Who watches the Watchmen?

The phrase "Who watches the watchmen" appears multiple times through out the novel in the form of graffiti:

The phrase has an interesting duality to it, in that it can be interpreted in two incredibly different ways

The first of which is "Who will protect those who protect us?"

We first see this trope openly portrayed through Rorschach's joke about a clown named Pagliacci, a metaphor for the Comedian himself.

In the joke, Pagliacci seeks a doctor because he sees life as harsh and cruel, which scares him. As treatment, the doctor recommends him go see the great clown that is in town, not knowing that Pagliacci himself is the clown.

The Comedian faces the same kind of conflict. He knows what Adrian Veidt plans on doing, but has no one to go to for help.

With this, we see the Comedian beginning to realize the truth in the second interpretation of "Who watches the watchmen"

"Who will protect Us from those who protect us?"
Who decides what is right and what is wrong?
Who decides if the lives of few are worth the lives of millions
Should it be those who protect us?
what if they are wrong?
Should it be us?
What if we are wrong?

The novel brings up the question of human ethics, asking the reader to consider who decides what right and wrong. All people inherently have a set of ethics, but what dictates which ethics are the right ones? Is saving the lives of millions worth taking the life of one? What about the lives of 10? The lives of 100? Where is the line drawn?

In the novel, Adrian ultimately makes this decision killing millions in order to avoid WW3, but even he is unsure, and can be seen asking Dr. Manhattan if he made the correct decision. His choices will save the lives of many people, but he struggles to justify the ones he's killed. This can be compared to the real world where

I think that the obvious answer, and the one the world currently uses, is a democracy. Our "Watchmen" are the police, and military, which follow the same laws that we have voted on. But this is solution is flawed, and relies on the assumption that a greater amount of people will be right than are wrong. Initially, Adrian's actions are seen as despicable, but the characters all end up accepting his views, except for Rorschach. I also at first thought that Adrian made the wrong choices, but then I started to question the ethics of it, and was glad it was only a visual novel and not real life. But after further analysis, I realized that this situation is incredibly similar to Harry S. Truman's decision to drop two atomic bombs on populated cities, in order to stop the war.

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