American drone strikes in the Middle East have done more harm than good
Debate Rounds (4)
Round 2 & 3 - Constructives and rebuttals
Round 4 - Summary of the debate. No new arguments, just reasons why you should win.
Burden of proof is on Pro.
All types of arguments, including kritiks and semantics, are allowed. If an argument is unfair and should not be used in the debate it is up to the other side to prove that it is.
This is the final round of the January Beginners' Tournament
CONTENTION 1 - CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: It is well-established that drone strikes have killed hundreds of innocent civilians who have committed no crime other than being physically near suspected terrorists. The New York Times estimated that 476 civilians have been killed by drone strikes. out of 3,852 total deaths (1), but that is a conservative estimate. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates between 423 and 965 civilians were killed by drones in Pakistan alone (2).
Drones inevitably kill innocent civilians. A leaked intelligence report mentioned separately by the Huffington Post and the Washington Times, which are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, mentioned that 90% of drone strikes kill innocent people (3)(4). Drone operators are so far removed from their targets that they feel like they are playing a video game and do not register the full moral impact of what they are doing.
In Yemen, a 13-year-old boy lost his father and brother to drones, and lived with nightmares about drones until he was killed by a drone strike himself (5). This is an example of how drones not only harm those who are hit by them, but also harm those who are nearby, causing emotional traumas including PTSD.
It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that drone strikes kill thousands of people, and that at least hundreds of them are civilians. But how do we know how many of the reported kills are actually civilians? For all we know, the number of civilian deaths could be in the thousands. Since we know that 90% of drone victims are not the intended targets, the number of dead civilians could be much higher than what the New York Times reported.
CONTENTION 2 - TERRORIST RECRUITMENT:
Drone strikes are intended to prevent terrorism. They are not effective for that purpose because they are an effective recruiting tool, enabling terrorist groups to replace the people they lose to the drone strikes. Four former Air Force issued a report confirming that drone strikes create hatred of the United States and are used as a recruiting tool by ISIS and other terrorist groups. (6)
Think of how we reacted when enemies from the Middle East bombed us. We started two wars and Middle-Easterners faced more prejudice in the US. Why wouldn't they react similarly when we bomb them?
CONTENTION 3 - DRONE STRIKES ARE ILLEGAL: International law only allows the use of the weapons fired by drones in active conflict zones. The drone strikes happen in countries where we are not currently at war, and where the US has not been authorized to use military force (7). The ACLU has condemned the US drone strikes as illegal (8), and President Gerald Ford's Executive Order #11,905 made it illegal for the CIA to assassinate people (9). It is wrong for the US to unlawfully kill people, and sets the precedent that America can do whatever it wants regardless of the law. This is very dangerous and can lead to the US being more of an imperialist nation that engages in unjustified aggression.
Drone strikes effectively fight terrorism without killing many civilians.
The graph below shows the number of drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004: 
The next graph shows the number of Taliban/Al-Qaeda deaths caused by the strikes compared to civilian deaths: 
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Based on the two graphs, there is a correlation between the number of drone strikes and the number of Taliban/Al-Qaeda deaths, but that correlation does not apply to civilian deaths. 117 drone strikes in 2010 killed 801 terrorists and only 14 civilians. Look at my second source to see a similar pattern in Yemen. 
"The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates between 423 and 965 civilians were killed by drones in Pakistan alone."
That's less than a thousand deaths across a 12 year period. Al-Qaeda killed more than three times as many people in a single day in 2001. The organization had 18,000 members in 2004, but by 2011 that number had been reduced to less than 4,000. Drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, but attacks on terrorists have likely saved thousands of lives. 
ISIS is using drone strikes to recruit people. However, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have lost so many members due to drone strikes that the same will likely happen to ISIS eventually.
Drone strikes are illegal
This is irrelevant. Breaking the law is not inherently bad, and drone strikes save lives, so they are justified whether it is legal or not.
I do agree that drones strikes kill terrorists, but my opponent conceded that drone strikes are an effective recruiting tool, so killing terrorists with drones is like playing whack-a-mole. The chain of causation between drone strikes killing terrorists and civilian lives being saved is questionable and difficult to prove. The situation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas will always allow more terrorists to appear (1), and if you inspire a new terrorist for every terrorist you kill, you"re just treating the symptom rather than the disease.
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: Even in a world with drone strikes, terrorism is still common - look at the attacks in Paris and Ankara. It is impossible to prove that more people would have been killed by terrorist attacks in a world without drones than were killed by drones in the real world. Drone strikes are terrorism in their own way, as it has been conceded that they affect civilians in target countries similarly to how terrorist acts affect us.
TERRORIST RECRUITMENT: This contention flows through, as my opponent concedes terrorists are using the drone strikes as a recruiting tool. His claim that "Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have lost so many members due to drone strikes that the same will likely happen to ISIS eventually" is irrelevant to the resolution and weighing mechanism of this debate because the resolution is that drone strikes HAVE done more harm than good, which means that we will only be looking at what has happened in the past and not on purely speculative things in the future.
This will be key to the outcome of the debate because it negates all of Con"s offense about how drone strikes weaken terrorist groups. However, since ISIS definitely uses these drone strikes as a recruiting tool, some of the thousands they have murdered in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere could be due to drone strikes. Due to the conceded point about terrorist recruitment I will have access not only to impacts of civilians killed directly by drones but also to some impacts related to the rise of ISIS.
DRONE STRIKES ARE ILLEGAL: My opponent concedes that they are illegal but says that is irrelevant. It actually does matter because government should have more of a responsibility to obey the law than ordinary people - particularly that of the United States. It has caused harm to the people of Pakistan and Yemen, even those who were not affected directly, to have their national sovereignty violated by these drones. It is immoral for governments to act in the way that the United States did with the drone strikes, and because the phrase "more harm than good" implies a moral judgment due to the fact that "harm" and "good" are subjective terms of value, this contention about the illegality of drone strikes flows through and will be extended.
I urge a vote in favor of the Affirmation of this resolution because of my how my contentions outweigh those of my opponent.
Pro's rebuttal of my argument
"His chart is directly contradicted by Pakistan"s own foreign ministry, which claims at least 400 civilian deaths."
My chart says that 253 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan. Look at the bars that represent civilian casualties, then imagine their size being doubled. Taliban/Al-Qaeda casualties would still tower over them. Here's a link to the chart: http://www.debate.org...
"The accuracy of information from Long War Journal is questionable because it contradicts the reports of more widely-recognized news sources, such as the New York Times."
How widely recognized a source is does not automatically make it more reliable than a less widely recognized source.
"Long War Journal itself admits that the percentage of civilian casualties is much higher in Yemen, about 15% of the total who were killed."
15% is not a large percentage. In addition, most civilian casualties in Yemen were in 2009, a single year. Every other year had much lower percentages and one of them (2015) had over a hundred Al-Qaeda deaths and no civilian deaths. 
"If you inspire a new terrorist for every terrorist you kill, you"re just treating the symptom rather than the disease."
We don't inspire a new terrorist for every terrorist we kill. Where are the statistics to prove that?
Conclusion: Drone strikes kill many more terrorists than civilians, thus preventing terrorist attacks that could kill many more innocent people.
"Even in a world with drone strikes, terrorism is still common."
That doesn't mean that terrorism wouldn't be more common without drone strikes. Killing thousands of terrorists makes it harder for them to carry out attacks.
"Drone strikes are terrorism in their own way, as it has been conceded that they affect civilians in target countries similarly to how terrorist acts affect us."
Like I said before, the total number of people killed by drone strikes is much less than 9/11 casualties. Terrorists killed more in a single day than drones have ever killed.
See my response to the second paragraph in your rebuttal.
Drone Strikes are Illegal
This debate is about whether drone strikes have done more harm than good. Take saving lives, then weigh that against breaking the law. The former is clearly much more significant.
In a world where drone strikes inflame the fundamentalist ideology that is the root cause of terrorism, it is impossible to know whether they have actually made terror groups weaker now than they were before. But we can know for certain that they have killed hundreds of civilians.
As for the quality of our sources, I encourage the judges to come to their own conclusions about which sources are preferable.
Also, my opponent conceded that drone strikes are illegal under international law. It is a harm in itself when the US violates the sovereignty of other countries.
I have proven that drone strikes cause more harm than good because they cause civilian casualties, function as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and are illegal under international law.
The resolution of the debate is "American drone strikes in the Middle East have done more harm than good." As Con, I have to prove that American drone strikes in the Middle East have done more good than harm.
If we trust Pro's source, we can assume that 400 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, plus 105 in Yemen. Pro also claims that drone strikes recruit as many terrorists as they kill, but he has not proven that. Pro also says that drone strikes are against international law, but he has not explained why that is bad.
According to my chart, 2492 members of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, plus 663 in Yemen.
3155 terrorist deaths clearly outweigh 505 civilians; therefore, drone strikes have done more good than harm.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Peepette 7 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Three main points are made, civilian casualties, terrorist recruitment, and illegality of drones. Pro outlines the topic as an analysis of net benefits, more harm than good. 1st: Despite a pissing match over #'s and sources, Con fails to have weight in his rebuttals to prove that militant deaths # out weight civilian casualties as doing more good than harm. 2nd item: Pro, strikes are a recruiting tool, civilians die, hate US go to the enemy. Con does not negate but, rebuts that the sheer # of dead militants out weight what can be recruited. 3rd item: The US is using drones in areas not authorized. Con: Illegal or not, strikes save lives, breaking the law is irrelevant because it does more good than harm. It was fairly close match but, Cons rebuttals were not strong enough on all points. S&G tie both had command of the language. Sources tied, contentions equally weighed. Conduct, neither resorted to any form of rudeness.
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