On the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we look back on the ethical debates surrounding the war, and the conflict's tragic results. Millions of Iraqis—along with many others in the Middle East, plus Americans and their European allies—are still struggling with the consequences of March 19, 2003. And it's not over. The war's effects are still playing out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, and in U.S. and Western foreign policy going forward.

Carnegie Council provides an open forum for discussion. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Carnegie Council.


Moral Dilemmas of U.S. Policy Toward Iraq
Anthony F. Lang, University of St Andrews
When it comes to issues such as imposing sanctions, pursuing assassination, overthrowing regimes, and waging war, the moral questions may be the most important ones. (Article, February 2001)


Just War, Not Prevention
Thomas Nichols, U.S. Naval War College
The debate over going to war in Iraq has in many quarters become a debate about the ethical implications of preemption and prevention rather than about the war itself. But neither prevention nor preemption can have any moral standing in the abstract, since it is the circumstances, not the concepts that inform their qualities as strategies. The question, rather, is whether the decision to engage in a new war against the Iraqi regime is just. (Ethics & International Affairs, March 2003)

The War over Iraq: Why Saddam Must Go . . . and Why America Must Lead
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard; Lawrence Kaplan, The New Republic
Two veteran journalists contend that the war is clearly about more than the Iraqi threat, the future of the Middle East, and the war on terror. In their view, the Bush administration is pursuing a course that will lead to a regime change, the promotion of democracy, and the wielding of American influence in the region (Public Affairs Program, March 2003. Transcript. )

Arguing About War (2004)
Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study
Walzer rejects the argument that the invasion of Iraq was justified: "It is only massacre or ethnic cleansing or mass enslavement in progress that justifies marching an army into someone else's country. That is what humanitarian intervention is, and that is not what the Iraq War was." (Public Affairs Program, October 2004. Transcript)

Ending Tyranny in Iraq: A Debate
Fernando R. Tesón, Florida University; Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch
From the vantage point of two years after the invasion, was the war in Iraq a humanitarian intervention? Yes, argues Tesón. What’s important is that it rid the world of a dictator. No, says Roth, and trying to justify it in humanitarian terms has given intervention a bad name. (Debate Transcript, October 2005.)

A New Turn in the New War
Joel Rosenthal, Carnegie Council President
"The war on terrorism began with moral clarity and a widely accepted road map for immediate action. For 18 months there was strong international consensus on three issues: global condemnation of terrorist tactics, relentless pursuit of the al-Qaeda network, and the need for regime change in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. All of this changed on March 19, 2003, with the launching of Operation Iraqi Freedom—a dramatic new turn in the new war." (Carnegie Council Newsletter, April 2003)


What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building
Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School
Two years into the war, Feldman, a constitutional expert and Arabic-speaker sent to Iraq by the Bush administration, argued that U.S. intervention in Iraq amounts to a moral promise. Unless asked to leave, he declared that we are morally bound to stay until a legitimately elected government can govern effectively. (Public Affairs Program, January 2005. Audio, transcript.)


Gag Rule: On the Stifling of Dissent and the Suppression of Democracy
Lewis Lapham, Harper’s Magazine
Lewis Lapham criticizes the suppression of dissenting voices in the aftermath of September 11th and the complicity of the media in manipulating public opinion on the war against Iraq. (Public Affairs Program, June 2004. Transcript)

Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction Fiasco
David L. Phillips, Council on Foreign Relations
Originally in favor of going to war, Phillips, a former State Department official, discusses the mistakes made because of the lack of a plan for winning the peace. (Public Affairs Program, April 2005. Transcript)

Ending Torture and Secret Detention in America's Name
Admiral John Hutson and Michael Posner, Human Rights First
The abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and elsewhere, have undermined our standing around the world, say Hutson and Posner. (Public Affairs, May 2005. Audio, transcript.)

Corporate Warriors: The Privatized Military and Iraq
P.W. Singer, Brookings Institution
P. W. Singer examines the Pentagon's policy of contracting private security and logistics firms for tasks ranging from combat to catering in the Iraq War. What are the ethical dilemmas and conflicting incentives of outsourcing a traditional state function to essentially mercenary groups? (Public Affairs Program, December 2005. Audio, transcript.)

Beyond Terror and Martyrdom: The Future of the Middle East
Gilles Kepel, Sciences Po, Paris
The neocons and al-Qaeda have both failed to reach their objectives, says Gilles Kepel. We are now facing one big power in the Middle East: Iran. (Public Affairs Program, September 2008. Audio, video, transcript.)

A Humanitarian Assessment of the War in Iraq
Ali Wynne, Harvard University
The debates about withdrawing from Iraq have excluded what would seem to be a self-evident point of contention: how best to repair the damage that Iraqis have suffered as a result of the war. (Carnegie Ethics Online article, July 2009.)

Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East
Deborah Amos, NPR
1.9 million Sunni Muslims have been forced into exile following the Iraq War, says Deborah Amos. What impact is this having on these people's lives, on Iraq, and on the region's delicate balance of power? (Public Affairs Program, March 2010. Audio, video, TV show, transcript.)