Ignatieff’s Non-Case for the War in Iraq

Michael Ignatieff, Director of the Carr Center of Human Rights Policy at Harvard, has offered a surprisingly weak justification for the war on Iraq. In today’s Guardian he writes: "The problem is not that overthrowing Saddam by force is ‘morally unjustified’. Who seriously believes that 25 million Iraqis would not be better off if Saddam were overthrown? […The issue is whether the] risks are worth running, when our safety depends on the answer, and when the freedom of 25 million people hangs in the balance." The problem with Ignatieff’s argument is that he doesn’t offer any reason to believe the risks are, in fact, worth running. Instead he opines that we must support one side or the other in such matters without knowing for certain what the consequences will be.

That’s fine, as far as it goes. Certainty is too high a standard for moral decisionmaking. But that does not excuse our responsibility for the consequences of actions that can reasonably be predicted. And that’s precisely why further rational deliberation about the facts and the possible outcomes — from political, environmental, and humanitarian perspectives — was warranted before rushing to war. The machinations, deceptions (on both sides), posturing, and manoeuvering we saw in the weeks leading up to this war were anything but that.

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