Posted from the US
Reader Bob had an interesting comment to a post from 2006 (http://fixtheworld.blogs.com/fixtheworld/2006/07/best_laid_plans.html)
"...in the same way the Nazis brought firebombing upon their fellow citizens, and the Japanese brought nuclear bombs to their cities, so do modern day terrorists."
"This is a load of crap. At what point is killing civilians OK? The whole point of claiming that terrorists are wrong is that they choose civilians as targets, in defiance even of Islamic law and the Koran and Hadith. Once you say that killing civilians is in any way merited by some situation of conflict, you might as well say that the terrorists are justified in seeking to take revenge (for whatever it was that pissed them off in the first place) by blowing up ordinary folks in the streets. Arguments for 'collateral damage' are crap too. "Oops! We mashed innocents inadvertently," just doesn't wash."
Here is my response:
Killing civillians is not ok. War is not ok. Was ending WWII by dropping nuclear bombs on Japan a good thing to do? If you have a utilitarian view, it may have been the least evil thing to do from the perspective of the US.
When we blow things up in the Middle East, it is likely that what we call unfortunate collateral damage, the local populace sees as American terror. We can whitewash this stuff, but when you blow people up and kill their families, there is not much verbal hooplah that is going to make them love you.
Point of view is critical in many things - when we thought that the universe revolved around the earth, it was one way to look at things. When we realized that the planets, including Earth, revolved around the Sun, it was a shattering revelation and humbled us. When we realize that the solar system is just a speck in the larger scheme of things, it humbles you more.
When we in the US believe that the world revolves around our way of thinking, our perspective is distorted. This is also true of other nations who believe the same about their own cultures. A realization that no one perspective has a lock on what is absolute and true can free the mind and diminish the need for wars that force one perspective on another.
I think that the evil, the terror we are trying to fight, is a tricky thing indeed. The ideas of Douglas Hofstader are an interesting place to find the answer. Understanding concepts of perputual feedback loops (such as that of fighting terror or wars, which just propagate back more wars and terror) may help us break out of the violent ones we are in.