In our most recent lecture, we discussed the concept of “Dirty Hands.” Dirty Hands is essentially the concept of performing an immoral action for the greater good of one’s self, group, nation etc. After further analyses of the topic in discussion, I began to interpret that the concept of Dirty Hands is a pretty broad one. But at what point does dirty hands become just plain wrong? This has proven to be a rather provocative topic of discussion for myself and some of my cohorts, and I’d like to delve deeper into the subject.
In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian removal act. A direct result of the act was the Trail of Tears, a mandated march of 5 different Indian Tribes from their homes to a designated “Indian Territory.” The Trail of Tails had debilitating effects on all the Indian tribes forced to vacate their homes, including almost 1/3 of the Cherokee Tribe. Jackson mandated the move so that the US can increase the size of the nation and offer more agriculturally friendly land for the country. One could easily question the morality of the decision. By no means did thousands need to die in order for the US to increase its territory. The question now to ask is, were Jackson’s actions “Dirty Hands,” or was it just plain wrong. Do all immoral actions qualify to be classified as Dirty Hands, or is there a limit. More examples throughout history can help assess the situation.
In August of 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs put an end to the Japanese threat that our country faced, but all the while killing countless innocent lives, also, the radiation from the bombs wreaking havoc on both cities for years. Did the US need to go to such extremes to win the war that they had to kill so many innocent lives. Yes, the bombs cemented our victory over Japan, but not only did our army murder innocent Japanese citizens, but its actions had repercussions that continue to cause problems to this day. Does our military murdering Japanese citizens constitute Dirty Hands, because it put an end to the Japanese threat, or is it an act of evil and nothing more?
The way I interpreted Dirty Hands, was performing an action nowhere near as extreme as those listed above. I saw Dirty Hands as a President of a nation at war, sending in a small troupe of soldiers, who he knows will suffer severe casualties, in order to gain the rest of the army more time to prepare itself properly for a major battle. The President’s actions are immoral, sending in troops he knows are bound to death, but his cause is a noble one. The lives of the soldiers being sent to their doom can secure the safety of an entire nation by giving them the extra time they need to prepare.
Dirty Hands is still a confusing issue, but I do not interpret acts of aggression as part of it. Dirty Hands should be out of necessity night out of malice.