The Push for War with Iran–Please, No More Warmongers!

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The push by both parties in Washington for war with Iran is the continuation of the insanity that began with the invasion of Iraq. No watchdog agency believes that Iran has the capacity to make nuclear weapons at this time, nor will it have that capacity for a number of years. This is not to say that Iran is not considering making nuclear weapons as a counterweight to U. S. involvement in the region. Even if it did gain nuclear weapons, it will not be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons–Israel has quite a few, and Israel did not sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (Iran did). It is ironic that the United States effectively destroyed Iraq as a counterweight to Iran, with a pro-Iranian government now in power in Baghdad, and not wants to extent its aggression into Iran. The stupidity of American hubris knows no bounds.

Do those people in Congress consider the risk of strikes against Iran? American troops in Iraq would become more vulnerable, and the United States itself would most likely be subject to Iranian-instigated terrorist attacks. Wars are costly, and in a time of massive budget deficits wars only compound the nation’s debt. The cost to the civilian population of Iran would most likely be as high or higher than the cost to the civilian population of Iraq.

The war in which the United States is most active, Afghanistan, is a quagmire. Although the casualty figures are not nearly the level of the Vietnam War, they are bound to rise. If only the United States had followed the initial CIA plan of sending small units into Afghanistan to hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts, the conflict would have been limited to the police work it should have been in the first place. Now Iran is a larger country than Afghanistan with more resources, including military resources. And if the United States were to destroy Iran’s formal military, it could engage in an effective guerrilla war for decades. The war party could argue that an attack on Iran would be limited to air strikes, but does anyone believe that the war could be contained to air strikes or that air strikes could destroy Iran’s entire nuclear program.

It is long past due time that the American empire unraveled itself and formed a more humble foreign policy without the endless wars that drain U. S. resources and result in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths as well as thousands of deaths of U. S. servicemen and women. It is not too late to change for the better. One way to change is for both conservatives, moderates, and liberals who oppose endless wars to put aside their differences in other areas for the moment to find candidates who oppose the endless war machine of the military-industrial-government complex. Each political party needs to clean house on this issue–lives depend on it.

Is Modern “Total War” Ethical?

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Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

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I just viewed an excellent PBS “American Experience” program, “The Bombing of Germany.” It detailed how in World War II the United States moved from a position of “precision bombing” of military targets to accept the British strategy of “terror bombing” of German (and later Japanese) cities. For a number of years I have struggled with the ethics of modern “total” warfare–the idea defended long ago by General Sherman that “war is hell” and thus targeting noncombatants is morally legitimate. Thus, the 45,000 civilians killed in World War II in Hamburg, the 40,000 (minimum) killed in Dresden, the 100,000 killed by the U.S. raid on Tokyo in March 1945, the 80,000 killed by the Hiroshima atomic bomb, and the 40,000 killed by the Nagasaki atomic bomb were, according to the “total war” theory, necessary casualties to win the war more quickly.

I am not interested in utilitarian arguments since I reject utilitarianism as a viable moral theory. But traditional just war theory (which I accept; at the theoretical level I am not a pacifist) has always made a distinction between combatants and noncombatants. Of course some noncombantants will be killed in any war, but it is the intentionally targeting of noncombatants that is morally repugnant. Just war theory has always considered noncombatants to be “innocent” in the sense that they are not directly killing their fellow human beings. Arguments that extend “guilt” to the entire population of a country waging war can only justify mass destruction of human life. Total war inevitably harms the characters of those who actively participate in such activities as terror bombing and intrinsically corrupt any society that engages in them. Granted, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and after Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, the U.S. had no choice but to fight. The United States kept the moral high ground until 1945; would that it had kept it until the end of the war. It now seems to me that modern fullscale war has crossed the threshold into immorality, even for the “innocent” state in what otherwise would be a just war. Thus, I now believe that full scale “total war” is intrinsically unethical.