Good intentions are not a guarantee of good results. Furthermore, if you put too much emphasis on the intentions, you relatively devalue the actual outcomes. And then you start rewarding people for signalling purity of thought (often by doing stupid things, because those send a stronger signal), instead of actually improving the world (and having your thoughts somewhat contaminated by the interaction with the real world).
He was unwilling to accept that his initial feelings of empathy could have been misguided and led to a policy that didn’t make sense. He finished by telling me that he “would rather be acting in compassion, even if it was less effective for the cause.”
“Less effective” doesn’t feel scary, but promoting a stupid policy might actually achieve the opposite of the intended outcome.
The terrifying lesson is that most people in history who helped to make horrible things happen probably also did it with good intentions. It is hard to teach this lesson, because it will be perceived as taking the side of the bad guys. Maybe we should teach it using fictional examples.