In Niccolo Machiavelli’s, The Prince, he talks about the most extreme of consequentialism, which dictionary.com defines as, “ English culture adopted this term into a common phrase, “The ends justify the means.” It has been used commonly as an excuse for starting wars or killing innocent people. For example, President Truman said that the atomic bomb needed to be dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to “shorten the agony of war, (and) in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.” Over 250,000 people were wiped out in cold blood, but it was, in theory, necessary to save the lives of other people. So, it leaves the question, “Do the ends really justify the means?” And I believe the only proper way to answer this is with one diluted word, “sometimes.”
The biggest reason I use sometimes is because the morality of a decision is largely skewed based on the person who is perceiving the situation. In the example explained above about WWII, I think it would be safe to say that many Americans were in support of the bombings if it meant that the soldiers were coming, but I doubt the Japanese people thought that two atomic bomb droppings were justified in order to stop the war.
In order to relate this concept to the modern world, I would use ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as an example. They want an Islamic state to be established throughout Iraq and Syria and are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. They are known for extreme propaganda over social media in order to recruit young foreign people to join their cause. The radical jihadist group is also known for posting executions to social media with gunshots, beheadings, and crucifixions in order to keep western nations from becoming involved. The Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been called worse than Bin Laden, and Representative Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, said that, “ISIS makes Al Qaeda look like kitty cats.”
Now, hopefully every single person in our entire nation realizes that this group is extremely powerful, extremely dangerous, and extremely ruthless. They will go to whatever lengths are necessary to get their ultimate goal. Hmmm… that last sentence sounded a lot like the definition to “ends justify the means,” but from our vantage point the ultimate goal is completely immoral as well as the acts to reach this goal. For this group, and other radical jihadists, these are the actions they feel are necessary to take back control of what they believe to be theirs and to keep western nations from getting involved in Middle East conflicts. When Machiavelli wrote The Prince, he had the idea that even violence and killing could be used in this concept, but I don’t think even he could expect how extreme the means for ISIS would be in order for them to reach what, to them, is the optimal outcome.