Do the Ends Justify the Means?

    The rules of moral behavior such as not lying is often violated by people when they think that they will be better off if they do lie.   They may even feel the person they are lying to will be better off if they lie to them.  An example is the media lying to the public.  The issue of whether occasional lying is good or not is discussed further in the truth section.  When people violate the rules of morality they often do so because they think they know what's best.  We all like to believe that we know best.   Ideological regimes such as communist regimes have taken away property and murdered millions of people in order to bring about what they perceive will be a better world.   Before the birth of modern Israel, the Jewish left wing leadership ordered a ship of weapons that was being bought to help save the country from the imminent invasion of the Arabs, sunk because the weapons were destined for the Jewish right wing.  Jews trying to swim ashore were shot.  After the ship was sunk Ben Gurion said "Blessed is the cannon that sank the Altalena".  This betrayal and murder of friends of his country was carried out by Ben Gurion because he believed that doing so was best for Israel. Jonathan Rosenblum wrote in the Jerusalem Post that: (Think Again: The Beautification of Rabin, 11/3/05)

Long after the ship suffered a direct hit from Ben-Gurion's "Holy Cannon" and white flags of surrender were hoisted, the Palmah soldiers continued to direct their fire at survivors in the water, likely in the hope of eliminating Menachem Begin. The Palmah commander would later recall his feelings at the time: "Jews shooting Jews - over a prolonged period. Jews killed and injured by the bullets of other Jews. But my heart is at peace with the decision of Ben-Gurion."

If that commander ever had second thoughts, he never expressed them. His name was Yitzhak Rabin.

 Yitzhak Rabin later became Prime Minister of Israel.  He was assassinated by Yigal Amir who believed murdering him would stop policies destructive to the state of Israel.

 Land essential for Israel's security and especially for the security of the settlers living in Judea and Samaria is being given by the Israeli Government to the Arabs because they believe it will bring peace.  The settlers of Gaza were uprooted from their homes and their homes destroyed so that Gaza could be given to the Arabs for peace.  The Israelis are violating the rules of morality by endangering their brethren because they think it is what's best for Israel.

    There are many problems with the belief that the ends justify the means.  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  We may believe are cause for which we sacrifice the welfare of others is right but we may be wrong. 

    Supposed good outcomes can be rationalizations for doing what benefits us.  Ben Gurion may have rationalized that attacking the Altalena was good partly because he didn't want competition to his power from Menachem Begin and the Irgun. 

    There are times when it may be better to violate the rules of morality, and it becomes right to lie or to kill.  Those times are few and far between.  Since so many heinous crimes have been committed by people who believe they knew what was best, the first step to morality may be to realize that we may not know what is best and most of the time it is safer to play by the rules of morality if we want to do the right thing. 

     

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