The War in Iraq
Residual Issues and Consequences
In pursuing an assertion that the Iraq war was an unjust and manipulated agenda set in motion by President Bush's government, it is helpful to examine other factors which would come into play under other circumstances. In other words, if the purpose of the war was indeed to liberate a people from the grip of a despotic leader, the question must arise: under what authority may the U.S. undertake such an unrequested salvation? In modern times, and equipped as world leaders are with extensive histories of the damages caused by such military interventions, does any power have the right to determine how the people of another territory may live?
The immediate argument to such a question is that, absolute moralities and cultural values notwithstanding, there arise from time to time tyrants so powerful that their own people are helpless to remove them. The claim is both attractive and ostensibly strong. However, it ignores the crucial fact that such decisions are ethically and morally based, and that the morality in such cases is necessarily a relative one. The relative, or subjective, quality is simply lost in the size of the circumstances, when it is whole nations thus acting. For example, in 1588, Philip II of Spain unleashed his Armada to conquer England, with the full support of the major European powers behind him. The effort, on a scale at the time unprecedented in warfare, was made to achieve a single end: the deposition of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, which would reestablish Catholicism as England's national faith. All other motives and considerations aside – and there were many – this act of war was instigated to save the souls of millions of lost subjects. In the eyes of Spain, the pope, and all of Catholic Europe, the assault was perfectly righteous and an ethical imperative (MacCaffrey, 1993). Spain, of course, was defeated, but that is irrelevant; what is pertinent is that, as has occurred before and since, great powers have taken upon themselves the authority to dictate how others may live, and that these historical instances are usually viewed by modern eyes as examples of abuse and unjustified aggression.
As unlikely as it may appear, there are parallels between Philip's doomed enterprise and the U.S. war in Iraq. For one thing, there is a significant and influential religious component within both Iraqi life and, consequently, affecting how the Iraqis perceived their “liberators”. Quite plainly, most Americans are largely ignorant of how Islamic life is lived, and how the faith translates to daily affairs and behaviors. In the U.S., religion is something of an accoutrement to living; with Islam, it is a viable and omnipresent foundation, as well as a vast influence on culture and laws. By way of example, both within the U.S. military and at home, there was a prevailing expectation that successful U.S. intervention in deposing Hussein would be shortly followed by an energetic and cooperative effort from Iraqi leaders to restructure the society. In American eyes, the “enemy” was gone and the people would be inevitably eager to embrace, and institute, change. This point of view was disappointed and confounded, however, because Iraqis do not respond, culturally speaking, as Westerners do. “The American political and military leadership demonstrated little understanding of the cultural tenets of Iraq, believing that the Iraqi people would welcome U.S. soldiers as liberators” (Lewis, 2007, p. 10).