“What Makes It Immoral If You Lose And Not Immoral If You Win?”

“What Makes It Immoral If You Lose And Not Immoral If You Win?” July 6, 2009

The recently deceased Robert S. McNamara, architect of the Vietnam War, once hit upon the harsh and unpleasantly outcome oriented way that in practice we judge actions of comparable type and from comparable motivation.

“We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” Mr. McNamara recalled; some 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all. “LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals.”

“What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked. He found the question impossible to answer.

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