September 11, 2001 changed the United States. Not only did it change individuals” personal lives, but also the perspectives of every citizen. This event proved the U.S. was and still is vulnerable, an idea many people would’ve doubted until that point. The U.S. was put in a defensive position and declared a “war on terrorism.” Weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and the U.S. President was quick to invade and attack because of previous events. There are a myriad of opinions about this move. Some think it best to simply turn the other cheek, while others believe killing a few key leaders (i.e. Bin Laden, Hussein) is fair, and still others are intent on turning the entire Middle Eastern world into a parking lot. These opinions raise a question: Is it “just” for the U.S. to strike back against Iraq and the states that support them? To obtain an answer to this question, it is possible to look back at history and literature written by “the greats” such as Plato(the thoughts of Socrates), Homer, and Virgil.
In Homer’s the Iliad, Achilles struck back against Hector because Hector killed his friend, Patroclus. Achilles could be described as irrational after Patroclus was killed. While he waited for the gods to stop protecting Hector, Achilles savagely killed many other Trojans and eventually killed Hector purely out of vengeance. Achilles did not want his body to go back to the Trojans or his family, but Achilles ended up taking pity on Hector’s father and gives the body back. This situation can be seen as a simile to the situation between the U.S. and Iraq. Achilles represents the U.S., Patroclus symbolizes the attack on America, and Hector is Iraq. Achilles does achieve vengeance, but ultimately goes back on his word to never let Hector’s family have his body. This suggests that Achilles lost his reasoning in the moment and was too rash in his decision-making.
In the play, Antigone, Creon strikes back against Antigone after she breaks a law. Antigone followed natural law and buried her brother, Polynices” body. Creon had decreed it forbidden for anyone to bury Polynices” body; the punishment for this would be death. When Creon found out that it was Antigone who buried the body he sentenced her to death, as he had previously decreed. From Creon’s actions we can tell that he believes in human law above all other kinds of laws; if you disobey these laws, there are consequences to the action. In theory this could be viewed as a fair way of dealing with the situation especially from a leader”s standpoint. As Creon said, if Antigone is not sentenced to death, it sets a bad example for the rest of society and could lead to chaos among the kingdom. Therefore, if the U.S. doesn’t “punish” Iraq, other countries may get the idea that they too can attack the U.S. In Iraq’s defense, Creon regretted sentencing Antigone to death because chaos broke out in his own home when his son and wife died as a result of Antigone’s death. In other words, there may be more consequences to “striking back against” or wiping out Iraq than we know right now. However, wiping out all of Iraq isn’t the U.S.’s only option.
The history of the Peloponnesian War as told by Thucydides provides another idea. Mytelene rebelled against Athens (a very powerful city-state at the time). In order to crush the rebellion Athens sent a ship of warriors to Mytelene to kill all the men there of military age. One Athenian speaker, Cleon, believed that this was the best idea, however another speaker, Diodotus, had a different idea. Diodotus thought it would be best to only seek and kill a thousand leaders. This would spare the lives of the innocent. Diodotus is much like the general voice of the American people. Most U.S. citizens do not want to see innocent people die. Even though they belong to the country, all Iraqi people should not have to die because of a decision made by a select few who rule over them. The Iraqi people want to change their ruler, but are not able to. Their opinions are not counted in their government which means they are not responsible for the actions of their country.
The relationship between the U.S. and Iraq is like Aeneas and Turnus in Virgil’s, The Aeneid. Aeneas sought revenge from Turnus for killing his ally’s son, Pallus. Aeneas and Turnus had already been engaged in war over who should marry the King”s daughter. In the final battle Aeneas is about to kill Turnus, but he hesitates for a moment. He thinks about whether he should spare Turnus” life or not. He then remembers what Turnus did to Pallus and kills Turnus. This can be taken two different ways. First, it can be said that the U.S. should seek revenge for what happened on September 11 by striking Iraq as Aeneas sought revenge by killing Turnus. Secondly, it can represent how September 11 (represented by Pallus) is still in the back of Americans” minds. If weapons of mass destruction were found and the events of September 11th never happened, then the U.S. may have handled the latter situation differently; they may not have pursued it so strongly. No matter what they would’ve done, what makes America’s presence in Iraq “just”?
By looking into what Plato wrote about Socrates it is possible to see what Socrates would have said about this situation. Socrates said that justice is having a job, knowing that job, and doing it. Therefore, the U.S. has the job of protecting itself. September 11th was an invasion of the country and America has the right to defend its citizens. This means that it is just for America to defend itself against Iraq, but does that mean that it is just for America to seek and destroy Iraq? Socrates also said that in order for true justice to occur reason must rule over spirit and appetite. Many of the characters, such as Aeneas and Achilles let their desire for revenge rule over their reasoning. This could lead to regrets and could also produce unwanted consequences. Another important point Socrates makes is on what justice is not. It is not “might make right.” Just because America is viewed as larger and more powerful does not mean that it is right for the U.S. to play protector of the world. If there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it does not mean that it is “just” for America to invade Iraq to get them, especially not without the consent of the rest of the world.
In conclusion, it is “just” for the U.S. to defend itself against Iraq, but they have to be rational. If the actions of America are going to impact other countries they should think about the butterfly effect of unseen consequences. The U.S. should let reason rule their decisions and not vengeance. It would also not be “just” for America to simply sit and take an attack on the country. The U.S. has a job to do, and that is protecting its citizens. If it were not to do this, they would not be doing their job and in Socrates” eyes that is unjust. So the U.S. should “strike back.” However, there is a certain way to strike back. Making rash decisions and wiping out an entire country is really doing a lot more harm than good. Killing innocent people is not necessary. Getting rid of the “few key leaders” and a tyrannical government would be a much more reasonable and “just” way of handling the situation.