January 31, 2011

The Iraq War: Rational UtiliterianTheory - By Heyrsh Abdulrahman

Thomas Aquinas in the 17th centaury developed the ‘Just war’ doctrine utilized in the rational Utilitarian theory. This principle sets out the regulative and prescriptive process on how war should be fought. This principle has been adapted in the Geneva Convection International laws of war which states that a State has the power to initiate war whenever human safety is at risk.   The Geneva conception has international law of war requires   justifiable reasons on why a country declares wars on another.  This can be well examined in Iraq war and the rational choices made by the UK and the US for the attack (Winfield, 2004, 67). 
The Iraqi war:  Rational utilitarian theory.

The rational utilitarian theory in criminology adopts a rational choice in stating that man has the power to reason and weigh the ends and means, the benefit and cost, and to make choices that are rational. The rational utilitarian theory is a result of previous experiments which investigates the nature of human beings.  Data for these experiments were gathered from behavioral techniques. The concept of rational choice is the center of Rational Utilitarian theory which can be applied in the Iraq vs. US war. Utilitarian premises produce rational choice in making interpretation of social experiences.  These concepts can be traced back in to the ancient doctrine of Jus ad bellum which means ‘just war’ in Latin Language.  This doctrine gives the power for individuals to choose what is best to the society and what is best to each individual in the society. This ancient theory can be applied in modern social events that the society has experienced.
One of the social events that this theory can be applied is the Iraq war which called the US government to take actions through rational decisions of weighing what is best to the society and good for world peace. The fight of US government against Iraq came after organizations and parties making decision based on their empirical knowledge on what best suits the society and man.  This is the doctrine of paternalism in the making of rational choices when undertaking a practice. Jus ad bellum is a law war which governs the conduct of war and that war should be done justly.  Jus ad bellum is the criteria utilized by the United States government before going to war with Iraq.  This criterion is the making of rational choices in deciding whether the war is justifiable. This concept is rooted from the premises of rationale utilitarian theory.

War on Iraq started on March 20, 2003 under the directions given by President George Bush. Governments of the United States and the UK consulted on the danger of Iraq of using weapons for mass destruction. This was a threat to human security in all regions of the world and the United State’s allies.

The United Nation body for inspection monitoring and Verification commission conducted a search for the mass destructive weapons in Iraq. The country was ordered to disarm but failed to adhere to the requirements (Blip, 2003) claiming that there was no evidence that it had nuclear weapons.  The invasion of Iraq led to the capture of Hussein the Iraq president.  He was executed by the Iraq government after being tried in the country’s court of law.  This led to the emergence of the al- Qaeda and the strife of the Muslims groups the Shia and the Sunni. Millions of Iraqi populations were left homeless, children orphaned and displaced after the Iraqi insurgency. Many Iranians were left to rely on low quality source of water that was insufficient the humanitarians. 

The suffering of the people in Iraq as well as the attack of the United State’s Eastern seaboard with chemical and biological triggered the declaration of Iraq war.  Further evidence to the UN Security council indicated that Iraq WMD program to attack the US.

The Rational utilitarian theory is clearly evident with Hans Blix, the Chief weapon inspector remark that Iraq appeared not to be genuine on the issue of disarmament which it was called upon to.  The Iraq country according to Blix had to be forced to disarm so that the world lives in peace and have the confidence (Blix, 2003).  This means that by weighing the benefits of attacking Iraq verses not attacking it, then the world would not be confident that Iraq had no deadly weapons. The country was also criticized for being sympathetic towards militia and terrorists groups (Morgan, 2000, 25).

The invasion phase went on fairly well amidst casualties from both sides and it is after this phases that the coalition forces came in to assist the country to put in place a working transitional government amongst other things. However, Iraqis rebel launched an insurgency against the coalition forces that has been so far difficult to quell due to its use of guerilla warfare tactics.

The attack of Iraq saw a shift of United State’s foreign policy from a framework that majored on human security to multilateralism with the adoption of the just ad bellum just war. The September, 11 2002 attack led to the creation of new strategies in securing modernity and the people of the world.  This was mainly emphasized by the then US president George W Bush. Iraq’s suspension of having deadly weapons and the rumors of attacking the US were enough aspects to declare war on Iraq.  The rational choice to attack Iraq was based on human good and for the sake of peace and security to all people in the society (Price, 2001, pp 45).

This choice by the United States was part of its foreign policy of enhancing international laws of system of preventing enemy countries from using mass destructive weapons which threatens human safety. In preparation of to fight against terrorism and stop rogue states, the US had no option but to first attack Iraq before it used the destructive weapons or threaten the US and its allies (National Security Strategy, pp 14).  Such a move to do so can be interpreted in the ‘just war’ domain to avoid the reoccurrences of what was experienced in September, 11, 2001.

The protection of a country’s sovereignty can also be seen in the decision to invade Iraq.  To protect the US sovereignty, the US and its allies had no option but to declare war on Iraq. Conflict against Iraq was the last resort that the US and its allies would do to protect people around the globe and America’s sovereignty (Leiss, 2003, pp 232).


National utilitarian theory is applicable in an analysis of Iraq war which was the final option that the US and the UK could do for the common good of the society and the whole world in general.  The rational decision to invade Iraq was after the utility of the ancient principle of right to wage war.  This principle is well guided by ethical standards and the measurement of the expected consequences after the war.  This means that the attack of Iraq was decided after all the moral and legal justification had been considered.

Works citation

Blix, H. (March 7, 2003) "Transcript of Blix's U.N. presentation" CNN.  Retrieved from 
On October 12, 2010
Winfield, D (2004). “Why International Law Supports the Invasion of Iraq: A Short History on UN Declarations of War.” Policy Options. Institute for Research on Public Policy, pp 67
Price, R (2001) “Is It Right to Respond with Military Attacks?” Australian National University Department of International Relations Keynotes, pp 45
Leiss, W (2003). “The Risks of Policy Choices: The War in Iraq and the Doctrine of Pre-Emption.”  Policy Options. Institute for Research on Public Policy, pp 232.
Morgan, R (2000). “The utilitarian justification of torture.” in Punishment & Society, Vol. 2(2): 181- 196. SAGE Publications: London, pp 25

The Author Heyrsh abdulrhman is indepedent political observer and researcher, and former Deputy Representative & director of community Outreach for PUK and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq.


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