If I may add another question / thought experiment here, one I have been contemplating on for many years. It was once postulated by some woman of the UN council ( I can't remember her name) and she was heavily criticized for it. But I agree she had a very important point. Imagine the following hypothetical (but very realistic!) case:
You represent a human aid organization in central Africa and help refugees and victims of a gruesome tribal war based on local religion. It is a country without natural resources, the UN won't intervene. You make no distinction and help the hungry and wounded of both factions/tribes. For your organization to work safely in that area, both war lords demand payment in terms of food and money. You give away a part of your resources (food, medical aid supplies) for your aid workers to be safe. Here's the dilemma:
- You help and treat both sides. Since there is no distinction between civilians and soldiers (there is no army, they do not wear uniforms and do not know the Geneva convention), once wounded combatants drop their AK47 and report at your hospital, you identify them as civilian and you treat them. But when they leave healed, they pick up an AK47 somewhere and start fighting again. The warlords have food, manpower and money, so the fighting continues. While 50,000 die each year, you save an estimated 200,000 lives each year. You feel you make a difference. The bad side is, this war has raged for 10 years already and will continue at least another 10 years, if not longer.
- You stop giving aid. About 250,000 people die each year of famine, sickness or fatal wounds. Because of the high casualty rate, one side claims victory in 2 years, but the county is a graveyard (think Rwanda). Still, peace settles in after the war has ended.
As a rational thinker, you can do the math (500,000 dead in both cases). On moral grounds, you meet difficulty. Still, you'll have to make a choice: Will you stand by and watch genocide happen or will you intervene, but let the war continue? What will you do? This is a very hard question, if not a bit of a sick one, I admit. But it has tested my thinking and ethics. Also, when people are acting/intervening based on religious grounds (especially if one side is christian!), what would happen?
Jobson and I want to know how you'd handle this situation before we give our answers. So what would you do? It's a tough one, isn't it?