The Instigator
Pro (for)
14 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

March Beginners Tournament Round 2: Targeted Killing

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 4/27/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 506 times Debate No: 90255
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




Hello everyone and welcome to the second and penultimate round, of the March Beginners Tournament hosted by our very own president, Bsh1! I will be going against OreosAreCool.

Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool

Targeted Killing - Premeditated acts of lethal force employed by states in times of peace or during armed conflict to eliminate specific individuals outside their custody.
Morally Permissible - An action that is not morally unjust.
Foreign Policy - A government's strategy in dealing with other nations.

1) No forfeits
2) No "kritiks" of the topic (e.g. suffering doesn"t exist, humans deserve death, etc.)
3) My opponent accepts all definitions and waives his/her right to add resolutional definitions
4) For all undefined terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate
5) The BOP will be shared. Meaning that Pro has to convince the judge of his stance despite Con"s reasons, and Con has to convince the judge of his stance despite Pro"s reason.
6) Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss.
7) Words without definitions should use the standard definition.

Round Structure
Con should present his case in R1 and Pro present his case in R2. No new arguments in the final round (R3 for Con and R4 for Pro). Con must waive his final response.

I would like to wish thanks to OreosAreCool for being my opponent. This will hopefully be very fun and also a great learning experience to the both of us. As always, may the best debater win and the loser learn from this debate. Thank you.


Burden of Proof

This is a debate about morality. Since the resolution is worded this way, neither side can run moral nihilism in an attempt to dismiss moral arguments. Concerning BoP, my opponent needs to prove that targeted killing (as a foreign policy tool) is morally justifiable and permissible, while I will attempt to prove that it is not. However, given that the term 'morality' is perceived differently by different people, my and my opponents arguments will also be somewhat forced to establish their desired definition or perception of morality under some sort of framework.


The main issue in this debate is that each side is going to need to push their own framework (which I feel is going to be the main topic of this debate), and attempt to persuade the voters that their moral framework is desirable over that of their opponent's.

For this debate, my arguments will run through the metaethical framework of moral realism. Moral realism primarily evaluates the action of individual(s) or of a collective group, and judges it based on the objective moral standards that are set in society. [1]

If we can agree, or at least conclude, that society has developed a rather objective moral consensus on some issues (specifically those related to targeted killings), then the debate will mostly be directed towards applying those moral standards toward government, in which case my opponent would have to provide a really strong reason why they shouldn't.

(1) Concerning Objective Morality

To prove that targeted killing is not morally permissible, there needs to first be an established argument for the existence of objective moral principles.

Since moral realism concerns itself with the morality of the action itself, and not the outcome of the action(s), no double standard is produced – everyone is treated equally based on those objective moral values. However, in some alternative metaethical frameworks a double standard may exist, especially if that framework values the outcome of the action when judging its morality, rather than the action itself. For example, someone 'stealing' from the rich and giving to the poor, would be considered immoral in this framework. It may sound absurd to some, but the framework does not produce double standards. Likewise, stealing from the poor and giving to the rich is also immoral under this framework, under the same set of rules.

(2) The Immorality of Targeted Killing

Society also views targeted killing as immoral. Applying the framework of moral realism to this specific issue, it becomes clear that the action itself is immoral in all cases, regardless of outcome. Again, if my opponent decides to argue that objective morality does not exist, and argues for an outcome-based view of morality, or moral subjectivism, he will need to explain how he is judging the morality of the action, and where his framework draws the line between the action being immoral, and the action as being moral, as he will then be arguing for a double standard.

(3) Objective moral Principles Apply to Government

Since Government is sometimes considered a 'special case' when it comes to moral values, it also needs to be established that Government should follow the same moral values that it enforces in society.

It would be hypocritical to believe that Government can ignore the moral values that it enforces, so there are two solutions that Government can follow to end the hypocrisy:

a) disregard those moral values as a whole, and end the enforcement of those moral values

b) abide by those moral values

If option a) is chosen, the result is unclear, and most likely detrimental. If murder, for example, is not prohibited by Government, criminals would have no reason to abide by the moral principles set by society.

If option b) is chosen, then Government will need to follow the same moral principles followed by society, making it clear that Government should accept that targeted killing is not morally permissible as a foreign policy tool, as it is also not permitted in society.

Conclusion: Targeted Killing as a Foreign Policy tool is not morally permissible

If it is accepted that objective moral standards (especially about murder and killing) do exist in society, then there is not much reason to believe that those moral standards do not apply to Government. Therefore, the Government would not be justified (morally speaking) to use targeted killing as a foreign policy tool. Again, in the metaethical framework of moral realism, the outcome is not considered when judging the morality of an action, therefore, the morality of Targeted Killing cannot be judged based on its outcome.


Debate Round No. 1


Morality has always been a tricky subject to even the brightest of scholars. What one person thinks is moral can be taken as another. But there is one major clue in all of this that can show that Targeted Killing is in fact morally justified and permissible. Utilitarianism. What is utilitarianism? "It is the belief that a morally good action is one that helps the greatest number of people." [1] I can prove that using this theory of morality, that Targeted Killing is moral.

Utilitarianism and Morality

With the definition of utilitarianism know, we must ask, what does it deal with morality. To answer that, it actually deals with a lot more then one would think. Take the targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden. After the terrorist attack on September 11, our country wanted to go after the person who ordered the attack. We were scared by the fact that it could happen again. The United States decided to target kill Osama Bin Laden, to protect the people. The greatest of moral acts is protecting the people and the majority from danger and death, even if one person or a group would die. This works because of utilitarianism, for we must protect the majority, and it would be immoral to not.

Targeted Killing and the Majority

We can never truly know if killing Osama Bin Laden would help the majority survive, for doing so would be a Fallacy. What I can do though, is take a look at the War on Terror. Ever since 9/11, we have been at a whole new type of war in the Middle East. We use drones as well. While we haven"t done anything truly noteworthy in the Middle East, we have killed important leaders in ISIS. Take Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, a top ISIS leader and a top financer was killed. [2] With the death of one of their top leaders and financiers, the United States made a dent in ISIS"s resources. With less money, we can conclude that ISIS won"t be able to make as much drastic moves. They still can, but we have messed up their plans, and we can assume we saved lives with this move. With utilitarianism, we have saved a major group of people, thus making it moral.

Utilitarianism and Government

It would be foolish to say that Utilitarianism doesn"t apply to government. The government can be said to follow a type of Utilitarianism, more specifically rule-utilitarianism. Rule-utilitarianism refers to us identifying rules that will promote human happiness. [3] The government of the United States, no matter how corrupt you think it is, follows rule-utilitarianism. One rule is to protect the people of the United States, and protect their freedom. To protect them, the US needed to take out the Terrorist groups, even if they had to use Targeted Killing. If they didn"t, the would be immoral for not protecting the people.


The US follows utilitarianism, if they didn't Target Kill and protect this country, they would be immoral. They need to protect the majority, be it on the battlefield, or at a terrorist home. I wish con good luck in the rebuttal stage.



Utilitarianism is fine by itself when judging the effectiveness of a policy/action. If a government were to enact a policy which is deemed to be beneficial to the majority of people, then under a utilitarian approach this policy would be considered effective. However, utilitarianism is incompatible with this debate because it does not measure the morality of an action in the way that the resolution demands. This would mean that an action can be effective under a utilitarian framework, and be immoral at the same time. Is it moral to steal from the rich and give to the poor? Under a utilitarian framework, this would appear to be effective, as there are more poor people that would benefit from that money than there are rich people who have that money. However, if stealing itself is considered immoral under a metaethical framework, then it would not matter if it is stealing from the rich or stealing from the poor, as stealing itself would be considered immoral.

Utilitarianism could be derived from some metaethical framework, under a set of guidelines which establishes that benefiting the majority is always moral. However, since my opponent has not offered such a framework, the voters should by default judge the arguments presented in this debate through the metaethical framework of moral realism, which I brought up in R1. If my opponent wants to counter with a different metaethical framework in this round, that’s fine, but I will only be able to defend the framework I brought up in my last round of this debate (R3).

While my opponent has brought up good examples of why such a policy would be necessary to protect the majority of people, he has not established a sufficient framework apart from utilitarianism which can be used to judge the morality of this policy.

Either way, my opponent is violating his own definition of ‘targeted killing’ in his examples, because he has effectively conceded that the US is at war in the middle east. Therefore, it is not a time of peace, invalidating not only his examples but also his entire argument that he forms using those examples.
Debate Round No. 2


Now it is true that this debate is about morality, and I don't think anyone could argue that it isn't. Now then going to my main case of Utilitarianism, a major moral theory, I can definitely say that Targeted Killing is morally permissible.

Before I begin, there are some major things I need to bring up. First of all, con says that society thinks that targeted killing is immoral. In this poll by the Washington Post, the poll is not unanimous, nor is it even close to saying it is immoral. On question 14, the answers is majorly positive. [1] It is drone attacks, but that is the main choice of target kill. With the poll results, the majority is approving of the target kills, thus society is in fact, not in agreement of targeted killing being immoral.

First of all, there is the con's definition of moral realism. My opponent claims that moral realism is more or less deontology, another type of moral theory that argues that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to a rule or rules. He argues that moral realism is about the action, not the outcome. Moral realism is just objective moral facts, that most of society accepts. I have already proved that society isn't unanimous of the issue or even is against it. My opponents definition is incorrect and didn't prove that society thinks targeted killing is immoral. Now then, on to the rebuttals to con's points.

We know now that moral realism is an objective morality issue. Utilitarianism is the same thing. Utilitarianism does whatever it can to help the majority, regardless of personal feelings, thus it is an objective moral issue as well. Both are the same thing so there is no conflict.

With utilitarianism, the moral argument deals with the outcome of the situation, which causes the action to become moral. With the example of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, it is moral. The majority of people are in fact not rich and no matter the action, it would be considered moral. Using utilitarianism makes this easy to see. With the people stealing from the minority and giving it to a majority, even though in moral realism it would be considered immoral, the action would be moral because of the outcome. Targeted killing would save a majority of people, even if some would have to die. The majorities outcome of surviving would be moral, and thus the action would be moral.

Con's framework view would make it so anything that societies accepts is moral. The outcomes doesn't matter to moral realism, only the action and if society accepts it. Mine is the opposite. The outcome of targeted killing as said, is a majority surviving. My framework makes the issue moral and not doing it would be immoral. Would society accept it if the government didn't target kill someone to protect the majority of people?

It is true that it would be hypocritical for the government to ignore the moral values it enforces, and I won't be arguing that. However, targeted killing is different then what it would seem to be. The military usually has to go above what is considered accepted to protect not only the United States, but the majority of the people world wide. Take the dropping of the Atomic Bomb. While it is true we could have done the conventual way of invading Japan, it would have been a foolish route. For, both sides would have lost countless more lives, as noted by this site. [2] For either side, the majority of people would want to live and to cause more death would be extremely immoral. Society would most likely want less death so even if dropping a Atomic Bomb would seem immoral, it would be moral to both sides.

Before I end this there is one more thing I need to bring up. Another variation of utilitarianism deals with pleasure and maximizing it for most people, or mainly the majority. Any type of harm against pleasure would go against a moral action. If the United States didn't target kill a terrorist who then goes and kills other people, our pleasure would be harmed. Keeping the people's pleasure against harm, would be the greatest act of morality, and it would justify it. Thus, Targeted Killing is in fact, justified.



My opponent misunderstands my framework, my main point is that morality is to be applied consistently. If an action is considered immoral in one instance, then that action should be considered immoral in all instances. This is to avoid double-standards. It does not matter how many people agree or disagree with the use of targeted killing - if it's considered immoral as domestic policy, then it should be considered immoral as foreign policy.

My opponent has probably proved that there are a lot of people in support of targeted killing, but that has no bearing on the morality of the action under my framework simply because my framework attempts to apply moral consistency on morally controversial issues. For example, society might be enraged at the fact that someone had their house robbed and property damaged, because this is considered immoral. But what if this dude that got robbed was a CEO lobbyist with a net worth of $10 billion dollars? Suddenly no one cares, in fact, some may even say he/she deserved it. Does this make the action less moral? No, and it wouldn't make sense to think so, because morals should be applied consistently.

My opponent can't claim that utilitarianism and moral realism are the same thing, and then contradict this statement 2 paragraphs later. Utilitarianism, or at least the version of it that my opponent is describing, appears more subjective and outcome-based than my moral realism framework. For example, even though targeted killing is viewed as immoral as domestic policy, my opponent is claiming that it is moral as foreign policy, for reasons unknown. In fact, if my opponent is going to accept that moral principles should be consistent, then he has destroyed his own argument by now agreeing that there are cases where something could be viewed as moral, and some cases where the same thing could be considered immoral.

In fact, utilitarianism can be vague and un-applicable in many scenarios because the utilitarian position on certain issues can sometimes be unknown. The bombing of Hiroshima is a very controversial issue, even to this day. My opponent has clearly made unwarranted assumptions on this issue, such as there being more deaths if the bomb hadn't been dropped, but I won't elaborate on these because they are not relevant to the resolution. Why? Because the definition of targeted killing includes specific individuals. The bombing of Hiroshima was not an attack on any specific person, but rather on the country of Japan as a whole, to get them to surrender the war. My opponent has also not proved how targeted killing fulfills the utilitarian framework criteria, by showing how it benefits the majority of people.
Debate Round No. 3


My opponent says that I have violated my own definition of targeted killing because I mentioned it being in war time and not in peace time. My opponent hasn't read the definitions clearly then. This is what I wrote.

Targeted Killing - Premeditated acts of lethal force employed by states in times of peaceor during armed conflict to eliminate specific individuals outside their custody.

Notice the bold. It says during armed conflict, and when my opponent looks at this article, he will see that the war in the Middle East, is in it. [1] My entire arguments are not invalidated and it is clear he didn't fully read the definitions.

Utilitarianism is not only a framework, it is also one that does work with the resolution. He says that if we use moral realism, then it would work with the resolution because it judges the action. That would be the case if they used deontology, not moral realism. Both utilitarianism and moral realism are objective morality issues, thus, they work in the same way.

My opponent barely argues against my points, and merely argues against my framework, one that doesn't work out. He is being vague with his reasoning and is using the same example. Even when con does try to refute my points and examples, he ignores the simple basics of what they mean. I have proved that Targeted Killing is in fact a morally permissible foreign policy tool by the fact that to protect this country, the majority of people, and to keep the pleasure of all, we would need to have targeted killing, for protecting those things would be the greatest moral act of all.

Thank you for debating with me con, this was a fun debate. Vote Pro!



OreosAreCool forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by TUF 5 months ago
Great vote Tej!
Posted by tejretics 5 months ago

This was a poor debate, as I've expressed within the RFD itself. I might have been overly harsh in my tone of writing, so don't take it personally, but I don't think it was a good debate, and think there is plenty of room for improvement. But I also know that both of you are pretty smart and are more than capable of improving.
Posted by Bob13 5 months ago
RFD for vote:
Summary of Con's argument (based on moral realism)- Killing is objectively wrong because society agrees that it is, so the government should not conduct targeted killings. Outcomes should not be considered when determining the morality of an action.
Summary of Pro's argument (based on utilitarianism)- Expected outcomes determine the morality of an action, so targeted killings are justified when they protect the majority.
Con says that Pro's argument can't be based on utilitarianism because the framework was already established in round one. Pro disproves this when he says that both frameworks are theories of objective morality, so they both have valid arguments compatible with the resolution. Con even said in round one that they could each establish their own framework.
The rest of the debate discusses whether morality should be judged by universal rules based on societal attitudes (Con) or the outcomes of specific actions (Pro). Pro cites a poll by the Washington Post which shows that most of society believes targeted killings to be moral, proving that Con should be in support of it if he uses his framework.
Con then asserts that his framework was based on the principle that morality should be applied consistently to every situation, despite clearly stating in his framework that it was based on societal attitudes. Pro points this out, refuting Con's argument.
Pro wins.
Posted by The_Great_Amalgam 5 months ago
To everyone who will vote for this debate, you can disregard the forfeited round. It was just the waive and con was busy so I will let it slide.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by tejretics 5 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision:
Vote Placed by Bob13 5 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.