The Lesser of Two Evils

One of my friends recently said, "America has become fond of war, hasn't it?" Sadly, this opinion seems to be prevalent in Japan. America has fought two wars in the past few years, and the fighting in those countries continues to this day.

Many Japanese people disagreed with America's invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but they still understood our reasons. The same cannot be said, however, for America's invasion of Iraq. All around me I hear people calling it an illegal and unnecessary war. And yet, the majority of the American public still approve of the war in Iraq. There can be no doubt then, that Americans are blood-thirsty warmongers, right?

In America, there is a saying, "Choose the lesser of two evils." It means that when you are faced with two bad choices you choose the one that will have the least negative consequences or the one where the good will outweigh the bad. No American in his right mind likes war or thinks of it as a good thing. Yes, even Americans hate war. No soldier wants to risk his life in war, and neither do his friends and family want him to do so. Every American must have a friend or family member who is or has been in Afghanistan or Iraq. I have several, and surprising as it may be to some, I don't want any of them to die. I don't personally want to have to kill another human being, either.

And yet, I support the invasion of Iraq. Because I think it's great that innocent Iraqis are getting killed by stray bullets and missiles? Because it's a good thing that American soldiers are being killed by terrorists? No, because I believe the war in Iraq was the lesser of two evils.

The Japanese media (and the American/British media) has misrepresented this war as being based on Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It is not and never was. Neither the Bush nor Blair administrations ever claimed that they were going to Iraq solely to rid it of WMD. The reason for the war in Iraq was simply Iraq's failure to adhere to its terms of surrender following the Gulf War.

Terms of surrender must be adhered to. If such rules of war are not followed, wars will become even bloodier, because the winning side will not be able to accept surrender until the losing side is utterly destroyed. Every soldier and every member of the government will have to be killed to prevent the losing side from regrouping and posing a threat in the future. Even if Iraq did not possess any WMD it was still in violation of several of its terms of surrender and was so for more than 12 years.

The reasons for the war in Iraq were explained clearly by the United States government before the war in Iraq:
  • Saddam Hussein's Defiance of United Nations Resolutions
  • Saddam Hussein's Development of Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Saddam Hussein's Repression of the Iraqi People
  • Saddam Hussein's Support for International Terrorism
  • Saddam Hussein's Refusal to Account for Gulf War Prisoners
  • Saddam Hussein's Refusal to Return Stolen Property
  • Saddam Hussein's Efforts to Circumvent Economic Sanctions
WMD was only one of several reasons, and whether the stockpiles have been found or not, it is still clear that Saddam Hussein had attempted to acquire them on several occasions.

Iraq's failure to comply with its terms of surrender (16 UN resolutions) was enough to justify the war in Iraq in my opinion, because it means the first Gulf War never ended. But many Americans support the war mainly for a different reason: Saddam Hussein tortured and killed thousands of Iraqis every year. A war to depose him, even if innocents died, was still the lesser of two evils.

The war in Iraq was necessary. It deposed a murderous dictator and enforced terms of surrender. Whether the UN voted for it or not is irrelevant. UN resolution 1441 explicitly states that "...the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations..." Seeing as Saddam Hussein never complied, a further UN resolution declaring war was not necessary. Twelve more years of inspections would not have disarmed a dictator that was secretly attempting to acquire and develop more WMD. Neither would they have prevented him from giving what he had to terrorists.

I will not argue that everything that America does is right and just. However, sometimes war is a necessary evil. Had America and Europe refused to go to war with Hitler in 1939, he could have fulfilled his wishes without war. But would a Europe ruled by Hitler be a place at peace? Is peace merely the absence of war? Surely peace can never be defined in such a way.

Pacifism is a noble sentiment. And it has its place among interpersonal relationships. But pacifism is not a valid policy for protecting freedom in a world governed by force. I will never argue that war is a good thing, but sometimes it is the lesser of two evils.