Monday, November 9, 2015

To Kill or Not to Kill—Baby Hitler

Jeb Bush on the campaign trail took the bait on a ludicrous question and today responded to whether or not, could he go back in time to do so, would he kill "Baby Hitler."

His response, which I rather doubt his handlers had previously anticipated and coached him on, was, "Hell, yeah, I would! You gotta step up, man!"

The proper answer, in case you're wondering, and I write this fully knowing I may forever turn off a significant percentage of potential readers of this blog or of my books, is:

"Of course not."

Here's why.

If, by the phrase, "Baby Hitler," you mean the Baby who brutally committed genocide, well there's no such thing. 

The Baby—who eventually grew up to become the man who committed murderous genocide—was an innocent. It had not committed any genocide.

If one believes that the taking of innocent life is justified if it effects some change in the time continuum that prevents worse evils, then where will we accept that a line should be drawn?

If our time machine could only drop us off ten years before Baby Hitler's birth, is the murder of his mother then justified?

Now, don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that the efforts of German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who participated in an attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler, were fully justifiable.  And I myself worked for four years at the NSA after 9/11, fully knowing that intelligence I produced was intended to result at times in the deaths of our adversaries.

I am a devotee of my Lord who told me to "turn the other cheek" (Matt 5:39), but I also hold that the Just War Doctrine absolves those who struggled and died to stop the Nazis. I hope and pray it absolves me of my actions.  

For the killing of "Baby Hitler" to be morally justifiable,  it would have to satisfy all the criteria of a "Just War." Even though I am not a Roman Catholic, I find the definition of a Just War as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be an authority on the topic (Paragraph 2309):

* the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

Right here, the defense of killing Baby Hitler already falls short. "Inflicted" is a past tense verb. The damage has not happened. 

* all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

Such as Neville Chamberlain not proclaiming "Peace for our Time" with his policy of Appeasement?

* there must be serious prospects of success;

One can never know whether Hitler created the times or the times created a Hitler.  Kill that baby and maybe it just means another thug leads the Nazis.

* the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition).

And here, finally, is the deepest Caveat of all. We simply can never know what world we would live in today if a Time Machine allowed someone to kill "Baby Hitler." Hitler may have been the dullest thug of all the potential murderous tyrants who could have seized Europe in the 1930's. Or the brightest. But we don't know. And all of the above is why killing "Baby Hitler" can not be justified morally.

And so, as we approach Veterans' Day. God bless the sacrifice and service of those who need not ever second guess the violence they had to inflict in order to oppose the evil of the Nazis.

Requiescant in pace.

Dona nobis pacem.