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Kantian Ethics Violations Relative to the Invasion of Iraq

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            The roadmap and central concern of this brief exposition is to take a stand relative to the ethical implications ensuing from the invasion of Iraq, using the first categorical imperative of the learned philosopher Immanuel Kant. Since its inception, the invasion of Iraq has had a share of criticisms from all fronts. And now that its conclusion is marred by unmistakable ambiguities – chief to them would be assessing whether or not the war itself achieved the end for which it was pursued – it is certainly is wise, if not helpful to look at the decision to invade Iraq with eyes fixed on determining the ethical violations that may have been committed in the process.

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Appraising the Invasion of Iraq under the Lenses of Kantian Ethics

            It needs to be firstly noted that Kant’s ethics is essentially anchored on the basic presupposition that human reason provides the basic rationale for morality. Put simply, ethics is only intelligible insofar as humanity is endowed with the faculty of reason (Kant, 1785, pp.

18-19). To admit however that ethics is essentially an endeavor informed by human reason necessitates the equal admission that ethics is universal in nature. Why? This is because Kant believes that ethics is a science that is gleaned using the a-priori method – i.e., based on the logic provided by reason and not by particular experiences (Kant, 1785, p. 1). And for as long as one is ready to recognize that human reason affords the very justification for ethics, then all men – by right of their being rational beings – must adhere to such precepts only reason can discern.

            Second, one may also note that Kant’s ethics is imperative in implication – meaning, it behooves the complete observance of moral precepts at all times, in all places, and by all peoples. Kant believes that moral laws necessitate obedience on account of the inherent good defining the act of obeying itself. And since laws “concern not that matter of the action, nor its intended result, but its form and the principle which it is itself a result”, Kant contends that adherence to law requires no other external qualification other than the fact that it is internally substantiated by human reason alone (Kant, 1785, p. 19). In view of such a premise, Kant formulates his first form of categorical imperative – “act only on a maxim that you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Kant, 23). This means that all persons need to measure their actions within the larger frame of necessity and universality. Concretely, if a person cannot hope to ever frame his action – say, stealing or killing someone – as something that can be applied necessarily and universally, then such person must not commit to such an act. Conversely, if a person can successfully contend that his or her particular action – say, telling the truth – is an act that can be done necessarily to all people, at all times and in all places, then one must commit so such an ethically acceptable action.

            In view of the foregoing, how does one construe the war declared by the United States’ government against Iraq under the purview of Kant’s categorical imperative? On the one hand, one can look at the whether or not America’s decision to invade Iraq can be made into a universal law. Specifically, one needs to weigh if the invasion of Iraq can be made as the standard by which conflicts of interest between countries can be settled. In many ways however, there are good reasons to suppose that the decision of the Bush administration to engage Iraq into a war cannot be universalized. Far more critical, any decision, for that matter, to resolve international disputes by espousing a solution that essentially involves violence cannot be made into a universal law. The reason for this contention is clear and plain: America’s invasion of Iraq, if turned into a universal law, would give other countries – who may find themselves in situations of similar exigencies – a license to commit to military actions against other countries, which in turn that can compromise world peace. Such a scenario spells grim future for the world. At the very least, it warrants the unfortunate destruction of the world. All things considered, the invasion of Iraq cannot – and, more appropriately, must not – be universalized. It therefore violates Kant’s first categorical imperative.

            On the other hand, one can also evaluate the Iraqi invasion within the context of necessity. In particular, it needs to be asked: did the administration of George W. Bush adhere to the compelling necessity to invade Iraq only when such decision can be construed as a universal principle? Herein it is patent that such invasion violates Kant’s categorical imperative. For if one cannot firstly establish that the invasion itself can be made into a universal law, and one proceeds with the decision to commit to such decision anyway, then such an act constitutes a clear violation of the imperative character of moral laws. Kant believes that moral laws behoove an unqualified adherence and obedience; as indeed, moral laws requires nothing less than absolute compliance insofar as they are drawn from the logic which human reason provides. Surely, it is not for nothing that Kant’s ethics is concretely formulated as “imperatives”. And since the Bush administration invaded Iraq, sans ethically justifiable reasons, the decision therefore violated the premise of necessity which is conveniently presupposed in Kant’s categorical imperative.


            By way of conclusion, this paper ends by arguing that the invasion of Iraq has no moral basis, if seen under the lenses provided by Kant’s categorical imperative “act only on a maxim that you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”. This paper therefore takes a position that is critical to the decision to invade Iraq. Two reasons were cited to support this contention in the discussions that were developed. First, it was claimed that the invasion of Iraq cannot be made into a universal law, lest the world be made into an arena of sporadic armed conflicts. And, second, it was also mentioned that the decision to invade Iraq violates the necessity of not committing to any acts that cannot be construed as universally applicable.

Work Cited

Kant, Immanuel. (1785). “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals”. Retrieved 15  October 2008 <http://www.scribd.com/doc/2225702/kantfundamental143>


Cite this Kantian Ethics Violations Relative to the Invasion of Iraq

Kantian Ethics Violations Relative to the Invasion of Iraq. (2016, Oct 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/kantian-ethics-violations-relative-to-the-invasion-of-iraq/

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