War & utilitarianism

Remember the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”?I’ve been thinking a lot about the ethics of this war in Afghanistan. I’m not a pacifist–I do think some kind of military response is appropriate–but I consider the bombing of civilians (even inadvertent) to be unacceptable. I’m basically a utilitarian in my outlook, and so I think the U.S’ goal should be to minimize deaths. But it seems possible that the minimum number of civilian deaths (American, Afghan, whatever) at this point is still going to be higher than zero. To put it crudely, we’ll need to break some eggs to make an omelette.Anyhow, the upshot of all the twists and turns I’ve taken when thinking about this boils down to one basic question of ethics. Is it acceptable to risk civilian casualties in the interest achieving a legitimate military goal (let’s assume just for the sake of argument that it is legitimate). Or to put it in a more general way: is it ethical to take an action that in itself is unethical (or ethically dubious), but is in the service of the greater good? Or should one’s actions always be ethical on their own, and if they lead to more trouble down the road, well, you’ll just cross that bridge when you come to it and hope you can muddle through?I really don’t know the answer to this question. In different contexts, I can argue either way. And I don’t think the answer can be derived through a priori reasoning.What do you think?