Every community accords respect for human life. Consequently, any topic that surrounds killing human life such as abortion, suicide, euthanasia, death sentence and war creates a heated debate. This is the reason why people from every society have laws that govern them to ensure that everyone’s life in the community is respected and protected. Soldiers and policemen are trained to ensure they maintain order in their society/ country and to defend their territories ( Kilner 2010: 55). At this point, there are some questions that arise. For instance, why are soldiers trained, financed and equipped with state of the art weapons? And against whom are these weapons supposed to be used? Are there situations that killing is justified such as in wartime? This article will address this controversial issue and shed light on the justification of killing.
The idea of killing someone else in self-defense has always attracted powerful moral and political debate. The morality of this question mostly depends on the point of view that a person looks at it. For instance, religious people especially Christians whose morality is defined by the standardized teachings of the bible, will not be inclined to any explanation that justifies killing (Stiltner & Clough 2007: 82). Christians believe that taking someone else life is wrong because only the giver of life has the right to do so. In this case, only God who creates life can take it away. Also, people who are in this school of thought believe that every person is guilty of sin and that is the reason why even murderers should be given a chance to repent their sins so that they may be transformed by God and start living righteous lives. Therefore, when an offender is condemned and killed, he is denied a chance for repentance and eventual behavior transformation.
The most obvious reason for justification of killing in self-defense is that the attacker warrants it in one way or another. However, a closer analysis at it gives irresistible opposition to such a claim. To begin with, this argument does not agree with the generally accepted values that govern sentencing of wrongdoers (Kaufman 2009: 2). Capital punishment of offenders is only restricted to those people who commit the most atrocious offenses. However, for self-defense, there is permission to kill in order to prevent murder regardless of any infuriating consequence that may result (Kaufman 2009: 2).
Additionally, self-defense is legally acceptable even when it is done against a blameless aggressor. Sometimes aggressors can kidnap innocent people and frame them to look like criminals. This poses great danger to the lives of the innocent persons because they do not deserve to be hurt in any way let alone be killed (Kaufman 2009: 2).
On the contrary, there is another school of thought, which claims that it is justifiable to kill during certain circumstances. In most cases, this argument will sound morally acceptable during periods of war and for the purpose of self-defense. For instance, a soldier who is at war, he is allowed to kill his enemies because failure to do so will be a sign of betrayal to his team ( Kilner 2010: 55). It is important to tackle this issue in a holistic manner because, besides betraying his team, are there other dangers that the soldier places himself in?
As a matter of fact, there are many other dangers that the soldier is exposed to during wartime. In case the enemies spot him before he sees them, they will kill him anyway ( Kilner 2010: 55). Let us assume that the soldier was protecting 10 innocent citizens who are targeted by the enemy(s). He has to do whatever it takes to protect their lives because failure to do so will imply that he will be killed together with the innocent citizens ( Kilner 2010: 55).
The concept of utilitarianism encourages people to take the right course of action, which is the one that promotes the utmost happiness and that capitalizes on utility. Therefore, according to this concept, it is justifiable for a soldier to kill an enemy in a combat situation in order to defend himself and protect many other lives. In this scenario, it is morally right to kill one person to save lives of many others. Additionally, we can look at an example of a suicidal bomber who carries a bomb and wants to explode it in social place where there are thousands of innocent people (Pollock 2011: 393). The anti-terrorism police unit is trained and equipped to hunt such people and kill them before they execute their acts of crime. The soldiers should be allowed to execute their duties effectively so that citizens can sleep, walk and carry on with their daily activities peacefully.
A moral defense to kill in wartime may not find basis on any religious belief, but it is in line with the Judeo-Christian conventions on human rights. A person loses his own right if he threatens to infringe the right of someone else ( Kilner 2010: 57). This implies that if a person kills an attacker who has already lost his own rights by intimidating an innocent victim, the defender does nothing erroneous. The morality that surrounds the issue of killing in wartime is analogous to a doctor cutting off the infested limb of an injured person. The process is very painful and takes a lot of courage to carry it out, but it is a morally acceptable decision among other alternatives ( Kilner 2010: 58).
From the above explanations, it is true to say that every side of the debate sounds convincing and correct. This is because, every side of the debate draws its argument based on different perspectives. However, I agree with the utilitarianism claim about this issue, which bases the morality on the utility of the outcome. I believe it is morally right for soldiers to kill during wartime to protect innocent lives and for the better good of the country.