    some level of British response. There are many other cases where wars have
    been avoided or contained by turning foreign policy into a game of chess.

    To be sure, a country can try to widen its primary interest to include
    more than territorial security. The Romans and British did this in defence
    of their empires, and the Americans in Indo-China when they announced the
    containment of Communism to be part of their primary interest. However,
    unless - as with the British and Romans - the additional territories are
    seriously regarded as part of the home territory, this will tend to
    destabilise international relations. Despite all the was said in
    Washington, the Soviets and local Communists knew that the American
    commitment to South Vietnam and Cambodia was not absolute, and that enough
    escalation of the war would get the Americans out.

    Nor is it merely prudential for a country to narrow its definition of
    primary interest to defence of the home territory. A state is nothing more
    than the agent of the people who live in a country. It is therefore
    morally obliged to take a narrow - and even selfish - view of the national
    interest. If a man, acting in his personal capacity, gives money to
    charity, he is rightly praised for his virtue. If he does the same as a
    trustee, without taking instructions, or against the clear terms of his
    trust, he rightly opens himself to action in the courts. It is the same
    with politicians. It is one thing for a minister to resign form office and
    sign up for some foreign cause in which he passionately believes. It is
    something else for him to commit the lives and money of other people to
    going about the world as a knight errant.

    And so, before starting a war with Iraq, it is necessary for our
    Government to show as clearly as possible what British interests will
    thereby be secured and at what probable cost. So far, this has not been
    done.

    We are told that Saddam Hussain has, or soon will have, "weapons of mass
    destruction", and that he plainly intends to use these against us. If
    true, this would justify war. However, there is no credible evidence that
    he has these weapons. His country has been under close blockade since
    1990. Nothing enters or leaves without knowledge. For much of this time,
    it has been subject to close internal inspection by the United Nations.
    Notoriously, the inspectors have found nothing. Claims that Mr Hussain is
    "about" to develop such weapons are based on simple assertion: any
    evidence on which the claims are based remains unpublished. Even if he
    does or soon will have these weapons, there is no reason to suppose he
    intends to use them against us. Where are his means of delivery against a
    modern, well-defended country like ours? What reason have we to believe he
    would even try? We are told that he might try using them. He might try
    doing any number of things. He might dye his hair green, or have a sex
    change operation. But there is no reason to suppose he will do any such
    thing. Until 1990, his main objectives were to keep himself in power by
    murdering anyone who got in his way, and to bully his neighbours whenever
    he thought the Americans would approve. His known character is as black as
    can be imagined, but does not seem likely to endanger any primary British
    interest.

    There is the oil. Iraq has large reserves, and the invasion of Kuwait
    would have greatly increased these - as would whatever degree of control
    over Saudi Arabia Mr Hussain might have contemplated in 1990. But there is
    a lot of oil in the world outside his reach; and at best, he might simply
    have increased his own revenues by selling oil at prices set within a
    larger market. Tertiary British interests might have suffered by his local
    hegemony - and might still suffer if he were freed from the blockade of
    his country. But the necessary action in defence of these would not be
    proportionate to their value.

    Even without the Americans to do most of the fighting and spending, we
    could probably invade Iraq at little immediate cost. But we are not just
    talking here about immediate cost. Destroying the present Iraqi Government
    would almost certainly fragment the country, leading to threats of partial
    annexation by Turkey and Iran and Syria, and to chronic instability in
    those parts that remained. Conquest must therefore entail indefinite
    occupation. This in turn must raise hatreds throughout the rest of the
    Islamic world that we now know cannot be ignored. We cannot know exactly
    what would be the final costs of war would be, but we have excellent
    reason to know that they would be heavier than of any previous
    intervention in that region.

    There is another attempted justification - still passing round by word of
    mouth. This is that the Iraqis were behind the American bombings last 11th
    September. If they were, this might justify war. As I have granted
    elsewhere, these bombings were rather like piracy, so far as they could
    easily be repeated against any other Western country; and therefore, a war
    of punishment could possibly be justified in terms of primary interest.

    The problem here, though, is credibility. We were repeatedly assured that
    Osama bin Laden had directed those bombings. On the strength of these
    assurances, we invaded Afghanistan. We are now stuck there, trying to keep
    order between various gangs of bandits; and the evidence on which we went
    in has turned out so insubstantial that it is being quietly withdrawn in
    favour of a new set of accusations. Without firm, published evidence for
    an Iraqi connection, I for one do not intend to give a moment's belief to
    these accusations.

    I can think of one other valid reason for war. This is that we have a
    strong interest in keeping friendly with the Americans. Sooner or later,
    some mainstream British politician will squeeze together enough courage to
    argue for withdrawal from the European Union. This argument will be more
    easily won if there is the alternative open of joining NAFTA. I would
    prefer withdrawal to be followed by no other connection. To twist the old
    Socialist Worker slogan, I want neither Brussels nor Washington, but
    complete national independence. However, domination by the second would be
    less humiliating and more accountable than by the first. And if we are to
    keep that option open, perhaps we need to show willing in whatever crusade
    Mr Bush cares to announce.

    The argument against is that there is probably no such need. The Americans
    encouraged the formation of the European Union back in the days when they
    wanted a local counterweight to the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. Those
    days have passed, and the Americans are now beginning to see the European
    Union as at least an annoying competitor for world influence. Weakening
    it, by pulling Britain out, is in their interests regardless of whether we
    join or fail to join in their war against Iraq. Indeed, for the British
    Government to take the European line, of neutrality, might bring the
    weakening of the European Union closer to the top of the American foreign
    policy agenda.

    And so, for what little it may be worth, my sentence is for peace. If the
    Americans really want a war with Iraq, let them fight it by themselves,
    and let them by themselves pay whatever costs it may entail.
    "Non spargerai false dicerie; non presterai mano al colpevole per essere testimone in favore di un'ingiustizia. Non seguirai la maggioranza per agire male e non deporrai in processo per deviate la maggioranza, per falsare la giustizia. Non favorirai nemmeno il debole nel suo processo" (Esodo 23: 1-3)

 

 

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