On War and Interventionism

April 20, 2009

[First published June 9, 2005] This is to clarify my position on war and intervention, given the confusion shown in the various comments here and to my website]

At first, I will provide the empirical and value assumptions on which my arguments are based.


Democratic freedom (liberal democracies) is a solution to war, internal violence, democide, famine, and national impoverishment. Thus, fostering freedom is a way to global peace and human security.

The more unfree, or totalitarian a regime, the more its rulers will murder its people, and is likely to make war.

Such thug regimes have killedseveral times more people than have wars. Thus, on the scale of bodies, thugs are more to be feared than war.

There ae about 117 electorla democracies in the world 2005, and about 89 of them are liberal democracies. Their exisence and the corresponding democratic peace has impacted world violence, such that for over five years it has been in sharp decline.


As established by the UN and international conventions, thus by international law, every human being has a right to individual freedom and a democratic government. All dictators are criminals denying people their basic rights, if not murdering them in the process.

The life of every innocent human is as precious as that of any other; there is a moral equality among all our souls and individual consciousnesses, except for those who show by their intentions and actions that they don’t respect human life (e.g., Saddam, Stalin, domestic murderers, etc.)

War is just when the evil resulting from not going to war is greater than the evil of war itself, such as in self defense, the defense of other democracies, or in the saving of lives (e.g., as in stopping the Rwandan genocide). Not only must there be a just cause, but also the war must be fought justly, that is proportional to the threat (no nuclear bombs on terrorist camps) and with due concern for the lives of noncombatants (E.g., in line with the Geneva Conventions).


When is war/intervention justified? If there is large-scale democide being carried out, as in Sudan (As happened in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo), military intervention is justified, and so it is in Burma. North Korea is a special case, because of the proportionality criteria — given Kim’s military capability and possible nukes, the cost in lives and destruction of intervention in the North may not be proportional to the evil of, or threat of, the regime. This is one reason I have called for Kim’s assassination — it would be just. It would be more than a proportional response to his evil and threat.

If by acquiring WMD’s, a regime is a danger to the national security of a democracy. A Pre-emptive war is justified. It is justifiedi also when a regime is supporting and aiding direct attacks, as by terrorists, on a democracy.

When is war/intervention not justified? For revenge, honor, territory, resources (e.g., oil), or to spread democracy. Democracy can be spread by means other than war, and war for democracy may well unleash demons that make democracy more unlikely. For many dictatorships, democracy is an evolutionary path in line with their economic growth, trade, communications, and is encouraged principally by the example of democracy in other countries.


The war in Afghanistan was justified for two reasons. The Taliban was a murderous regime killing Afghans by the tens of thousands, and enslaving he rest. It also provided aid and comfort to terrorists, particularly those intent on attacking the United States and other Western democracies.


In light of the intelligence available to President Bush about the potentially dangerous WMDs being developed by Saddam Hussein as reported by the UN and all major intelligence services, the uniformity in these intelligence reports, Saddam’s use of poison gas –a WMD — against his own people, his aid and connections to terrorists, and his mass murder of his own people amounting to the hundreds of thousands, the war against Hussein was justified by UN resolution and Just War doctrine.

Once such a war is fought and successful, then as with Japan and Germany after World War II, democratization should become the goal of the following occupation so as to create a democratic peace oriented government, such that war will not again be necessary in the future, and to set a democratic example for other countries in the region.

Link of Note

“Far from media focus: steady democratic progress in Iraq” (6/7/05) B A. Heather Coyne

Coyne writes:

These wild swings in the security and political environment that are depicted on front pages around the globe are not as evident here on the ground in Baghdad.

In fact, having spent the past two years in Iraq, first as an Army officer and now as the head of the Iraq office of the Washington-based US Institute of Peace, I am struck by the determination and steadiness of Iraqis as they struggle to build a stable, democratic country, and by the continuing, firm commitment of Iraqis to participate in – and manage – that process.

Book 1 Never Again