Monday, September 09, 2013

What is morally right behavior when it comes to self-defense, or the defense of others?

The conundrum comes because of topics currently in world news. Few would argue that defending one's self from an attacker is wrong. Most people believe that if your life or well-being is in danger, you can act to defend yourself, without any qualifications. Most people also believe that if you see someone else being brutally attacked, raped, tortured, or threatened with deadly force, you can come to their aid. In fact, if you turn your back on such a person and do nothing, you are most likely a coward. An individual acting to help others is considered one of the highest forms of altruism. This is how the prototypical hero is born.

So, how does that translate into world affairs? Most people would say that a country has a right to defend itself. That being said, should a country go to the aid of people in another country who are being brutally attacked, raped, tortured, or threatened with deadly force?

If  I saw a woman on the street being brutally beaten and did nothing, I would consider myself guilty of if not the crime itself, of aiding and abetting, and a virtual nodding of consent for the crime to continue. What then of the women in Afghanistan who have acid thrown in their faces for talking to an unmarried man? What of those who are killed in the name of honor for holding hands with a young man whom they have taken a liking to?

If a nation has the power to act and does not, is this not the same thing as if an individual has the power to act and refuses to? For what individual would refuse to come to the aid of someone being attacked if they had the power to do something about it?

I'm not saying there are any right answers here. I've never believed that countries had the same responsibilities as individuals in acting, but as a collective of individuals who would act on an individual basis to stop a brutal attack (and after recent stories in the news about people who have done nothing to stop such attacks, I'm wondering at the veracity of my point), would in not therefore be likely or even expected that the collective would act?

3 comments: said...

Since World War II, history has shown that while we have the power to act, we seldom have the power to succeed. The list is long: Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, Mogadishu, Afghanistan, Iraq. What could we accomplish in Syria?

Years of watching these events have fueled my cynicism. Do we really go to war for money?

Shane Roe said...

We have had the power to succeed in most of the wars you mentioned, and depending upon how you measure success (obviously it depends upon the objective in the first place), we've had success in some of those wars. The question is, have we had the national will to win? I don't see us fighting these wars for money...where did we receive anything in any of these wars? said...

Korean and Vietnam were wars against a system of government, communism, that threatened us in many ways, but most significantly economically. That is, after all, the biggest difference between the two ideologies: the free market vs government control of money.

The First Gulf War? Maybe America's most economically motivated war ever, because of Kuwaiti petroleum.

Invading Iraq in 2003 looked a lot like an opportunity for the military/industrial complex to make epic profits from a war started on tenuous ground.

Afghanistan seemed to make sense to me on one level at the beginning (right after 9/11), but as time passed it seemed more and more like we are fighting the same war (for different ideals) that the Soviets fought there in the 1980s. I feel it will end the same way theirs did, leaving behind weapons and resentment, while coming home with injured and dead soldiers. Who wins? Again, big money military contractors.

That leaves Mogadishu, which I will give you had some level of altruism about it.