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 attitude.” In your own words, answer the following questions.
1. What ethical values caused “you” to intervene in this situation?
2. What assumptions about responsibility for life and death did you bring into this situation?
3. About guilt and innocence?
4. What about the military officer? What cultural or other circumstances could explain his actions?
5. To fully weigh your options, what other information, cultural or otherwise, would you need to know?
6. How could you find a solution that satisfies both your own personal ethical standards, and your responsibilities to respect other cultures?
7. Finally, what choice do you make to resolve this problem?