On the news yesterday, I heard Blair say that the british lawyer-general claims the present war on could be legal. I understand he finds his justifications in the UN resolutions 678, 687, 688, and 1441 (probably among others). These resolutions calls for disarming the Iraqi regime by any means necessary.
There are two fundamental problems with this argument:
First, the stated goals of the “coalition of the willing” are disarming Iraq and changing it’s regime. Only the first goal can be defended from the resultions. As far as the second goal is concerned, as Kofi Annan pointed out (March 20th), forced regime change is in conflict with the UN Charter.
I do believe it would be a good thing if we could help replace Saddam with a just government. I don’t believe that rushing to war will improve the likelihood of this happening. I am not even convinced that the UN Charter can’t be amended to include protocols for forced regime change. In that case, the question the “coalition” should have asked the Security Counsil is: “What checks and balances must we have in place to be able to safely implement a policy for regime change?” This includes what factors the counsil should give weight to decide whether the regime should be changed, and what preparations should be in place to ensure that the new regime would be an improvement?
Secondly, even if the resolutions do open for military actions to disarm Iraq, military action is not the only way of disarming. It is probably not even the best way of disarming. Why should military forces have greater chances of finding hidden chemical or biological weapons than inspectors? As long as the inspectors are able to inspect, even if Iraq is not cooperative, replacing inspectors with military forces can only result in better result in disarming if the coalition withheld pertinent intelligence from the inspectors. If the inspectors are directly confronted by Iraqi officials, a police force could prove more effective than military sanctions.
The resolutions do not open for military action if Iraq is non-cooperative, they open for military action if no other way of disarming is viable.
Of course, inspections are unlikely to topple Saddam’s regime. But the resolutions do not open for regime change.
This war is illegal.
Disclaimer: Ideologically I am a pasifist. This comes from the simple observation that common fallacies caused by statistical regression causes people to think that punishment is an effective way of changing the behaviour of others. Personal experience leads me to believe that enimousity just entrenches people’s positions.