ONLY A DISCUSSION RESPONSE- DO NOT PLAGERIZE
Chapter 9 of our text includes the terrorism situation at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and it needs to be read before engaging this discussion.
The principle of utility involves maximizing happiness as a desirable outcome of decisions. Although it does not get directly said, there is an inverse intention to minimize the undesirable outcome of disaster. Utilitarian decisions are directed toward outcomes—that is, the consequences of decisions.
The Olympic hostage situation was a high-tension moment, full of dangerous surprises and strategies to deal with the situation that did not work out for the best. Among the strategies was the idea to kill the leader of the terrorists so as to disrupt the terrorist plot and to allow a good outcome in which the hostages would be saved. In the situation it was also entirely possible that a terrible outcome might occur in which all would die. The situation was an emergency.
The German legal system might eventually take the terrorists and their leader to trial, but first there was the need to end the hostage situation. The account in our text ends with, “But it was the lesser of two evils.”
As utilitarian ethicists this week, how shall we reason through to the decision of the law enforcement authorities at the 1972 Munich Olympics?—————————————-THE LITERATURE FOR THE DISCUSSION———————————————–The Munich Incident
Several decades ago the world shared the dilemma of West German police officials when Arab guerrillas held members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage and attempted to leave the country with them. The police were faced with the decision of how best to free the Israelis with a minimum of harm to everyone concerned. The ideal of respect for the rights and safety of the victims clashed with the ideal of respect for the lives of the guerrillas. If the guerrillas were allowed to leave the country with their hostages, the hostages faced almost certain torture and death. Yet if the police tried to prevent them from leaving, the lives of both groups would be threatened.
The police tried to minimize the danger by tricking the guerrillas, gaining entry to the buildings they had taken over, and subduing them. But after this and other efforts failed and the guerrillas and their captives were at the airport, the police were left with their final plan—to separate the guerrillas, kill their leader, and either overpower the others or persuade them to surrender. (The plan did not work as intended.)
Was the plan to murder the leader justified? Had it been the first response, it surely would have been questionable. Human life, even the life of a criminal, is a precious thing and should not be treated lightly. In this case, however, it was a last resort, put into effect only after other, less violent, actions had failed. Finally, since it was designed to save lives, it was surely justified. The only alternative to it would have been to stand by while many innocent people were taken to their deaths. Was it, then, a desirable action that decent men could be proud of performing? No. But it was the lesser of two evils.
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