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A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq Paperback – July 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003, there were writers and thinkers who distrusted Bush but favored the war largely on human rights grounds: members of that contingent recall, defend and re-examine their arguments in this meaty, provocative, if often academic, collection. "Had there been no war," editor Cushman (a professor of sociology at Wellesley) points out, "Saddam Hussein would still be... torturing and killing." Many contributors make that claim their bottom line. Several explain why they thought the war just in principle, without defending it in practice: "If I knew in spring 2003 what I know now," says the historian Jeffrey Herf, "I would not have supported the invasion." Other writers do not so much defend the war as attack glib arguments against it: Dissent magazine editor Mitchell Cohen denounces "all-explanatory dogma" from right or left; British philosopher Daniel Kofman denounces "confusion in the antiwar movement." Philosophers and political science professors take up the theories of Immanuel Kant and John Rawls. Europeans, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, denounce reflexive anti-Americanism; onetime Polish dissident Adam Michnik explains his "very strong... support for the war" in a revealing interview. Strongest of all in their rhetorical force are a pair of speeches from Tony Blair, the last two of the volume's 24 entries. Though it will change few minds, Cushman's volume may include the most articulate support yet for America's Iraq adventure—even if some of its voices express second thoughts. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The scholarship contained in this collection is superior: it includes the leading and most sophisticated advocates of liberal internationalism from the worlds of the academy, politics and the media. The arguments are complex and nuanced, and contribute to a new understanding of the Iraq war." - Richard A. Wilson, Director of the Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut "This is a first-rate collection. By bringing together isolated, important, and at times iconoclastic voices on the issue of the invasion of Iraq, The Third Force makes for critical and provocative reading." - Michael Barnett, Stassen Professor of International Relations, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (July 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520245555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520245556
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,869,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The essays in this book about the Iraq War and international law are for the most part in clear and accessible English and do not rely on theories that are left unexplained in the body of the essay itself. For that reason I would recommend this collection to people who are interested only in the development of international law and mores and who are not much concerned with the Iraq War.

For those who are interested in the Iraq War, this collection is, I feel, indispensable. Not because the authors agree (they do not) but because the debate in this volume has about it a quality that has been largely absent from the Iraq debate: candor. Thus while the authors disagree on fundamental issues such as:

* was the war in Iraq, on balance, justified;

* did the governments that lead us to war lie or act in good faith;

* was the suffering of the Iraqi people alone sufficient justification for war; and

* do we have what it takes to see this war through

they do so without simplifying the arguments and without assuming that the Iraqi people agree with their positions.

For as profound as their disagreements are, the authors agree that:

* Saddam's regime was genocidal;

* leaving Saddam in place was not costless either (and most immediately) to the Iraqi people or (eventually) to the West; and

* the Bush administration has terribly botched the occupation, thereby endangering the whole enterprise.

And finally these authors point out that when in a public policy debate, the liberals sound like Henry Kissinger while the conservatives echo John Rawls, the political landscape is out of joint.

This is the sort of debate liberals like myself had every right to expect in the days and months preceding the Iraq invasion. We did not get it (for reasons addressed in this volume). We get it here; in this collection of essays. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The idea of a book full of arguments for the war in Iraq from liberal authors seemed so interesting that I immediately ordered it and started reading it as soon as I had finished my book of conservative authors not so happy about the war.

Seeing the way liberals had reacted to Iraq was one of the biggest reasons why I have started calling myself moderate instead of liberal. I'm not trying to imply that the word liberal is monolithic by any means, but seeing the way so many different types of liberals were so strongly opposed to this war (many times out of pure hatred of George W. Bush and nothing else), really made me take serious look at what I thought.

Some of the articles in this book are a bit dense, and the average reader might not be able to get through them, but there are numerous other brilliant articles in this book that make a very strong case for their arguments. Put simply, the main point of this book is that a perfectly logical case can be made in favor of invading Iraq from a humanitarian perspective.

The authors in this book are not fans of Bush in any way, but yet they still make the case that getting rid of Saddam Hussein is a good thing. One of the contributors, Adam Michnik, put it best when he said "I believe you can be an enemy of Saddam Hussein even if Donald Rumsfeld is also an enemy of Saddam Hussein."

Throughout the book, the authors pose tough questions such as "If Bush really did lie about the weapons (and knew that none were in Iraq), why did the U.S. not arrange to plant the weapons after the invasion? A simple, but ironclad point in my opinion. The authors also tackle many of the liberal points used to argue against the war.
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Format: Paperback
With the exception of Roger Scruton, all of the contributors to this thought-provoking book come from the left of the political spectrum. It is most refreshing to see that there are still rational people on that side and that the strident, hateful and juvenile shrieking that one encounters in the media are not the only voices of the left.

Part One: Reconsidering Regime Change, contains contributions by the brilliant Christopher Hitchens, Jeffrey Herf, Jan Narveson and Mitchell Cohen. These essays state the case for the overthrow of the sadistic Saddam whilst discussing the liberal and humanitarian case for the liberation.

The next section, Philosophical Arguments, includes a reflection on national interest and international law by the conservative Roger Scruton, an essay on a just war against criminal regimes by Mehdi Mozaffari, and moral arguments on sovereignty, agency and consequences by Daniel Kofman.

Critiques Of The Left is the third section. This contains the most interesting dissection of leftist positions and thoroughly undermines the fallacy created by the mass media that liberals and leftists were unanimously against the war. My personal favourite essays in this group include Pages From A Daily Journal Of Argument by Norman Geras, Ethical Correctness And The Decline Of The Left by Jonathan R'e and A Friendly Drink In A Time Of War by Paul Berman, a liberal.

In European Dimensions, people like John Lloyd, Michel Taubmann and Anders Jerichow reveal that many prominent European intellectuals, including Vaclav Havel, supported the war on liberal-humanitarian grounds.

Part Five: Solidarity, contains an interview between the compiler Thomas Cushman and the Polish intellectual Adam Michnik.
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