Good Things Coming From Bad Causes Does Not Justify the Bad Cause

I have heard many conservatives use the following as a justification for the Iraq war: the elections in Lebanon, the abandonment by Libya of its chemical weapons program, and even the lessening of restrictions in Egypt. I have also heard many liberals go to great lengths to either a) deny those things were good or b) deny they came in any way whatsoever from the US invasion of Iraq. These arguments don’t sway the unconvinced, because they sound like sour grapes and some of the justifications, particularly of the first argument (by groups like ANSWER) sound far-fetched themselves. So if you actually want to convince anybody, rather than beating your chest to feel better about your own morality, there are better alternatives to reply to this argument.

Certainly there is no airtight case that any good things in the Middle East must come directly from the invasion of Iraq. That’s a classic post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. That being said, there are commentators within the region who have suggested that the example of the election in Iraq has done much to cause populations over there to wonder why their own, presumably unconquered, governments can’t do the same. There’s no denying that reports of it were filling Al Jazeera regularly and were at least in the back of the minds of people operating afterwards. Also, there have been suggestions leaked that Qaddafi was indeed influenced by the Iraq invasion that oh shit, they really mean it this time and it had a Voltarian effect on him.

So while it is hardly a proven case that any of these at least potentially good things came of the Iraq invasion, nearly is it impossible to think that it had an effect pour encourager les autres. So does that mean that, therefore, the invasion was a good thing?

Absolutely not, and liberals and other war opponents who feel the need to engage those points are essentially giving conservatives a free pass by legitimizing their underlying argument while disputing the facts. In essence, they’re saying “Hey, we know that if these things were good and were caused by the invasion, it would be justified, so we’re going to fight like hell to make sure they aren’t considered either good or a result thereof.”

Bullshit. To violate Godwin’s law (which I think is stupid because who else is universally considered evil, at least in public?), I’d like to draw an analogy. The Nazis did some horrific experiments on death camp prisoners, such as Jews and Gypsies. Yet medical doctors have used the data they collected in those experiments because they had data that can’t be obtained by ethical people. Some of that data, such as the curves of body temperatures, have saved many lives since then. So, arguably, some good has come from those experiments. Does that in any way justify the experiments?

Of course not. I doubt any conservatives or liberals would make that argument. So why fear positive effects, regardless of their veracity, claimed as a result of the Iraq war? The answer to those is basically the analogy: “So, you’re saying that Nazi experiments were a good thing because we know more about how people respond to extreme cold?” Or, if you still believe that you can’t ever use the Nazis to take an argument to its unintended but logical conclusion, then just use the Tuskeegee Experiments: “So, do you think it was right of the US to inject black people with Syphilis just to get data on how it affects the human body? I’m sure the data was useful in diagnosing syphilis, but that doesn’t make it right to hurt people just to see how they react.”

Then you can go back to the main arguments against the war that they do less well defending.

2 thoughts on “Good Things Coming From Bad Causes Does Not Justify the Bad Cause

  1. I’m not done reading this post yet, but I just wanted to comment before I forget – dude, what’s up with the use of foreign languages left and right? I can understand a “c’est la vie” here or a “si, senor” there, but “pour encourager les autres”? I think that means “to encourage the others” just by how it’s spelled and its context, but man alive, or should I say homme vivant, it makes it hard for my simple little brain to read.


  2. OK, now I’ve finished the entry, and I’m really interested in reading the essay you linked to about the Nazis. I never took an ethics class in college, but ethical quandries are interesting to ponder.


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