Intervening to create democracy in third-world countries is the obligation of capable societies
Rules of debate:
- Round 1 is for acceptance and definition of terms.
- No new arguments in Round 5
- Make your own argument, don't plagiarising someone else's.
- Keep to the topic
Important terms have been defined using Google Dictionary:
Intervening - Come between so as to prevent or alter a result or course of events
- he acted outside his authority when he intervened in the dispute
- their forces intervened to halt the attack
Democracy - A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
Third-world - The developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America
Obligation - An act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound; a duty or commitment
Capable - Having the ability, fitness, or quality necessary to do or achieve a specified thing
Society - The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community
My opponent should feel free to mention historical events to back up his/her case, but I don't want this to degenerate to an argument based on those events, so please try to stick to the principles as much as possible.
This is my first debate, so I'm still getting used to this stuff! (go easy, but not too easy if you know what I mean)
Who will accept the debate?
Thanks OMGJustinBieber for accepting the debate. Can I first say, the research I’ve done suggests a lot of people on this site like to refer to you as a ‘she’ because of your profile pic, there’ll be none of that coming from me!
Before I begin I will seek to clarify a comment that was made (I currently don't have the ability to comment due to technical difficulties with DDO's text message identity validation in NZ). Although the methodology to be used to support the flourishing of democracy, I don’t believe anyone has a problem with diplomacy. I am talking about when diplomacy fails, when national leaders refuse to respond positively to calls for change from outside. This is, after all, why I’m talking about intervention.
Well then, without any further ado I will open the debate. Good luck to you, Con.
The title of the debate is unfortunately a bit wordy, but it’s a difficult one to adequately convey in a few words. The idea however is both well-known and often pondered – that when something goes wrong in a third world country, for example, a head of state is assassinated or a government suppresses the rights of its citizens, such an injustice may move us to want something done about it.
The decision to forego the respect of a nation's sovereignty is, of course, not the first step that should be taken when considering ways to sustain democratic processes, but all too often a particular situation will raise the heckles of NGOs or other interested parties. The media get brought into the fray, and suddenly the world knows about it, and every man and his dog has an opinion about what should be done.
I’d like to defend the following stance in relation to the topic: that if a country is capable of entering the country and restoring general order, it should. Here are my reasons:
Con, you’ll need to knock down all 6 arguments in order to win this debate, and after that I hope you intend to make a case of your own as to why NOT intervening IS an obligation. To shed the burden of proof by suggesting that capable societies aren’t obliged to intervene but would be justified if they did would be a rather lazy line to take. Whatever you do, make some sort of positive case for your position rather than just attack my arguments!
So there it is. I await your response, OMGJustinBieber.
I welcome my opponent as this is his first debate on DDO. I'll cut directly to his arguments as I don't object to anything he has said thus far.
C2: Democracy does not inherently protect human rights. A constitutional (liberal) democracy (i.e. a republic) does provide a buffer against majoritarian rule, but other forms of democracy do not structurally contain these "inviolables" but rather subject them to the whims of the population. Even in constitutional democracies there are courts which interpret the extent of constitutional clauses which may result in a perversion of their original intent. Ultimately, those who are in power have the ability to overturn long-standing conceptions of "rights" as they hold a monopoly on force regardless of the governmental system.
leopardforest forfeited this round.
I offer my sincere apologies for not meeting the time deadline for Round 3. I have been moving house this weekend, and don't currently have an internet connection at home.
Thank you, Con, for your words of welcome. It seems we’re in for a very interesting conversation over these next 3 rounds! First, some comments about the flow of the debate so far:
Comment 1: Since I take the Pro position, should I be using the “P1, P2…Pn” set, or are P and C used relative to one’s own argument, i.e. points for Con would be P and points against Con are C? For this round, I will use P and C as they stand relative to my arguments.
Comment 2: Please explain what you meant by “TURN”? (as used in Round 2 Con P1)
Comment 3: Nice Hitchens quote, and aptly raised. I believe that arguments based primarily on past events are too easily corrupted by bias, incorrectly transmitted information and incomplete context. That’s why my preference is to build a case primarily on reasonable sub-contentions and syllogism rather than use past events as the primary evidence (it is to this method of arguing that I referred in Round 1). I hope you will accept this interpretation of evidence, though it contrasts to your requested “case study”.
Now it’s time for me to attempt to show the weaknesses in Con’s case.
C1: Your point in summary appears to be that developed, democratic countries do not have the means to intervene in every nation that has a flawed system of governance. I agree, but your point is unimportant in the context of this debate. The debate topic is that “intervention to create democracy in third world countries is the obligation of capable societies. If a society is not capable of intervening because it is too busy helping someone else out, I argue they have no obligation to intervene additionally and concurrently in that other nation. To this end, I made a comparable point last round, P1, that “can implies ought”, which is developed below.
Operation Iraqi Freedom has certainly taken its toll on the American economy and society, as well as that of those nations who contributed to the campaign. The problem with you bringing up Iraq is that the war should never have started in the first place. Consider the Baker Report, commissioned before 9/11. One cannot help but see that the idea was not about ridding Iraq of WMDs or of toppling Saddam Hussein. America’s objective was to secure a reliable source of oil for the next few years. As for the folks who were persuaded by the wartime propaganda and joined the cause, they should have backed out too as soon as it became apparent to them that there were no WMDs or WMPs to be found.
C2: I take it the thrust of your point is to suggest democracy is not an inherently superior model. A working democracy gives people what they want. Your case is an interesting for sure, so let’s examine your argument a little closer:
If I’m reading you correctly, you’ve said that in Egypt the flourishing of democracy was responsible for a setback to women’s and homosexual rights. May I suggest you alter your wording to read “equality of treatment regardless of sex or sexual orientation” as no rights are exclusively afforded to women and homosexuals. My response is that democracy is the best protection a country can have against violators of human rights. That’s not to say that in some democratic countries, like Egypt, that people will always choose to vote in politicians that do the best job of protecting equality of treatment for everyone, but compare this with the protection offered by communism or fascism for example, where there is next to no protection for these individuals' rights.
Let’s now return to my arguments and see how they fared.
P1: “Can implies ought”. Sorry, I totally misread that source, and what I wrote was much too ambiguous. However, it is not my intention to drop the point, in fact I believe this idea is at the very core of my case. Let me try a syllogism to explain what I meant and resurrect its pertinence:
Premise 1: Agents encounter situations where ethical responsibility is in play (We must make a choice)
Premise 2: An agent does good by choosing outcomes where their ethical responsibility is intact (To help is to do good)
Premise 3: Excepting limited time or resources, agents have no sufficient reason not to do good (We should help unless we are already helping someone else)
Conclusion 1: Agents with the ability to help in a given situation have ethical responsibility to help (Can implies ought)
Now it should be clear that the argument was not designed to imply that you have ethical responsibility to break the arm of your brother who is supposedly 60 years your junior. Also, I’m happy to admit that this argument implies that democracy is a good thing without giving proof – that burden is sustained by P2.
P2: “Democracy ensures human rights”. You raised some good points against P2 last time, but as contentious as the point may be, I believe the point still stands in my favour. What you’ve attempted to do is to prove that some democracies aren’t perfect to an extent, while once again ignoring the darkness of dictatorships, military juntas, or other equally barbaric systems of governance. I’m repeating myself, but democracy as a system of governance is the best at protecting human rights.
The raison d’etre of the point is to establish the goodness of democracy, and by extension, that creating or sustaining democracy in countries where human rights are threatened is also a good thing. So long as I can do this, the associated premise achieves its task.
P3: “Citizens incapable of restoring democracy” Regarding the claim I made last round that the majority of people in third world countries that are capable of overhauling the government are part of the problem, this point is probably going to amount to a matter of opinion, unless someone can find some aggregated statistics on nations deposing bad systems of governance.
But let’s skip the opinion tennis and talk about the options instead. If a country’s citizens are unable to depose of a dictator themselves, it’s perfectly fair for them to seek help from Uncle Sam and his friends. Conversely, if they are able to, this usually doesn't come without years and years of suffering under the same man before positive changes happen. Then there are the cases that nobody has been able to fix up yet, like Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered under Mugabe for 32 years, and while Mugabe is alive he will continue to oppress his people.
P4: “Diplomacy will not resolve issues” Perhaps a better way to have stated this point would be to say “Diplomacy will not resolve all the issues all the time”. As I haven’t done this from the beginning, I’ve left myself open to be misinterpreted. Yes I’m taking an active view of intervention, but only once diplomatic attempts and trade embargoes bear no fruit. To define intervention as including diplomatic measures would make the topic undebatable.
P5: “The UN can help”. Of course the point adds to my argument. If a country expects to preserve its integrity when trying to bring about democracy in another land, it had sure better do it in a diplomatic way on a global scale, especially if there is disagreement from some. The UN helps to establish legitimacy to an intervention. If you wish to maintain your objection Con, please show how UN-birthed legitimacy does not help.
P6: "Intervention creates stability" I’m running out of characters. If my opponent wishes to host a further debate on the topic of this point, I’d happily accept, especially since you’ve shown interest in its development.
The bottom line so far: Con has attacked some minor points around the periphery of my case, but key points of P1-3 are still standing strong. Tune in next round for P4-6 developed.
Response to comments:
C1: Use whatever you like, as long as I understand it and it's structured properly I don't mind.
C2: Just a subpoint.
C3: I'll address this throughout the argument in my responses.
C1: "The means to intervene" is a little relative and ambiguous. I think my point still stands here because the US does have enormous military spending relative to the rest of the world and holds one of the strongest militaries in the modern era. Pro's contention implies the initiation of many conflicts in the third world given our capacities. Pro returns to "can implies ought" which, I have mentioned, is contingent on whether we accept the principle at hand. Perhaps if Pro proved the principle this point could accepted. If consequences are viewed as morally relevant - an issue that hasn't been explicitly addressed, but I believe so - then Pro's argument implies interventions across numerous African states. Such an intervention would undoubtedly carry an enormous cost financially and in terms of lives.
It's a little peculiar to see Pro so adamently against toppling Saddam Hussein, an obvious dictator, when he is arguing that intervention against dictators to create democracies is correct. This at first glance appears to be a backpedal from Pro as democracy-building was exactly what occured in Iraq.
C2: Fair enough, when I refer to "gay rights" or "women's rights" I am referring to equal treatment. Unfortunately, Pro refuses to reference case studies here and build a case for democracy which leaves his responses at mere assertions. I have argued that there are structural caveats in the democratic system and that the system is not intrinsically superior to a dictatorship, but Pro refuses to cite case studies because, as noted in comment 3, he believes they are unreliable. Pro has made no serious objection here as my original argument was that there is nothing intrinsically superior - or that a dictatorship could theoretically be superior in terms of the welfare of the people - than a democratic alternative. If Pro is going to make his case that we must systematically intervene in third world nations governed by a dictatorship he must account for these cases.
C1: Yes, as mentioned earlier the acceptance of "can implies ought" is the ethical principle to which the statement is concerned. Pro must make his case before we can accept this.
C2: I've mentioned structural caveats in democracy, Pro concedes this and responds that in general democracy has a better track record in terms of human rights than dictatorships. However, Pro must account for cases where this is not the case as up to now he has not seriously questioned the notion that there may be dictatorships that are more favorable than a democratic option. Also, an enormous caveat here that has not been given due time is the instability if not outright violence in the wake in the collapse of dictatorships. Pro absolutely must address this despite his disdain of case studies, and the French Revolution is a prime example of this. Any quick transition of power is likely to bring instability, as was the case in post-Saddam Iraq.
C3: Again, mere assertion.
C4: Accepted - this isn't really a point of argument but a point of clarification for Pro.
C5: Like C4, this is just a point of clarification that doesn't really add to Pro's argument. In reality there is no way the UN would be supportive of a wide scale intervention in third world dictatorships. Many of these third world countries have seats on the UN and such a measure would be very radical.
C6: Pro runs out of space here so I have nothing to respond to. The debate may take place on a later date.
I'll reiterate my statement made in R2: Pro's case must be two pronged that a) Democracy is inherently superior in terms of upholding human rights than a dictatorship and b) We have a moral obligation to intervene across the third world to accomplish this goal. Pro refuses to engage case studies unfortunately which seriously limits the scope of his case. Nor does b follow from a. The case for "a" must address both case studies and responses to the caveats proposed earlier. Pro also does not respond to the ambiguity in deciding which countries ought to be intervened in terms of whether we're limiting ourselves to pure dictatorships or whether hybrid or corrupt democracies are worth intervention.
Pro thusfar has made no serious counter-point to my claim regarding the staggering costs in terms of human lives and financial resources this policy would entail. Furthermore, he merely posits that democracy is on balance superior to dictatorships in terms of human rights. This statement does not account for cases where that proposition is untrue or where establishing a democracy has led to unintended consequences in the form of guerilla warfare (Iraq, Afghanistan), political turmoil culimationing in terror and executions (French Revolution), or geopolitical instability.
Many of Pro's points (P1, P3, P4, P5) are not directly relevant to the moral proposition at stake. Whether the UN intervenes, diplomacy fails, the citizens are unable to overthrow the dictator, or "can implies ought" are arguments that are essentially putting the cart before the horse. Before we can accept these points as meaningful is contrived from accepting the basic moral principle stated in the resolution. P2 and P6 do take up the issue of consequences, but P6 is not argued due to lack of space and P2 I question in the form of caveats in the democratic system and benevolent dictatorships. The issue of the morality of intervening as opposed to simply acknowledging one system as superior in the domain of human rights is one area of the argument that Pro has neglected. Are we to essentially declare war on every nation which fails to live up to the standards of American democracy?
Back to you, Pro.
And so we enter the final round. During this time I’ll first sweep away some glaring flaws in my opponent’s argument, then try and bring a sense of closure to the ideas that I brought up.
Are there good reasons to believe that intervention is not an obligation? I think not. Con raises two arguments, one of which is D.O.A, and the other which is fraught with difficulty.
Con’s argument from cost can be reasonably ignored, since it has been demonstrably refuted. The core of his argument is that “the cost of intervening in all 55 of these [authoritarian regimes] as well as against rising superpower China would be staggering to the United States and would completely demolish our standing in the world.”
This argument can’t hold any water in a debate where the topic is about obligation based on capacity. Con rightly points out that if America tried to unilaterally intervene in a country like China it wouldn’t work, in other words, that America is not capable of doing this. However, this argument is self-contradictory in a debate about capacity - a society capable of intervention that is not capable of sustaining the cost is a self-contradiction, like a married bachelor or a jobless employee.
Over the course of the debate Con has accused me of making unfounded assertions, but Con has actually made plenty himself, especially in this argument. He says that
“granted the certainty of disapproval from the UN over the prospect of directly intervening against all non-democracies this will lead to the US inevitably committing unilateral aggression”
Plenty of multilateral agreement has happened outside of the UN. Continuing with Con’s America-centric view of the world, America has strong connections with many countries in the world, notwithstanding its special relationship with England. There is no need for America to pursue a global takeover on its own.
Notice too how Con has misread my rebuttal to this point in Round 4 – at no point did I say I was against toppling Saddam Hussein. My argument is that America was not motivated to intervene in Iraq because of Saddam, but because of oil. If oil had not been a factor, I think intervention would have better ground to stand on.
Con’s only other point is the lack of inherent superiority in democracy. Con and I are in a head-to-head contest to show whether democracy is a superior system of governance. The only problem is, Con comes with no alternative, and his argument is really just a rebuttal to my second point. Back in Round 2 he asked me to give a two-pronged case, one prong of which was to show democracy was inherently superior. So, belatedly, here it is:
Premise 1: Democracy offers comparably good protection against violations of human rights
Con’s rebuttal seems to focus on democracy’s shortcomings, but nowhere does he give a comparison to other models and their treatment of human rights, and I think we can read a lot into his silence on this. Con is welcome to advocate a rival system of governance, but unless and until he does, we should all accept the conclusion.
Having explored Con’s case, we must now ask ourselves if there are good reasons to think that intervention is an obligation. I’ve given you successful arguments that solidify each point of the topic, and Con’s attempts to rail against these points have come up short.
First, I presented “can implies ought”. Con has recently charged me with not making a case for accepting it, i.e. asserting without evidence. Did he miss my argument in Round 4? In case you did too, let’s have another look… (by the way, this is prong 2 of 2)
Premise 1: Agents encounter situations where ethical responsibility is in play (We must make a choice)
Note that Con has not interacted at all with this argument, so I am taking it he has no objection to make to it. He has the liberty to attack any of the 3 premises of the argument in Round 5, but unless and until he does, we must assume that the principle is now accepted by Con.
Next, I made a point that democracy is the best system of governance to ensure human rights are protected. I could have made other points about democracy, such as its stability or representation, but I chose human rights protection because it is almost exclusively the violation of human rights that gives any legitimacy to an intervention. For example, a country whose companies pillage the economic resources of that country would not be intervened, at least not in the active sense I’m talking about.
As I said before, Con has had plenty of time to present a different system of governance as better than democracy at protecting human rights. This would have been the simplest rebuttal to the point, but he has not done this. Let this speak volumes to you that democracy does the best job. Remember that if democracy is the best system of governance to protect human rights, we do a good thing to displace a system that is relatively poor at protecting human rights.
So then, why do we need intervention to create democracy, why can’t countries just set it up themselves? The answer is because citizens are incapable of establishing democracy on their own. The average Joe who isn’t permitted to freely speak his mind is likely to be cut down by police or surveillance groups if he tries to bring people together to create change.
I couldn’t think of a more perfect example than Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean farmer turned suppressed political voice. Once a part of a farming board, Tsvangirai rose to prominence because he spoke for the people. He wanted to get Mugabe overthrown for the unjust allocation of farms to anybody who called themselves a veteran from the civil war of the 1970s. Long story short, Tsvangirai has been arrested, tortured, mocked and vilified by the Mugabe government. After more than ten years of political activism, Tsvangirai is still determined to depose Mugabe, but while voting systems are rigged, Mugabe won’t leave power until he dies.
Con makes no comment on the nepotism that is rife in third world countries, and insists that I’m baldly asserting that the wealth and resources of a country are found in people who will do anything to protect their privileged position. Do I really have to remind Con of Africa’s post-independence nightmares, or mention military juntas like Myanmar (pre-November) and Fiji? These political systems need to retire themselves to history and let their people be free.
In his rebuttal to Point 5 we see Con’s favourite straw man appear again, that obligation is not limited by capability. The inverse of can implies ought is can’t implies needn’t, but Con is still convinced that I’m arguing that all third world countries should be intervened at once, like some terrestrial version of Mars Attacks. Need I say anything more?
To summarise, I have given Con the two-pronged case he requested to see, and Con has failed to make a substantive objection or case of his own. For this reason, you owe me your vote.
That concludes my case. Thank you, Con, for a lively first debate. I’ve appreciated your clarification (and patience!) and feel welcomed into the DDO community. I look forward to a challenge from you to debate Point 6 on your terms which I leave to you to instigate if you wish...
OMGJustinBieber forfeited this round.
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