OK, now that I’ve given my conditions for why I think the war in Iraq *may* have been justified, or at least how the Bush Administration should have argued its case, let me start presenting my evidence against.
First, my position as an American conservative. For most of the Twentieth Century, the Republicans and the conservatives were the anti-war side. It was Democrats who got us into the two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
Until 2003, the Republicans only got us into a couple conflicts that I can think of–Libya, Guam, Panama and Desert Storm are the only ones I can think of –and they were all relatively short, “Get the job done and get out” operations.
IIRC, William F. Buckley wasn’t too keen on the Iraq War. Certainly, Patrick Buchanan wasn’t. After all, his opposition to the 1991 conflict was what inspired him to run against Bush Sr. in 1992. And Rush Limbaugh would rant against the “Buchananites”.
And I know from reading Peggy Noonan that she’s been no apologist for Bush.
But for a conservative to be “pro-war” is a violation of the principles of American conservatism. That is a consequence of Reaganism: Reagan ran on conservatism but found, coming into the vast federal bureaucracy that had been built up since 1933 with the exception of 12 years of Republicans, he decided that government could be used to “do good”.
One of the “foundational documents” quoted by conservatives to expound their philosophy is the “Farewell Address” of George Washington.
You’ll hear conservatives quote the “Farewell Address” (Or Washington’s inaugural address) on taxes, immigration, Church and State, and other issues. But, these days, conservatives consider you a weirdo and a crank and out-of-touch if you quote this part:
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? . . .
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. . . .
The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. . . .
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake. . . .
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. . . .
Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities. . . .
Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
I’m not a big fan of George Washington because of the whole Freemason thing, but the whole point of philosophy is that we can appreciate sound philosophy, no matter whom it comes from.
So, the first (and least) argument against the war in Iraq is that it’s simply un-American.