What makes a justified/morally correct war? Now discussing the 2003 US invasion of Iraq

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by saturn5, Feb 12, 2010.

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  1. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I think I generally agree. There are several different forces at work leading up to WWI and WWII, and think one has to differentiate between what was going on among the general public and in the political leadership. In the former, there was certainly the attitude that war was something glorious and wonderful and a general optimistic, highly nationalistic mass hysteria going around in all countries (we'll be home for Christmas) - indeed, public opinion could possibly be said to be more revanchist, fanning the hawkish war winds, rather than resisting the mobilization.

    Hm, I wonder how well the term 'Revanchist' fits with the overall attitude of the right in the United States. Yes, I know there's been no loss of territory in the physical sense, but still...

    Sorry, off-topic. I agree with the above, anyway.


    But in the political leadership, one gets the impression that the events leading up to WWI was a bunch of ad hoc decision-making going along with the whole gaggle of treaties and plans for mobilization that had been made in the decades prior to war, with no one really wanting to go to war.

    See is that REALLY what happened, though? I mean I think you're correct in that the political leadership didn't really want to go to war, probably right down to Serbia. But it was the combination of 'Mobilization means war' with political gamesmanship: so much of this stuff, even today (though thankfully a little less frequently) is a game of chicken where you hope the other side knuckles under first. And they hope you do that same. And all that's at stake is really a little bit of posture. But it's precisely for that which everything happened.

    However I'm not convinced myself that the alliance system was really so fundamental to war breaking out. I think that obscures the picture and we have students sometimes who start thinking that it was for international obligations that these nations went to war, which isn't really true. There were SOME alliances that were honored, but those were smaller affairs: Russia backed Serbia... and frankly does right up until today. Germany backed Austria-Hungary... ties with those nations had been close for a long time at that point.

    But beyond that I think the alliance system breaks down as for the actual causal effect: The French had no particular feeling of obligation to Russia, and in fact I don't think they were doing anything but mulling over the question of war when the Germans invaded. And in fact there's a good liklihood that the French WOULDN'T have declared war right then and there -- no doubt they would have preferred to wait until Germany committed. Which Germany was well aware of. And of course when war was underway there was essentially little to no allied cooperation between the Franco-British and Russian sides. And British involvement on top of all that was not forthcoming until Belgium was invaded -- the British may have gotten involved on the French side anyway, but had Belgium not been invaded I think the Triple Entente would have been a tough sell to the British people and was overall, I think, little more of just something that laid out what was likely to happen anyway. In other words, the alliances were mostly just molded on conventional wisdom.

    Italy of course is the prime example here. A member of the Triple Alliance, it actually demurred from entering the war at all in 1914, and when it did... it went ahead and joined the Allies. So while there was plenty of the ad-hoc decision making and mobilization issues, I don't think the treaties themselves were as much of a concern. I think each state pretty much had thier eyes on a given rival with varying degrees of animosity (French and Germans intensely on one another (particularly the French on the Germans), Russians pretty damn wary on the Germans, British sort of theoretically concerned about the Germans building that fleet of thiers, Austo-Hungary pretty wary on the Russians, and Serbia pretty well busy with Austo-Hungary) and the treaties were sort of something that exhibit that more than had a considerable
  2. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    I agree with everything you say - I mean, historical events are generally quite complex, and any explanation that relies too heavily on only one casual variable will ultimately be too simplistic.

    With the expection of this:

    This isn't really supported by the evidence, as far as I'm concerned. They, like the British, met the Germans in combat in Belgium - and were instantly knocked back. But the more compelling evidence is the chain of DoWs:

    It's quite clear that the French started preparing for war (general mobilization) at about the same time everybody else did. If France had decided to not honour its agreement with Russia, or even hesitated about it, it could have signalled this to Germany. Instead, France declined Germany's demand to remain neutral, which was essentially the same as DoWing Germany (though they formally didn't). Of course, it could be argued that France did so, not out of any particular kinship with Russia, but because France did not want Germany to be able to deal Russia a knockout blow and then become too tough for France to handle on its own.

    The fact that Germany took to the offensive against France had little to do with Germany being imperialistic (not that you have argued that they were: they were confronted with their own worst nightmare scenario - a two front war, which they had planned for, and they plan called for a quick knock-out blow against France before the Russians mobilized, if France did not remain neutral. They just followed that plan as part of what they saw as their own self-defence. In other words, the war became a bunch of prisoner's dilemmas, where each actor took what they saw as the least bad alternative to prevent something even worse happening.
  3. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 1998
    star 9
    The WWI was probably caused by the unification of Germany, which upset the old balance of power.
  4. akhun Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2000
    star 6
    One additional fact is that France was eager to go to war with Germany because it would provide the opportunity to take back the Alsace-Lorraine.

    We lost it in 1871 and we wanted it back ever since.
    So yes, France was bound by the Triple Entente treaty but really, in 1914 war was welcomed by the French officials.
  5. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    Germany has every right to be united, having a country united does not necessarily it is forced to go to war with it's neighbours.
    France probably did want Alsace Lorraine back but would they have been prepared to start a war over it? No, I hardly think so. When you look at Germany's war aims to annex Luxembourg, turn Holland and Beligium into satellite states and carve an empire in the east. Compare that with Britain's aim to simply stop the new German coast being visible from Dover and Belgium's desire not to be invaded?
  6. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    Now discussing-The UN intervention in Somalia aka Black Hawk Down

    Probably one of the most selfless and altruistic military actions in history. That it failed seemed to have overwhelming consequences both in Clinton's refusal to intervene in Rwanda and the rise of AQ in modern Somalia. The message sent was kill a few American, Malaysian and Pakistani peacekeepers and the UN will pack up and go home.

    So yes, moral and justified.
  7. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    It was nothing like that. It happened because two nations with a lot of allies escalated into a full scale war. When just two escalated the matter into open conflict, their allies were obligated to help. Then the allies of those allies were obligated to help them, leading to a chain reaction where virtually every country got involved in a conflict which shouldn't have extended beyond just those two states.

    I actually believe that Bismarck had the right idea in preventing such a world war by allying Germany with two of the major superpowers in Europe. The superpowers of that day were France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Had the alliance between Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary been maintained after Bismarck's reign; it would have maintained the balance of power in Germany's favor. Unfortunately not all people were as wise as Bismarck.

    One of the worst decisions ever made within Germany was done by Kaiser William II and Tirpitz in the construction of the Navy. The only purpose a large navy would serve in Europe was to engage the UK, so it was through Tirpitz in Germany that the war against the UK was instigated. Otherwise it was just an elaborate chain of allies all coming to the aid of the ally of their allies. If France or Germany had just put their foot down, then it wouldn't have spread all across Europe.

    Unfortunately the second world war was just a continuation of the first. Had the first war been properly diffused at the end, then all hostilities might have ceased once it was all over. The idea of peace without victory was exactly what should have happened when it was all over.
  8. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    It was nothing like that. It happened because two nations with a lot of allies escalated into a full scale war. When just two escalated the matter into open conflict, their allies were obligated to help. Then the allies of those allies were obligated to help them, leading to a chain reaction where virtually every country got involved in a conflict which shouldn't have extended beyond just those two states.

    Actually D_Y, I think Zaz's remark is pretty close to the truth and if you go back over the posts you can sort of see why.

    What the mistake would be thinking that because the war was caused by Germany changing the balance of power in Europe that it was inherently Germany's fault. WWII might be a different sort of beast, but as far as WWI is concerned and everything that led up to it, it's at least just as correct to say that WWI was caused in large part by the obstinant refusal of the other European powers -- largely France -- to adapt to the reality of a united Germany. Despite the fact they'd had a significant number of years to do so by that point.

    France had been the most significant and powerful European state for hundreds of years since the decline of Spain. Just as there grew a sense of entitlement in Germany there was a decided obsession with refusing that entitlement in France. Resulting in very much the sort of pissing contest that leads to a lot of people getting killed.
  9. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    I don't really think you can blame WW1 on France's inablility to accept Germany, Germany wanted to dominate Western Europe, rival Britain and conquer Eastern Europe. You can blame the alliance system but it was designed to deter aggression. Once Germany attacked France and Belgium, Britain was obligated to come to their aid but it was in her interests to do so, she couldn't just stand by and watch them conquered leaving it without allies and with the new German coast visible from Dover?
  10. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I don't really think you can blame WW1 on France's inablility to accept Germany, Germany wanted to dominate Western Europe, rival Britain and conquer Eastern Europe.

    What, and France didn't?
  11. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    No.

    France entered into the Entente Cordiale with the UK, helped create Belgium in the first place, had no wish to annexe Luxembourg or belittle Holland or carve out any empire in the east (partly of course because she already had her 'place in the sun')

    Certainly France had her colonial rivalry with Britain but no 2 democracies have ever gone to war. Germany was certainly the aggressor in the Great War
  12. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    Well, while it's kinda true that two democracies have never gone to war (depending on how you define war, there have been clashes of the military between democracies that were transitional in South America IIRC), it's questionable if any of the major powers of the time can be classified as a democracy in the modern sense of the term. For instance, very few countries of the time allowed women suffrage (Finland (which wasn't even independent at the time) and Australia, but few others). Indeed, how can a colonial empire even be called democratic, given how many citizens that don't actually have a say in how they are governed (i.e. all the subjugated colonial peoples). Germany was named the aggressor during the Versailles peace talks, but it's highly questionable if this was justifiable. Indeed, it could be argued that Germany became the victim of scapegoatism during that process. If there was any aggressor (and the nature of how the world simply seemed to slip into war seems to contradict such notions), I'd rather lay it on Austria-Hungary. It didn't have to go war against Serbia for the murder of the Archduke, but the hawks in the government prevailed. Ironic, since the Archduke was an outspoken advocate for peace with Serbia.
  13. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    No.

    France entered into the Entente Cordiale with the UK, helped create Belgium in the first place, had no wish to annexe Luxembourg or belittle Holland or carve out any empire in the east (partly of course because she already had her 'place in the sun')

    Certainly France had her colonial rivalry with Britain but no 2 democracies have ever gone to war. Germany was certainly the aggressor in the Great War


    This is based on a false pretense.

    First of all you completely ignore the German necessities based on thier geography to imply that they were out for agressive European exapnasion from the outset. The mere fact they chose NOT to invade Holland in WWI bears this out: they wished for the Dutch to remain neutral. They had originally planned invasion in the original Schiefflen plan but reniged in exchange for that neutrality.

    If you think that this is a small distinction, I'd draw your attention to the fact that such a situation was enough for the allies to undertake the invasion of Iran in WWII, which was similarly neutral at the time. The allies could have used the Netherlands to open up a new front in WWI, so the fact Germany did not invade to secure that flank -- as they later did under Hitler -- is significant.


    Furthermore I am uncertain what you mean by 'belittle Holland' or what that essentially means in the years of 1914-1918 and those preceeding them, but as I've alluded to you have only to look at the coastline and the map to understand Germanys stance that they could ill afford not having smaller countries on thier side if both the French and the British were arrayed against them. They faced a war on two fronts and a coastline that was quite vulnerable to British blockade. These were the reason they invaded Belgium. They were the reasons they finally decided on unrestricted submarine warfare.

    As for prior French altruism towards Belgium I hardly see how this is relevant since it's clearly not altruism. This was the same territory that France ITSELF was forced to concede only 15 years prior to Belgium's creation, which prior to that had been part of the First French Empire. Compound that, btw, is the fact that when Belgium was created with France's support it was under the July MONARCHY.

    saturn5, I think you don't know the proper history and disposition of the states in question. that Germany was abrasive and expanionist has more than a ring of truth, but to pretend that France was any better at this point because:

    a) They entered an agreement of self-interest with England
    b) They supported Belgian independance from Holland, again for self-interest
    c) They already had an overseas Empire and the Germans did not

    is simple denial. France's actions under Napoleon III leave little room for admiration, and how he ran the relationship with Prussia is key to understanding the situation. It's also a denial of the German strategic position: at any point if Germany were to enter war with France or Russia, they would immediately open themselves to attack by the other nation once they were committed. And that nation could wait as long as was necessary to choose the appropriate time.

    Were the Germans agressive? Absolutely. But to a degree they also needed to be so. It just so happened thier opponents were in a favorable strategic position and they were not. And it is becuase of this that the Germans are seen as agressors: not becuase France was the better nation and had achieved some sort of 'Democratic morality', but becuase it could afford to use passive agressive diplomacy since they had a common interest with Russia (whose capacity at the time was severely overestimated by everyone, which was actually quite key to how things were set up and unfolded).

    As you say, the French had already what the Germans essentially wanted. They already had thier empire. If you want an example of a nation that actually had that sort of lofty actions of a Democracy (although even this is circumspect) you'd be best looking towards the United States rather than the quarreling Imperialist states of
  14. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    It's a good point that most of Europe had their 'place in the sun' which Germany lacked. But not excuse for the war. As for the US, well, maybe you should ask the Phillipinos?

    Please don't equate Britain with England, very annoying for all we Brits who aren't English
  15. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    As for the US, well, maybe you should ask the Phillipinos?

    A good and fair point. Although I'm not up on how the Phillipene War played out on America's home front. America's other significant pre-war expansionist conflict, the Spanish-American War, I know was pretty controvertial within America and later presidents thought it was an awful undertaking.

    (Well I suppose the war of 1812 might have been yet another one, but since they were fighting the British, that was presumedly a much easier sell at the time)

    Please don't equate Britain with England, very annoying for all we Brits who aren't English

    Fair enoguh to a degree. However unless I'm misremembering, only the Irish could be credited as possibly having a distinct will from England, since they had a number of rebellions at the time and resented the war (Was it the Finian rebellion around this time?). If the Scottish took any similar stand against the British around the time of WWI, I'm ignorant of it.
  16. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I agree with Austria-Hungary being the ones who instigated the war, but the truth was that there was a lot of blame to go around. All these states sided with one another in an elaborate web of alliances; they should have been aware of how unstable the situation had become.

    I still would say that Germany was the state that could have diffused the situation, but Bismarck's alliance system among three of the superpowers was destroyed by Kaiser William II. Had Russia remained allied with Germany, then it would have been suicidal for either the UK or France to engage in a war against the other three. William unfortunately was the one who steered the situation for the worst, along with a few others.

    After the end of WWI, the situation with Germany was exactly what ensured another war would happen. The second war could have been diffused by either delivering a killing blow to Germany, or by exercising the 'peace without victory' suggested by the US. What actually happened was that Germany took the blame and was extorted to pay for the damages caused by WWI, but their economic strength was left intact.
  17. TOE_ATRIX Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 9, 2010
    couldnt agree more.
  18. TOE_ATRIX Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 9, 2010
  19. CucumberBoy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2007
    star 3
    Well as far as a moral justification for WWI that is not a very interesting question as neither sides had very compelling moral arguments to engage in a war. They simply played a very minor role in the outbreak of the war (unless you want to put nationalism into some vague definition of morality). This thread has developed into an interesting discussion of the origins of the war though.

    Most of you, however, are disagreeing more than you should have to. There really is no scientific consensus as to the origins of the war, but most agree that it is a combination of both some will to go to war (german expansionist foreign politics, panslavinism etc) and deeper underlying structural factors (the alliances, conflicting interests outside Europe etc). And again - while you're arguing very well there seem to be a misunderstanding that these factors cannot be combined.

    The one thing that you haven't discussed yet though is internal factors. One might not want to go so far as to say that they were the only or even main reasons for the war, but they should definitely be taken into account. The Junkers had many reasons to want to go to war - mainly the land acquisitions that would follow but also the war itself would mean a lot to the landed nobility as pretty much all higher ranking officers were part of the aristocracy. Some have also argued that the german arms industry played a role.

    For further reading I recommend The origins of the First World War by Ruth Henig which doesn't argue for any specific side - it's more of a summary of the events leading up to the war, the competing explanations for the war and what supports these. If you want me to look anything up I'll gladly do so - the book has a lot of information that you won't find online (historical explanations are unfortunately not as easy to find on the internet as porn or lolcats).
  20. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    I found Marx's theory on surplus value lacking in many ways, just as his theory of alienation. But we should probably branch that off to some other thread if you'd like to discuss it in-depth...
  21. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I agree with Austria-Hungary being the ones who instigated the war, but the truth was that there was a lot of blame to go around. All these states sided with one another in an elaborate web of alliances; they should have been aware of how unstable the situation had become.

    Although Danaan did not agree with me 100% on my take on the alliance systems, I'd once again caution against the over-reliance on thier causal relationship. The states of Europe did not undertake any step on any true behalf of any recognized ally with two possible exceptions: the most relevant being Russia and Serbia, and to a lesser degree Germany and Austria-Hungary.

    Even the British involvement over Belgium was a bit of a spontanious surprise -- Belgium was not any particular ally to Britian at the time, though nor was it an enemy or rival.

    When you say 'web of alliances' it makes it sound as if there was some sort of international legal mechanism forcing everyone into war out of a sense of obigation. This was not so: what was really the deciding factor is on who everyone's most relevant rival was. Germany happened to be in the center of all that for a few reasons: the bad stragtegic position on the map for one, and the fact that they were now the most populous and resource rich state in continental Europe being another (outside of Russia with it's terminal infrastructure situation).


    I still would say that Germany was the state that could have diffused the situation, but Bismarck's alliance system among three of the superpowers was destroyed by Kaiser William II. Had Russia remained allied with Germany, then it would have been suicidal for either the UK or France to engage in a war against the other three. William unfortunately was the one who steered the situation for the worst, along with a few others.

    Wilhelm didn't have any particular ear for Peace but I'm not sure he was all that instrumental in what occurred. In fact I think one could argue that Tsar Nicholas's silly detachment from the growing political crisis -- and his haphazard mismanagment of it -- was probably even more key.

    After the end of WWI, the situation with Germany was exactly what ensured another war would happen. The second war could have been diffused by either delivering a killing blow to Germany, or by exercising the 'peace without victory' suggested by the US. What actually happened was that Germany took the blame and was extorted to pay for the damages caused by WWI, but their economic strength was left intact.

    The bolded portion is quite key. Germany lost the war, but you are right: it was not exactly deciseively defeated.
  22. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    It's interesting. I took to rewatch some of the BBC documentary, and to some extent it corroborates what you are saying here. I.e., the web of alliances had signficance, but the same time were treated with what might be seen as casual arrogance by the involved major powers. In essence, this is the sequence of events, according to the show:

    1) The Archduke is assassinated. The Austrians are livid, there are even rioting against Serbs in the streets of Sarajevo and what not.
    2) A particularly hawkish member of the Austro-Hungarian higher political circles (I believe he was the Army Chief of Staff, or some such) had been pressing the Emperor for a war against Serbia repeatedly in the past, but never succesfully. He sees his chance and tries again. The Emperor hesitates...but agrees, if, and only if, German support can be guaranteed (knowing that Serbia is allied with Russia). The hawk promises this and sets out to secure it
    3) The German Kaiser happens to be on vacation on his yacht. He receives a telegram and seems quite content with the ultimatum to Serbia. He agrees to promise support to Austria-Hungary, but does so believing that a) Austria will not actually go to war with Serbia and b) even if Austria does, Russia will never enter the war because it would be disastrous given the volatile domestic situation (remembe the 1905 revolution).
    4) Austria puts the pressure Serbia. Russia demands Austria to back down, which Austria does not and so orders mobilization to honour its alliance with Serbia. When the Russians and Germans sees where this is going, they make a last ditch effort to stave off a war between Austria and Serbia. It fails, but neither Russia nor Germany can back down at this point, because mobilization has already begun, so Germany has to mobilize in response to the Russian one.
    5) France start mobilizing in response to Germany...

    And so on...note the "sure we'll help them, but this will never go all that far" attitude of the Kaiser. He honours the agreement, not because of a careful analysis of national self-interest, nor because he feels honour bound to fulfill Germany's treaty obligations, but because he, at that particular moment belives that it's the politically expedient way of satisfying his southern ally without actually having to make any real efforts at all...and a few days later it's too late, he can't back out without huge political cost.

    The British involvement happens in a similar fashion - it's not so much because it feels duty bound to defend Belgium, but because they make the realpolitik calculation that they cannot afford to antagonize both Germany and France by staying neutral and in order to safeguard the trade routes that the Empire depends on, they want to please their ally France, and so enter the war.
  23. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    Ahem, Britain is the United Kingdom, all parts are equal, otherwise it would be like referring to the US as New York/California and acting as though the rest don't matter (which is why they have the electoral college I believe?). The Scottish/Irish can't take a stand against the British because they ARE the British. Ireland fought with tremmendous bravery in the war but also suffered the Easter Rising, the stab in the back in 1916 (imagine a bunch of Native Americans siding with Osama Bin Laden, taking over the centre of LA and killing 400 Americans).

    Remember Germany was the aggressor in the Great War, without her there would have been no war, she invaded everyone else and the entire conflict was fought on Allied soil, no allied soldier set foot in Germany. The German's were right to be punished with reparations (especially considering what they'd done to the French a generation earlier and how they planned to demand reparations from the defeated allies to clear their national debt). That those punishments weren't enforced is to blame for WW2, the Weimar goverment would later admit to doing everything possible to get out of them, even if it meant worsening their economic situation.
    The treaty with Belgium was pretty much an excuse for Britain to intervene, in realpolitik we knew we couldn't allow Germany to win and dominate Europe (just as the US knew that they couldn't allow Germany to win and try to rival her power)
  24. Darth_Omega Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2002
    star 6
    Without France there would have been no war. Without Russia there would have been no war. Without Austria-Hungary there would have been no war. Without Serbia there would have been no war. Without the UK there would have been no war.
  25. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    Not true at all. This was a World war. It saw action in Turkey - Gallipolli was very much allied soldiers setting foot on Central power soil. It saw action in Mesopotamia which at the time was also Ottoman. Further, there was fighting in China, where the Japanese, allied with the British, conquered the German colony in Qingdao and later took all German possessions in the Pacific. A German warship shelled Calcutta, India, and there were plenty of hostilities between Germany and Britain in colonies of (particularly Eastern) Africa. Moreover, the Russians invaded Austria - the first of the Central powers to be at war), and in the opening months cut a huge swath into Germany (Prussia) before being stopped by Germans. So it's patently untrue that no allied soldier (the Russians were allies, remember) ever set foot on German soil. think your narrative is based solely on the events on the Western front, but that segment was only a small part of the war, notwithstanding its iconic status as a symbol for it...

    Edit: indeed - if the first invasion, or the first shot fired, is the criterium for establishing who the aggressor was, then the "honour" clearly goes to the Austrians: they were the first to declare war (on Serbia), the first to fire a shot (gunboats opening up on Belgrade, IIRC) and the first to set foot on foreign soil (then Austrian army invading Serbia).
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