Kant’s Approach to Resolving War in Iraq Essay
Kant’s Approach to Resolving War in Iraq
Five years after the Iraq war had begun, policymakers are still looking for answers on how to bring about a resolution to that particular conflict. It has been a hot election topic among candidates of both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States. Some of the policy options presented range from a short term commitment stay in Iraq to a long term commitment of about a hundred years of occupation. It is in this light that this paper would like to argue that conflict resolution strategies based on Kantian ideals provides the best hope for long term peace in Iraq and the rest of the world.
In this paper, two well-known works of Immanuel Kant will be utilized in order to provide the theoretical justification for possible conflict resolution strategies. These works include his classic “Was ist Aufklarung? ” or “What is Enlightenment? ” and Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch. These works have generated much consequent discourses and interpretations. It will be argued here that these works provide an incisive critique regarding initial United States policy before the war in Iraq as well as the US’s subsequent policy in trying to democratize Iraq.
This paper also suggests that a utilization of Kant’s concept of republicanism and its proper application can create the desired changes in the political systems in the Middle East. Such knowledge claims warrant a discussion of the ideas presented in Kant’s essays. Focault (1978) viewed Kant’s idea of enlightenment as a form of freedom. Immaturity is the condition upon which man must break free. Immaturity takes place when we do not use our powers of reason on how to deal with issues and instead become lazy and substitute our duty to think with a reliance on figures of authority for their interpretation of the truth.
Kant believes that it is the duty of an individual to seek enlightenment. According to Focault, Kant challenges each and everyone to become truly aware of the realities that surround us. This challenge is embodied in Kant’s famous motto “Aude sapere” which literally means have the courage to know. Analyzing the actions of the American government and its decision to wage war in Iraq and its subsequent involvement in the civil war that has ensued, one can argue that this happened that Kant himself would be dismayed that the road to peace that he envisioned was not followed by the Americans.
For one, they lack enlightenment. Many of them did not challenge themselves to know the reality of the situation they were about to get themselves into. Many had just accepted the version of the truth that was foisted by the Bush Administration. When the US government said that they have solid evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, politicians from the two major parties accepted this and supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. Another thing is that they violated Kant’s preliminary article on perpetual peace that explicitly prohibited interference in the internal affairs of another government.
The only exception to this rule according to Kant is if the country had been split into two during a period of anarchy. Such was obviously not the initial case in Iraq prior to the second gulf war. Years later, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found while the war has claimed thousands of military and civilian casualties. The war continues with almost daily incidents of bombings by militia forces. Such consequences could probably have been avoided had more people exhibited greater skepticism and not readily surrendered their capacity for judgment to a government that wanted to act so hastily.
The American people cannot simply blame their government for misleading them towards becoming involved in the war in Iraq. If they think that the problem in Iraq is due only to the blunders committed by the present US government, they have to rethink that idea. Kant himself implies that if one is faced with such public situations, one must have the audacity to know the real situation and exert all possible efforts to achieve this enlightenment. Kant was convinced that one cannot evade one’s responsibility to exercise his power of reason.
The only time that a person can be allowed limited use of his reason is if he was part of a system that sets limitations on the things that he can do. One example would be that of a soldier who cannot exercise his power of reasoning vis-a-vis his commander because the organization that he belongs to circumscribes the questioning that he can do. His ability to exercise courage to know the rationality behind his orders is therefore restricted. This distinction was made explicit by Kant when he described this situation as the submissive use of reason because the person is considered as a cog in a machine.
This is not the case with the debate and subsequent actions on Iraq. This is because the situation can be considered as public in nature. When this happens, an individual must take advantage of the free exercise of reason. One must question the pronouncements made in order to distill the truth that is often obfuscated by partisan political interests. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction has been overshadowed by the now more pronounced goal of transforming Iraq into a viable democracy. Here again we can find useful the concept of enlightenment as espoused by Kant.
The US government is trying to convince its citizens and people around the world that democracy can take root in Iraq even though it has for all intents and purposes externally imposed democracy upon the Iraqis. The US government points to the cases of post war Germany and Japan as examples of successful democratization efforts. Many American do not question if the conditions that were conducive to the democratization efforts at that time are present or if not could be replicated in the situation in Iraq.
Politicians try to peddle the idea that if they were successful before they could do it again in the case of Iraq. Again people around the world bear witness to the immaturity being exhibited by many people in America. There must also be a realization that the achievement of peace in Iraq cannot be achieved in the short run. This is because it takes sometime for effort to move towards a republican idea to gain currency and become ingrained in the consciousness of individuals. The process of consolidating efforts toward achieving republicanism is likely to last for several decades.
By all indications, this is the likely trajectory of the political situation in Iraq; yet a lot of Americans are thinking that they should just get out rather quickly from the mess that they themselves started. This type of thinking I argue is another form of surrender to the ideas being peddled by some notable politicians without the benefit of subjecting such ideas to a rigorous theoretical and empirical analysis. It can be deduced from Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” that the solution to the war in Iraq lies in the adoption of republicanism. Republicanism is defined here as a form of government that is representative in character.
The idea is that the representative character of a republican government makes it very difficulty to wage war upon another country. Peace is therefore guaranteed under this new political set-up. Thus, in a society that is plagued by civil war, often times it becomes expedient to resort to quick fixes for attaining temporary peace. The imposition of a political system is one such quick fix. This is what Kant warns us that “methods of expediency omitting all reference to the pure practical reason, can only bring about a re-arrangement of circumstances in the mechanical course of nature.
They can never guarantee the attainment of their ends”. Sorli et al (2005) warns that the American strategy in Iraq is not about to significantly improve the political conditions in the Middle East as the Bush Administration envisions it to be. This issue becomes even more salient if you look at the double standard that the current American government seems to apply in case of Iraq where it demands democracy while continuously supporting authoritarian regimes in the region that support their foreign policy (Sorli et.
al, 2005,160). Americans think that just because Iraq now has a semblance of a democratic government because of the creation of the US -sponsored parliamentary election, the Iraqis would immediately become partners in creating a world that is safe and that is bereft of war. This is a grossly mistaken concept because the process of becoming a democracy with a representative form of government has not been accepted by a significant portion of the population in that developing country.
This view is also supported by Gartzke (2005) who issued a word of caution that pushing countries to become democracies does not help create a stable and peaceful international community. Gartzke further adds that a multi-faceted approach is needed in order to generate the stability needed in a country that is undergoing regime change (Gartzke,2005,29). If there is to be peace in Iraq and for that country is to become a partner in fostering peace around the world, the initiative must come from its citizens to view the achievement of peace as their duty.
The reason why it is so important that the sense of duty must come from the Iraqi citizens is because of the likelihood of obedience to the principle of perpetual peace can be greatly increased if this were the case. If the Iraqi people see perpetual peace as their ultimate objective and if the government has the same ultimate objective then this would guarantee the obedience of the Iraqi citizens. Challenges to the new democratic government could be drastically reduced if such a shared vision of the future can be achieved among the different stakeholders in the situation in Iraq.
Moreover, Kant also believed that the republican set-up prevented wars from erupting between states. The reason for this was because the systemic structure of the republican government makes it difficult for people to be convinced to wage war especially if they have to bear the some of the costs that Kant himself identified namely cost of waging war, reconstructing after the war and limiting the capacity of the victor state for maintaining peace (Kant, 1795, accessed from www. constitution. org). It is also important the Iraqis view this goal as something that is realizable.
Despite of the difficulties that may come along the way on the road towards improving their country, they must not waver. The benefits of republicanism go beyond the maintenance of peace and well into improving economic relations with similar countries. It has been suggested by Cox and Drury (2006) that the democratic peace also pays economic dividends for countries that have fully embraced the concept of republicanism. References References Cox, D. G and Drury, C. A. (2006) Democratic Sanctions: Connecting the Democratic Peace and Economic Sanctions in Journal of Peace Research 43 (6): 709-722.
Gartzke, Erik (2005). Economic Freedom and Peace in Economic Freedom of the World: 2005 Annual Report chapter 2. Sorli, Mirjam E. Nils Petter Gledistch and Havard Strand (2005) Why is there so much conflict in the Middle East in Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 (1): 141-165. Kant, Immanuel (1795) Perpetual Peace: A Philoshophical Sketch. Retrieved April 01, 2008 from http://www. constitution. org/kant/perpeace. htm. Focault, Michel (1978). What is Enlightenment? Retrieved April 01, 2008 from http://philosophy. eserver. org/foucault/what-is-enlightenment. html.