One way to shake out where we all really stand is to put forth a relevant but hypothetical situation, a situation about which we can indeed know the details. Let’s say we invade a country for one reason, let’s call it reason A, and discover after our invasion that reason A actually didn’t pertain, (we might call this reaction OOPS); but let’s also posit that we discover circumstances that present us with another reason, let’s call it B, that would have been just as valid a reason as A was had we only known it prior to invading. In fact, A and B, while substantially different, seem to have equal moral weight and urgency. Now then, does the discovery of reason B after our invasion justify our invasion even if we had vehemently stated prior to attacking that we were doing so based on reason A?
Yes or no? Let’s not talk about what you read or heard on talk radio. Let’s stick to basic moral concepts that we all ought to have pondered on occasion. In principle, can one do something because of A, discover that A doesn’t apply, discover that B would have been just as valid, and justify one’s actions now with B after the fact?
If you say “yes” then you’re comfortable with an end justifying a means to that end, and further, you’re comfortable with discovering that end after the fact.
If you say “no,” then you’re aligned with the what I think is the traditional moral stance on ends and means, the principles of which I discussed briefly in my post last month, ENDS AND MEANS.
What’s fallacious about this is that we knewjustification B — read: mass murder and tyranny — before the war and that was in and of itself sufficient moral justification for the war (and would have been sufficient moral justification a decade before — in fact, higher moral justification, for that would have prevented countless murders in the meantime).
I cannot see a moral justification for leaving Saddam in power anymore than one can make a moral justification for leaving Hitler or Pol Pot in power.
So this argument of A v. B is not a moral argument. It is a political argument, a public relations argument.
The mistake was to justify the war on the unknown A (read: WMD) instead of the known B (mass murder). That mistake was made in an attempt to court France, Germany, the U.N., and certain corners of the British Parliament.
Was it a moral or merely tactical mistake to try to court their support?
Or ask it another way: If you know that moral justification B exists, it is moral to insist on the additional moral justification A? I think not.