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Shouldn’t we intervene in other countries if we could save lives?

Question

If we have the power to save lives by intervening internationally, which is the greater evil: imposing our will on others or the destruction of lives? Yes, it is correct that we tend to ignore civil strife in areas where we would either get bloodied or areas we don’t care about (like Rwanda), but should we intervene where we can do so at little physical cost if a net balance of lives can be gained?

lives

Answer

Ah, the age old question, ‘Can the ends justify the means?’ I’ve come to the conclusion that when we use bad means to obtain good ends, our efforts backfire every time. Rather than supporting a war funded with taxes, I chose to help the refugees.

Naturally, when you, as an individual, feel that you can do good by supporting a fight, you should follow your conscience by supplying your own time, money, and effort. If you force your neighbor who feels differently to participate, however, you’ll jeopardize your cause. After all, by using taxes to support the fight, you are first attacking your peaceful neighbors to save others from tyranny. You become the tyrant in order to save others from oppression. The contradiction should be obvious.

Many people applaud our entry into World War II as an example of how good (e.g., defeating Hitler) can come out of bad (e.g., taxes and the draft). With the advantage of historical hindsight, let’s see if this is an accurate description of what happened.

Hitler offered to let the Jews leave Germany if other countries would accept them. Few nations would alter their immigration quotas, however. If you visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., you can see a picture of a shipload of Jews being turned away from U.S. shores. They eventually had to return to Europe, where most of them were killed. Without the aggression of immigration laws, we could have saved the Jews without spilling the blood of our young men.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor probably wouldn’t have occurred without the aggression of a U.S. oil embargo, saving the lives of our servicemen there.

Hitler’s finest were already trying to assassinate him by the time the U.S. entered the war and probably would have succeeded eventually. Instead, the U.S. entered the war, took Stalin as an ally, and gave Stalin most of Eastern Europe. Stalin proceeded to kill millions, without offering to let them migrate elsewhere, making Hitler look benevolent in comparison. Those who survived these purges were forced to live in constant fear, poverty, and strife. Did our aggression against our own neighbors make war on tyrants save lives or take them? The body count suggests that our aggression cost more lives than it saved.

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