This Doesn't Strike Me As A Dilemma

Philosophically, at least, there's no two ways about this. The right thing to do is to strike.
Imagine if you were a natsec official and received information that [American hostage Kayla] Mueller was being held at a location that Special Forces couldn’t safely reach, that she was being routinely raped (by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself), and that she was likely to go on being raped indefinitely until she was eventually murdered on film for propaganda. That dilemma is a bit like the dilemma FDR faced in deciding whether to bomb concentration camps: Is the humane option to put the innocents out of their misery and wreck some of the machinery of death in the process or do you hold back and let the suffering go on in the hope/expectation of liberation eventually?
Aquinas would have said that you strike and hope for a miracle to preserve her safety: and that you can hope for a miracle proves the morality of the case. If you were acting immorally -- if killing her were your end or the means to your end -- the miracle would undo your intended end. Because you can fervently hope that the bombs might miraculously avoid harming her, you know that your intention is not the evil but the good.

Clearly it feels like a dilemma to Allahpundit, however, which is interesting to me. To me it seems so clear a case as to require not the slightest hesitation before deciding. It's interesting that the intuitive feeling differs, although I think reason decides the case one way for all.

What do you think? Would you find this a difficult decision, were it to fall on you to make it in this war? Would you make it differently?


E Hines said...

It strikes me as differing only in degree with ransoming the victim.

The ransom does nothing but expose the victim as a profit center for repeated kidnappings, and it exposes many other innocents to the crime, since the crime so plainly pays.

It also makes the ransom payer an accessory to the current kidnapping--and an accessory to any raping or killing of the victim in the course of the kidnap--and an active contributor to any subsequent kidnappings which the henchman the payer rewarded might carry out.

Bomb the site. Release the lady from her torture, or set her free with the associated miracle. The only downside is that [al-Baghdadi], dying in the bombing, will be seen by his henchmen as a martyr, rather than taking him alive, and letting him die of old age in an iron cage.

Eric Hines

Anonymous said...

The person receiving the information 1) does not know if she is still alive, or 2) who's next. But we have a very good idea of how they act, given the opportunity.

Killing them deprives them of their next victims. I would go for what is possible, but I would not avoid a strike because of who they have captured. That way multiplies the damage.


raven said...

The interest on this note is compounding rather rapidly. It may be hard to pay off in a year or two. In his rush to avoid conflict, the zero is guaranteeing the final outcome will be beyond our image of "war".

jaed said...

I agree with Valerie, if I understand her thinking correctly. I would not let the hostage's presence stop me from bombing the place if that made tactical sense - assuming there's some reason I can't or shouldn't mount a rescue instead - but I certainly wouldn't bomb it because the hostage is being held there.

(Also, IIRC, the issue with FDR was not bombing the camps; it was bombing the railroads leading to the camps. The idea being to prevent more victims from being brought there, not to kill the victims to "put them out of their misery". That one's not even close.)

Tom said...

I wasn't familiar with Aquinas's reasoning on this. Being able to legitimately hope for a miracle is an interesting filter.

I agree with what the other commenters have said. One more filter we could use is, what would the hostage want?

Certainly, she would want to be rescued if that were possible, but it isn't. So, would she want to continue this way, or would she be OK with dying in the bombing that killed her tormentor?

There's no way to know, of course, but if I were in her situation, I would be happy to die in the strike that took out al-Baghdadi.

Anonymous said...

If, G-d forbid, I were in that situation, dying in the strike that took out my captors would be absolutely fine with me. Justice would be served, mercy granted to those whom the Most High chooses to grant mercy, and the bad guys could not use me as a bargaining toy to extort goods and to torment my friends and family with.