Matthew J. Stinson has an interesting post on the subject:

Midrash Shmuel, a Jewish rabbinical maxim based on the events of I Samuel 15, teaches that compassion should only be extended to the worthy, for “He who is merciful when he should be cruel will in the end be cruel when he should be merciful.” But the innocent victims of the earthquake in Bam — unlike Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, or Iran’s theocratic leaders — are worthy of mercy. They’re not our enemies, so why the cruelty — and praise of the virtue of indifference is cruelty — when the situation merits being merciful? Why the need to hold a multitude of people responsible for the crimes of a few?

I can’t think of any circumstance where extending aid to victims of natural disasters would not be the right thing to do, so long as we have the financial wherewithal to do so without harm to our own citizens. Even with our high deficits, we can certainly afford to help out in this case.

That said, as to Mathew’s argument, I’m not sure that the citizens are entirely innocent here. Surely, the people who allow these regimes to remain in office have some moral responsibility for the consequences that follow? Resisting tyranny is, to say the least, difficult. Still, it has been done time and again. If societies that organize to secure their own freedom are morally praiseworthy, surely those who do not can be faulted?

FILED UNDER: World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.