Jewish World Review Feb. 19, 2003 / 17 Adar I, 5763
Give tyranny a chance!
Of course, not all the marchers can be counted as 99.9 percent pure moralists. Some -- perhaps many -- marched out of simple reactionary hatred: for the United States, for its power, for its paramount position in a hated world order. London's paleosocialist mayor, "Red Ken" Livingstone, a speaker at that city's massive demo, comes to mind. His enlightened argument against war consisted chiefly of calling George W. Bush "a lackey of the oil industry," "a coward" and "this creature."
But doubtless, hundreds of thousands of marchers -- and many more millions who did not march -- believe quite sincerely that theirs is a profoundly moral cause, and this is really all that motivates them. They believe, as French President Jacques Chirac recently pontificated, that "war is always the worst answer."
The people who believe what Chirac at least professes to believe are, at least as concerns Iraq, as wrong as it is possible to be. Theirs is not the position of profound morality but one that stands in profound opposition to morality.
The situation with Iraq may be considered in three primary contexts, and in each, the true moral case is for war.
The first context considers the people of Iraq. There are 24 million of them, and they have been living (those who have not been slaughtered or forced into exile) for decades under one of the cruelest and bloodiest tyrannies on earth. It must be assumed that, being human, they would prefer to be rescued from a hell where more than a million lives have been sacrificed to the dreams of a megalomaniac, where rape is a sanctioned instrument of state policy, and where the removal of the tongue is the prescribed punishment for uttering an offense against the Great Leader.
These people could be liberated from this horror -- relatively easily and quickly. There is every reason to think that a U.S. invasion would swiftly vanquish the few elite units that can be counted on to defend the detested Saddam Hussein; and that the victory would come at the cost of few -- likely hundreds, not thousands -- Iraqi and American lives. There is risk; and if things go terribly wrong it is a risk that could result in terrible suffering. But that is an equation that is present in any just war, and in this case any rational expectation has to consider the probable cost to humanity to be low and the probable benefit to be tremendous. To choose perpetuation of tyranny over rescue from tyranny, where rescue may be achieved, is immoral.
The second context considers the security of America, and indeed of the world, and here too morality is on the side of war. The great lesson of Sept. 11, 2001, is not that terrorism must be stopped -- an impossible dream -- but that state-sanctioned terrorism must be stopped. The support of a state -- even a weak and poor state -- offers the otherwise vulnerable enemies of the established order the protection they need in their attempts to destroy that order -- through the terrorists' only weapon, murder. To tolerate the perpetuation of state-sanctioned terror, such as Hussein's regime exemplifies, is to invite the next Sept. 11, and the next, and the next. Again, immoral.
The third context concerns the idea of order itself. The United Nations is a mightily flawed construct, but it exists; and it exists on the side (more or less) of law and humanity. Directly and unavoidably arising from the crisis with Iraq, the United Nations today stands on the precipice of permanent irrelevancy. If Iraq is allowed to defy the law, the United Nations will never recover, and the oppressed and weak of the world will lose even the limited protection of the myth of collective security. Immoral.
To march against the war is not to give peace a chance. It is to give tyranny a chance. It is to give the Iraqi nuke a chance. It is to give the next terrorist mass murder a chance. It is to march for the furtherance of evil instead of the vanquishing of evil.
This cannot be the moral position.
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