Blair, Iraq, Oslo, and “Just War”


It seems that the British inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War has persuaded Tony Blair to admit that WMD were just a pretext. He does, however, concede that “obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” Spencer Ackerman vents some righteous anger on this subject. And he’s right to do so.

But I wonder how he and others who praised Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize speech square that kind of sentiment with admiration for a speech in which Obama plainly dodged the elephant in the room. To me, and I think to Spencer, it’s obvious that Iraq counts as an example of an unjust war. And to world opinion, the specter of the greatest military power the world has ever known abusing that power by launching an unjust war was terrifying. A big part of the promise of Obama’s election, from an international perspective, was the idea that the United States would be closing the books on that ugly episode. As Obama said in Oslo, for a great power to support the cause of world peace doesn’t require it to become a pacifist power. But by the same token, it seems to me that to deliver a speech on just war and U.S. foreign policy without so much as mentioning the unjust nature of the most recent war the United States initiated is a huge failing.

Of course to stand on foreign soil and denounce the invasion as unjust would have been politically foolish. But I don’t think they give out Nobel Prizes for judicious ducking of controversial issues. If Obama didn’t want to take the topic on, he could have just spoke on a different subject and talked about his commitment to multi-lateral nuclear disarmament.