On behalf of the Canadian people, the Prime Minister of Canada must make important decisions. As a result, he should still be able to make informed and moral decisions. Terrorism is widely regarded as one of the most serious issues confronting society today. It is no longer a national problem, but rather a global one. It has an effect on people all over the world. Terrorism makes no distinction between developed and developing nations. Terrorism is a threat to any nation, and it is the most contentious issue in the world, especially in terms of how countries can work together to fight it. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, and it can be traced as early as in the first century. However, terrorism has advanced and taken new directions over the years just like other avenues of life. Today, terrorism is more lethal, widespread and difficult to control. It stands as a serious threat that the civil society has to deal with today. Every country in the world is either directly or indirectly affected by terrorism. The Prime Minister represent the people of Canada on the discussion table and give our stand regarding terrorism.
The intelligence department in the country reported that a group of five terrorists was meeting in the outskirts of Toronto to arrange an attack. Among the five terrorists were two who had been involved in a series of attacks and it was a perfect opportunity for the Canadian government to bring them to justice. The military organized an operation to capture the terrorists. However, it was established that it would be hard to capture the group and the officer in command changed the mission from capture to strike, but an authorization was required. The commander in chief of the military could not consent the approval, and the issue was forwarded to the Secretary General. The longer the decision process took, the lesser time the military had to act as the terrorist group was preparing to engage in suicide bombing. When the operation team was given a go ahead to strike the hideout, they realized that a young girl was just next to the building meaning that she would be collateral damage to the operation. At this juncture, the Prime Minister was the one to authorize the strike. It was a difficult situation which involved striking and killing an innocent child and not striking allowing the terrorists to attack and kill more than 200 people. Below is an analysis of the case using ethical theories and perspectives which include of utilitarianism, deontological, egoism, emotivism, and relativism.
John Stuart Mill developed the theory of utilitarianism. It is also called the Great Happiness Principle. It tries to determine whether an action is right or wrong. Mill argues that an action is right if it maximizes happiness for the general public the majority and it is wrong if it does not maximize their happiness (Mill 10). According to Mill happiness is pleasure without pain. Therefore, an action that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain is morally right, and if it does the opposite, it is wrong. Utilitarianism allows people to act in whatever way the please as long as the consequences of their action will maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain of the majority. According to the principle of Great Happiness, an action is moral if it promotes the utility of the people or the public (Mill 42). Looking at the scenario, the decision of the Prime Minister should be the one that promotes the utility of the general public. Denying the authority to strike would mean that the terrorists would go on with their plan of the suicide bombing in which more than 200 people would die. On the other hand, authorizing the strike would mean killing an innocent girl as the collateral damage. The action that promotes the utility of the public is saving the lives of the 200 people by killing the terrorists alongside the young girl.
Deontological or Kantianism is a moral theory that was developed by Immanuel Kant. He believes that some actions are just universally wrong even if they yield pleasure in the end. He gave examples of such actions as lying, murder, and stealing. While assessing whether an act is right or wrong, Kant proposed two questions. Firstly, one needs to ask himself if he would expect someone in his shoes to act in the same way. If not, then the action is not right (Alston 259). Secondly, one needs to ask himself if his action would be in any way disrespectful to the dignity of human beings. If the action does step on the dignity of other people, then it should be considered immoral. Kantianism can be explained as a deontological moral theory in which the consequences of an action does not determine its wrongness or the rightness. However, what matters is the duty a person has towards other people. Kant believes in the principle of categorical imperative which commands unconditionally on the moral duties people have towards others (Alston 261). Therefore, the Prime Minister needs to ask himself if someone else in his shoes would have ordered the strike or would have aborted the operation. It would be universally acceptable to prevent the terrorist from attacking civilians even if it meant killing an innocent girl. Although, the human dignity of the young girl will not be upheld, the dignity of more than 200 people will be held. Besides, killing the terrorists will prevent further terrorist attack from the same group in future. Therefore, deontological would allow the Prime Minister to authorize the strike.
Ethical relativism is two-fold. Ethical relativism is in two forms. The first one is the cultural, ethical relativism and the second one is the individual ethical relativism. According to cultural relativism, someone’s action is perceived wrong if the society in which he or she acted regards that action as wrong (Vaughn 23). On the other hand, individual ethical relativism refers to what an individual perceives wrong. Therefore, if the culture of the Canadian people condemns terrorism acts, then an authority to strike would be morally accepted, and if the Prime Minister does not condone terrorism acts, he will give authority to strike.
Ethical egoism perceives an action to be right if it is geared towards fulfilling self-interests and it is wrong if it prohibits one in achieving his or her personal goals. Egoism rejects the position that ethical behavior requires someone to universalize moral rules and recognizes others equally (Vaughn 78). An egotist is a person who is self-centered and would do anything that fulfills his ego at the expense of others. Egotists are inconsiderate and only think and work for what is beneficial to them. Therefore, if the Prime Minister that killing the terrorists would make people have faith in him and earn him a political mileage, then he would authorize the operation.
Emotivism views something as wrong or right depending on how one feels. Emotivists do not give a reason for their evaluation rather they go with what they feel. They deny the fact of morality, and they argue moral can be true or false. There is only approval or disapproval or give thumbs up or thumbs down for an action (Vaughn 28). Therefore, the decision on whether to strike and kill the terrorists alongside the young girl makes the Prime Minister remorseful for killing an innocent girl with a whole life ahead of her; then he should authorize the mission to be aborted. If he feels the death of 200 people will be on his conscious because he failed to give a directive which would have prevented their death, then he should authorize the killing of the terrorists and the young girl to be a collateral damage.
People are usually faced with an ethical dilemma while at the workplace. In the above dilemma, the best theory to determine the morality of the action taken is deontological or Kantianism theory. The consequence of the action should not be self-serving and should promote or respect the dignity of people. It should be universally applicable meaning that another person in the same position would make a similar decision. One would argue that the dignity of the young girl is not respected if the Prime Minister authorizes the strike. However, the fact that anyone in the position of the Prime Minister would save the 200 people offsets the drawback.
Alston, William P. “The deontological conception of epistemic justification.” Philosophical perspectives 2 (1988): 257-299.
Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. London: Parker, Son and Bourn, 1863.
Vaughn, Lewis. Doing ethics: Moral reasoning and contemporary issues. WW Norton & Company, 2015.