Diplomacy and War: Vietnam, and Iraq

At what point does a nation have the right to go to war without the blessing of the international community? Russia did not ask anyone if it could go to war with Chechnya or Afghanistan. Yet, Russia was adamantly against the use of force in Iraq. Jordan, Syria, and Egypt never asked permission to invade Israel. Did the United Kingdom ask permission to retake the Falkland Islands, when Argentina declared they wanted them back? Do you think that China will go before the U.N. to annex Taiwan?

Interesting points, but I would question comparisons to other wars.

1) Chechnya is an internal/civil war

2) The invasion of Afghanistan was an unjust, aggressive war perpetuated by a declining power in order to artificially mask internal problems and project a greater sphere of influence forcibly. The current government of Russia, while it has not made a complete break from its past is a significantly different country…would you say it was inconsistent for France to resist Nazi aggression since France itself sought to aggressively conquer Europe under Napoleon? I wouldn’t.

3) When Egypt, Jordan, and Syria invaded Israel, there was no “Israel” sort-of-speak…Israel was a paper creation of non-Middle Eastern powers by imposing UN Resolution 181. Nearly every new country was created by a conflict with its neighbors and/or previous owners of the land (perhaps with the exception of the Czechoslovakian Velvet Revolution). Of course, they wouldn’t ask the UN, since it was the UN which had imposed Israel on the Middle East.

4) Again, the Falkland Island War, the UK was responding to an aggressive war by the Argentinians. A better point might have been to ask if Argentina asked to invade the islands, however, its worthy to note that many believe Argentina was baited into taking the Falkland Islands (http://www.psychohistory.com/reagan/rp91x100.htm)

5) As for any possible mainland Chinese invasion of Taiwan, no China would not ask the UN because (as in the case of Chechnya) the tension between mainland China and Taiwan is technically an internal matter. In fact, there is no country in the world that recognizes both “countries,” even the UN itself recognizes only one.

Most importantly though, the invasions of Chechnya and the Falkland Island were a response to attacks by the Chechnyans and Argentinians respectfully. Therefore it is nearly impossible to compare these conflicts to the Iraq War in which there was no prior attack by Iraq.

Also, we did not fight Vietnam alone. How about Australia, New Zealand and The Republic of Korea? Likewise, we are not going it alone in Iraq. How about Australia, England, Spain, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, and Japan? Saying the United States is fighting alone is misleading. The United States is not going it alone; it is going it without the United Nations and there is a difference. Just throwing some food for thought out there. Nothing personal.

Technically you are correct and so I obviously agree with you. On the other hand, it is my understanding that when the comment “going it alone” is made, it is meant figuratively rather than literally. Waltz (p.302) points out that at any given point, there are only eight powers. Only one of the world powers backed the US invasion, while the others opposed it. One of the best differences between the two coalitions in 1990/91 versus 2003 is that in 1990 the US received active military support from regional (and Muslim) powers. No regional powers or countries gave any military support to the war in 2003. Turkey, a member of NATO, even refused the US access to Iraq through Turkey.

I also don’t believe the US use of force in Iraq is not deterrence because Art goes on to say that “If a threat has to be carried out, deterrence by definition has failed” (Kaufman, p.81). I believe Art would call the Iraq War compellence, not deterrence.

Finally, I agree with the basic problem you’ve identified…”At what point does a nation have the right to go to war without the blessing of the international community?” It seems to me that there three types of war: formation, aggression, and defense/response. The US has fought eleven major wars and I would divide them as follows: Formation (AmRev, 1812, Civil War), Aggression (MexAm, SpanAm, Vietnam, Iraq), and Defense/Response (WWI, WWII, Korea, Persian Gulf). Few people question wars fought (if it’s successful) or in defense/response. Nor do I believe a country needs international blessings. But to initiate an aggressive war without an international blessing is what seems questionable.

Fair or not, the comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq start early in that they were both begun with lies…The Tonkin Gulf Resolution and Colin Powell’s Presentation to the UN.

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