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I Did What I Had to Do

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"I have always admired Lincoln. When the South began going its own way, he knew that taking a position against them would lead to civil war. But he did it anyway. Because he understood something... understood it more perhaps than anyone else in that time. He knew that a house divided against itself cannot stand... a nation can not be divided and survive. Under his administration, brother hunted down brother, friend turned against friend. It was terrible. It was bloody. It was necessary. Because at the end, the republic held, and the nation was restored."

Sometimes a decent person has to do something bad, because it is the only way to prevent something worse from happening. 'I Did What I Had To Do' generally involves an after-the-fact justification for morally questionable actions. The culprit presents this statement when he's confronted with a "What Were You Thinking?" or "What the Hell, Hero?" reaction from someone (particularly The Heart) to whom he owes an explanation.

The questioned character will generally say, "I did what I had to do." And, more often than not, nothing else.

The consequences of such an action vary, of course, depending on the work's place in the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. A character who sincerely regrets the 'necessary' action is likely to regard it as Dirty Business, suffer Bad Dreams, or try to forget through chemical means. Someone who realizes they don't feel all that bad about the 'necessity' may be suffering from Start of Darkness. A character who was already rather amoral might say this only because they're upset that they had to get their hands dirty.


Generally associated with O.O.C. Is Serious Business. Compare Well-Intentioned Extremist and It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. When the character's motivation is her responsibility to those under her command, see The Chains of Commanding. If the consequences shown actually justify the action, then that's And It Worked. A character growing too comfortable with 'doing what I had to do' is guilty of a Reverse Slippery Slope Fallacy. Can be a Moral Event Horizon if it was particularly cruel or if they're particularly callous and nonchalant about it when confronted. If invoked large-scale by a Visionary Villain, it's Utopia Justifies the Means. Also see Just Following Orders.



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     Anime and Manga  
  • D.Gray-Man has Cross Marian who can convert Akuma—to assist the Exorcists, or help with a mission, but programs them to self-destruct should they attempt to kill anyone, thus destroying their souls forever. And a few other instances. Later, he outright asks "Do you always have to sacrifice something to protect something else?" So, contrary to belief, he's not heartless, and doesn't do these things without some form of regret—as the Author states, he's a man with hardships and hides bitter things.
  • Light tries to use this to justify his murders in the finale of Death Note after Near finally proves he's Kira, claiming that the world had to be fixed and that no one else would have the guts to keep going as long as he did. Neither the SPK nor the Japanese task force buy it, and Near categorically dismisses Light's justifications, claiming that he is just another petty serial killer. This just pushes Light even further into his Villainous Breakdown.
  • Hughes Gouli from Overman King Gainer belief in Exodus is so much that he states that he will do anything so that they can reach Yapan. During an attack that causes people's thoughts to be broadcast he reveals to Sara that he killed Gainer's parents for being against exodus.
  • Neptune and Uranus from Sailor Moon (seasons S, Stars and the SuperS TV special) consistently fail to learn from their mistakes and are willing to sacrifice lives—both innocent civilians and their own fellow soldiers—on the basis that the end (destroying the enemy) automatically justifies the means. Given that in the realm of Sailor Moon, what consistently defeats the villains is the power of unconditional love and not ruthless strategy, their failure to adjust to her strategy (which actually WORKS) marks them out for the Stupid Sacrifice category. Also, see the end of SailorStars for a classic example of this trope dovetailing with Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!.
  • Prince Forsyth of Scrapped Princess invokes this when he kills Pacifica, insisting that he has no choice and that it's for the good of the people. Nonetheless, he acknowledges that Pacifica is an innocent girl who has done nothing wrong and commits suicide along with her in atonement, tearfully apologizing to her all the while.
  • Itachi Uchiha from Naruto practically embodies this trope, though it's a long time before this is revealed. He killed his entire clan, save Sasuke, to prevent a civil war that presumably would have resulted in even more death.
    • Then there is the guy who ordered him to do it, Danzo. Who turns out to actually be a badass in his own right, though he is on the "extremist" side of Well-Intentioned Extremist. He does get to lecture Sasuke on betraying Itachi's will.
    • Also Tobirama Senju, the second Hokage, who feels no guilt regarding how he treated the Uchiha clan. Which, to elaborate, was giving them a position of control in the Leaf's police force. Some time later, his suspicions turn out to not have been completely unwarranted.
  • Lelouch from Code Geass when he loses control of his Geass, and makes Euphemia kill the Japanese. He then proceeds to do what he has to do—and says as much—and kills Euphemia. Then later on he pretty much tells Suzaku that as well.
    • There's also Lelouch and Cornelia killing people, even the Geass-using children, in the Geass Directorate. You don't take chances with those people. Even though what Lelouch and Cornelia do is considered by most, if not all, of the people who have half an idea on what happened as disgusting, you simply don't want to risk that. Cornelia gets away with it, though—Lelouch pays for it.
      • Though, rather ironically, none of those people who think that it was disgusting realize that it was a hive of Geass Users, who are Britannian assassins, who have done terrible things, murdering Shirley and a crucial role stopping the Black Rebellion amongst them. (Though that was entirely Rolo and V.V., the only ones with names). They then attempt to kill Lelouch using the same reasoning.
    • This is Charles zi Britannia's view on exiling Lelouch and Nunnally to Japan in order to protect them from his brother V.V.—somewhat subverted by the fact that, ultimately, he didn't care about whether or not they survived in the end, something Lelouch deftly points out in their final confrontation, and something that Charles doesn't even bother to deny, unlike Marianne.
  • More or less King's justification for having turned Demon Card into a criminal organization in Rave Master
  • There is a lot of this from the villains in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Generally, it turns out that they didn't, although since the Distant Finale stops somewhat before the destruction of the universe, we're not quite sure about the last set.
  • Windaria: Alan's justification for flooding Lunaria to stop the war and save The Valley from being a warzone.
  • In Saint Beast, Zeus considers killing the old gods a regrettable but necessary action.
  • Bleach:
    • When Ichigo tries to confront Ukitake and Byakuya at Rukia's prison, Yoruichi intervenes and stabs her hand into Ichigo's wounds to insert a tranquilliser into his body so she can carry him away from the location as quickly as possible. When Ichigo comes round and demands to know why she did that and why she didn't try to save Rukia, Ganju or Hanatarou, she explains that she had to do it this way because Byakuya was too strong for Ichigo to fight and too fast for Yoruichi to be able to escape if carrying more than one person. She also knew Ukitake would protect the others from any consequences of being associated with Ichigo.
    • Mayuri has a confrontation with Yamamoto over taking a very important decision without first consulting Yamamoto and his response is that he had to do what was necessary because the problem required an immediate response and couldn't afford to be tied up by Celestial Bureaucracy. The decision in question was whether to kill or not, twenty-eight thousand residents of Soul Society to stabilize the cosmic balance of souls that exist to prevent the universe from breaking.
    • Katagiri was asked to keep a secret but felt forced to reveal it because she believed the secret would threaten the Ishida family's future. The secret was that Masaki had saved a Soul Reaper, but Katagiri noticed Masaki received a Hollow-tainted wound. She acted based on Ryuuken's earlier statement to her that the future of the family depended on their bloodline remaining untainted. Katagiri's decision was the correct one, as Masaki's tainted wound would have destroyed her had she not received treatment in time.
  • Ryo Narushima of Shamo uses this to justify killing his own parents (of all things!) in the first chapter of the manga. After that... well, let's just say he gets a little too used to this trope.
  • In Girls und Panzer, when Miho asks Maho about shooting the German flag tank when it went to rescue one of Maho's teammates, she coldly says "...Miho. What I did was Nishizumi-style Panzerkraft. I gave the order to shoot". However, when she first hears about what she did, she seems shocked and almost hurt, and when her mother tells her it was a good decision, she looks displeased.
  • Kycilia Zabi in Mobile Suit Gundam uses this to justify killing her older brother and supreme commander of Zeon, Gihren Zabi, in the middle of the final battle. Given that he had just confessed to murdering their father and chief of state with the opening shot of the battle just as he was negotiating an armistice, she's justified.
    "Get rid of the body! Even a supreme commander can't get away with the assassination of his own father. If any of you disagree, then file charges against me after the battle's over!"
  • Erwin Smith is a primary example of how successful commanders think in Attack on Titan, with all the unpleasant implications that come with it. Though he cares about his men, he is perfectly willing to sacrifice them (or himself) if doing so provides a possible victory. He uses this to justify allowing a battle between two Titan Shifters within a major city, causing considerable destruction and loss of life in the process.
    • Bertolt Hoover states it had to be done when confronted about committing mass murder by kicking in the gates at Shiganshina and Trost.
      • Reiner Braun is also of this philosophy, as both of them (and Annie) are part of the Kingdom of Marley's Tyke Bomb Child Soldier training program in which they, along with Marcel, were sent on a mission to Paradis Island in order to retrieve the Founding Titan from within its walls. After Reiner meets up with Eren for the first time in four years, expressing remorse for his actions, Eren uses this trope against Reiner, saying "I'm just like you" and that he's simply playing his role in life just as Reiner, Bertolt and Annie were playing theirs. He then turns into his Titan form and kills Willy Tybur, the true ruler of Marley.
  • YuYu Hakusho: In the original, uncut script, Dr. Kamiya taunted Yusuke about the fact that in order to save the people in the hospital made ill by his power, Yusuke would have to kill him: something that would challenge his qualification as a Spirit Detective. KO was not an option since Kamiya had full control of his bodily functions and could keep himself from passing out. Ultimately, Yusuke does deliver one hard punch that sends Kamiya flying out a window and ultimately stops his heart with the trauma. Yusuke mentally justifies himself with the trope, and Genkai later concurs out loud. She also revives Kamiya with a chest compression to further relieve Yusuke's guilt.
  • This was Reinhard's excuse to Kircheis in Legend of Galactic Heroes as to why he didn't save the 2 million civilians from being nuked by the corrupt nobles. Though the real reason was that Oberstein orchestrated that the nobles actually do what they did to boost Reinhard's position. After this event however, he decides never to make any excuses again.
  • Subverted in Bokurano, Youko Machi, the one who led her classmates from the nature school to the cave, and thus getting them caught up in the deadly "game" of piloting Zearth, knowing full well what would happen, since she'd gone through this before, realizes that someone had to fight for the planet, but doesn't use that as an excuse for her actions, which she feels guilty about.

     Comic Books 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine: Buffy repeatedly justifies her destroying the source of Earth's magic to stop Twilight the previous season this way. However, Willow insists that she will eventually have to deal with the consequences, but Buffy dismisses it; naturally, Willow turns out to be right when Dawn falls ill and starts to die without magic.
  • In The DCU, this is Amanda Waller's raison d'être.
    • Waller is odd in that she has a tendency to surround herself with idealists in an attempt to curb her pragmatic tendencies. When she (invariably) alienates these people, she REALLY starts to fall into this trope.
    • In the Elseworlds story Kingdom Come, the U.N. Director invokes this trope when he gives the order to drop nukes on the big superhero brawl. "The only way to make certain future generations will know this was our only hope... is to ensure there will BE future generations." He is later shown in his office, looking rather regretful.
  • Marvel Comics' Cable might as well have this monogrammed on his towels as as often as he says it in his early appearances.
  • Magog from Kingdom Come uses this one too, which isn't surprising as he was inspired by Cable.
  • In Supergirl (Rebirth) Cyborg Superman defends his actions stating that he did what he needed to do to guarantee Supergirl's happiness.
    Cyborg Superman: I heard you, Kara. You longed to return to Argo City. I did only what needed to be done to give you that.
  • Wonder Woman ends up having to say this a lot after killing Maxwell Lord (with the whole thing recorded and broadcast to boot), who was controlling Superman (and who could've killed everyone present in the time it took to come up with a better plan). The whole thing sets off the Crisis Crossover, Infinite Crisis.
  • This is Batman's tacit justification for every time the Justice League finds out his plans to take them down should it be needed. Interesting because Batman helps undo them anyway. He also encourages this state of mind in his protégés, especially Tim (among others, in the form of a Dangerous 16th Birthday worthy of the greatest Manipulative Bastards).
  • In The Long Halloween, Harvey Dent says that he did what needed to be done when he kills Falcone.
  • Ozymandias from Watchmen killed millions to save billions. Possibly. The ending deliberately leaves it ambiguous as to whether his gambit ultimately succeeds. Regardless, he certainly believes his actions will save billions, at least until Dr. Manhattan leaves him with the words "Nothing ever ends, Adrian".
  • Cyclops has spent the last decade giving up everything he believed in, from his own moral code to his own happiness and the relationship between himself and his friends, resulting in many supervillains and psychopaths being put down, causing him to be compared to Magneto, but all so he could keep the last of his kind from extinction.
    • He kinda succeeds after the events in Phoenix Five. Kinda.
  • During a comic book crossover between Witchblade and Tomb Raider, Sara Pezzini, a cop, calls Lara Croft to task after witnessing Lara cold-bloodedly kill two men. Lara's response is basically "sentence given, judgement passed".
  • Spider-Man breaks a promise to Venom to let him go after capturing Carnage. J. Jonah Jameson can't resist pulling a What the Hell, Hero? by saying that Captain America would have kept his word. Spidey's response smacks of this trope.
    Spidey: Cap wouldn't have given his word. He'd have found another way, a perfect solution. He's a legend. Me, I'm just a man. And men have to make choices. Yeah, make them, and then live with them.

    Fan Works 
  • Hermione cut off Snape's hand in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor. She had a good reason, and it was ultimately to protect him, but not everyone sees it that way.
  • Shows up in the kalash93 story, How It Was. In it, the protagonist uses it as his explanation for why he killed an enemy who had surrendered. The other characters do not buy it. This trope is a running theme in the story on multiple levels, as the story is an interestng look into PTSD.
  • A Crown of Stars: Discussed. Daniel discusses Shinji's actions during the Bardiel battle with him and tells Shinji that even if it was a terrible thing to do, Gendo had no option but activating the dummy plug since Shinji would not fight -he would not even lift a finger to try to rescue the pilot- and they could not let Bardiel reach Lilith, not matter what. He also examines Shinji's actions during the coup against Winthrop (refusing fighting in the middle of Berlin out of fear to hurt civilians) and pointed out that: Shinji nearly got Asuka and himself killed; and if they had not risked accidentally killing people, plenty more people would have assuredly died if they did not stop Winthrop. Then he explains that sometimes it is regrettably necessary endangering innocent lives to save a greater number of people, and Shinji has to agree he was going to let a lot of people die so that his conscience remained clean.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl and two fellow Legionnaires argue with Dev-Em after they blow up an undercover mission to save a little girl. Dev argues back he was forced in the past to sacrifice one person to save thousands. HE didn't like it, but he had to do it.
    Laurel Kent: Dev, just listen to me for a moment. Could you sacrifice the life of another, so easily, just to complete a mission... even one as big as this?
    Dev-Em: I have.
    Dev: It was an inforunning operation out of a Dark Circle world. My contact was a man in deep cover. Their cointelpro caught up to us just after an information drop. We had made arrangements on what to do if such a thing happened. I exposed him as a traitor. My cover held. He was taken away, tortured, and killed. I got the package through. Later, I saw to it that his torturers got theirs. No, I didn't do it personally... but I made sure it was done. That's how it is in my world. Not pretty, but we get the job done.
    Kara: ...
    Dev: No, don't think I enjoyed it. Rolg's face still comes to me in a particularly juicy nightmare every now and then. But he has to wait his time in line. And you know what he tells me? He tells me about the people of that world who were liberated, in time, with the information I got through. He tells me that I did the right thing.
  • HERZ: Misato has done many questionable things to protect her children and to avoid the proliferation of the Evangelion technology. Her actions haunt her but she thinks she had no other choice to save her family and billions of lives.
    "I'm the fool. And I've become a monster." She looked down, unable to face him.
    "You made hard choices. And you had your responsibilities."
    "So much blood, Kaji. I have so much blood on my hands." Negev. Tricking the Israelis into stealing bogus S2 engine specifications. When they used it to activate their Eva, everything within 50km was obliterated. The Army of God. She had given no quarter and made sure their leader met his end at SEELE's hands. Blackmailing the Chinese and then summarily nuked all the other military sites that were building their own Evas. They had no warning. No chance. She looked up almost earnestly. Having confessed her sins, she sought absolution in the man she had been forced to betray.
    His smile was sad and warm. He touched the crook of her arm. She did not pull away. "But you knew had to," he said as his fingers traced their way down her forearm. "You had a reason."
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami features this a few times, when Ami has to make hard moral calls, usually involving a cost/benefit tradeoff of some kind. She is (technically) a designated villain, after all. Some of her minions are more willing to take the risk on her behalf, instead.
    • More recently, Morrigan's cheif warlock, Monteraine, defected to Ami's forces upon capture. This enrages Eline and Venna, who reveal that she was the one who implemented Venna's conditioning for Morrigan. Monteraine immeadiately offers to do the same again for Ami's minions, and it is only when it is clear that Ami is seriously considering not hiring her that Monteraine admits she had little choice in the matter.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, in the aftermath of the Equestrian Civil War, during the Fillydelphia Trials, one of the more prominent leaders of the New Lunar Order and famed former Equestrian general, Thunderhide, explains that he joined Nightmare Moon out of necessity to change what he saw was a corrupt system, and to ensure a better future for Equestria. Given that he was a famed general beforehand, the highly publicized trial made ponies start to see the depths one of their own would sink to in order to change things, and this was responsible for the revival of Pegasi nationalism and the end of Celestia's cult of personality.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, Samantha Shepard experiences a Heroic BSoD that tilts her away from her usual paragon self. She rationalizes what she does with this trope, but in the sequel Origins, she has My God, What Have I Done? breakdown that makes her question why anyone else would keep her around. Others justify retaining Shepard (rather than imprisoning her for war crimes) based on this trope. Since the Flood invasion, this sort of justification comes up more and more often given perceptions of the stakes, though this is hardly the only reason characters give for invoking the trope.
    • Moxxi gets Jackie drunk during a "therapy" session to keep her talking.
    • Jackie deliberately allows an otherwise-innocent marine to be killed by defense systems in her family's Vaults, since him calling for help would lock everyone inside.
    • Aria torching civilian homes, though given her status this isn't exactly surprising.
    • Depending on one's point of view, the Republic Intelligence Service's attempts to deal with the Alien Invasion could qualify.
    • Admiral Nimitz clearly does not like working with the Maliwans and Torgue who gleefully bombarded civilian worlds to punish Jakobs, but justifies it using logic like this.
  • In Stairway To Equestria, Celestia banishes the main protagonist, Midnight Blink to be judged in the Griffin Lands after he attacked an ambassador of that land in self-defence. Celestia's main reasoning was that she wanted to preserve the already shaken diplomatic ties between the two kingdoms, as well as to keep her protegee safe from what she thought Blink would do at some point.
  • The North Korean Digidestined in most Digimon fanfics end up in situations like these, as do China's Digidestined. Their governments force them into doing various horrifying things and the kids rationalize it with 'I did what I had to do, because otherwise they'd kill my family'. Since they're kids, this comes across as more desperate and terrified than villainous. The fandom is fairly good about not making them evil because their countries are - at least, fandom's good about that now. There's some Dead Fic from five or more years ago where they're straight up For the Evulz lunatics.
  • This quote from the Villain Protagonist of the Mass Effect fanfic The Council Era says all that is needed to be said. "I will pay for taking the low ground after I die, but there always has to be someone who is willing to make such a sacrifice, for the sake of something far greater than themselves. It's part of the order of things." Keep in mind that his "taking the low ground" was committing genocide. It is likely that in the second part of the storyline, when he's expected to decline further into Chaotic Evil, that he'll still try to use the "I Did What I Had To Do" card, even if his motivation becomes Despotism Justifies the Means.
  • This the reasoning of the Big Bad in The Man with No Name, as well as Zeke, the leader of a town plagued by Reavers when he blackmails the heroes into helping him.
  • Of all people, Helen Belden in Trixie Belden fanfic Ambiguous. She's not sure of the relationship between her son Mart and his friend Dan, both teenagers, but she recognizes that Mart has romantic feelings for him. Unwilling to suffer the repercussions of losing her family's good reputation by having a bisexual son, she deliberately drives Dan away, which might have lead to him allowing himself to be captured by criminals.
  • Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has Black Star who, as told by Firefly via Flash Back, was ordered to prevent a possibly mutiny against the Griffin Kingdom. Believing that Firefly's parents would be behind it, he killed them. When the young filly asked him why he did, this is his reason.
    • The kicker? The rumor of their involvement and the whole mutiny thing were false.
  • In Poke Wars: The Subsistence Ash has Pikachu use Thunder on a sinking ferry overrun by Sharpedo and Tentecruel. He regrets that he had to kill everyone on the ship but the Pokémon swarming the ship were too dangerous to leave alive.
    • Hiiro in Fool's Paradise has his Ampharos unleash Thunder in a harbor filled with Tentacruel and their victims, killing everyone in the water so the boats in Olivine City can head out to sea. He calls his plan "a horrible, despicable, but ultimately necessary idea" and he explicitly states "You won't like it" to an Officer Jenny who asks him for a plan.
    • Alex says this word for word to Katrina back on the caravan's encampment after rescuing her from a Hostage Situation.
  • The Powers of Harmony: This is the justification used by Libra and his Echo Blair for breaking the taboo on the use of Lifeforce magic. It was the only way to stop Nightmare Moon's undying army in the War of the Sun and Moon.
  • A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies: Megan resents a lot of the things she had to do as the protector and more-or-less-leader of Ponyland, including killing a whole lot of villains, as well as having to e.g. crush Heart Throb's dreams of having a monogamous romance straight out of a fairy tale. She had no choice, though.
  • A common refrain of the Office of Special Resources from The Universiad whenever someone baulks at their The Unfettered ways.
  • In Tizenot, Austria intentionally tried to act like an aloof Jerkass to Hungary following their divorce in an attempt to make it easier and quick for them. He would come to regret that.
  • In Tails of the Old Republic, a crossover/ Fusion Fic between Sonic the Hedgehog and the videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Tails the fox has a very strong Thou Shalt Not Kill philosophy, but when he's unable to keep it, this trope is how he rationalizes killing to survive or to save his friends.
  • In The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, the king of the dragons, Spykoran, in an effort to keep the Bag of Tirek from corrupting and controlling anyone else again, destroyed all of Dream Valley, killing any ponies that remained there along with the Six Princesses (as they'd all been corrupted), and buried it all under ash and lava. When the bag was found by an Equestrian archaeologist, he destroyed the ship as it was returning to Equestria. He does have massive guilt and regret for killing several people, but maintains he did what had to be done.
  • In Boys und Sensha-do!, Shiho says this in regards to her decision to disown her younger daughter Miho, saying that it's as much for Miho's own good as it is for the family's, in that it allows Miho to practice her own way of tankery. However, many other characters disagree, including her husband and older daughter, the Sakai family, which includes Miho's boyfriend Akio, and the Sensha-do Federation (which is considering forcing Shiho to resign over this).
  • In The Tomorrow Series fanfic "Taking Care of Business" Homer Yannos uses this as the mantra he needs to keep himself sane after he kills Lee's enemy girlfriend to prevent the group's discovery.
  • Kyoshi Rising; Avatar Yangchen's reasoning for why she abandoned the teachings of the Air Nomads and killed off potential threats.
  • In A New World, Ran's hand was forced by the sudden tightening of Gensokyo's boundaries; deprived of the main food source for Gensokyo's youkai, she was driven to create an extremely unstable balance, fully aware of the risks this entailed for both human and youkai. Desperately fighting against the slow decline, she planned to press Maribel through highly amoral means into becoming a youkai in order to ensure Gensokyo's survival. She hates herself for this, remembering the good old days of spellcard duels, but is largely powerless - she even collapses in sorrow when begging Maribel to go along. Fortunately, a more reasonable compromise is found in time.
  • In the The Familiar of Zero fanfiction,The Steep Path Ahead, the Cardinal's reasoning for not returning Louise (who had been kidnapped and dropped off in an orphanage as a child) to her mother sooner boils down to this.
    Cardinal:" The Duchess, quite simply, moved the mountains to try to find you. And in so doing showed the weakness of the crown who could not stop one of their nobles from doing as she pleased. This, in turn, meant that your recovery would have made it all the more obvious how weak they were. Especially so if you were found in Germania, of all places. The risk of war with a country that is more than five times the military power of Tristain had to be avoided at all costs. If you had been found, on Germanian soil, well, the Duchess would have felt the need to demand reparations from the country itself."
  • In the Babylon 5 fanfic Order In Chaos a Centauri squadron encounters an Orieni explorer, offers them a chance to surrender, but then blows them up, destroys most escape pods and rescues some survivors only to learn how many where the ships of their escorts he'll now hunt down, after the Orieni admit they landed on the planet Na'ka'leen (that was being quarantined with letal force) and are now figthing against creatures that have overrun most of their ship. The Centauri, having correctly identified the creatures as Na'ka'leen Feeders, completely silent predators that feed on sentient minds and may have infected any survivor of an encounter with a larva that could become an adult and restart the cycle at any moment, simply see this as the only possible sterilization protocol.
  • Children of an Elder God: When a terrorist group invaded NERV's German base, Shinji and Asuka killed several terrorists in self-defense. Neither of them was happy about killing humans, but they had to defend themselves.
    "Me too. I...we did what we had to do," Shinji said. "I feel terrible about it, but we really didn't have a choice. They had...they had to be stopped, right?"
    "Right," Asuka said. "We didn't have a choice. Really. They invaded our base and wanted to use us to fight for their madness instead of against the Angels. And they had...they had Katsuragi-san."
  • Deconstructed in Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide. Gendo labeled any atrocity he committed as a "necessary sacrifice". His second-in-command Fuyutsuki calls this reasoning a "bad excuse".
    The bridge crew had performed admirably given the circumstances, as Fuyutsuki had come to expect, even if they all knew that in following his orders they would be crippling themselves beyond repair. It was, as always, a necessary sacrifice.
    Fuyutsuki almost laughed. He had lost track of how many times Ikari had used that justification for what NERV had done, and the atrocities they had committed. Lazy minds tended to drift towards the excuses that were familiar to them, usually as a simple matter of expediency; who could come up with a new excuse every time their decisions were questioned? But eventually the sacrifices deemed necessary added up to even greater costs than the things they were determined to prevent in the first place.
  • The Sanctuary Telepath: they had to lie to Helen about the elemental so she and the Sanctuary Network could stay safe - even if it meant that she got a more heartbreaking version of the events, she blamed the wrong people and their relationship with Janine weakened.As it turned out when Janine visited a parallel universe, they were right.
  • A Brighter Dark: Garon, being unpossessed and in full control of himself, shows himself to be a leader subscribing to this philosophy, willing to go to extreme lengths in the hopes of somehow improving the apocalypticly poor standards of living his country has. Most of the time, it's actually pretty hard to argue with him.
    • After experiencing the horrors of war, Corrin (the Extreme Doormat of the original game) starts getting on it. Choosing of her own free will to massacre the village of Cheve, personally ordering her soldiers to kill them rather than being hi-jacked by Hans. She later justifies to Silas stating that thanks to her, they had not only repelled an invasion from within, but now had boats to launch a counter-attack on Hoshido.
  • Integration:
    • Inverted; Celestia assures the guilt-ridden Twilight that while retgoning the adult Starlight and rewriting the timeline by adopting the filly Starlight out of her Orphanage of Fear without knowing the full consequences was extremely dangerous, it was necessary because she ultimately had no other choice.
      • This then gets deconstructed when Applejack points out that this trope sounds pretty extreme. Celestia agrees that it's a slippery slope, and she and Luna proceed to explain that while leaders sometimes had to get their hands dirty when it comes to tough decisions, it's easy to become a monster when you think certain actions (such as murder, false imprisonment, and theft) are justified. They cite several examples of previous villains that were dealt with in the canon show who abused this trope as an excuse for their villainous actions to establish this point. The sisters then say that even when you have no other option, it's easy to go too far and even the best-intentioned actions can have unintended side-effects. This is why you had to use the "I did what I had to do" option as an absolutely last resort. In fact, when Luna sees that Twilight's friends are fearful of possibly having to Shoot the Dog in the future, she actually considers it a good thing because they'll be able to handle the burden of leadership better than most ponies.
    • Played straight when Human Rainbow Dash kicks one of the Changeling mobsters below the belt to save Sci-Twi, an action that ended up with him needing immediate medical attention. Apple Bloom is shocked when she heard about it, since her dad taught her it was never okay to do something like that to a guy. Dash proceeds to explain to the younger girl that in a dangerous situation, you sometimes have to resort to dirty tactics to survive and that if she didn't do it, Rainbow probably would have gotten stabbed and the kidnappers would have succeeded in taking away Sci-Twi.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Prince of Egypt: Subverted. Seti expresses regret in regards to ordering his soldiers to slaughter the Hebrew newborns. However, his following remark makes his real feelings about the matter even clearer.
    Seti: Sometimes for the greater good, sacrifices must be made...Oh my son. They were only slaves.
  • Aladdin: Aladdin justified his stealing by only taking what he needed to survive and nothing more. On the one occasion where he did take more than he needed, he was devastated to see how much he hurt someone and returned the money.
  • Queen Elsa does this in Frozen when she shuts herself out in order to protect her sister, Anna, from her powers that almost killed her.
  • Bad Cop has to justify doing this in The LEGO Movie, since it's his and Good Cop's neck on the line if he doesn't Kragle his own parents as punishment for failing to capture the Special. Both sides were clearly distressed to hear that they had to do this to their own parents; but Bad Cop did it because he knew the harsh consequences that would otherwise happen if they didn't obey. Unfortunately, this becomes the case when Good Cop can't bring himself to do it, winning out his other side and having his own face wiped clean off as a result.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), this is Twilight's justification to the rest of the Mane 6 for attempting to steal the hippogriffs' Pearl of Transformation — every attempt at using the power of friendship outside of Equestria so far has only gotten the ponies in more trouble, so she decided to forgo it entirely. This backfires horribly.
  • Isle of Dogs: One of the dogs on Trash Island, Gondo, says that he and his pack have a choice: either eat a comatose dog to survive or starve to death. They end up eating said comatose dog, and even though Gondo says that they did what they had to in order to survive, he still feels ashamed of doing it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is Felicity Shagwell's excuse for sleeping with Fat Bastard in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. However, Austin's not so much bothered about the ethics as the physics.
  • Any Scifi horror movie where people who are infected by The Virus have to be killed or risk having them turn on the uninfected cast. Closely related to most zombie and werewolf movies. Contrast What Happened to Mommy?.
    • Inverted in the first Resident Evil movie. The infectee even receives the cure... and still turns into a zombie at THE WORST POSSIBLE MOMENT.
  • Star Trek:
  • A light-hearted version in Running Scared (1986). The two cop heroes are in a hostage situation with a gunman who doesn't have any pants (long story). He orders them to take off their pants and give them to him so (a) he'll have a pair and (b) it will be harder for them to follow him. They do so. Later in the station house they're asked how they could give up their pants, and one of them says "We did what we had to do."
  • X-Men Film Series
    • In X-Men: The Last Stand Professor X tells Wolverine he did what he had to do in suppressing Jean's powers and her violent Phoenix personality.
    • In The Wolverine, during a dream sequence, Wolverine tells Jean Grey that he had no choice but to kill her because of all the death and destruction she was causing.
  • In 30 Days of Night, after Eben has turned himself into a vampire in order to fight off the vampires who've invaded the town
    Stella: What did you do to yourself?
    Eben: What I had to do.
  • Played straight to the letter by Ozymandias of Watchmen who not only goes to ridiculous lengths to dupe the world into think they're under attack (and killing millions in the process), he also kills his beloved Bubastis in a vain attempt to kill Dr. Manhattan.
    "A world at peace. There had to be sacrifice."
  • Featured prominently in the second of many speeches in V for Vendetta.
    Lewis Protero: We did what we had to do. Islington. Enfield. I was there, I saw it all. Immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals, terrorists. Disease-ridden degenerates. They had to go.
  • In a more comical direction, the entire premise of John Waters' Serial Mom is a suburban woman who feels morally justified in offing people for bad manners, not recycling and fashion faux pas, like Patricia Hearst's white shoes after Labor Day. Though funny, John Waters has stated that he feels very strongly about all these grievances (especially the last).
  • Carriers. In a world where there's an infectious virus that kills people, pretty much everyone is forced to kill people who are infected but not yet dead. On some occasions our 'heroes' kill some non-infected people when they refused to give up gas in their car. They needed this gas to survive.
  • The Operative in Serenity.
    Mal: I don't murder children.
    The Operative: I do...if I have to.
  • Royce from Predators is willing to sacrifice his fellow humans and abandon the wounded in order to survive, and often invokes this trope when Isabelle calls him out for it.
  • In The Battle of Algiers Mathieu delivers a speech on this theme to the French press, justifying his use of torture in combating the Algerian insurgency.
    Mathieu: Should France remain in Algeria? If your answer is "yes", then you must accept all the consequences.
  • In Dr. No, James Bond invokes the trope after he knifes a guard and Honey Ryder gives him the What the Hell, Hero?? treatment.
    • Some latter-day reviews of this film point out that there is actually little plot justification for Bond killing this particular man, other than continuing to establish the "licence to kill" aspect of 007 in a way Ian Fleming never did in his books. (According to Word of God this is why Bond is shown murdering Professor Dent earlier in the film, again an event never depicted by Fleming.)
  • In the The Dark Knight Rises, this is done by Jim Gordon when he is called out by John Blake over hiding the Two-Face murders by blaming it on Batman. An interesting take, however, as this is suggested by Batman himself, he is never seen as a villain or a Knight Templar, and since the audience has seen the exact decision process behind it, is does seem like the best idea at that point in time.
  • In Dangerous Beauty, this is Veronica Franco's justification for why she became a courtesan: "I repent there was no other way open to me. I do not repent my life."
  • In Zombi 3D when Dr. Holder and his assistant, Norma, confront General Morton as the infector's body is burned, Morton uses this as an excuse.
    Dr. Holder: Who told you to burn the body of the man infected with Death One?
    General Morton: ...I had to close an episode.
  • In Tell No One, this is how Jacques justifies helping Margot fake her death and not telling Alexandre about it; he was trying to keep Margot away from Gilbert, since she had killed Gilbert's son.
  • In Dracula Untold, this is Vlad III Dracula's reason for becoming a vampire, as well as his reasons for the impalings earlier in his life.
  • In Draft Day the Browns general manager Sonny Junior fired his dad as the head coach, because his father was at risk of dying during his stressful job. Firing him would have resulted in some relaxed years. Too bad his dad died anyway.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): Joseph Lynch's first scene is immediately after Mary's death and he is constantly repeating the Creed like a Survival Mantra, as if he's trying to reassure himself that he did the right thing.
  • In Trumbo, Edward G. Robinson says "I did what I had to do" while explaining to Trumbo why he named names to HUAC.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos uses this to justify sacrificing Gamora for the Soul Stone:
    Peter Quill: Asshole! Tell me you didn't do it!
    Thanos: I... had... to...
    Peter Quill: No, you didn't.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ego says these exact words when explaining to Peter Quill why he left Meredith, Peter's mother, if Ego loved her so much:
    Ego: I returned to Earth to see her three times. And I knew if I returned a fourth, I'd never leave. The Expansion, the reason for my very existence, would be over. So I did what I had to do. But... it broke my heart to put that tumor in her head.


  • A few lyrics to "My Way" go as thus:
    I did what I had to do
    And saw it through without exemption...
  • The song "Pancho and Lefty contains the following example:
    Pancho needs your prayers it's true
    but save a few for Lefty too
    he only did what he had to do
    and now he's growing old...
  • Appears verbatim in Pearl Jam's "Footsteps": "I did what I had to do, and if there was a reason, that reason was you." The song's narrator is reflecting on his life as he awaits execution for a killing spree chronicled in "Once", a reaction to his mother's incestuous advances in "Alive".

  • Janna from The Fallen Gods stands by this with regards to enslaving dozens of merfolk, saying that one must make difficult decisions in wartime.

    Tabletop Games  
  • Warhammer 40,000. All of it... at least the "good guys". The bad guys just enjoy their work. The kicker? For the sake of surviving, they really DO have to do it.
    • Well, they don't HAVE to, and the brutality of their methods backfires as often as it helps. Other races, notably the Tau and the human splinters Horus dealt with before his corruption, have much greater success fighting chaos with more surgical (or at least less exterminatus- and mass brainwashing-based) methods, they just haven't caught on in the Empire because the climate of fear and absolutism is also necessary to keep the imperium in power.
      • It's kind of worth noting here that the Tau A) do resort to similar methods as the Imperium (keep the knowledge of Chaos from the common people, whatever methods are necessary) and B) are about as warp-sensitive as a particularly dull rock, meaning the risk of Chaos corrupting a Tau is somewhere roughly between zero and none. Additionally, the Imperium's brutal methods are at least arguably justified in-universe by the fact that they've seen the result of what happens when Chaos goes unchecked time and time again, and the harsh methods of the Inquisition has kept the Imperium together for ten thousand years. Finally, the Interex and their supposed success at combating Chaos is not only the exception to the rule, but also dubious considering the fact that they were closely allied with xenos that produced weapons dedicated to the powers of Chaos and how easily they were manipulated into a war they couldn't win by one agent of Chaos.
      • Actually, yes, they do have to. Wherever they don't worlds, star systems, and even entire sectors (one thousand cubic lightyears) either dies or more commonly dearly wishes it had. These events are not rare occurances in which more is sacrificed stamping out possibilities than is saved. These events are, in fact, consistent. It is not merely a "possibility", it is an absolute guarantee that if the extreme measures are not taken, literal hell will break out or horrific aliens will dominate humans in ways that even the daemons hadn't thought of. The Imperium's measures don't usually backfire and when they do, the result is still better than if nothing had been done. The Tau don't even believe Chaos exists, they don't have methods of hunting and fighting Chaos taint. Also, the Tau do practice mass brainwashing, oops, sorry, I meant "re-socialization" and use mind-influencing pheromones as well as control chips. Except, unlike the Imperium, the Tau don't have an excuse. This is part of why the Imperium is considered the good guy of 40K. Because for all the wicked things the Imperium does, its deeds are truly necessary. Everyone else, even the Tau, commits terrible evils against life for no justifiable reason. Also, the Imperium actively attempts to do as little harm as possible but enough that there is no chance of failure. Usually this involves precision strikes against threats with planetary populations completely unaware anything ever happened and carrying their lives on in blissful ignorance. Extreme action is rare. The Imperium's entire existence is purely to ensure humanity's survival. That is the basis of its founding and the driving principle it has followed ever since. In fact, the Imperium's governance is more like a loosely connected alliance of nearly completely independent worlds functioning under a form of interstellar feudalism than a solid nation. Most Imperial law applies to Imperial government sections. Grimdark primarily stems from planets whose leadership is horrible rather than a direct result of Imperial law. Except in matters involving alien subversion, daemonic anything, treason against the Imperium (if its against a planet the Imperium doesn't care) and other threats to the whole rather than a piece. Any piece that breaks off of the Imperium invariably falls prey to any of the countless threats of space or to Chaos or both or some ambiguous worse. Which means keeping planets part of the Imperium is for those fools' own good, not greed.
    • Warhammer too. Burn down an entire village because of possible chaos taint? Had to be done. Burn the Witch! definitely had to be done. And this is just the humans, the other 'good guy' races are just as bad.
  • Exalted from White Wolf Games has the Sidereal Exalted, who masterminded the Usurpation that overthrew and murdered the Solar Exalted rulers of the setting. The Solars of the First Age were rapidly becoming mad and wicked tyrants, and the Sidereals saw two options: a Million-to-One Chance to save Creation by redeeming them, or a near-certain chance to solve the problem by killing them all, destroy the magitech infrastructure of the First Age and save what they could of Creation. They chose the latter, and the Bronze Faction maintain that their actions were correct to this day and are still correct. Whether they're right is fuel for endless disagreement, Flame Wars and Natter.
    • This is especially true for Chejop Kejak. While he maintains he did the right thing, the memories of the Usurpation still haunt the old Seer thousands of years later. It is to the point that according to his character sheet in the Sidereal Exalted manual, his Motivation (which means his main objective in life) is "Justify the sacrifices of the past", and his defining quote is: "It was necessary."
    • More generally, this kind of situation is what the Conviction virtue is for. According to the first edition rulebook, someone with a legendary convition (level 5) has whatit takes to put a whole nation to the sword, if it is really necessary.
  • Dungeons & Dragons had a version of this for PALADINS in the "Complete Scoundrel" 3.5e sourcebook: the Gray Guard Prestige Class, which basically allows the paladin to violate the code of conduct for the class with a minimal penalty if he does so in pursuit of a greater good.
  • There's a reason the Forsaken are called such — because they killed their father deity when they saw that he was getting weak and was unable to hunt down the spirit entities that threatened primordial Earth. As a result, they pretty much dashed Paradise to pieces, alienated their mother deity for millennia, and earned the undying enmity of their cousins, the Pure.
    • The Hunters say this a lot, too. Living in the World of Darkness and fighting the eponymous darkness not only requires cast-iron balls, but all too often demands a willingness to accept innocent casualties as inevitable in the name of fighting a greater evil.
  • Urza in Magic: The Gathering practically had this printed on a shirt. Let's put it this way: his plan to wreck the biomechanical hell of Phyrexia involved recruiting eight planeswalkers. One of said planeswalkers was a sociopathic murderer who Urza knew all along would try and kill the other planeswalkers; he let said murderer kill two, then hit the kill command for that murderer's powersuit and used his life energy to prime the bombs. While ranting about how everyone kept underestimating him, no less.
    • He did a lot more than that. Let's begin with the earlier years of his four thousand year life. He rose to power as a talented Artificer in Yotia. Soon he came into conflict with a neighboring desert nation led by his brother. The following war saw entire forests cut down for wood, seas poisoned, deserts burned to glass and the earth blackened. The Brothers' War devastated Terisaire and killed most of the continent's population, all to save those that did survive from his brother, who was even worse. In order to win his war, Urza used the sylex at Argoth, which was pretty much a magic nuke that changed the shape of Dominaria forever. After that the list gets even longer. He unintentionally lead the Phyrexians to Serra's realm, which was destroyed. He sacrificed friends as if they grew on trees, all in the name of revenge. In order to combat Phyrexia, Urza began a century long eugenics project to breed a savior that can defeat them. He built a school for mages only to abandon its students when the academy was trapped in time dilation. Here is a man who sacrifices friends and nations, a man to whom no price is too high to defeat Phyrexia and Yawgmoth. In the end, he even sacrificed himself to that end. All of this made his betrayal of his own cause that much worse. After all of the terrible things he did to fight Phyrexia he was seduced by its power and majesty and pledged himself to Yawgmoth at the moment of truth. He only got back on track after Gerrard chopped his head off.
  • Firewall in Eclipse Phase do what they have to do. This doesn't make it any easier on their operatives when they have to shoot a child out of an airlock to keep him from infecting others with a virus that's raw Body Horror.

  • Odysseus argues along these lines to Neoptolemus both for what they are about to do (abduct a man against his will), and for leaving said man stranded on the island in the first place in Philoctetes.
  • In All My Sons, Joe Keller insists that the reason why he kept quiet about shipping 120 cracked engine heads until it was too late and denied all responsibility for it was that it was necessary to keep his Family Business in business.
  • The Mrs Hawking play series: In Gilded Cages, Reginald Hawking feels badly about his part in putting down the desperate Indian Rebellion of 1858, but accepts it as a terrible part of the duty he owes to the British Empire.
  • This is Colonel Jessep's justification for his actions in A Few Good Men.

  • Dr. Schlock from Sluggy Freelance lives and breathes this trope, always betraying someone or another in order to keep a different someone or another from killing him. Reaches its peak in this strip.
    • Also in 4U City. Alt-Riff agreed with him to the extent that he grew into his philosophy and methods.
  • Said verbatim by Anakin in this episode of Darths & Droids, after deliberately destroying Sebulba's pod (and possibly Sebulba) to win the pod race.
  • Krunch's comment to Cale on this page of Looking for Group.
    • While the most poignant example in the comic, not the first. Played seriously and then for laughs on this page.
    • Later Pella uses it after she kills innocent gnomes to force the rest to evacuate from their fortress. This makes Cale unhappy because at that point she was the only member of his party he was sure would not use that excuse.
  • In Harkovast, Shogun views killing wounded, surrendering opponents as perfectly reasonable, and angrily defends this concept when questioned by the other characters.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, when November wonders if there was another way, Red tells November that the woman was dead; she just killed the monster inhabiting her skin.
  • Invoked by Solaris in Aikonia.
  • What it Takes shows this all too well, here and here
  • Maxim 20 from Schlock Mercenary: If you're not willing to shell your own position, you're not willing to win.
  • In Homestuck, Vriska Serket justifies mind-controlling an army of ghosts and sending them all to the post-death slaughter because the threat of Lord English is far bigger in the grand scheme of things than her actions. Of course, her own ego might also be a factor in this. Recently, Aranea Serket decides to steal John's ring and come back to life in order to stop English before he could ever become a threat in the first place, which involves her lying, stealing and potentially dooming the timeline and herself if her plan doesn't work; all of which she justifies this way as well. While it's never quite explicitly stated, Kanaya seems to generally operate on this principle too. That's why she can cut off Tavros's paralyzed legs so Equius can replace them with robotic prosthetics without batting an eye, and why she's more than willing to kill Gamzee after he goes mad (and actually does kill Eridan when he turns traitor) to keep the rest of the team safe.
  • In Girl Genius, this is Baron Wulfenbach's justification for conquering Europe. The only way to stop the Forever War was to win it himself. And it worked. During the comic itself, he continues in that same mindset, but having only partial information leads him to confrontation with the protagonists while the true villains escape his grasp.
  • Billy Thatcher in morphE pulls this card on Asia when he cheats on their magic trial to win a phone call to his loved ones outside of captivity. The only reason cheating is even a concern is because of Asia's extreme honesty and good morality. Billy is intent on not allowing her naive belief system ruin their better shots for freedom.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lord Shojo had some choice words to say when his Obfuscating Stupidity ruse was found out by his underlings, including his nephew Hinjo (who takes it especially hard).
      Hinjo: The ends justify the means, is that it?
      Shojo: Frankly, yes.
      Hinjo: You have brought disgrace to our name, Uncle. I am glad Mother did not live to see this day.
      Shojo: Oh grow up Hinjo! My sister was the daughter of a great leader, she would have understood all too well that I don't have the luxury of putting Soon Kim's obsolete morality ahead of the safety of this city. It's all well and good for you paladins to stick to your convictions, but if I make a mistake, half a million citizens pay for it.
    • Defied by the fiends offering Vaarsuvius a Deal with the Devil. They tell V about an alternative to their offer, specifically in response to V claiming this, to ensure that V knows they truly accepted the deal out of pure Pride.
  • While not on the same level as wars and battles, in Gunnerkrigg Court Annie has succeeded in a dangerous plan that involved a bunch of her friends but nearly got them killed. One of them, Red, a fairy who became a human who isn't known for caring about consequences, has had time to think about exactly what Annie got her and her friends into and is laying into Annie's decisions. Annie has such a bad track record of defending herself (either making up a lie that makes her look worse or having her reasoning be revealed as incredibly lame when spoken out loud), and the plan so dangerous that going it alone wasn't an option either that Red says this for her:
    Red: Well you did what you had to do, I guess.
    • Ironically Red's two main complaints are that Annie forced/manipulated her friends into danger and that she put everyone at risk when it was Red who chose to join the team because she wanted to be with her friend, a fellow ex-fairy who was recruited for her Master of Illusion and Emotion Control powers (Red, on the other hand, has never displayed any special powers and apparently had no role in Annie's plan other than perhaps "emotional support" for her friend) and it was Red who put everyone at risk because she was distracting her. Annie's other friends point out that while she lead the endeavor, she didn't manipulate them into helping, they agreed with her that it was the right thing to do and volunteered knowing the risks.

    Web Original 
  • The 6th episode of the TV Tropes original webseries Echo Chamber has Tom claim that, when he dumped his ex-girlfriend, he was just doing what he had to do. For once, it seems like he's telling the truth.
  • PreGame Lobby parodies this trope... With a giant blue duck.
  • Survival of the Fittest villain Bobby Jacks' entire justification for 'playing the game'. (The full statement being: 'I did what I had to do to survive')
  • A common theme of the SCP Foundation, but by far the most extreme example is the SCP-231 project. Pregnant girl of undetermined age carrying what appears to be some monster that, if birthed, will be The End of the World as We Know It. The only way to prevent the birth? Procedure 110-Montauk, which (while never actually described what it entails), must be carried out once every 24 hours by 6 Class D Personnel who are also convicted sex offenders. Yes, it is as bad as you think. No, the girl cannot be put out of her misery. No, the girl cannot be drugged into unconsciousness. She has to be fully awake for the procedure to work. In fact, she is routinely given amnesia drugs so that she can't ever get used to it. Yes, it is just as horrifying a prospect as you could imagine. A hidden message on the page claims the Foundation has no intention of trying to save the girl and want whatever is inside her right where it is.
  • In Big Red, a story in The Wanderer's Library a village offers children's hearts to a monster attacking them.
  • In Friendship is Witchcraft, Applejack apparently committed one or more war crimes during the backstory. Applejack insists, "I did what I had to to protect the Apple family!"
  • RWBY: Blake once tells her team that Adam started off as a good person who became bad over time and by degrees. She said it would start as accidents that escalated over time. In the Volume 6 Character Short, flashbacks over time show this descent into villainy. When Adam kills a human who is trying to kill Ghira, Ghira is horrified by the unnecessary death and Adam also looks disturbed. However, Sienna and the other Faunus surprise him by praising him as a hero. When Blake later challenges him about the increasing frequency of human deaths occurring on his missions, she asks him how many more there will be. Adam states he doesn't know because he's out there risking his life for the Faunus cause, and people get hurt when that happens.

    Western Animation 
  • Ra's Al Ghul says this line verbatim in Batman Beyond. He had placed his mind into his daughter's body in order to cheat death.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    Number 1: You do what you have to, and I'll do what I have to.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this is used by Zuko twice; once in his second fight against Zhao to justify becoming the Blue Spirit and springing the Avatar, thus rendering himself a traitor to his own nation, and then again in season 3 to Iroh as his excuse for his actions during the season 2 finale. It's pretty notable that while the first is said with utter conviction, the second time it's used it more or less fails to even convince Zuko himself. In the case of the latter though, it's more from a pragmatic standpoint that if Iroh had joined him, he wouldn't have had to end up rotting in a cell.
  • This was Ultra Magnus' justification for creating Person of Mass Destruction Omega Supreme in Transformers Animated, showing that he was (and still is) willing to do nearly anything to end the war. Ratchet didn't agree.
    • Ironically, Ratchet says the exact same thing later when Omega questions the point of war. Then again, Omega was on the verge of dying, and Ratchet probably wanted to make him feel good in what could have been his last moments.
  • In the finale of Beast Machines Optimus, Rattrap, Cheetor and Botanica were barricaded inside Megatron's fortress while Megatron and his Vehicons were trying to get in, but were unable to as long as the shields were up. Stalemate. However, being separated from the soil meant Botanica (Rattrap's love interest) was losing her life energy. Rattrap opened a small hole in the shields in order to get Botanica out and back to the ground - which worked, but which Megatron immediately picked up on and used to destroy the base. Optimus and Cheetor flipped out at Rattrap, who used this as his justification.
    • Optimus ended up dropping the issue while noting that the shields would have failed sooner or later after the initial flip out.
  • Rocky Hauler (AKA Rhino Dump Truck) from Matchbox Hero City after realizing that Bobby and Buzz left decided to help clean up Rocket Park for the city even if it meant getting dirty.
  • The Season 3 finale of Star vs. the Forces of Evil has Eclipsa saying this after she killed her own daughter to protect the Kingdom of Mewni from her rampage.
  • In Transformers Prime, Optimus says this when he finally realizes that the war will never end until he kills Megatron. Since it's Optimus, he obviously doesn't go through with it. He get's interrupted when the literal Transformer Devil wakes up
    • Also in "Darkest Hour", when Optimus had to destroy the Omega Lock which would have revived Cybertron to save the Earth.
    Ratchet: All of our struggles and energon spilled and countless sacrifices, for NOTHING!?
    Arcee: Right decision or wrong, what's done is done...
  • In one episode of Futurama, a character says this to Fry after removing Bender's brain.

    Real Life 
  • Ronald Reagan said, on the bombing of Libya in 1986, "Colonel Qadhafi is not only an enemy of the United States. His record of subversion and aggression against the neighboring States in Africa is well documented and well known. He has ordered the murder of fellow Libyans in countless countries. He has sanctioned acts of terror in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as the Western Hemisphere. Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again."
  • Harry Truman stood by his decision to use atomic bombs against Japan, saying "I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war... I have no regrets and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again." In private diaries, however, he expressed some regrets and uncertainty.
    • Paul Tibbets, the pilot of Enola Gay that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima said in 2005 that "If you give me the same circumstances, I'd do it again". Crew members of Enola Gay and Bockscar (the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki) said similar things, except Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, who had a My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • This is actually the law whenever an aircraft of any stripe has an emergency. The commander of the craft is authorized to do what he has to do to minimize the harm and prevent catastrophe, and any property damage or deaths that happen as a result of this are legally just collateral damage. Specifically, the US regulations say (as an example) "In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency." but it follows it with "Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator." Short version: You can do what you have to do, but you better have a good reason.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that a Prince should not let his morals impede the running of a state.
  • Josef Stalin was (in)famous for using this as justifying his actions. Along with the general claim that he was creating a new socialist utopia, Stalin also specifically said that the USSR had to industrialize, and quickly, or else it would be overwhelmed by the rest of the world. He said the following exactly 10 years, 3 months and 12 days from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa:
    We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us.
  • During World War II, in the Pacific Theater, a fighter pilot crashed upon landing and was trapped in the burning wreckage. The first officer to arrive on the scene, hearing the pilot's screams as he was burned alive and knowing that the firefighting equipment to put out the fire and extricate him from the wreck would never get there in time, promptly drew his sidearm and killed the pilot, sparing him an agonizing death. There wasn't even any talk of a court-martial, as everyone knew that he'd basically had the balls to do something unpleasant that had to be done.
  • After World War I, Italian general Luigi Cadorna, best known for his draconian discipline measures, inability to conceive a different tactic from the frontal attack, practically establishing a dictature in everything but name and getting crushed at Caporetto before being sacked, wrote a book in which he justified almost all his actions with necessity. Doing only frontal attacks? There was no time nor resources to retrain the soldiers for different tactics, and he still managed to partly doing it and create the most feared special forces of the war. Retiring most troops and all airplanes from Libya, thus crippling the efforts to crush the Senussi rebellion while it's still weak? He needed them to fight Austria-Hungary, and they could reconquer Libya relatively easily once the war was won. The dictature? Necessary to fight a war without being crippled by Italy's Obstructive Bureaucrats that caused the Italian Army to enter the war underequipped, and he could have taken over and established an actual dictature whenever he wanted (he actually got some flak from Mussolini for backing out of a coup attempt). That draconian discipline? It had to be done. What's worse, is that, aside for the draconian discipline, he was right.
  • Following Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, his successor Gerald Ford gave him a pardon for any and all wrongdoings he may have committed as president, saying "Our long national nightmare is over." This proved to be a very controversial decision, and he knew it, but now many say he did the right thing as Nixon's trial would have further divided and weakened the country, especially on the eve of its Bicentennial. As Ford put it in his 1979 autobiography A Time to Heal:
    Ford: America needed recovery, not revenge. The hate had to be drained and the healing begun.
  • During his recent interview with Sean Penn and Kate DeCastillio, notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman listed this as the reason he entered the drug business and ended up heading his cartel.