Saturday, January 29, 2005

Thanks to Daniel Davies on the Crooked Timber site for a reference to Marc Mulholland and a thoughtful re-appraisal of the Iraq War legitimacy from an initial supporter.

Mulholland says: "My view has been that war, in shattering the institutions of tyranny, provided opportunity for democratic structures to consolidate. This was, and remains, true. One's hope is that something tolerable will emerge from the January elections. But this was never a sufficient case for war in itself. It was a kind of revolutionary defeatism, in which it was legitimate to welcome Saddam's fall. But, it will be noted, that in the classic case of revolutionary defeatism - the Liberal-Left's hope for Tsarism's defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 - there was no assumption that Japan's war had to be defended in itself. Wars, both good and ill, often provide opportunities for democratisation, but this has never intrinsically justified them. ...

Torture, and with it the mass killing of non-combatants, is repugnant because it is anti-human. A war that is not forced upon a belligerent, and which unleashes disproportionate human cost, cannot be justified even if it creates potential for liberation in broad swathes of society. This is not to say that progressives should not work to realise emancipatory impulses, but they should also decry the war which heralds barbarism. Even if the whole of the Middle East goes democratic as a consequence of war, the Coalition will still have committed a horrible mistake in igniting a war that extinguished 100,000 lives."

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