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Humanitarian War?

Humanitarian War

I saw where a blogger pose this thought problem in relation to Syria:

A brilliant transplant surgeon has five patients, each in need of a different organ, each of whom will die without that organ. Unfortunately, there are no organs available to perform any of these five transplant operations. A healthy young traveler, just passing through the city the doctor works in, comes in for a routine checkup. In the course of doing the checkup, the doctor discovers that his organs are compatible with all five of his dying patients. Would it be morally permissible for the doctor to murder the traveler and use his organs to save the other five patients?

Essentially, he wanted to know if it was OK to kill innocent Syrians in order to save other innocent Syrians. The moral quandary comes when you ask when it becomes OK to kill one person. If killing one single innocent person will save five, is it morally right? What if it saves one hundred? Or a thousand? When does it become OK to take the life of one innocent person?

I don’t think that is a good analogy though, mainly as it assumes that we are going there to purposely kill innocent people. That is not now, nor has it ever been our plan when engaging in war. A better analogy for a humanitarian war would be something like this:

You are standing on a subway platform. You look across to the other platform and see a man with a knife. This man is stabbing and slashing everybody around him. You have in one hand, a first aid kit, and in the other, you have an M4. You have already tried yelling for him to stop, but he ignores you.

You now have several choices. Each one has it’s own benefits and problems that you must weigh accordingly. Do you:

  • Shoot him yourself.  You can fire your rifle and kill him.  It wouldn’t take more than a bullet or two to take him down, and you’ve got a 30 round magazine.  Of course, the slasher is moving erratically, so there is a chance that you will miss, and even if you hit, there is a very good chance that your shot will over-penetrate, and the bullet will go into the crowd behind him.  This means that you will probably take out the slasher in only a couple of shots, but the chances that you will also wound or kill a bystander is pretty high as well.
  • Throw your gun to someone.  OK, you don’t want to take the shot yourself, so you throw it to someone on the other platform.  You have no idea who this person is that is catching the gun, and you have no way of knowing if they will kill the slasher or if they will just start shooting randomly into the crowd.  You don’t even know if they know how to operate the rifle.  They may switch it to full auto and just open up on the slasher, sending all 30 rounds into the crowd around him.
  • Throw them the first aid kit.  You toss the kit across to the other platform, and hope that it is caught by some well-intentioned boy scout, and he is able to help some of the people that have been stabbed.  This won’t stop the slasher, and he may just stab your little helper and take the medicine all for himself.
  • Get on the next train and leave. Just as it says, ignore everything and just walk away. Besides, you aren’t in any danger, even if he threw the knife, he’d never reach you all the way over here. People still die, and the slasher probably gets away with it , but your hands are clean.

What do you do? No marrer what you do, innocent civilians are going to be killed. Do you take direct action and possibly kill some civilians yourself? Do you take indirect action that either won’t stop the killing or maybe even make matters worse? Or do you do nothing, leaving everybody to their own fate.

To me, thats a little more accurate analogy of what happens when we go in to take out a brutal warlord, and is a lot closer to reality when talking about Syria that doctors harvesting organs.

Except in Syria, there are two knife weilding maniacs, and they are fighting each other just as much as they are killing the people…

And instead of knives, they have flame throwers…