To the Editors of The Crimson:
After reading pro-war statements by two authors whom I respect--Michael Walzer's in The New Republic and Joshua Sharfstein's in The Crimson ["Protestors Mistake Iraq for Vietnam," Jan. 23]--I have decided to join the anti-war movement. Weak as many arguments against the a may be, the liberal support is just as myopic but far more destructive.
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, its military prowess and Hussein's designs for the Middle East are all bad things. If the war frees Kuwait, destroys the Iraqi military threat and chastens or kills Hussein, it will have done some good things. But these positive results will not justify the war. Although I am wary to criticize a smart man who wrote a big book on the subject, walzer's use of the term "just war" is strikingly ambiguous and only begs the important questions.
"To resist aggression on one's own behalf and to come to the aid of a victim of aggression: these are the classic just causes of warfare, good reasons for deciding to fight." Fine But clearly there are other reasons for deciding not to fight. In the present Iraqi conflict, for example, we have not opened a second front to liberate Lithuania, a nation with more of an identity and as much victim status as Kuwait. The cost would be too great.
We do not fight every just war we find. and we should not because to play on words, not every just war in justifiable. The fact that the war in Iraq is "just" settles nothing.
Proponents of war call dealing appeasement. Walzer says that it we make concessions, "we make ourselves complicitous in the aggression--and in all the further aggressive behavior that our action encourages, as the British and French were complicitous in the conquest of Czechoslovakia after Munich."
The main argument against appeasement is that it sets a precedent for further aggression and so for further suffering. But while the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was surely causing a lot of pain, the volume of suffering there was nothing like what we are now wreaking in Iraq, what Iraq is now causing in Kuwait and Israel and what the world's whole population will suffer in lost resources for housing, education, food, productive jobs, etc.
The arguments for war comes down to this: cause suffering now to save suffering later. As Walzer says, 'There are times when, if we are to preserve any decency at all, we must be prepared to count (and discount) human bodies."
This is not such a time. By the time the war is over, it will have caused destruction so horrible that it is hard to imagine what worse event could have happened. The ground invasion of kuwait hasn't yet begun to bring in thousands of American and Iraqi deaths. However precise American superplanes are, and if Vietnam after the War is any indication, the largest bombing raid in history will reduce Iraq to a heap of rubble. Kuwait will probably look worse. And when all the killing is over, if we behave as we did after Vietnam, Panama and Nicaragua, then Iraq and Kuwait will remain in shambles for years to come.
So why should we stop this war now? While I agree with Sharfstein and others who say that "troops out" is nonsensical, "troops stop shooting" is not. If we cut the deal now which we did not make two months ago, then we will end the war without raising hackles about "appeasing" Iraq. No one can confuse this bombing with appeasement. And for better or for worse, we will also have set Iraq's military back by decades.
The only way to produce a "better" outcome, i.e., one which is less threatening to us, is to continue to kill people, completely annihilate Iraq, and set up a government that fits our precise specifications. The longer we need to hold together a coalition that includes men like Syrian leader Hafez AlAssad, an easy rival of Hussein in the inhumanity sweepstakes, the more we encourage exactly the brutality against which we are fighting in Iraq.
Foolish as the peaceniks may sometimes sound, it is only they who are pushing to stop the war. Their rhetoric may get out of hand, but Lord knows that President Bush's does as well. Sharfstein says, "when practical concerns convince me that withdrawal is the best course of action, I will join the peace movement again." But while he mocks the demonstrators, others needlessly die.
Walzer makes an extremely silly argument against demonstrating: War "might well be politically or militarily unwise, but that is not a matter for marching." if a war, even a "just war", causes immeasureable suffering, isn't that something to protest about? Aren't most difficult questions "moral questions"? Sharfstein says that a "bloody ground offensive to retake kuwait may not be worth the cost in American lives and in Arab hatred for the U.S. and Israel."
But if, after noticing the bizarre parallelism of American lives and Arab hatred, we answer resoundingly in the negative, that is the moral response. Quite simply: It isn't worth all this killing. That is something worth marching for. Robert Gordon '93