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Moammar Kadafi and a double effect

March 21, 2011 | 10:03 am

Are the United States and its allies trying to assassinate Moammar Kadafi? The official response is no, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the other day that Kadafi remaining in power is "certainly, potentially, one outcome."

But the bombing of one of Kadafi's compounds raises questions about a possible ulterior motive in the campaign. Yet no such motive is necessary. In a variation of the philosophical doctrine of the double effect, the United States may, by pursuing the good end of neutralizing Libyan command and control, achieve the "bad" end of killing Kadafi, and without intending it.

But politicians, not philosophers, are in charge of this campaign. It's likely that killing Kadafi lurks just below the surface of the insistence that the campaign is completely about protecting civilians.

RELATED:

Libya: It's not our fight

Doyle McManus: Letting others lead in Libya

The Libya tightrope

No-fly zone: Putting a leash on Kadafi

War, what is it meant for?

-- Michael McGough

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