The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength

Peter Daou of the Daou Report looks at some of the ethical issues at the heart of the left-right divide on Iraq and terrorism.

The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” – Matthew 16:26

The unbridgeable divide between the left and right’s approach to Iraq and the WoT is, among other things, a disagreement over the value of moral and material strength, with the left placing a premium on the former and the right on the latter. The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left’s protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader…..

War hawks squeal about America-haters and traitors, heaping scorn on the so-called “blame America first” crowd, but they fail to comprehend that the left reserves the deepest disdain for those who squander our moral authority. The scars of a terrorist attack heal and we are sadder but stronger for having lived through it. When our moral leadership is compromised by people draped in the American flag, America is weakened. The loss of our moral compass leaves us rudderless, open to attacks on our character and our basic decency. And nothing makes our enemies prouder. They can’t kill us all, but if they permanently stain our dignity, they’ve done irreparable harm to America.

The antiwar critique of Iraq is that it is an immoral war and every resulting death is a wrongful one. Opponents of the war view the invasion and occupation as a dangerous and shameful violation of international law. Iraq saps our moral strength and the sooner we leave the better. Opposing the invasion on the grounds that the administration lied its way into it, they see every subsequent death, American or foreign, as an ethical travesty and a stain on America’s good name.

They have held this view consistently since 2002. Millions marched down the streets of our cities before the invasion, believing that the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein constituted a dire and imminent threat to the US was absurd on its face (whether or not the exact word ‘imminent’ was used is a semantic exercise, the implication was clear). Where the hawks screamed that Saddam gassed his own people, the war’s opponents countered that there is no shortage of murderous tyrants. Where the hawks said that Saddam wouldn’t hesitate to arm terrorists, the war’s opponents argued that there’s no lack of regimes that will help terrorists obtain lethal weapons.

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2 Responses to The Ethics of Iraq: Moral Strength vs. Material Strength

  1. kj says:

    *standing and clapping* Well said, Peter!