Does this cliche make any sense to you?
We hear formulations of the Iraq war primarily from the Republicans that go like this: "Although the war was badly executed, it was a noble cause." On memorial sites to the Jim Jones mass suicide, we seem the same kind of sentiment: While it is true that the experiment ended in disaster, defenders of the temple say, the ideals of classlessness and racial harmony were valid.
Do the ends justify the means? Sometimes? Always? Never? All is this statement meaningless both as a principle and in terms of application?
Another forum member offers what I think is a very insightful and interesting answer:
You know, "the ends justify the means" would make a lot more sense if there was ever, you know, an end... an end to history. Because the reality is that there are no ends, just means. You can finish the mission, but what then? Things are finished? It can't ever happen that there is a reversal, a backlash? That's just BS.
They attained their end, "Mission Accomplished", they had a coup and replaced it with what they called a democratic government. Well guess what, we're still in Iraq right? Where's the end? There's no end. There's never any end. ...Something inexistent can't justify anything.
We can add to this the idea that whatever goal or destination one has, it is substantially defined by the ends one uses to achieve it. If you use violent means, for example, then whatever political goals you are striving for will themselves be defined by violence -- even if they are really a final "end." Add your thoughts to the comments here or join the ongoing discussion in the forum.