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RECENT UPDATES(as of 12/28/11): UNHRC on Libyan human rights violations; Crisis Group on the corrupt government of Iraq; Friedman on Libya; Two new links on Libya; Century Foundation on negotiating peace in Afghanistan; Two links from Paust and Munir on Afghanistan; Three links from Chesterman, Delahunty, Jentleson and Whytock on Libya; Kissane on regime change in Iran; Schmitt on the Libyan no fly zone; UNHRC on human rights violations in Libya; UN on rape in Libya; Carpenter on Libya; Serwer on Libya; Falk on Libya . . .

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INVASION & OCCUPATION OF IRAQ: (scroll down for the most recent posts)

  • David M. Ackerman offers a useful analysis of "International Law and the Preemptive Use of Force against Iraq" for the Congressional Research Service.
  • In the fall of 2002 and spring of 2003, the vocabulary of just war theory was often heard accompanying the drums of war. Yet, the cosmopolitan principles that have traditionally given those words some semblance of ethical meaning were strangely and sadly silent. Follow these links to find out in what ways the invasion of Iraq violated both the letter and (especially) the spirit of Hugo Grotius' just war theory, as presented by Dean G. Falvy & Martha Nussbaum respectively. (Posted summer 2004)
  • The primary putative justification for pre-emptive invasion of Iraq was based upon what the U.S. Senate has since discovered were "overstated", "unsupported" and "micharacterized" intelligence reports about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. All the declassified parts of the Committee on Intelligence report are available here for downloading. (Posted summer 2004))
  • What role did the media play in misrepresenting the scope and immediacy of the threat that Saddam Hussein's regime presented to the U.S.? Susan D. Moeller gives a thorough answer to this question in her analysis of Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction for the University of Maryland's Center for International and Stragetic Studies. (Posted summer 2004)
  • One of the enduring basic principles of just war theory is the principle of discrimination, which enjoins the commanders of armed forces to take positive steps to protect non-combatants. Yet, the use of cluster munitions in Iraq, especially in densely populated areas, constitutes a clear violation of this principle. Unexploded cluster munitions now clutter Iraqi cityscapes like countless tiny but deadly landmines. (Posted summerr 2004)
  • As with its physical environment, Iraq's political climate is also fraught with new and challenging perils (whether these will turn out to be better or worse than the old political perils remains to be seen). In "Humanitarian Action Under Attack: Reoections on the Iraq War," Harvard Human Rights Journal, Volume 17, Spring 2004, Nicholas de Torrente of Doctors Without Borders presents a revealing study of how the political climate in Iraq has added to the usual difficulties of humanitarian action. He argues that non-governmental humanitarian organizations need to maintain principled neutrality in order to fulfill their missions. In "Politicized Humanitarianism," Paul O'Brien offer a critical response to de Torrente's article. (Posted summer 2004)
  • Does depleted uranium pose a serious health risk to both innocent Iraqis and unsuspecting coalition ground troops? Dan Fahey's June 2004 article, "The Emergence and Decline of the Debate over Depleted Uranium Munitions," is the most exhaustive and balanced assessment of the facts, fictions and uncertainties that I have found. It's available for downloading (pdf) from the Review of International Social Questions. (Posted 7/18/04)
  • Cross-cultural incomprehension got the U.S. military into trouble in Vietnam (see, for example, Errol Morris's documentary film 'The Fog of War' which includes Robert MacNamara's tardy realization that the Vietnamese did not view us as liberators). Yet, the lesson did not take. In a similar fashion, the Bush administration, blaming Chalabi and other Iraqi ex-pats, has admitted that it was ill-informed about the disposition of the Iraqi people towards U.S.-sponsored regime change in their country. Better information was available, however. For starters, Juan Cole's Informed Comment is an excellent internet resource for making sense of Islamic politics in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. (8/26/04)
Cost of the War in Iraq
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  • Also worth mentioning when calculating the costs of the Iraqi invasion and occupation, over and above the countless and too often uncounted Iraqi casualties, are the thousands of U.S. casualties. Perhaps most alarming is that the U.S. casualty rate has actually increased since the president officially declared the 'end of combat operations'. For those interested in the numbers, the most accurate and detailed report of U.S. casualties in Iraq is the one presented by GlobalSecurity.org. (9/3/04)
  • In the early spring of 2003, I argued that the most likely outcome of a U.S./British invasion of Iraq was the eventual "partitioning" of that country. I imagined at that time a process over which the "coalition" forces had more control than the process currently unfolding. "Partitioning" no longer seems the appropriate word for the potential demise of Iraq's national integrity. In this connection, Chatham House has now published a relevant report (pdf) characterizing "civil war" and "fragmentation" as the "default scenario" in Iraq. The Chatham House scholars present two other well-drawn alternative scenarios for Iraq "holding together" or undergoing a unique sort of "regional remake". (9/04/04)
  • Adam Roberts of the International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative (a site with free, no-strings registration) attempts to answer a swarm of pesky questions about the occupation of Iraq, including the following: "What does the law of war, and international practice since 1945, say about how occupations end? What does 'sovereignty' mean both in general, and with reference to the Interim Government of Iraq? Is the continuing presence of foreign forces compatible with Iraqi sovereignty?" (Posted 10/26/04)
  • A new Johns Hopkins University study puts the civilian toll in Iraq at over 100,000 and climbing. This is an important figure given that apologists for the war, such as Gerard Alexander, have argued erroneously that the invasion and occupation has probably SAVED civilian lives because "the [Hussein] regime was killing civilians at an average rate of at least 16,000 a year between 1979 and March 2003." To be sure, the ongoing hybrid Iraqi insurgency/civil war is the cause of most of these civilians deaths. But it remains important to construct normative and policy arguments in light of the facts, not in the face of them. Fact: the rate at which civilians are killed in Iraq has more than tripled since regime change commenced. (Posted 10/30/04)
  • David Luban tackles the central philosophical issue raised by the putative justification for invading Iraq in his scholarly examination of "Preventive War". This piece is a must-read for serious just war theorists. (Posted 11/23/04)
  • Jeff McMahan's "Moral Case Against the Iraq War" is available for dowloading courtesy of The Leiter Report. (12/1/04)
  • Many liberals who originally supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq are now feeling embarrassed and angry at having been duped. It's in this spirit that the New Republic now presents a daily critical BLOG called IRAQ'D. (Posted 12/30/04)
  • Bradford Plumer of MotherJones interviews Noah Feldman, former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, "on the ethics of nation-building and the promise and perils of Iraqi elections." (Posted 1/21/05)
  • The International Crisis Group makes constructive recommendations for the resolution of Turkish-Kurdish tensions in Kirkuk. (Posted 1/29/05)
  • "There are things I have to do out here that I can't explain to my chain of command, and that the American people would never understand," says Sgt. First Class Glenn Aldrich in a Knight Ridder interview that probes deeper than most mainstream media coverage into the ethical and strategic difficulties that U.S. troops are facing in Iraq. (Posted 2/19/05)
  • In "Going to War with the Army You Have", Michael Schwartz casts doubt on the prevailing American "command and control" theory about the Iraqi resistance. The CIA seems to agree with Schwartz. (Posted 3/8/05)
  • Mapping the Oil Motive (from the Global Policy Forum): "Michael T. Klare (TomPaine) writes that the Bush administration's choice to invade Iraq stemmed from "a combination of contributing factors," including control of the country's oil resources. But "it appears that the US incursion into Iraq [...] has largely failed to achieve its intended purposes." The insurgency has crippled the country's capacity to export more oil, and "no one is willing to predict when, if ever, the country will reach the fabled level of 6 million barrels per day" that US officials confidently spoke of after the invasion." (Posted 3/25/05)
  • H. C. Graf Von Sponek's "Iraq and the United Nations, Post-War and Pre-Peace: The Dilemma of the Future" (pdf) is available for downloading from The Essex Human Rights Review, vol. 2, no. 1. The article examines why UN sanctions against Iraq were deemed "necessary in the name of international peace and security despite their negative humanitarianconsequences," it attempts to identify the "institutional failings which contributed towards such a policy," and it recommends "alternative approaches". (Posted 3/30/05)
  • Naomi Klein offers some astute observations and analyses in "How To End The War", In These Times. Klein went to Iraq to cover the reconstruction and was surprised by what she found: "...I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel's headquarters and getting the new U.S. embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the U.S. military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn't even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process... The one crane I saw in the streets of Baghdad was hoisting an advertising billboard. One of the surreal things about Baghdad is that the old city lies in ruins, yet there are these shiny new billboards advertising the glories of the global economy. And the message is: 'Everything you were before isn't worth rebuilding.' We're going to import a brand-new country. It is the Iraq version of the 'Extreme Makeover'..." May 5, 2005. (Posted 5/6/05)
  • The "Downing Street memo" contains the minutes of July 23, 2002 meeting in which British officials discussed talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. The memo was leaked to The Times of London, and it confirms that the Bush administration deliberately falsified its case for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. As it states, British officials knew that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." (Posted 5/17/05)
  • 'Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq', by Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA), is a new, informative online report, based upon Iraqi public opinion surveys. It suggests that U.S. withdrawal is probably the best way to quell the growing insurgency. (Posted 5/21/05)
  • In "Hans Morgenthau and the Iraq War: Realism Versus Neo-Conservatism," from OpenDemocracy.net, John Mearsheimer argues that the influential American realist would have opposed the occupation of Iraq the way he opposed the war in Vietnam. (Posted 5/21/05)
  • James Turner Johnson's approach to just war theory offered strong support in December 2002 for waging a punitive and democratizing war in Iraq. His "Using Military Force Against the Saddam Hussein Regime:The Moral Issues" is available courtesy of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. (Posted 6/11/05)
  • The texts of numerous presentations at the ongoing World Tribunal on Iraq are available for viewing online. (Posted 6/25/05)
  • As a follow up to 'Vicious Circle' (my 5/21 post above), the PDA presents '400 Days and Out', a report outlining a withdrawal process for U.S. troops in Iraq by september 2006. (Posted 7/18/05)
  • James B. Rule's "'Above All, Do No Harm': The War in Iraq and Dissent" is available online in the summer 2005 edition of Dissent Magazine. (Posted 8/9/05)
  • In a recent edition of Michigan International Lawyer, John M. Hilla addresses the question of whether the invasion of Iraq has reshaped the norms of international customary law relating to the use of force. (Posted 8/15/05)
  • Jeffrey Laurenti of the Century Foundation examines the implications of putting the US occupation to a vote in the anticipated Iraqi constitutional referendum. (Posted 8/25/05)
  • Sami Zubaida examines the difficulties a workable Iraqi constitution will have to address. The author fears these difficulties may be too great for constitutional stability in Iraq. (Posted 8/25/05)
  • Mary Ellen O'Connell presents a helpful analysis of the issues of legality surrounding the war in Iraq in her "Addendum to Armed Force in Iraq", American Society of International Law Insights, April 2003. (Posted 10/26/05)
  • Once officially denied, the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi insurgents is now admitted as fact. Accordingly, George Monbiot observes in yesterday's Guardian, "Saddam, facing a possible death sentence, is accused of mass murder, torture, false imprisonment and the use of chemical weapons. He is certainly guilty on all counts. So, it now seems, are those who overthrew him." Click here to read more of Monbiot's account of the use of phosphorus and napalm in Iraq. And click here to read Paul Reynolds circumspect account of the controversy for today's BBC news. (Posted 11/16/05)
  • War is hard on the body. In a brief reflection on "Stoic Warriors" (an offshoot of her book by the same title), Nancy Sherman addresses the questions of ethical philosophy that might be asked by soldiers returning home from active duty after suffering disabling bodily injuries. (Posted 12/06/05)
  • Michael Walzer's article on "Just and Unjust Occupations", Dissent winter 2004, was inspired by the case of Iraq, though it has wider application. (Posted 12/11/05)
  • In "Iraq and the Use of Force: Do the Side-Effects Justify the Means?", Theoretical Inquiries in Law 7(1), 2005, Robert Cryer and A.P. Simester address the question of whether the moral argument for positive humanitarian consequences in Iraq could (if convincing on its own terms) provide a defense against the charge that the invasion was illegal. (Posted 12/23/05)
  • In "'Preventive War' and International Law After Iraq," Duncan E. J. Currie finds "that any members of the 'coalition of the willing' may be responsible for compensation, including direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations... Under Security Council resolution 1483 (2003), no protection is given to Member States or their officials from liability under the Geneva Conventions, Hague Regulations or other provisions of international or national law including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court." (Posted 12/25/05)
  • The Grotian Moment is a good blog on the trial of Saddam Hussein hosted by the Case School of Law. (Posted 1/1/06)
  • Too little open-minded attention was paid to critics of the proposed invasion of Iraq prior to its commencement. Indeed, such critics were often intimidated and accused of being anti-American or seditious. Even critical arguments about U.S. national interests were given too little notice. Yet, wouldn't the U.S. and the rest of the world be better off today if the Bush administration had taken the advice of, say, Richard Falk back in the fall of 2002? If so, then should we also follow his more recent advice and declare defeat? (Posted 1/14/06)
  • The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) "aims to record the severe wrongs, crimes and violations that were committed in the process leading up to the aggression against Iraq, during the war and throughout the ensuing occupation, that continue to be widespread to this day... In the end, the evidence gathered and presented will serve as a historical record that breaks the web of lies promulgated by the war coalition and its embedded press." Visit the WTI here. (Posted 1/14/06)
  • Activist-artists Sally Marr and Peter Dudar, in coordination with the Santa Barbara chapter of Veterans for Peace have produced "Arlington West," a compelling documentary film whichs pays tribute to those who have died in the war, mourns with those who have lost loved ones, and acknowledges the sacrifices of those who have returned physically or psychologically wounded. (Posted 1/16/06)
  • In "Reporting from Iraq" (A Century Foundation Report), Johanna McGeary of Time's Bagdad bureau explains what we don't know about what going on in Iraq and why we don't know it. (Posted 1/20/06)
  • Click here to watch streaming video (asx) of Noam Chomsky's 1/17/06 lecture at University College Dublin, in which he addresses the question of whether the promotion of democracy truly was one of the chief goals of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. (Posted 1/22/06)
  • Francis Fukuyama's neoconservative criticisms of the Iraq war came as a surprise to many of his former philosophical allies. His latest book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2006), further expounds his position: "In its decision to invade Iraq, the Bush administration failed in its stewardship of American foreign policy. First, the administration wrongly made preventive war the central tenet of its foreign policy. In addition, it badly misjudged the global reaction to its exercise of 'benevolent hegemony.' And finally, it failed to appreciate the difficulties involved in large-scale social engineering, grossly underestimating the difficulties involved in establishing a successful democratic government in Iraq." (Posted 3/2/06)
  • Linda Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz provide a careful, detailed and authoritative review of "The Economic Costs of the Iraq War" (pdf). (Posted 1/19/06) Stiglitz follows up in "The High Cost of the Iraq War", The Economist's Voice, Berkeley Electronic Press, March 2006. Or construct your own economic estimate of the war by adjusting various factors here. (Posted 3/15/06)
  • In "Power in War," Theoretical Inquiries in Law 7(1), December 2005, Martin van Creveld argues, contrary to traditional realpolitik assumptions, that "in a long conflict, in which the strong beat down the weak, the former will lose strength, whereas the latter will gain it. This logic has profound implicationsfor counterinsurgency operations, including those ongoing in Iraq." (Posted 3/23/06)
  • Follow these links to watch the (RealPlayer) videos of Seymour Hersh's lecture on "The War in Iraq: Bush's Democracy and the Real Thing", and/or Noah Feldman's lectures on "The Ethics of Nation-Building: What We Owe Iraq," Part 1,Part 2, and Part 3.These and other video links are available from Princeton WebMedia.(Posted 4/24/06)
  • In the February 2006 edition of the Boston Review, Barry R. Posen offered an "Exit Strategy" for Iraq. Responses from Senators Feingold and Biden, along with several others, are also included here. (Posted 5/17/06)
  • Christian Eckhart writes about "Saddam Hussein's Trial in Iraq: Fairness, Legitimacy & Alternatives, Legal Analysis," Cornell Law School Papers Series, 2006, No. 13. (Posted 5/25/06)
  • In "Ending Tyranny in Iraq," Ethics in International Affairs, 19(2), Summer 2005, Fernando Teson endeavors to show that "the war was morally justified as humanitarian intervention." (For further background, jump to Teson's theory of humanitarian intervention on the main page.) Critics have largely, if not completely, discredited claims that the invasion and occupation of Iraq were justfiable for the sake of self-defense and counter-terrorism. So, the humanitarian justification remains the last one standing, and it makes the issue of withdrawal particularly thorny. Teson notes that, "It is a mistake to believe that the determination and ferocity of the enemy is the yardstick for the legitimacy of war." So, looking beyond the mere fact of opposition, and leaving aside the traditional but (arguably) dubious question of good intentions, we must now think carefully and critically about how successful the war and the pre-war sanctions have been as putatively humanitarian endeavors. In light of this record, we must then assess the prospect of future humanitarian success by means of military occupation in Iraq. Where Teson sees partial completion of good works, critics see inhumane aggression at worst or humanitarian failure at best. On the question of success or failure, empirical measures of human flourishing and well-being in Iraq are ultimately determinative. (6/5/06)
  • Anthony Cordesman updates his analysis of how the Iraqi insurgency is changing and veering towards increasingly intense civil conflict in the 4/26/06 version of 'Iraq's Evolving Insurgency'. In the first version of this evolving report, Cordesman concluded that "The Iraqi Government and U.S. can scarcely claim that they are clearly moving towards victory." Now perhaps the most important question has become whether and, if so, when the U.S. can start withdrawing its troops, even without having achieved civil pacification. Recent polling data suggests that Iraqis are somewhat divided over this question: "Almost all Iraqis wanted US-led forces to leave Iraq: 35% wanted withdrawal by July 2006, and 70% wanted withdrawal in two years. Once again, however, there are striking differences. Only 22% of Arab-Shiites wanted the US to withdraw in six months, although 71% wanted withdrawal in two years. Some 13% of Kurds wanted the US to withdraw in six months, and only 40% wanted withdrawal in two years. In the case of Sunnis, however, 83% wanted the US out in six months and 94% in two years." (Initial version posted 6/21/05. Updated version posted 6/6/06)
  • According to an unclassified intelligence overview the U.S. has discovered in Iraq 500 "pre-Gulf War chemical munitions" containing "degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent." Given the incredibly broad meaning of "WMD", critics of the invasion of Iraq cannot simply say that "no WMD have been found." But neither do the WWI and WWII era chemical munitions that have been found give much credence to the pre-invasion arguments that Colin Powell presented to the United Nations, which were all about high tech mobile facilities for the ongoing production of far more serious anthrax-based biological WMD. (Posted 6/24/06)
  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a detailed report demonstrating the grim prospects for success in "Rebuilding Iraq" in accordance with existing strategy. (Posted 7/12/06)
  • For a phenomenologically powerful description of how the geography of fear has taken new shape in post-Saddam Iraq, see Kirk Semple's "Where the Collateral Damage is in the Mind," in yesterday's New York Times. (Posted 7/31/06)
  • The 21 Billion dollar Iraqi reconstruction plan is looking more and more like a scam perpetrated against American taxpayers by multinational corporations and the politicians who do their bidding. As Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) put it, "We paid for air conditioning and ended up with a ceiling fan. . . You had a big pot of money and you had a lot of hogs in the creek wallowing and shoving and grunting, trying to get some of it. It looks like they were a lot more effective at getting the money than they were at doing reconstruction." Stuart Bowen, the inspector general for U.S. reconstruction projects in Iraq, maintains that the path to corruption was paved by poor planning: "We weren't systematically prepared to do the kind of contracting necessary at the time of the invasion. That's the cold reality.... They were just operating under their own regulations that they wrote up. It was ad hoc. And that's why people described it as the Wild West." Or was that just part of the plan? Read more from the Washington Post. (Posted 8/9/06)
  • Check out Dissent, Summer 2006, for an exchange between Michael Walzer and Jean Bethke Elshtain on the question of whether regime change justifies the war in Iraq. (Posted 8/22/06)
  • Wars waged without just cause still give rise to occasions for the justifiable use of arms. Case in point of such just conduct in an otherwise largely unjust war is the 6/7/06 airstrike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. See Anthony Dworkin's argument in "An Acceptable Case of Targeted Killing," Crimes of War Project, June 8, 2006. (Posted 10/05/06)
  • Epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins University and Al Mustansiriya University estimate that Iraq's "excess" death toll has now reached 665,000. This figure seriously undermines the credibility of humanitarian justifications of the war. (Posted 10/15/06)
  • The report of the Iraq Study Group indicates that the situation in that country is "grave and deteriorating," and recommends (1) transitioning U.S. forces from combat/security to training/advisory operations, (2) making further aid conditional upon progress towards settling sectarian strife, and (3) engaging in constructive diplomacy with Syria and Iran as a means of stabilizaing the region. (Posted 12/7/06)
  • In "Can't Stay the Course, Can't End the War, But We'll Call it Bipartisan," Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver offer a cogent critical review of the Iraq Study Group report. (Posted 12/9/06)
  • "Iraqi Refugees: Critical Needs Remain Unmet," Refugees International, December 11 2006, reports that "Over 1.8 million Iraqi refugees are currently spread throughout the Middle East, with the largest concentrations in Syria and Jordan and sizable populations in Lebanon and Egypt..." A war putatively justified on humanitarian grounds (it's the last justification still almost standing -- see Teson's humanitarian justification below) would need to provide adequate care to its refugees. Again, as in so many other ways, this war is failing to live up to the reasons and standards commonly invoked on its behalf. (Posted 12/12/06)
  • In "Denying the Facts, Finding the Truth," NY Times, 1/5/07, Slavoj Zizek argues that Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, the notoriously ridiculous Iraqi information minister, was actually telling the truth (in a sense). (Posted 1/7/06)
  • An initial draft of Iraqi oil contract legislation appears to challenge the notion that the occupation is designed to serve fundamentally humanitarian purposes. But this controversial piece of legislation may not pass any time soon in its present form (75% of profits to foreign/U.S./British oil companies for 30 years, followed by 20% of profits in perpetuity, which is twice the rate that prevails in free and open markets). In order to ensure that the U.S.-led corporate alliance lives up to the standards of a humanitarian military intervention, deliberations and negotiations about Iraqi oil contract legislation should be as open, transparent and cautious as possible. The Iraqi's are not able to negotiate on a normal equal footing with Western big oil. But publicity may help to check the rush to close a deal that would give the lion's share of benefits to Exxon, BP, etc. at the expense of the Iraqi people. (Posted 1/12/07)
  • Carl Conetta carefully and systematically debunks the latest troop "surge" in Iraq in "More troops for Iraq? Time to just say 'No'," Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute Project on Defense Alternatives, Briefing Memo #39, January 9, 2007. (Posted 1/12/07)
  • In "What Congress Can (And Can't) Do on Iraq," Washington Post, January 16, 2007, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, two former Justice Department Lawyers under Reagan and Bush, argue that congressional efforts to chastise the President for exercising his war powers are unconstitutional. John B. Judis responds in The New Republic by pointing out that, according to the third branch of our government, non-binding congressional resolutions do not encroach upon the powers of the executive. (Posted 1/18/07)
  • Bruce Ackerman and David Wu propose a "Half-Trillion Dollar Solution," The American Prospect, February 27, 2007. The proposed solution is simple: "Want to end the Iraq war? Place a hard and fixed limit on the president's war appropriations." (Posted 3/1/07)
  • "The Iraq Veterans Memorial is an online war memorial that honors the members of the U.S. armed forces who have lost their lives serving in the Iraq War. The Memorial is a collection of video memories from family, friends, military colleagues, and co-workers of those that have fallen." (Posted 3/17/07)
  • In "Counterinsurgency 101," In These Times 3/5/07, Kristian Williams wonders whether Gen. Petraeus has done his homework. "General Petraeus says he thinks the war in Iraq is winnable. His recent manual suggests otherwise." (Posted 3/17/07)
  • In an "After Action Report," based upon his March 9-16 visit to Iraq and Kuwait, retired General Barry R McCaffrey gives an authoritative account of the problems, the recent gains, and the way forward in Iraq. (Posted 3/31/07)
  • Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.) argues that "Victory is Not an Option" in Iraq, Cato Institute podcast, March 16, 2007. (Posted 4/3/07)
  • William Galston, Nancy Sherman and Richard Land discuss the ethics of troop withdrawal from Iraq in a video interview for PBS & the Religion & Ethics News Weekly, 3/23/07. (Posted 5/9/07)
  • In "Iraq's Militias: The True Threat toCoalition Success in Iraq," Perameters, Spring 2007, Anthony J. Schwarz argues that militias "weaken government influence by providing unofficial (and effective) security in localized areas using illegal methods," and that they "can only be neutralized through state-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) initiatives." (Posted 5/15/07)
  • In "The Security Council, Democratic Legitimacy andRegime Change in Iraq," The European Journal of International Law, Vol. 17, no.3, 2006, pp. 531-551, Steven Wheatley "reviews the process of political transition in Iraq, examining the role of Security Council resolutions," and he concludes "that the process involved a violation of the right of the Iraqi people to political self-determination, creating a conflict between the Security Council resolutions adopted under chapter VII and an international norm of jus cogens standing." (Posted 6/9/07)
  • David Mellow's "Counterfactuals and the Proportionality Criterion," Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 20, Number 4, 2006, pp. 439-454, has relevant implications for just about every category of issues in just war theory collected on this page. But I place it here for its apposite discussion of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Posted 6/22/07)
  • In "The Legal War: A Justification for Military Action in Iraq," Gonzaga Journal of International Law, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2005, Adam P. Tait applies the "Caroline Test" in arguing that "the US-led coalition was justified, not only by existing Security Council resolutions, but also by the realities of preemptive self-defense after Sept. 11." Yet, the key claim, that the U.S. was under 'a necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, no moment for deliberation,' was highly doubtful in the spring of 2003, and has since been thoroughly discredited. Moreover, it is important to add that in the Caroline case the U.S. and Great Britain agreed upon the importance of distinguishing between, on the one hand, exceptional pre-emptive incursions into foreign territories to defend against particular, actively threatening forces, and on the other hand, genuine acts of war directed against foreign states. (On this point, see Francis D. Wormuth and Edwin B. Firmage, To Chain the Dog of War: The War Power of Congress in History and Law, second ed., University of Illinois Press, 1989, pp. 48-51; and Christine Gray, International Law and the Use of Force, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 106, fn. 1.). (Posted 6/26/07)
  • In the FORA.tv video embedded below, Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of Carlifornia, April 13, 2007, recounts recent Iraqi history as set forth in his book, Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing The Peace, and raises pertinent questions about the way forward from both American and Iraqi points of view. (Posted 6/28/07)
  • "Iraqi Refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic: A Field-Based Snapshot" by Ashraf al-Khalidi, Sophia Hoffmann and Victor Tanner for The Brookings Institution's University of BernProject on Internal Displacement, June 2006: "Of the estimated two million Iraqis who have sought protection in neighboring countries, at least 1.2 million to 1.5 million are presently in Syria..." (Posted 7/21/07)
  • Don't miss the PBS Frontline documentary on The Gangs of Iraq, which is available online in its entirety (60 minutes). (Posted 8/2/07)
  • Today's "Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq" recommends drawing down the U.S. presence in ways that will reduce the appearance of being a permanent occupation force, backing evident successes in the development of the Iraqi army's ability to handle major security problems, addressing corruption in the Ministry of the Interior, adopting a beefed-up "overwatch" strategy over Iraq's border regions, and much, much more. (Posted 9/6/07)
  • Bruce Ackerman examines "The Risks of Playing Politics with the Military," Financial Times, 9/5/07. As he sees it, it is a violation of the U.S. constitutional principle of civilian control of the military for uniformed officers to assume, or to be pressed into, the role of defending or criticizing Presidential or Congressional war policies. To my mind, Ackerman's thesis is a stretch. To be sure, officers should avoid arguing with executives and lawmakers in excessively combative or defiant terms. But as long as the policy assessment of a military officer is given (and taken) not as a command, but merely as a recommendation of good counsel, civilian control of the military remains unscathed. (Posted 9/11/07)
  • From Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute, "Redefining Success in Iraq," The American Prospect, January 15, 2008: "Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the surge. The only real change has been the way politicians talk about what defines success in Iraq. But are the American people buying it?" (Posted 2/4/08)
  • In "The Myth of Sectarian Violence in Iraq," International Socialist Review January 8, 2008, Dahr Jamail debunks the conventional wisdom of U.S. military policy. (Posted 3/8/08)
  • In "The $3 Trillion War," Vanity Fair, April 2008, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes argue that "the Bush administration has been concealing the full economic toll" of the war in Iraq. (Posted 3/17/08)
  • There's some reason to think that, notwithstanding its public statements, the Bush administration secretly favors a gradual partitioning of Iraq. On this score, check out Reidar Visser's "Debating Devolution in Iraq," Middle East Report, March 10, 2008. For arguments defending the wisdom of "soft partition," see The Case for Soft Partition in Iraq," by Edward P. Joseph and Michael E. O'Hanlon for the Brookings Institution, June 2007. (Posted 3/17/08)
  • Thanks to TomDispatch, we get a free look at the final chapter of Riding the Tiger: Muqtada al-Sadr and the American Dilemma in Iraq, by Patrick Cockburn. As Tom Engelhardt notes, "It's the perfect antidote to Petraeus's assessment of the Iraqi situation." (Posted 4/9/08)
  • Peter Hitchens and Christopher Hitchens debate the war in Iraq in this series of videos, which were recorded 4/3/08 at Grand Valley State University's Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. (Posted 4/16/08)
  • In "Learning the Right Lessons from Iraq," Cato Institute Policy Analysis 610, February 13, 2008, Benjamin Friedman, Harvey Sapolski and Christopher Preble defend the following assessment: "Foreign policy experts and policy analysts are misreading the lessons of Iraq. The emerging conventional wisdom holds that success could have been achieved in Iraq with more troops, more cooperation among U.S. government agencies, and better counterinsurgency doctrine. To analysts who share these views, Iraq is not an example of what not to do but of how not to do it. . . The near-consensus view is wrong and dangerous. What Iraq demonstrates is a need for a new national security strategy, not better tactics and tools to serve the current one. . . The military gives us the power to conquer foreign countries, but not the power to run them. . . " (Posted 5/3/08)
  • Now available online from Lessons From Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, edited by William D. Hartung and Miriam Pemberton, Paradigm Publishers, 2008, is a useful chapter by Hartung on war profiteering. It concludes with some policy recommendations: "competitive bidding... screening of bidders to rule out companies with no experience in the relevant area of work... auditors in the field from the outset of a conflict... A new 'Truman Committee'..." (Posted 6/1/08)
  • We're now seeing the predictable long term negative effects of using white phosphorus and depleted uranium in Iraq: "Babies born in Fallujah are showing illnesses and deformities on a scale never seen before, doctors and residents say." (Posted 6/15/08)
  • The Commonwealth Institute's Project on Defense Alternatives has just published its Report of the Task Force for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq, entitled "Quickly, Carefully, and Generously -- The Necessary Steps for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq." The report "outlines 25 initiatives that the USA can take to reduce the potential for communal violence and regional instability after US troops leave Iraq. The report addresses those concerns often raised about the prospect of complete US troop withdrawal occurring within a relatively short period." As U.S. Congressional Representative James McGovern writes in the preface, the report outlines "what it would take to leave -- what is required in terms of a cease-fire, reconciliation, recovery and security when the day comes for our troops to begin coming home." (Posted 7/4/08)
  • "From the Swamp to Terra Firma: The Regional Role in the Stabilisation of Iraq" is a July 2008 report from the Oxford Research Group. "In April 2008, Gabrielle Rifkind took a group of senior influential US and European political voices to Riyadh for a meeting with senior Saudi officials to examine the challenge of finding a regional consensus for stabilising Iraq... This report grew out of that meeting. It provides a detailed synopsis of the discussions, in particular a number of important insights into the view from Saudi Arabia." (Posted 7/20/08)
  • In "The End of the State of Exception in Iraq," TELOSscope, June 12, 2008, David Pan argues that "A new political consensus is emerging in Iraq that can form the basis of a "normal" situation of politics after the painful, prolonged, and unresolved state of exception that has reigned since the U.S.-led invasion. The testing of political wills and the consequent establishment of the Iraqi government's sovereignty in the fight against the Sadr army and al-Qaeda in Iraq should go a long way toward buttressing the stability of this new order." For a fuller account of the Schmittian theoretical basis of this (remarkably optimistic) assessment of the situation in Iraq, see Pan's "Liberalism as a Political Ideology in U.S. Foreign Policy," TELOSscope, March 22, 2008. (Posted 7/30/08)
  • On July 25th the U.S. Institute of Peace held a panel on "The Future of the U.S. Military Presence in Iraq" featuring Kimberly Kagan, Charles Knight, Colin Kahl, and Rend al-Rahim. To listen to the podcast of this engaging panel, follow this link. (Posted 8/1/08)
  • In "Discipline, Punishment & Counterinsurgency," Military Review September-October 2008, Scott Andrew Ewing makes a compelling case for the need to reform the culture of discipline within the U.S. Army. The illegal but common practice of using painful, harmful or humiliating punishments in military training - the practice of 'smoking' soldiers - is a poor means of preparing an army for the challenges of counterinsurgency: "Soldiers' actions and attitudes do not need to reach the headline grabbing levels of Abu Ghraib to seriously affect our ability to win the support of the local population. We can interact with Iraqi citizens and military personnel with professional courtesy or, alternatively, with a contemptuous air of superiority. Even when the most egregious abuses are avoided, the latter approach insults the honor of the people whose support we are trying to gain. The cultural currents that permit the widespread unlawful punishment of soldiers in the Army have contributed to attitudes and actions that fuel the insurgency and cost us lives." (Posted 9/10/08)
  • In "An Unnecessary War," Foreign Policy, No. 134, Jan/Feb, pp. 50-59, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt made the case, contrary to the Bush administration's rush to war, for adopting a strategy of deterrence to contend with the menace of Saddam Hussein. (Posted 6/24/09)
  • For a war effort to be just it must be a last resort. All other options should be considered, if not tried. That is not what we find in "The Iraq War -- Part II: Was There Even a Decision? U.S. and British Documents Give No Indication Alternatives Were Seriously Considered," National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 328, October 1, 2010, John Prados and Christopher Ames (eds). (Posted 10/2/2010)
  • In "Limited War and the Constitution: Iraq and the Crisis of Presidential Legality," forthcoming in Michigan Law Review, Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 216, Bruce Ackerman and Oona A. Hathaway propose "a practical way in which Congress may effectively reassert its constitutional power - and with it more effective democratic control - over the use of military force." Robert Chesney responds here. (Posted 11/4/10)
  • In "Justifications of the Iraq War Examined," Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 22, Issue 1, 2008, Richard Miller attempts to "critically assess claims on behalf of the Iraq war made by the Bush administration and by various defenders of the war. These claims will move us into careful considerations of the Iraq war as a form of self-defense, law enforcement, and rescue... [D]ebate about the Iraq war has been muddied by the notion that these rationales stand on the same footing. On the assumption that nonaltruistic risks are more intelligible than altruistic risks, we can presume that each set of risks shoulders different burdens of proof. Put more abstractly, reasons for war are not interchangeable, not convertible to the same currency. That fact, I will argue, ought to frustrate those who wish to substitute one rationale for another in the effort to provide a retrospective justification for the Iraq war." (Posted 11/18/10)
  • In the video embedded below, Thomas Daly discusses his memoir of U.S. Marine service in Iraq, Rage Company, which "describes the battles surrounding the 'Surge' of American troops and the 'Awakening' of Sunni tribes that changed the tide of the Iraq War in Anbar province. Daly chronicles the time from early 2006, when he and his fellow Marines were in Ramadi to implement Operation Squeeze Play, to 2007 when the Surge and Awakening began the demise of Al Qaeda in Iraq." (Posted 3/27/11)
  • If the invasion and occupation of Iraq was supposed to be justified as a means of establishing a shining beacon of democracy, security, and free markets in the Middle East, it has been an abject failure and a grave injustice. For a sad account of the current state of corruption in Iraq, albeit with useful and somewhat hopeful recommendations for possible future improvements, read "Failing Oversight: Iraq's Unchecked Government," The Crisis Group's Middle East Report, Number 113, September 26, 2011. (Posted 9/26/11)


  • Jacob Weisberg sees the Bush administration's belligerence towards Iran as "blustering" that is likely to produce the opposite of the desired effect in "The Two Clocks: Getting Iran Wrong, Again," Slate, Jan. 31, 2007. Rather than attack Iran for the sake of nuclear non-proliferation, we should wait for it to implode of its own corruption and repression. (Posted 2/2/07)
  • In "From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq," Vanity Fair, March 2007, Craig Unger explains how "The same neocon ideologues behind the Iraq war have been using the same tactics: alliances with shady exiles, dubious intelligence on WMDs to push for the bombing of Iran. As President Bush ups the pressure on Tehran, is he planning to double his Middle East bet?" Unger thinks so, and he presents a decent case. Is the policy already set in motion? Now to fix the facts accordingly and await or create a suitable occasion? (Posted 2/2/07)
  • Dick Morris says, "Don't Confuse Iran with Cambodia," Front Page Magazine, February 1, 2007. Instead, he thinks we should confuse it with Nazi Germany. That's dubious advice, but this is better: the President should not try to sell an attack on Iran as a means of winning in Iraq, because no one will buy it. Reminds me of an old Texas saying: "Fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again." (Posted 2/2/07)
  • For an intelligent and cautious assessment of the prospects for achieving nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East by means of combined air and naval attacks against Iran, see Paul Roger's "Iran: Consequences of a War," Oxford Research Group, February 2006. Rogers et. al. at the ORG predicted grim prospects for a successful regime-change occupation in Iraq back in 2002. So, it's worth paying attention to what they now have to say about Iran. (Posted 2/2/07)
  • In "The End of the 'Summer of Diplomacy'," The Century Foundation, 9/18/2006, Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner "warns that some in the Bush administration are making the case for air strikes aimed not only at setting back Iran's nuclear program, but also at toppling the country's government. He says that these officials are undeterred by the concerns of military leaders about whether such attacks would be effective." (Posted 2/2/07 from JWT Blog archive)
  • The D5 missile project is part of the U.S. strategy for contending with Iran's nuclear ambitions. The plan is to remove nuclear warheads from "as many as two dozen" ICBMs that could be launched from Trident submarines for the purpose of penetrating the bunker complexes of Iranian nuclear facilities. The problem with this strategy, according to Ted Postol and Pavel Podvig, is that the launch of these ICBMs "will cause an automated alert of the Russian early warning system ... [which] ... will greatly increase the chances of a nuclear accident involving strategic nuclear forces." Read more... (Posted 2/2/07 from JWT Blog archive)
  • In "Sanctions Against Iran: Key Issues," Century Foundation Report, February 1, 2007, Bruce Jentleson "provides a framework for assessing economic sanctions as part of the international community's non-proliferation strategy. His analysis, informed by key aspects of the Iran case and sanctions strategy more generally, presents the principal sanctions options and assesses their relative merits and risks." (Posted 2/8/07)
  • Michael Ledeen is perhaps the most prominent and forceful advocate of going to war with Iran (and Syria). He has argued for some time, but most recently here and here for the National Review, that since Iran has been waging war against the U.S. since 1979 it is foolish and irresponsible not to respond in kind. (Posted 2/10/07)
  • The Project on Defense Alternatives has gathered together a wealth of links to significant studies and critical perspectives on the current crisis in U.S.-Iran relations. Their Confronting Iran page includes many useful materials grouped under the following subtopics: the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Dispute; US Nonproliferation Policy; the Iran in Iraq Dispute; Regime Change Iran; US Regional Policy; Oil Geopolitics; US National Security Strategy; US Political Dynamics; Media & Public Discourse; War Plans & Scenarios; Costs & Consequences of War; and Crisis Resolution & Diplomacy. I highly recommend this resource. (Posted 2/19/06)
  • In "Next We Take Tehran," Mother Jones, July/August 2006, Robert Dreyfuss argues that the U.S. confrontation with Iran has little to do with nuclear proliferation, and everything to do with the geopolitics of oil. (Posted 2/24/07)
  • In "Redirection," Symour Hersh argues that a replay of Iran Contra weighed heavily in Negroponte's decision to resign from the CIA because the White House is funneling money without authorization or oversight to Sunni jihadist groups sympathetic to Al Qaeda. The idea is that shiite Iran, Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah are now enemies #1, #2 & #3 in the Middle East. (Posted 2/27/07)
  • Dilip Hiro urges caution in "In the Case of Iran: Look Before You Leap," Peace, Conflict & Development, Issue 9, July 2006. (Posted 3/2/07)
  • In "Getting to "Yes" with Iran," Christoph Bertram argues that an international inspection regime is a better way to deal with Iran's nuclear enrichment activities than economic sanctions or military strikes. Makes sense to me. (Posted 3/31/07)
  • "The war in Iran has already begun," according to Shora Esmailian & Andreas Malm, "Iran: The Hidden Power," OpenDemocracy, 4/10/07. It's a class war: "The interests of power-elites in the west and those in Tehran are alike opposed to peaceful, democratic change in Iran." (Posted 4/15/07)
  • Jonathan Kay and Leo Panich debate the issue of foreign policy towards Iran on Canada's The Real News. (Posted 11/24/07)
  • The Real News presents a two part interview with Noam Chomsky on U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. Part I on Bush administration policy is here. (Posted 11/24/07)
  • According to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," the Bush administration's bellicose rhetoric has little basis in reality. (Posted 12/08/07)
  • The Century Foundation presents a video luncheon roundtable from its Prospects for Peace Initiative on Tuesday, December 11, 2007. Topic: "Iran and Israel: An Irreversible Enmity?: Implications for the United States, the Region, and the Security Council," featuring Trita Parsi, Khaled Dawoud, and Daniel Levy. (Posted 12/13/07)
  • In "Israel, Iran Practically At War," The New Republic, March 12, 2008, Yossi Klein Halevi argues that "A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran." (Posted 3/17/08)
  • Justin Logan of the Cato Institute explains how "In Iran, Things Could Get Worse." The upshot: it might depend upon the 2008 U.S. presidential election. (Posted 7/13/08)
  • Benny Morris' op-ed piece in the 7/18/2008 New York Times, "Using Bombs to Stave Off War," boldly predicts that "Israel will almost surely attack Iran's nuclear sites in the next four to seven months," and then proceeds to offer reasons for thinking that such an attack would be a good idea. Morris' key assumption is that Iran would use a nuclear weapon for a first strike against Israel rather than as security against suffering an Israeli first strike. Why? Because the Mullah's are driven by ideology and fear. Perhaps so. But if Morris' piece shows anything, it's that Iran does not have a monopoly on ideology and fear. There is, of course, as Norman Geras points out, a serious asymmetry between an Israeli threat to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities and an Iranian threat to destroy the entire state of Israel. But this difference disappears as soon as one adds, as Morris does, that barring a successful surgical strike against Iran the only reasonable option is to turn the country into a "nuclear wasteland." As I see it, the best long term solution would be a nuclear-free Middle East (for starters), but that scenario is admittedly far less likely than what Morris predicts. (Posted 7/28/08)
  • For in interesting entry into German political controversy over the Iran question, check out Mattias Kutzel's "Germany, Iran, and the Party of the Left: A Commentary Commissioned by Neues Deutschland, which it Refused to Publish," TELOSscope June 15, 2008. Kutzel's argument is a call for tougher economic and political sanctions. (Posted 7/30/08)
  • In "The United States, Iran and the Continuing Salience of Geography," Centre d’Etudes Franco-Americain de Management (CEFAM)," Dylan Kissane argues that "attempts by enemies of Iran to force regime change through the use of air power alone or a combination of air and land military elements are inevitably bound to fail." Concluding, "this inescapable geopolitical reality should encourage US policymakers to consider carefully their positions on Iran and seek non-military means by which to engage with one of Asia’s historical and strategic nations." (Posted 7/8/11)

AFGHANISTAN: (scroll down for the most recent posts)

  • In "Defining a Just War," The Nation, October 11, 2001, Richard Falk argues that "The war in Afghanistan against apocalyptic terrorism qualifies in my understanding as the first truly just war since World War II." It's worth noting that Falk has recently questioned this judgment, attributing it to the moral distortions of post-9/11 psychological shock. See Rigstad below, fn 34. (Posted 11/15/09)
  • Responding to Falk (above) among others, Howard Zinn argues in "A Just Cause, Not a Just War," The Progressive, December, 2001, that the best way for the U.S. to counter terrorism would be for it to cease being a "military superpower" and start being a "humanitarian superpower." (Posted 11/15/09)
  • In "Is the War in Afghanistan Just?" Imprints: A Journal of Analytic Socialism, Volume 6, Number 2, 2002, Darrel Moellendorf argues tentatively that the invasion of Afghanistan may have been unjust, but that once it went forward the argument for continued occupation is morally stronger than the argument for withdrawal. In the same symposium volume, Christopher Bertram's article, "Afghanistan: A Just Intervention," responds to Moellendorf by arguing that "both the criteria of last resort and that of reasonable prospects for success have been met in Afghanistan." Also in the same volume, in International Justice, Human Rights and Security After 11th September," Saladin Meckled-Garcia rejects the assumptions common to the arguments of both Moellendorf and Bertram. As Meckled-Garcia sees it, "Declaring war on the forces behind the 11th September attacks should mean declaring war on the order that made those attacks possible and conceivable. The bombarding of yet another group into battlefield submission, and the extra-judicial killing of its leaders, certainly do not address these causes... Kant's advice is better: the primary obligation is to leave the state of nature and establish a just system of constraints. This means pressing the cause of judicial due process, impartiality in international law, restraints on superpowers and weak states alike, accountability, transparency, and alternative forms of achieving humanitarian goals. It is also to beware that humanitarian discourse can be used to disempower, and invoked for ulterior purposes. To ask, then, how the United States and its allies should retaliate is to mistake the problem for the solution." I recommend this excellent trio of articles for both undergraduate and graduate level courses that include an examination of the normative issues raised by the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
  • Also relevant to the case of Afghanistan is Mark Rigstad's article, "Jus Ad Bellum After 9/11: A State of the Art Report," The International Political Theory Beacon, Issue 3, June 2007. Rigstad notes that contemporary just war theorists neglect to recognize that the principle of discrimination not only applies as a jus in belloconstraint on the conduct of soldiers within the battlesphere, but it also applies as a jus ad bellum constraint on the theater level of military planning. One can only have a just cause to defend oneself against an attacker, and not against an attackers host. Attention to this consideration casts some doubt on the justifiability of the Shultz Doctrine (as incorporated into the Bush Doctrine and continued by the Obama administration), according to which states need not discriminate between "sub-state terrorist organizations" and states that "harbor" them. There is "a significant difference" between harboring terrorists and directly carrying out terrorist acts, and it is analogous to the difference between being an accessory to murder and being a murderer. So, by the standard logic of the just war theorists' "domestic analogy," the Taliban leadership of the Afghanistan government should not simply share the death sentence that U.S. war policy declared for the leaders of Al Qaeda. (Posted 11/15/09)
  • In "A Just War? Hardly," Kaleej Times, May 9, 2006, Noam Chomsky quickly suggests that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan constituted a clear act of international aggression. (Posted 11/15/09)
  • In "Was the Afghan conflict a just war?" British Medical Journal, Volume 324, February 9, 2002, Jennifer Leaning finds the jus ad bellum issues too murky to be settled by means of a clear argument of just war theory. Nevertheless, she argues, the jus in bello issues are clear enough to warrant a general criticism: "Instead of rooting its engagement in international humanitarian law it [the United States] has emphasised the dastardly outlaw nature of its enemy to justify a need to keep its tactical options open." (Posted 11/15/09) Jennifer Leaning,
  • "Rethink Afghanistan" is a probing documentary film from Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films. It is recommended for classroom use as well as general viewing. Start watching the Youtube version below, or go to the film's website here to watch free content. The film's website also includes additional video debates that are worth viewing. (Posted 11/15/09)
  • In "Afghanistan and Just War: A Weighty Decision," BreakPoint, November 4, 2009, Chuck Colston has no doubt that "when the United States invaded Afghanistan, the just war criteria was [sic] met." Yet, eight years later he sees "tough questions" and "moral dilemma" with "no simple answers." (Posted 11/15/09)
  • In the pages of The Nation, November 11, 2009, Aram Roston explains "How the US Funds the Taliban." That's right. U.S. taxpayers, through the Pentagon and State Department budgets, pay the Taliban millions of dollars not to attack American supply lines. The Taliban then use this money to arm themselves for combat with American troops. The U.S. government does not deny this. If there comes a time in every failed war when the insanity becomes so glaring that defeat becomes a foregone conclusion, then I suspect we've reached that point. (Posted 11/15/09)
  • To explore the "deeper debate" about Afghanistan, check out the Fault Lines townhall debate below... (Posted 11/16/09)
  • In "How to Make the Afghanistan War a 'Just War'," Center for American Progress, November 18, 2009, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Brian Katulis outline policy directions that would re-establish just cause, proper authority, etc., and give the U.S. and its allies a good chance of success against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in a foreseeable future. The authors sketch what sounds like a sensible way forward, if press forward we must. And they are right to remind us of Reinhold Niebuhr's warning that, "Americans are tempted to overreach, to overestimate the innocence of our own power, and thus also overestimate its possible effectiveness." But I fear that they are not taking this warning seriously enough, and that their proposal for achieving military and political success in Afghanistan is overly optimistic. (Posted 11/23/09)
  • The International Crisis Group is an excellent source of up-to-date information and policy analysis for conflict zones around the globe. Here, in their latest report on Afghanistan: Elections and the Crisis of Governance, November 25, 2009, they emphasize the futility of foreign troop level increases in the absence of serious reform of a corrupt central government. (Posted 11/27/09)
  • Even if President Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech demonstrated a decent understanding of the basic normative and strategic issues at stake in Afghanistan, as Michael Walzer thinks, it was arguably a radical understatement to say merely that there is "no simple formula" for winning a just peace through continued military occupation in Afghanistan. Walzer sees the defense of humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan as the best reason for giving provisional, short-term support to Obama's surge. That seems like a good cause when considered in abstraction from the nature of the regime that we have managed to put in charge. The lesser of two evils (Karzai's regime vs the Taliban) is not necessarily a cause worth fighting for. And as the difference between the Taliban and Pashtun tribal leadership grows increasingly obscure, the best hope for achieving peace, however thin, may reside in the constructive potential of pressuring the Karzai regime to hold a Loya Jirga that includes the Taliban. (Posted 12/20/09)
  • The following videos from the Warrior Legacy Foundation introduce (1) the current state of the Afghanistan/Pakistan conflict and (2) the counter-terrorism element of the U.S.-led coalition's overall pacification strategy.
  • Karl W. Eikenberry, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan and retired Army lieutenant general, authored these two classified cables in which he argues that the proposed U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan will lead to "astronomical costs" because it "will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable." (Posted 1/26/10)
  • In "Far From Infinite Justice: Just War Theory and Operation Enduring Freedom," Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, vol. 26, no. 3 (2009), pp. 623-97, Stephen R. Shalom argues that the war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan) is unjust because it has violated the principles of last resort, right authority and proportionality. (Posted 5/29/10)
  • Endgame in Afghanistan: 'It's taken a year to move 20km': As the war in Afghanistan enters its final chapter, Sean Smith's brutal, uncompromising film from the Helmand frontline shows the horrific chaos of a stalemate that is taking its toll in blood. Warning: contains distressing scenes and strong language. Follow these links to watch part 1 and part 2. (Posted 8/1/10)
  • Juan Cole is angry about the "modern financial system" that has been installed in Afghanistan. It turns out to be altogether too much like our own (read: corrupt). (Posted 9/13/10)
  • In "Use of Armed Force Against Terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and Beyond," Cornell International Law Journal, Volume 35, p. 533, 2002, Jordan Paust looks at "the propriety of self-defense against non-state al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on 9/11 and against the Taliban, Security Council authorizations, NATO regional action, and self-determination assistance" and suggests that "the U.S. use of military force against the Taliban in Afghanistan was highly problematic under international law and raises serious concerns about future use of military force against states that merely 'harbor' or 'support' or have 'known links' with non-state terrorists or other international criminals." (Posted 7/8/11)
  • In "The Layha for the Mujahidin: An Analysis of the Code of Conduct for the Taliban Fighters Under Islamic Law," International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 93, No. 881, March 2011, Muhammad Munir examines "the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Rules for the Mujahideen to determine their conformity with the Islamic jus in bello" and argues that "many of the Taliban rules have only a limited basis in, or are wrongly attributed to, Islamic law." (Posted 7/8/11)
  • In Afghanistan: Negotiating Peace, an international task force organized by The Century Foundation and co-chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi and Thomas R. Pickering lays out a reasonable plan for lasting peace in the war torn nation. (Posted 8/6/11)

LIBYA: (scroll down for the most recent posts)

  • United Nations Resolution 1973: "Authorizes Member States ... to take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory..."
  • In "Obama's Libyan Folly," Al Jazeera, April 4, 2011, Richard Falk argues that "the NATO led intervention in Libya is hampered by a lack of foresight and clearly defined objectives." (Posted 4/11/11)
  • In "Libya: The Case for a Negotiated Solution," Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane/Pretoria), May 9, 2011, Issaka K. Souare defends the African Union's call for dialogue as a better option than NATO efforts to removed Gaddafi from power by means of military force. (Posted 5/28/11)
  • In "The Strikes on Libya: Humanitarian Intervention, Not Imperial Aggression," The Atlantic, March 19, 2011, Daniel Serwer defends the legality and legitimacy of the NATO-led intervention in Libya. (Posted 6/5/11)
  • In "Libya and the Responsibility to Protect," Small Wars Journal, March 28, 2011, Charli Carpenter offers a critical response to the claim that the "responsibility to protect" doctrine "lacks moral strength if applied selectively." (Posted 6/5/11)
  • In "Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (V): Making Sense of Libya," Middle East/North Africa Report Number 107, June 6, 2011, International Crisis Group outlines the best ways forward for achieving humanitarian ends in Libya. (Posted 6/6/11)
  • On April 6, 2011, the Fordham Student Chapter of the Federalist Society and the Federalist Society's International & National Security Law Practice Group co-hosted the Fordham University School of Law panel discussion featured below.
  • "Evidence Emerging of Use of Rape as Tool of War in Libya," June 8, 2011: "Investigators with the International Criminal Court (ICC) are gathering evidence that the Libyan leadership is using rape as a tool of war and repression and had even acquired large quantities of drugs for its soldiers in an apparent bid to make them more likely to commit sexual assault, the court’s prosecutor said today..." (Posted 6/12/11)
  • "Report of the International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya": "The jamahiriya system of government instituted by the Qadhafi regime is a very particular one involving one-man rule using fear, intimidation and incentives based on loyalty. By its very nature, it has not been susceptible to governance based on the rule of law and the protection of human rights..." (Posted 6/12/11)
  • In "Wings over Libya: The No-Fly Zone in Legal Perspective, The Yale Journal of International Law Online, Volume 36, 2011, Michael N. Schmitt emphasizes, among other salient points, that "the principle of distinction serves to ensure enforcement forces take appropriate account of humanitarian considerations." (Posted 6/12/11)
  • In "'Leading from Behind': The Responsibility to Protect, the Obama Doctrine, and Humanitarian Intervention After Libya," Ethics & International Affairs, Forthcoming, Simon Chesterman argues that "the legal significance of Libya is minimal, though the response does show how the politics of humanitarian intervention have shifted to the point where it is harder to do nothing in the face of atrocities" and further suggests that 'military action' shows "a continuing disjunction between ends and means." (Posted 7/8/11)
  • In "War Powers Irresolution: The Obama Administration and the Libyan Intervention," Engage, 2011, Robert J. Delahunty poses two questions (1) "is whether the President can initiate a war, admittedly not in national self-defense or for the protection of US persons or property abroad, with prior approval from Congress" and (2) "is whether the provisions of the War Powers Resolution that require disengagement if the President has not obtained congressional sanction within two months of beginning such a war are constitutional." (Posted 7/8/11)
  • In "Who 'Won' Libya?: The Force Diplomacy Debate and Its Implications for Theory and Policy," International Security, Volume 30, No. 3, pp. 46-86, Winter 2005-06 authors Bruce W. Jentleson and Christopher A. Whytock argue "U.S. coercive diplomacy against Libya can be divided into three phases: the Reagan strategy of unilateral sanctions and military force, which largely failed; the mixed results from the more multilateral strategy of the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations; and the substantial success achieved through the secret direct negotiations initiated along with Britain in the latter Clinton years and furthered under George W. Bush, which culminated in Libya closing down its WMD programs." (Posted 7/8/11)
  • In "Obama's Military Commitment in Libya," Louis Fisher argues that, "Having escalated the war in Afghanistan while withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, President Barack Obama in March 2011 opened a new war in Libya without seeking or obtaining authority from Congress. Instead, he turned for legal support to two outside organizations: the U.N. Security Council and NATO allies. In doing so, he abandoned the constitutional principles he carefully articulated as a presidential candidate in 2007 and ignored the reality that accompanies any military commitment: the inability to anticipate or control its direction." (Posted 8/17/11)
  • In "War Powers Irresolution: The Obama Administration and the Libyan Intervention", Engage, 2011, Robert Delahunty argues that the "US military intervention in Libya, now in its third month, has brought two fundamental and recurrent constitutional questions to the fore. The first is whether the President can initiate a war, admittedly not in national self-defense or for the protection of US persons or property abroad, with prior approval from Congress. The second is whether the provisions of the War Powers Resolution that require disengagement if the President has not obtained congressional sanction within two months of beginning such a war are constitutional. (Posted 8/17/11)
  • In "Libya: A Premature Victory Celebration," Global Policy Forum, August 30, 2011, Georges Friedman "calls into question the assertion that the war in Libya is over," arguing that, "Gaddafi still retains significant military power and strategic strongholds, while the rebels may not be able to form a coherent government. Western doctrine of soft military power and the implementation of a 'no-fly zone' have not met their ultimate goals – the fall of Gaddafi and the protection of civilians." (Posted 9/22/11)
  • In "Patterns of Conduct: Libyan Regime Support for and Involvement in Acts of Terrorism", Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, authors Corri Zoli, Sahar Azar, and Shani Ross offer an overview of "the Libyan regime’s longstanding disregard for international norms." They go on to discuss the "prevalent 'patterns of conduct' over time and how these underscore Libyan noncompliance with international law and disregard for human life and for the consequences of acts of terrorism—a longstanding posture by the Qadhafi leadership that may very well frame current reported practices toward Libyan civilians, protestors, and rebels." (Posted 12/28/11)

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