Personal Responsibility

Hypothetical Situation (from Joseph Nye, Understanding International Conflicts (Longman, 2003) page 21.

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1. Personal Responsibility

Imagine walking into a village in another country. You find that a local military officer is about to shoot three people lined up against the wall. You ask, “Why are you shooting these people? They look quite harmless.”

The officer says, “Last night somebody in this village shot one of my men. I know that somebody in this village is guilty, so I am going to shoot these three to set an example.”

You say,”You can’t do that! You’re going to kill an innocent person. If only one shot was fired, then perhaps two of these people are innocent, perhaps all three. You just can’t do that.”

The officer takes a rifle from one of his men and hands it to you saying, “You shoot one of them for me and I’ll let the other two go. You can save two lives if you shoot one of them. I’m going to teach you that in civil war you can’t have these holier than thou attitudes.”

In your own words, answer the following questions.

What ethical values did “you” bring into the “village?”

What values did the military officer bring into this situation?

What options do you now have as a result of your intervention?

What are the likely consequences of each option?

What choice do you make at the end?

Can you resolve your choice with ethical standards?

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