Does end ever justify means in war?

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 10, 2006

To the Editor:

I was hoping someone would read my letter about Lincoln and be interested enough to respond.

First, it might help to clarify the difference between a despot and a murderer. Webster’s defines ‘despot’ as “a ruler with absolute power and authority; a person exercising power tyranically” (meaning to oppress). I would characterize Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein as murderers – those lunatics and madmen on the far end of the spectrum – not mere despots. And of course, their ends were unjustifiable, inhuman, horrifying, beyond words to characterize. To mention Lincoln in the same sentence as these vicious murders was meant to shock but there simply is no comparison.

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Perhaps we should ask several questions, since their answers would be instructive: Do the ends of war ever justify the means? That would include the Revolutionary War, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and our current war with Iraq? All fought for different reasons. The answer, perhaps, is “where you stand depends on where you sit.”

Would slaves have been freed if the Union hadn’t been preserved? What would have been the benefits of a different outcome of the War, and for whom? I shudder to think what our country would be like today if the South had won the War.

And by the way, I’m actually from New York and proud of it … I only reside in Maryland.

Eve Shapiro

Bethesda, Md.