Free Deontological Essay Example

Sunday the 1st of May 2011 will remain in the annals of Anti-terrorism war in America as the day the Whitehouse publicly pronounced this much-awaited death. However, the success in killing of Obama has not been altogether unmarred. It has raised several ethical issues that nevertheless need addressing. Top on the list of these controversies is the collateral killings that characterized Osama’s killing and the publication of his wounded dead body. This paper puts into perspective the ethical challenges that accompanied the above exercise in subjecting the events in Obama’s place (empathy) as a precursor to them. This will be achieved by considering two ethical theories; the deontological theory and the utilitarian theory and how one ought to do when confronted with such situations.

There is no doubt, whether these two events need a lot of consultation and guidance before arriving on a conclusion and a platform in which to execute them. This is the where the bulk of ethical theories and principles come in. Ethical theories are the foundations of ethically analyzing an event by considering the available view points from which guidance can be obtained towards a particular decision. Every ethical theory emphasises on several factors like predicting the outcome of event or following one’s line of duty to arrive to an ethically correct decision.

The first theory that will be put in practice in this paper is the deontological theory. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) advanced this theory. This theory judges morality by examining what the nature of the actions is and the will of the agents. It does not focus on the goals achieved, hence, it can be termed as input oriented rather than taking an output or outcome approach of the events (Cahn, 70-75). Kant realized that despite our efforts to be perfect, one would always take the blame when things fail to go well with the agents. He further insisted that the future was unpredictable and hence basing the judgment on the morality of an act on its consequence would be unfair (Kay, 1997 p 1).

Take the first scenario, for instance. Obama is aware, through the CIA Intelligence reports, of Osama’s hiding in Pakistan. This would definitely prompt him to authorize besieging and attack of the building in which he is hiding from the US troops and the CIA given the much terror Osama has caused to the Americans and elsewhere. However, apparently, Osama does not live alone in this lair. There are other few people, including women and children that are not the targets of the troops. The sole target should be Osama and him alone. There lies the dilemma.

Going by the deontological theory, Obama has his way out. As mentioned earlier, this theory does not focus on the eventualities or the consequences of an event. This is because it terms the future as unpredictable and puts into perspective the fact people will always blame you when things go wrong, no matter how perfect you wished them to be done or how best you did them. This means that even if Obama considers the other people living with his target and chooses to delay in search of a better mechanism of attacking him, people will be mad at him for failing to take a golden chance to do away with Osama finally (Darwall, 83-90).

On the other hand, if he decides to attack Osama in his hide out regardless of whether there are other people to suffer or not, he will be blamed for murdering innocent people and hence a human’s rights violator. It apparently seems that either way he does it; blame will follow him given that the future is out of this control. As such, he is justified to attack Osama in every opportunity that is relatively secure to other citizens instead of waiting for a perfect chance that may never avail itself given the intelligence of the target. There is no other chance than having a surety of Osama’s lair and only a handful of citizens who can be forewarned before the fire exchange begin.

Though this law also emphasizes on the respect to all persons, the respect should be an ends in itself not a means hence Obama may choose to respect the rights of other citizens but not as a means to prevent him from bringing down Osama. After all, this theory concurs with the golden rule that do unto others as you wish them to do unto you. Its common sense Osama would not abort an attack simply because four people that are not his target are accompanying it. He would rather do it and be blamed later. Isn’t that not what Osama did?

Still on the deontological theory, the second case receives similar treatment. Revealing pictures of the wounded dead Al Qaeda leader may not augur well with the human rights activists and the Middle East citizens as well as all his sympathizers. This may cause agitation among the terrorist groups who may wage retaliatory attacks. What is the take of this theory on these consequences? Given that it does not rely on eventualities, revealing pictures of the dead Osama may not really be an issue since after all; even if Obama rules against it, other people will discreetly do it or fake the picture and post it on the web. Alternatively, he may declare the pictures to be made public and yet the acts raise no eyebrows as anticipated. Worse of all, the pictures may be concealed and yet, retaliatory attacks, what the Americans fear, ensue. Whatever the decision, Kant, in this theory posits that the future is unpredictable and hence decisions cannot be based on it or else his respect.

The second ethical theory that will be used in case studies in this paper is the utilitarian theory (also called the teleological theory). A British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) advanced this theory. Mill based his idea of the morality of people’s acts or decisions on his mentor; Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) who had a hedonistic version of the modern utilitarian theory. Mill assesses ‘morality in terms of maximizing the net expectable utility for all the parties involved or affected by the decision or act’ (Kay, 1997 p. 1). This theory is based on the belief that actions and decisions are morally right to the extent that they tend to enhance the greatest good for the greatest number. It is clear that it is based on consequentiality approach as opposed to its counterpart, which uses a non-consequential one (Cahn, 350-357)

Looking into the first decision in our case that Obama faces, it is true his decision to launch an attack on Osama has its consequences. The untargeted citizens living in the same house with this villain will have to suffer innocently. Though many people are mad with Osama’s acts of terrorism, not all will stomach more innocent deaths in his pursuit. This leaves Obama with no option but to consider his decision because according to Mill, it will not be promoting the greatest good for the greatest number (Scarce, 87-96). In this case, ‘the greatest number’ may be relative given the millions of Americans who support him.

In case of the picture of the dead Osama, the same principle applies. Is it for the good of all, or is it for the benefit of a few? Mill asks in the utilitarian theory. Many Americans may support the idea but Osama sympathizers, regardless of their affiliation, should also be put in the perspective. Such a move may augur well with a good number of those who are Osama’s victims in one way or the other. On the other hand, to the sympathizers an inhuman act is so much dehumanizing. There lies the dilemma again.

The above theories prove to all and sundry how difficult decision-making is especially among leaders. This calls for a look before you limp as the old adage puts it. The above decisions may seem easy to an ordinary Osama victim or his sympathizer. However, to the president of a world power with all eyes on him, they may prove mind boggling, aren’t they? Consideration of the consequences of such should made as well as whether the unpredictability of the future and one’s line of duty.

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