Impossible dilemmas are the stuff of tragic drama, ethics courses, and Zen. They are only too easy to find. Today's: the Wall Street Journal notes in passing that "drivers are tied into suicide car bombs, a sign of coercion," according to US commanders in Iraq.
I don't know how the coercion works, but it's all too easy to imagine. Let's say someone tied me into car, and told me that I was going to die when it exploded. I did have a choice, however; if I exploded it at the target of their choice, my loved one - who they'd taken hostage - would live. If I tried to minimize the damage by driving elsewhere, my beloved would die.
What would you do?
I think I would try to limit the death toll. Since there is no guarantee that they would keep their word and not kill my beloved if I did what they wished, and since she would want to spare as much life as possible, I would resist their designs.
But what if it were not just one loved one, but my whole family? What is my value calculus of known vs. Unknown people?