One series of questions posed to Israeli soldiers in discussions of war ethics goes something like this: If you were ordered to blow up a house where a terrorist commander was hiding, and you had reason to believe that enemy civilians were in the house, should the order be refused? If you were ordered to blow up the house and you were told that an Israeli soldier was being held hostage in the house, should you agree to do so? If you were ordered to blow up the house and your father was being held hostage there, would you obey?
These hypotheticals are telling because they assume a moral instinct that journalists and commentators often forget, dismiss, or explicitly condemn: that all lives are not equal. But, as Sahil Mahtani points out, that’s the way the numbers work when we are talking about war and defense. And as Ross Dothat notes, rules about war will be useless—in fact, pernicious—if they does not take into account the realities of the moral choices faced not by armchair theorists but by leaders, commanders, and combatants charged with protecting their societies, soldiers, and friends.
That all lives are equal is a fundamental principle of law in Western societies, and rightly so. A government cannot be just if it values the life of some citizens over the lives of others without due cause.
But when faced with the life-and-death situations involving survival and war, this principle breaks down. Closeness makes a difference when we value lives.[continue….]
Read the rest on Jewcy–Comment there or here.