Wednesday, October 16, 2002

As war blogging goes on, and people who know absolutely nothing about international law (along with a few who know something about it) weigh in with muddled thinking, one idea seems to have caught hold of the imaginations of those who oppose war in general, but want to believe they only oppose this one.

The objection is usually phrased as an apposite: "in this age of weapons of mass destruction..." or some similar wording. What follows is almost always a moral surrender. "In an age of weapons of mass destruction, we must hesitate to act, lest our acting cause something worse to happen." This usually appears as a part of an argument that also asserts that, say, Saddam Hussein (to pick a name at random) is no *immediate* threat to the US.

The syllogism seems to go like this: 1) The bad man is not an immediate threat. 2) He wants to be even more bad, getting weapons that could kill us all. 3) He will either use those weapons someday, or hold us hostage with the threat of using them. Ergo, we should not act now, because he might actually *be* an immediate threat to us.

It is possible, I think, to oppose war with Saddam on legitimate grounds at the present time. But this is not a reason for doing so. If war is ever just, then it must sometimes be mandatory. A day will soon come when Saddam and his ilk will declare their ability to harm us, almost if not in fact mortally, and we will in the very best possible outcome arrive at a new kind of Cold War. It will be more violent and ugly than the old one, though, because the Islamist fascists with whom Saddam will find himself allied value their own skins not nearly so much as the Politburo did, making "containment" a much, much riskier proposition.

If weapons of mass destruction necessitate a change in just war doctrine, as the bishops and others appear to believe, then I would posit that the change needs to be in the direction of acting on less immediate threats, precisely because of the danger those weapons present.


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