One of the problems with Battlestar Galactica's premise is that given the Cylons' opening gambit--the extermination of all but a tiny fragment of a civilization that once numbered in the billions--there was nothing, absolutely nothing, the humans could do that would measure up. Gina's mistreatment, all of the indignities visited on Sharon, Hera's kidnapping, Leoben's torture, the bombings on Caprica, old and new--none of them come close to evening the scale. For a show supposedly more concerned with exploring the darkness inherent in the human psyche, this was a major hurdle. Which is why, I suspect, the writers came up with the possibility of reciprocal genocide.
Now, just to be clear: there's still a difference, and not a small one either, between committing genocide against an unsuspecting population who are barely even aware of your existence, and committing it against a species who has previously committed it against you, and who you know are dedicated to finishing the job. For the humans to use the genocide weapon would obviously mean buying real estate in a new circle of hell, but the Cylons would still have a much better view of the frozen lake and Satan's three mouths.
That said, the decision is not clear-cut, and I appreciate the way the writers express that ambiguity. That is to say, on the macro level, I'm pleased with the range of opinions expressed. On the micro level, I'm not sure I buy the mouths those opinions are coming out of. Lee's sudden decision to deny the Cylons' personhood, for instance, doesn't work for me. Granted, we've never seen him express any feelings to the contrary, but two and a half seasons into a show's run is a little late in the game for the writers to announce that character X's opinions about subject Y, with which they are confronted daily, are as violent and as intense as Lee's are in this episode. I can't help but wonder whether Lee's stance originally belonged to Tigh, although obviously I'm glad to have the character talk about something other than his weight.
It makes sense for Helo to stand for a complete moral rejection of the weapon, although his 'what if there is but one righteous man in the city?' argument might have carried more weight if our recent glimpses into Cylon society hadn't made it abundantly clear that no, there is not. Which brings me to the sole exception, and I don't see how I can be expected to believe that Sharon will do nothing to save her people. But then, it's not as if any of the Sharons have been getting consistent characterization this season. One of my problems with the very ending of "Lay Down Your Burdens II" was my difficulty in believing that the Boomer we saw in "Downloaded"--who was, by far, the most human Cylon we'd ever seen--would so calmly accept that traveling to New Caprica and subjugating the humans there could ever end well. In "Occupation"/"Precipice," however, it turned out that Boomer had gone completely plastic. Her conversation with Cally, however brilliant an example of two people speaking the same language and not understanding each other at all, had almost nothing to do with the Boomer we'd known for an entire season, and certainly not with the angry, self-righteous young woman we met in "Downloaded". Along those same lines, I simply don't see what could have caused the transformation in Sharon during the missing year that would instill in her such a violent loyalty to her adopted people. Until the show bridges that gap, I won't be able to connect with the character, and her scenes in this episode therefore rang hollow.
In a lot of ways, "A Measure of Salvation" is strongly reminiscent of "Resurrection Ship," in that in both stories the leaders of the fleet are faced with a choice between morality and expediency. To choose the former is to risk not only their own lives but the survival of their species, and the condemnation of later generations is ameliorated by the knowledge that those generations might not exist if a morally untenable choice is not made. As she did in "Resurrection Ship," Roslin chooses to bloody her hands (and where, might I ask, are Adama's 'we have to deserve survival' scruples when he calmly accepts that decision?), and just as in that earlier episode, the decision is taken out of them. Like "Resurrection Ship," "A Measure of Salvation" cops out in its ending, choosing to have its cake and eat it too. In "Resurrection Ship," Adama decides not to kill Admiral Cain, but Gina does the dirty work for him. Roslin chooses to kill the Cylons en masse in "A Measure of Salvation," but Helo belays that order. Both episodes choose to maintain a static perception of a character's moral standing--Adama is staunch, Roslin is flexible--without forcing them to face the real-world consequences of their choice--Adama's might have doomed the fleet, Roslin's might have cost humanity its collective soul.
It's a cowardly solution, and to be perfectly honest, not even a necessary one. It would have been possible to release the genocidal weapon and still continue the show's story--after all, the Cylons' genocide wasn't 100% effective. Wouldn't it have been fascinating to watch the ragged remnants of the Cylon nation pursuing Galactica, looking for vengeance and their own chance at a new beginning? I can't help but wish that Galactica's writers had been willing to take us down this path, and truly tell a story about a war in which neither side holds the moral high ground.