csmonitor.com's Josh Burek spoke to ethics expert Rush Kidder
about the ethical aspects of rebuilding Iraq and spreading democracy
around the globe. Mr. Kidder is founder and president of the
Institute for Global Ethics.
csmonitor.com: [Former Pentagon Adviser] Richard Perle has talked
about achieving "high moral purpose" in Iraq. What ethical standard
has the Bush administration used to achieve this "high moral
Kidder: [Americans] are conflicted. We love the idea of peace -
as well we should. We also feel guilt that we've accumulated a
living standard far beyond other countries. What we are seeing is a
broad, rather rapid, shift from the concept of deterrence to the
concept of preemption.
What has pushed us in this direction is that there's a new
parameter here. And that is the presence of widespread suicide as a
The problem is, of course, you can't deter suicide bombers. You
have to preempt them. What we need to understand is that there are
various forms of preemption. In Iraq, what we've seen is the
bluntest of those instruments ... heavy armor used as preemptive
technique. What we have to move to is the ultimate preemption, which
is not armor, but intelligence.
csmonitor.com: What are the ethical tensions involved with
Kidder: The looting is this tremendous outburst - a pent-up ...
sense that "I have been stifled and imprisoned for 30 years, and I
suddenly have a euphoric freedom. What am I going to do with it? How
do I know? Everything I've been raised to think is that this moment
of freedom is a sudden thing. If I don't seize this, there'll be
another Saddam [Hussein]."
The challenge now [for Iraqis] is to back that off into [a sense
of] community, so people can say, "Let's put up with discomfort so
we can build institutions, obey them, work with the security force
and government. Let's do that." That's the ultimate prosperity.
It will be the same kind of tension we saw expressed in the
classic right vs. right in the invasion of Basra. The British
could've gone in right away. There was a humanitarian crisis
developing, people were going to die, not from combat wounds, but
the culture of combat.
So they have every incentive, every moral reason to say, "Let's
get in there now. Let's blow this place apart. Let's sacrifice some
people, but for the greater good, we must go in." On the other hand,
you can't just indiscriminately blow up innocent civilians for the
sake of possibly saving larger numbers from a threat that may or may
We know enough as a country to set up American-like institutions
in Iraq almost overnight. We could empty out our police academies,
send them over, and basically Americanize the place ... On the other
hand, we can build a long-term future, and help the Iraqis do what
Bush says they want to do - help them run the country. Do we really
believe that? For 30 years, they haven't been near the levers of
power. Can they run the country? You can build a powerful case on
csmonitor.com: Some observers claim President Bush has
exaggerated the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda in order to
justify regime change. They worry he'll use this success to push for
new campaigns against regimes hostile to the US. Are leaders
justified when they exaggerate claims to win support for a course of
Kidder: Yes, I think that the danger is there, in the run-up [to
a war], of exaggeration - or the converse: absolute silence on
things. It was [Franklin D.] Roosevelt, I believe, who kept
persisting in saying we won't go to war in Europe, when he was, in
fact, training American troops in Canada and not saying anything
But that comes back to a broader point: The need to shift ...
from armor and toward intelligence. We wish we lived in a world
without the CIA. But we have to have that information. …