Let us hypothesize that our society was threatened, but could be saved with the "sacrifice" of one of our young citizens. Would we? Should we? A society that has made the decision to sacrifice one or more of its members in order to achieve the greater good of survival, must, quite naturally, be certain the objective justifies the expense. Is it worth one "sacrificial gift"? Is it worth 100 such "gifts"? Is it worth, perhaps, 1,000 or more "gifts"?
In ancient days, when a "sacrifice" was necessary to save the civilization, the objective was clear and easily justified. But when the objective is unclear, significant questions regarding "sacrifice" must be raised. When intervening in conflagrations around us, it is never without human sacrifice, and any such sacrifice must be deemed significant - whether one soldier dies, or 1,000 soldiers die. Under conditions clearly threatening the survival of our nation, such sacrifice is acceptable. But should our youth be brought home in body bags for "humanitarian" issues such as Darfur, or the slaughter of innocents in Libya, or Egypt, or anywhere else a rebellion occurs? If so, should we intervene in another Tiananman Square, or in the suppression of a future rebellion in Tibet or North Korea, or Russia. I think not. The sacrifice would be far too dear! We choose our benevolent interventions "prudently," don't we.
We intervene in "merciful" causes when it appears it will cost us little in the way of human expense. But such action is never accompanied by a "get out of jail free" card! It had better be deemed truly worthy of the "sacrificial" cost that will surely be required.
Lionel Trilling wrote "good will generates its own problems, that the love of humanity has its own vices and the love of truth its own sensibilities."