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Official Tier Tournament Upper Tier Finale - Targeted Killing

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 11/27/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,276 times Debate No: 65916
Debate Rounds (4)
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This is the final round of the Upper Tier of the Official Tier Tournament, run by bsh1; the debate is between myself and Zaradi, who I would like to thank for the opportunity to debate.

The full resolution for this debate is "Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool". Burden of proof is shared.

Debate structure
1) The first round is for acceptance.
2) The second round is for opening statements only.
3) The third round is for rebuttals, but new arguments are allowed.
4) The fourth round is for rebuttals and closing statements only; no new arguments are allowed.
5) Voting is select-winner; you must have a minimum ELO of 2,500 to vote.

1. No forfeiting.
2. No plagiarism.
3. All citations must be presented in the text of the debate.
4. Violation of any of these rules, or of the debate structure, results in an instant loss for the violator.

Good luck to us both, and I look forward to an excellent debate!
Debate Round No. 1


Targeted killing is without a doubt a contentious issue in the political sphere. Proponents will assert that the killings are effective, ethical, and targeted specifically at belligerents, while detractors will argue they violate civil rights and contravene international law. This debate is not on either efficacy or legality, however - it is on morality. Accordingly, I will be arguing from a purely moral standpoint.

To start, what is a targeted killing? Georgetown law professor Gary D. Solis identifies five key characteristics of a targeted killing.[1] They are:
1) There is an armed conflict
2) The target must be a single individual
3) There is no reasonable chance to arrest said individual
4) The killing is authorized by a ranking military leader with authority to authorize the killing
5) The individual is actively participating in the armed conflict

Other general rules include that civilians cannot be targeted, unless they are taking part in the armed conflict, and that collateral damage must be limited. Essentially a targeted killing is a precise, specific military action, only to be taken in a very specific circumstances, and is aimed to minimize civilian damage.

Now, what are the moral justifications for this policy? One of the strongest arguments is also one of the most obvious - self-defense. A terrorist commander is, without doubt, someone who is violating the law. Their very existence threatens the lives of people, and while they may not be on a battlefield or directly bearing arms themselves, they are belligerents. In cases like these, targeted killings are a clearly moral way to defeat a terrorist threat. In general, an arrest by civilian forces is either impractical or impossible, leaving a military solution as the only way to solve the problem. Targeted killings present a method of carrying out the military solution that minimizes both military and civilian losses; a traditional military strike, in comparison, would present major risks to both.

To give an example of a reasonable targeted killing, I present Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki, hiding in Yemen, was a known terrorist, endorsing the indiscriminate murder of Americans and supporting al-Qaeda, both morally and financially. Prior to al-Awlaki's killing, he had been ordered arrested "dead or alive" by a Yemeni judge.[2] Through cooperation with Yemen, the United States was able to kill Awlaki and his colleagues without any civilian damages or casualties.[3] This is a good example of an ethical targeted killing - Al-Awlaki was clearly not in a situation where arrest was reasonable, was clearly an active supporter of terrorism (armed conflict), and his killing was endorsed by the legal system of his host country, Yemen. His death ended his stint as a leader of al-Qaeda and prevented his vocal support of terrorism. My opponent has a tough burden here - he must show why this sort of action isn't ever acceptable.

Another important reason why targeted killing is morally acceptable is that it is, on balance, effective. Essentially, the argument goes like this:
A) Terrorist groups do terrible things
C) Targeted killings stop terrorist groups
C) Terrorist groups that are subject to targeted killing lose the ability to do terrible things.

Targeted killings significantly disrupt terrorist groups by destabilizing them. Terrorist groups are known to deny that their leaders have been killed in a desperate attempt to avoid a power struggle within the group. After targeted killings, terrorist groups have been known to become paranoid about spies in their midst, further adding to the internal turmoil that a terror organization will face in the midst of the death of its leader.[4] This evidence is corroborated by Dr. Daniel Statman, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, who notes that "The personal charisma and professional skills of the leaders and key figures of certain organizations are crucial to the success of their organizations, something that is especially true with regard to terror organizations that operate underground with no clear institutional structure. It is reasonable to assume that killing such individuals will gradually make it more difficult for the terror machinery to function".[5] In other words, by cutting off the head of the terrorist organization, the rest will slowly wither away.

What we can gather from this is that targeted killings are supported by two key moral ideas: self-defense and effectiveness. These present sufficient evidence that targeted killing is, in fact, a morally permissible foreign policy tool. I look forward to seeing my opponent's arguments.

4. (pg. 90-91)


All ethical decisions are made with regard to a social narrative defined and created by interaction and openness to the other. Butler 1:

Butler, Judith. Giving an Account of Oneself. diacritics, Volume 31, Number 4, Winter 2001, pp. 22-40 (Article)

  • “the “I” encounters the Other not as a specific set of contents, but as a being fundamentally exposed, visible, seen, existing in a bodily way and of necessity in a domain of appearance. It is, … this exposure that I am that constitutes my singularity. I cannot will it away, for it is a feature of my very corporeality and, in this sense, my life, … the social theory … in its insistence on the impersonal perspective of the norm, establish my substitutability? …, I am exposed, and this is as much a part of my publicity, if not my sociality, as the way that I become recognizable through the operation of norms.”

The negative burden is to show that our relation to the other justifies a prohibition of targeted killing whereas the aff burden is to show it is morally permissible. Moreover, prefer this standard because ethics is impossible without understanding the relation to the other because that rejects subjective narrative’s and allows ethical violence. Butler 2:

  • "to … not … have the grounds for agency and the conditions for accountability, it may be that this way in which we are, from the start, interrupted by alterity and not fully recoverable to ourselves, indicates the way in which we are, from the start, ethically implicated in the lives of others. … our incoherence … establishes the way in which we are implicated, beholden, derived, constituted by what is beyond us and before us. If we say that the self must be narrated, … then we say that we cannot survive with an unconscious. … In the language which articulates the opposition to a non-narrativizable beginning resides the fear that the absence of narrative will spell a certain threat, a threat to life, and will pose the risk, if not the certainty, of a certain kind of death, the death of a subject who cannot, who can never, fully recuperate the conditions of its own emergence."

Moreover, my framework precludes the AC because it is grounded in the ontological way we create and understand ethics. Ontological justifications precludes metaethics because it is the mode in which we exist and thus determines the way we adopt normative principles. I contend using TK violates the framework:

First: The face to face encounter with the other requires a prohibition on violence no matter what the other has done. Butler 3:

  • “We do not take responsibility for … Other’s acts as if we authored those acts. … we affirm the unfreedom at the heart of our relations. I cannot disavow my relation to the Other, regardless of what the Other does, regardless of what I might will. … responsibility is not a matter of cultivating a will, but of making use of an unwilled susceptibility as a resource for becoming responsive to the Other. Whatever the Other has done, the Other still makes an ethical demand upon me, … There are situations in which responding to the ‘‘face’’ of the other feels horrible, impossible, and where the desire for murderous revenge feels overwhelming. But the primary and unwilled relation to the Other demands that we desist from both a voluntarism and an impulsive aggression grounded in the self-preservative aims of egoism. …"

Second: targeted killing denies our shared vulnerability and denies we can always be affected by the other. Butler 4 concludes:

Giving an Account of Oneself. Judith Butler [Maxine Elliot Professor of rhetoric at Berkley] University press.

  • “It is always possible to say, ‘‘Oh, some violence was done to me, and this gives me full permission to act …’ Many atrocities are committed under the sign of a ‘‘self-defense [or realiation]’’ … because it achieves a permanent moral justification for retaliation, knows no end and can have no end. … It delineates a physical vulnerability from which we cannot slip away, which we cannot finally resolve in the name of the subject, but which can provide a way to understand that none of us is fully bounded, utterly separate, but, rather, we are in our skins, given over, in each other’s hands, at each other’s mercy. …”
Now, go to his case. The first thin you look at is that I'm the only one providing any kind of ethical framework under which to judge what is "morally permissible" or not. This means you're instantly defaulting to my framework because I'm the only one actually answering the question his contentions beg. And this means that you negate since any kind of violence or killing is always going to violate the framework, which means that targeted killing is never permissible for any reason.

Then, go to his first argument from self-defense. It's K time baby!

A sub-point: the link: The affirmative’s plea for self-defense as an exception to traditional moral prohibitions on violence cedes the value of a person’s life to what roman law refered to as Homo Saccer. A grey zone where we don’t execute someone but their killing is permissible. They negate individual autonomy of a person in favor of the permissibility of killing. Agamben 1:

Giorgio Agamben. HOMO SACER: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford University Press 1995.

  • “the sovereignty of the living man over his own life has its immediate counterpart in the determination of a threshold beyond which life ceases to have any juridical value and can, therefore, be killed without the commission of a homicide. The … category of “life devoid of value” … corresponds exactly – …---to the bare life of homo sacer and can easily be extended beyond the limits imagined by Binding. … every “politicization” of life … implies a new decision concerning … which life … becomes only “sacred life,” and can as such be eliminated without punishment. … Bare life is no longer confined to a particular place or a definite category. It now dwells in the biological body of every living being.”

Thus the AC creates a zone of life devoid of value that we are permissible in killing.

Sub-point b: impacts: The aff’s return to homo sacer turns the AC both ideologically and contention wise because they turn the purpose of self-defense but also permit more violations of worth. Their approach to politics creates a structure that allows violence to replicate rather than defending a victim. Agamben 2:

  • “homo sacer is … the particular character of the double exclusion into which he is taken and the violence to which he finds himself exposed. This violence – the unsanctionable killing that, … anyone may commit – … this violence opens a sphere of human action that is neither the sphere of sacrum facere nor that of profane action. … once brought back to his proper place beyond both penal law and sacrifice, homo sacer presents the originary figure of life taken into the sovereign ban and preserves the memory of the originary exclusion through which the political dimension was first constituted. The political sphere of sovereignty was thus constituted through a double exclusion, as an excrescence of the profane in the religious and of the religious in the profane, which takes the form of a zone of indistinction between sacrifice and homicide. … sacred life … is the life that has been captured in this sphere.”

This turns the AC because 1) it internal link turns their framework because they say we have to protect ourselves but they permit constant violations of worth of people by replicating bare life. 2) it turns the AC contention because homo sacer allows exclusion of people that permits their killing within politics and ethics and thus they allow for more domestic violence by justifying exceptions to our traditional moral framework.

Sub-point c: The alternative is to adopt a non-violent embrace of the grievability of life. No life is viewed as homo saccer when life is viewed as grievable and precarious. Butler 5:

Judith Butler, PhD, Yale, Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, “Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?”, Verso, 2009,

  • “non-violence is … the norms that differentiate between those lives that count as livable and grievable and those that do not. Only on the condition that lives are grievable … does the call to non-violence avoid complicity with forms of epistemic inegailitarianism. The desire to commit violence is thus always attendee by the anxiety of having violence returned, since all the potential actors in the scene are equally vulnerable. Even when such an insight follows from a calculation of the consequences of a violent act, it testifies to an ontological interrelation that is prior to any calculation. …, we do not need to know in advance what a life will be, but only to find and support those modes of representation and appearance that allow the claim of life to be made and heard. … It is also to struggle against those notions of the political subject that assume that permeability and injurability can be monopolized at one site and fully refused at another. …”
Then, go to where he says that TK is effective.

First, whether it's effective or not doesn't actually matter. Shooting someone in the head is an effective way to kill someone, but that doesn't make it morally permissible to run into a highschool and start firing away.

Second, TK only makes things worse. Empirics show that TK leads to more terrorism. Moorehouse:

Matthew Alan Morehouse, M.A. University of Nebraska, 2011HELLFIRE AND GREY DRONES: AN EMPIRICAL EXAMINATION OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TARGETED KILLINGS. The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts Major: Political Science Under the Supervision of Professor Patrice C. McMahon and Professor Ross Miller Lincoln.

  • "The … regression … found that for every one-unit increase in targeted killings per week, there was an increase of over 5 terrorist attacks in the following week. This result was statistically significant, with the p-value being .000. …"
Debate Round No. 2


I'd like to thank my opponent for his prompt opening statement.

To open, my opponent gives a succinct definition of the social contract (a theory a hold to) and establishes the burden of proof as "The negative burden is to show that our relation to the other justifies a prohibition of targeted killing whereas the aff burden is to show it is morally permissible". I don't disagree with this definition. I do, however, take issue with what he says next; "Moreover, prefer this standard because ethics is impossible without understanding the relation to the other because that rejects subjective narrative’s and allows ethical violence". In my view, what my opponent is suggesting here is that no violence is ever acceptable, and this is confirmed by his first point of reason: that face-to-face contact with another person means that violence against them is always unacceptable, regardless of what they have done. In my view, this changes my opponent's burden slightly, however, as he must defend this claim, that there is no such thing as "ethical violence" and that self-defense is never appropriate. He must, in essence, make the case for it would be unethical for a person, who has the opportunity, means, and legal justification to prevent a terrorist through force, or that the act of violence against another individual is, on balance, more moral than the act of preventing said action.

Regardless, there are numerous critiques one can make of his reasoning here. First, a targeting killing is, by definition, not a face-to-face encounter. It may be directed through a drone, but the killer never truly makes contact with the target until the strike. Second, the relationship in this situation is not between two persons, but between a sovereign nation and a (presumably) lawbreaking fugitive. Third, the piece my opponent cites is taken drastically out of context. The piece my opponent cites is not arguing for a prohibition on violence, but has been selectively edited to cut out what it is arguing for: a prohibition of revenge. You can find an unedited version of most of this here.[1] Accordingly, what he should be arguing is that targeted killing is revenge. How can we distinguish revenge from justice, however? By necessity, any action taken by the legal system robs an individual of rights, be it through confiscation of property (a fine), revocation of the right to travel for a period of time (probation or house arrest), slave labor (community service) or even through the ending of one's life (the death penalty), and yet out society, to an extent, views these as morally acceptable. This goes to the heart of the social contract: according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

"Socrates makes a compelling argument as to why he must stay in prison and accept the death penalty, rather than escape and go into exile in another Greek city. He personifies the Laws of Athens, and, speaking in their voice, explains that he has acquired an overwhelming obligation to obey the Laws because they have made his entire way of life, and even the fact of his very existence, possible. They made it possible for his mother and father to marry, and therefore to have legitimate children, including himself. Having been born, the city of Athens, through its laws, then required that his father care for and educate him. Socrates' life and the way in which that life has flourished in Athens are each dependent upon the Laws. Importantly, however, this relationship between citizens and the Laws of the city are not coerced. Citizens, once they have grown up, and have seen how the city conducts itself, can choose whether to leave, taking their property with them, or stay. Staying implies an agreement to abide by the Laws and accept the punishments that they mete out. And, having made an agreement that is itself just, Socrates asserts that he must keep to this agreement that he has made and obey the Laws, in this case, by staying and accepting the death penalty. Importantly, the contract described by Socrates is an implicit one: it is implied by his choice to stay in Athens, even though he is free to leave".[2]

In essence, the social contract my opponent and I both agrees on places a burden to follow its laws. If you do not like the laws, you can go and move to a place with different ones - however, because you as an individual have benefited from those laws, you have implicitly accepted them, and continue to do so for as long as you live in that area. Your rights come with responsibilities, and by breaking your end of the contract, you are no longer entitled to the protections. This is how any contract works, and the social contract is no different.

What we can gather, then, on the first argument is that it is incorrect. It is taken incredibly out of context, applies to a completely different situation (man vs. man rather than state vs. man), and also runs contrary to the social contract both my opponent and myself have explicitly accepted.

My opponent's second contention is that targeted killing denies our shared vulnerability and denies we can always be affected by the other. His argument continues from the Butler source, where he presumably shows that any self-defense is wrong as it justifies a never-ending cycle of violence. Once again, this is taken mildly out of context - scholar Bronwyn Davies, in her review of the Judith Baker piece, asserts that she is not arguing against a right to self-defense. Rather, it is that "the burden of justification [of self defense] must be assumed in all its weight".[3] Essentially, the burden is on the person claiming self-defense to prove it.

I'm extremely bewildered by what my opponent says after this. He goes into what appears to be a fairly lengthy rebuttal of my opening round - by his own words, he says things like:
*"Now, go to his case. The first thin you look at is that I'm the only one providing any kind of ethical framework under which to judge what is 'morally permissible' or not"
*"Then, go to his first argument from self-defense. It's K time baby!"
*"Then, go to where he says that TK is effective."

I would like my opponent to explain his reasoning for an early rebuttal, which contravenes the mutually agreed-upon rules of this debate, where rebuttals are explicitly limited to the third and fourth rounds rounds. My opponent accepted the terms of this debate - which we both worked together to create - and I am extremely disappointed if he has indeed broken them, as the terms of this debate make rule-breaking an offense that is punishable by requiring a forfeit.

Regardless, his points can be fairly easily refuted. My opponent asserts I am not arguing the resolution - however, I have indeed done so. I've explained targeted killing (which my opponent has not done, and has not contested my 5 rules for targeted killing), and explained rationales for both self-defense and efficacy (both is eliminating the target and protecting civilian lives and property). These are clearly moral arguments, and my opponent cannot sweep them under the rug.

From here my opponent attempts to tie targeted killing to the ancient Roman status of 'homo sacer'. This is a rather silly comparison, given homo sacer was an obscure Roman law that applied to people who broke oaths, as back then oaths were made under the condition that the gods could punish you for breaking it. Accordingly, being killed by someone would not be punishable, as it would just be the gods taking revenge upon the oath breaker.[4] In contrast, targeted killing is a direct attack on a military target who cannot be reasonably arrested; it is a military action taken upon fugitives when all options have failed, essentially. The two are so different the comparison itself is laughable. Finally my opponent concludes that targeted killing is not effective, asserting that in the immediate aftermath of targeted killings, terrorist attacks increase. This may be the case, but I demonstrated they result in immediate, long-term damage to the organizations in question. A brief increase in attacks by a dying terrorist group would net less losses than consistently frequent attacks by a stable terrorist group.



I don't really know where my opponent is getting I'm arguing social contract, because I make no mention of it or anything even close to it anywhere.

And right around here ("that face-to-face contact with another person") is where I think my opponent is failing to understand my case. So let me be perfectly clear with what the Other is talking about. When I'm talking about the Other, I'm not talking about other in a literal sense, like talking to some other person. Rather the Other is a concept, a description for the social narrative that prescribes morality and the value of human life. (Keep up kids, this responds to his first objection to my framework).

And yes, I do defend that violence and/or killing is never acceptable since it a) violates the framework I set up in my case and it violates the alt in the K I read. That's two different levels responding to what he says I need to prove.

To respond to his second objection, the actor is irrelevant insofar as a) some actor is planning on commiting violence, which violates the Other, and b) insofar as that person being commited violence against is still a person, therefore still valuable according to the K.

And his third objection? He cites the wrong book to say my quote is out of context. LOL Prefer my interpretation of the card because I'm actually citing the correct source, therefore have better access to the true context and meaning. This means from here ("Accordingly, what) to here ("have explicitly accepted.") is kinda irrelevant since it's a) misinterpreting the Butler evidence, and b) arguing that I argue for the social contract which I make no effort to do so.

And on my previous rebuttals, read my first statement carefully. I never said he wasn't arguing for the resolution. Rather, my argument is that his case fails to affirm it. In order to show that something is morally permissible, you need to deliniate where you're drawing morality from and what is actually permissible and impermissible. If he doesn't then that means his arguments just beg the question of if he's actually being moral. Right now since he's not providing any kind of moral framework to evaluate what is moral and what isn't moral, this has three implications on the debate at hand, both of which mean you instantly negate.

First, since he's not providing any kind of framework to evaluate what is moral under, you default to the one I provide in my case. This means you pretty much instantly negate since killing will always be a violation of the Other.

Second, it means that even if you don't like my framework, you'll still presume neg because I'm the only one trying to answer the question of morality posited by the resolution.

Third, it means you literally cannot vote aff because even if he's showing that targeted killing is a generally good idea or that it's effective or anything else, that doesn't make it morally permissible. Otherwise I'm sure all of that grueling slave labor that produced lots of beneficial production results were perfectly moral!

Don't let him make responses to these in the last round, or to posit his own framework in the last round because a) it's inherently unfair to expect me to be able to adequately cover new arguments made in the final round, and b) the very round structure that he's trying to rule-shark me on says that he can't. He chose not to run any kind of ethical framework and chose not to come up with one in the one round he had the ability to, and it's a game-over mistake, so punish him for it.

In response to the K, all my opponent does is laugh it off as a silly obscure Roman law, but never responds to any of the warrants explaining how self-defense cedes life into Homo Sacer, which makes their life effectively a gray zone where their killing is immoral but permissible. He doesn't respond to the impact coming off of Homo Sacer, which turns his case both on a framework level and on a contentional level.

Like, I don't get why my opponent isn't taking this debate seriously. It's like he's not even trying.

Extend out the K that he just tries to laugh off. It functions in two ways:

First, it's a direct refutation to his first contention talking about self-defense.

Second, it functions as a reason to negate since the alt is showing us why all lives are grievable, therefore killing them is always impermissible.

Then extend out the first response I made against targeted killing effectiveness that it's irrelevant how effective it is. Refer back to the shooting someone in the head example I gave last round, as well as the slavery example I provided this round. So even if he's winning on how effective it is, that's still not sufficient to win the debate.

And, even if my stats are talking about the short term, and he's talking about the long term, it still doesn't make sense because killing off their leaders just replaces them with new, potentially more ruthless leaders. Look to Hezbollah to see this in action. Blum et. al(1):
  • "eliminating leaders of terrorist organizations ... may ... effect, the rise of more—and more resolute—leaders to replace them. The decapitating of the organization may also invite retaliation by the other members and followers of the organization. ... when Israel assassinated ... Mussawi ... a more charismatic and successful leader, Hassan Nassrallah, succeeded ... The armed group then avenged the assassination of its former leader in two separate attacks, blowing up Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires ..."
Hunter affirms this very point(2):
  • "the preponderance of information leads to the conclusion that the targeted killing of senior leaders or individuals does not lead to the dissolution or usually even a severe degradation of that group’s capabilities or intentions. This is particularly true in the case of those groups with long, established histories and large or highly motivated memberships, or a wide support base (e.g., al Qaeda, the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia, or Spain’s eta). targeted Killing: Self-Defense, Preemption, and the War on terrorism these include terrorist groups, for example, that are seeking national identity. ...
Hunter 2 shows this empirically through al Qaeda:
  • "attempting to reduce a group’s operational capabilities through targeted killing is of limited utility when posed against groups practicing advanced security measures. ... to ensure al Qaeda’s operational effectiveness, the group stresses the need to maintain internal security, dividing its operatives into overt and covert members functioning under a single leader…al Qaeda’s global network has survived by its members strictly adhering to the principles of operational security. the continued “success” of al Qaeda (measured in its ability to conduct major terrorist attacks worldwide despite international efforts to eradicate it) is a testament to its members’ adherence to operational security. ... this ongoing viability is evidence of the ineffectiveness of targeted killing (as practiced by the U.S. in this case) ..."
And, targeted killing cripples our ability to gather intelligence on terrorist operations, which hurst our ability to fight terrorism long-term. Blum et. al continues:
  • "Targeted killing may also interfere with important gathering of critical intel ... The threat of being targeted will drive current leaders into hiding, making the monitoring of their ... activities ... difficult. ... if these leaders are found and killed, instead of captured, ... counterterrorism forces lose the ability to interrogate them to obtain potentially valuable information ..."
Hunter 3 confirms:
  • "in those cases in which a terrorist or terrorists are monitored for long periods of time and do not appear to be involved in a near-term attack, their killing may not only be unnecessary but might also eliminate a potentially valuable source of intelligence. A good example of this was the arrest of senior al Qaeda planner ... Sheikh Mohammad (aka KSM) ... It is clear from the evidence that these forces could easily have killed KSM, ... Instead, recognizing the potentially vast amount of intelligence they could gather from him regarding previous and future planning for terrorist attacks, they opted to arrest rather than kill him. the resulting interrogations revealed valuable insight into al Qaeda and their global network ..."
Not to mention that trying to drone strike someone is iffy as hell. If you're trying to tell me that drone striking someone is effective and works without problems, I'll see your bluff and raise you sixteen tries and 321 innocent lives lost for one bad guy. Spiegel Online(3):
  • "What is the cost of rendering a terrorist harmless once and for all by killing him? During the course of 14 months, the CIA used unmanned and heavily armed small aircraft known as drones to stage 15 strikes against the presumed locations of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. On Aug. 5, 2009, on the 16th try, the drones finally managed to kill Baitullah Mehsud. ... and 11 others were killed. ... But the hunt for Mehsud cost the lives of far more than 11 people. According to estimates, ... 321 people died in the course of the 16 attempts to eliminate Mehsud -- and it is certain that not all of them were Taliban fighters."


(1) - Blum, Gabriella and Heymann, Phillip B., Law and Policy of Targeted Killing (June 27, 2010). Harvard National Security Journal, Vol. 1, No. 145, 2010
(2) - Hunter, Thomas Byron. 2009. Targeted Killing: Self-Defense, Preemption, and the War on Terrorism. Journal of Strategic Security, 2 (2): 1-52.
(3) - Drones Are Lynchpin of Obama's War on Terror By SPIEGEL ONLINE Staff 03/12/2010 SPIEGEL ONLINE correspondents have investigated this new method of warfare and conducted research in the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Germany. Read about Obama's drone campaign against terrorism in the following articles.

Debate Round No. 3


To begin his debate my opponent questions my reference to him endorsing a 'social contract'. He may not have used that exact term, but the framework he has laid out clearly relies upon one. My opponent refers to the concept of the "Other", which he declares is a "social narrative defined and created by interaction and openness to the other" and "prescribes morality and the value of human life", while the social contract is defined as "the view that persons' moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live".[1] Essentially, the core of both terms is that people have obligations to the society they are involved in - this is something my opponent clearly bases his framework around, in fact. My opponent may not have explicitly used the term 'social contract', but his argument falls well into that.

My opponent agrees that he will "defend that violence and/or killing is never acceptable" as part of his framework. I agree with this, which is why I have said that what my opponent now has to defend is that all defensive violence is unacceptable, rather than just targeted killing. Is his case strong enough to prove that, say, it would be immoral to aid a woman who is being raped on the streets by pulling her attacker off? I don't think so.

My opponent also rejects my assertion that the relationship between a targeted killing target and the killer is not one between two persons, but between a state and the killer. My opponent claims that "the actor is irrelevant insofar as a) some actor is planning on committing violence, which violates the Other, and b) insofar as that person being commited violence against is still a person, therefore still valuable according to the K". This argument fails here. Why? My opponent has not shown any real reasoning as to why a state should be equated with a person. Sure, he's said it does, but what logic has he used to back it up? Strictly speaking, people don't perform targeted killings, states do through drone strikes, and hypothetically speaking, in the future, drones might not even need to be controlled by a person, but might just seek out and destroy. Who is the killer there - a person? A robot? The state? My opponent's 'Other' argument fails here because it simply isn't applicable to a state-person relationship, but rather a person-person relationship. His framework isn't equipped to handle the morality of a state targeting and killing someone, in other words.

My opponent literally laughs off my assertion that his source was taken out of context. Why? Because he says so. This is a convenient way to ignore the meat of my argument. When I said it was taken out of context, that wasn't my opinion - I backed up my claim that it was taken out of context with a book that critically examines the entirety of his source's work. According to the book I cited:

"But it is critical to remember that Butler is not advocating for an ethical absolute that would force us to say, for example, that Himmler or Goring is undeserving of judgement. She agrees that such judgements are certainly called for (GA, 45). What concerns her is the possibility that the identities of the victim and persecutor can become fixed and essential, regardless of changes in circumstances".[2]

That citation the author of the examination of Butler's work goes to Butler's own book, Giving an Account of Oneself, the same one my opponent cites. It actually comes from the start of the same passage from the book, "Against Ethical Violence". Beyond that, he ignores my distinction between "justice" and "revenge" and my arguments on the social contract. I extend all of my third-objection arguments (misused source, justice vs. revenge and social contract) as my opponent has not actually responded to any of them.

My opponent doesn't even mention my response to his second contention, where I give another example of a scholar contradicting my opponent's interpretation of Butler's piece. I extend this argument as well.

My opponent also again questions how I am arguing affirmatively for the resolution. He claims I'm not arguing a moral framework, I'm not trying to answer the question, and efficacy is irrelevant. He also says the following:

"Don't let him make responses to these in the last round, or to posit his own framework in the last round because a) it's inherently unfair to expect me to be able to adequately cover new arguments made in the final round, and b) the very round structure that he's trying to rule-shark me on says that he can't. He chose not to run any kind of ethical framework and chose not to come up with one in the one round he had the ability to, and it's a game-over mistake, so punish him for it."

I find this to be incredibly rude. My opponent, knowingly or not, violated the debate structure, and I asked why. He gave an answer, and I accepted it, and said that I would not demand the debate be forfeited over it. I think that's incredibly nice of me to do, especially given the circumstances (this being the Finals of the Tier Tournament) and yet my opponent, of all things, accuses me of "rule-sharking" and then proceeds to demand that I not violate the debate structure, as it would be unfair to him, because there is no way he could "adequately cover new arguments in the final round". I would argue it was incredibly unfair that I had to devote precious time and space to both respond to my opponent's premature rebuttal and point out that he did so.

Regardless, responding to these claims would not be a 'new argument' unless I were making a constructive - which I am not. Rebuttals are not new arguments, and are explicitly allowed in the rules. I am simply rebutting a claim he has made. First, I am indeed arguing a moral framework, just not an explicitly written one like my opponent. I have focused on self-evident moral claims - that is, ones that are fairly equal across all moral spectrums. Self-defense, for instance, is almost universally accepted as a moral thing. Similarly, arguing targeted killings cause less damage than traditional warfare and are effective are utilitarian arguments - utilitarianism is an ethical (moral) concept as well.[3] I think this covers both all three of his assertions. Of course, it is far easier to suggest I'm not arguing the resolution than it is to rebut self-defense or utilitarianism. In fact, he's ignored the crux of my social contract argument - that it is accepted that rights can be taken away as punishment for a crime. His lack of focus on my actual arguments is astounding.

On the issue of homo sacer, my opponent claims I dismissed it as a silly Roman law. Once again, he ignores the crux of my argument (that targeted killing isn't a blank-slate justification for killing, but rather a specific foreign policy tool only to be used when arrest is impossible). One was a Roman punishment for oath-breakers, the other is a military action against war criminals who are nearly impossible to arrest. The two aren't even remotely similar, which is why I rejected the comparison out of hand.

Finally, on the issue of efficacy, my opponent offers some arguments this time. His first source asserts that targeted killings have the risk of resulting in a stronger leader taking charge, rob the targeted state of possible intel if capture were possible instead of killing, and when used recklessly can cause civilian deaths. I actually agree with both of these risks, which is what the format for targeted killings I have laid out is for. Targeted killings aren't to be used willy-nilly, but in very specific, defined cases - like the al-Awlaki case, which my opponent has never responded to). In fact, this is exactly what my opponent's own source says - they state targeted killings are moral under the state's right of self-defense, and propose, like I do, a narrow window of acceptable targeted killings.[4] Similarly, my opponent's arguments on Al-Qaeda are outdated - the Hunter source, for instance, was written in 2009, well before the killing of Osama bin Laden "crippled" the organization.[5] In short, my arguments cover and account for all of the claims that they aren't effective.

In short, I've established both self-defense and utilitarian frameworks for reasonable targeted killings of militants, when arrest isn't possible and on-ground military action would be impractical or risk lives. I've used the social contract to show the basis of why targeted killing is an ethical response, and demonstrated an example of an ethical targeted killing (that of Anwar al-Awlaki). I've also refuted my opponent by demonstrating his main moral frameworks come from a work he is taking dramatically out of context. In contrast, my opponent has barely responded to my key moral points, and has mostly focused on attacking me. In short, I've adequately affirmed the Pro side, and adequately refuted Con's arguments. Thus, a vote for PRO is warranted.



I'm going to be short with the following things, because this really shoulnd't be a thing that I have to discuss but do for some reason...

No, I'm not running the social contract. To say that they're the same is to say that epistemology and normative ethics are the same when they don't even talk about the same thing. But I don't even see why this is important because he never refutes the social contract in any way, sooo...

Moreover, his "Butler isn't saying what I'm trying to make it say" still makes no sense. I'm saying "Butler says x" and citing Butler as my evidence. He's saying "Butler says not x" and citing some other person for his evidence. Both of us are just saying our interpretation is right, so you prefer my interpretation because I'm actually citing the person we're talking about and using their interpretation rather than some third party's interpretation.

My opponent's literally just trying to refute the K by laughing at it and saying that Roman laws don't apply because they're talking about different things. It's as if he just didn't read the first part of the K which explains that targeted killing voids the value of life and harms the autonomy of the individual. Note that this has nothing to do with the actual Roman law literally, rather it talks about the implications of Homo sacer. To say that they aren't talking about the same thing when the implications are literally the same thing is just, y'know, him trying to refute a K by laughing at it.

And c'mon man. You should know I'm not a conduct debater. And yes, saying "My opponent accepted the terms of this debate - which we both worked together to create - and I am extremely disappointed if he has indeed broken them, as the terms of this debate make rule-breaking an offense that is punishable by requiring a forfeit." after we've talked it through in the comments is trying to rule-shark me.

And I'm not sure my opponent knows what a new argument is. A new argument is a contention or rebuttal or defense that has not been said before, a.k.a. is new. Remind me where the first time his utilitarian point came up again? Oh wait, the last round was where it first came up? That can't be right...

And, his whole "self-evident" moral framework is literally just him trying to BS a moral framework after he realized he needed one. Him just saying it's 'self-evident' doesn't mean that a) it's actually moral (insert Nazis, slaves, native americans references here), and b) doesn't answer my response that it begs the question of why it's actually moral. He never answers said question.

Okay. Now that all that pointless stuff is out of the way, let's go into the actual debate now. First thing I want to talk about is just an overview of the affirmative position.

Right now the affirmative literally has zero reason why you should vote for him. Why? Let's take a look at each of his arguments here.
  • His framework, the non-existent one that is, is the first place that gives you zero places to vote for him. He's showing you, at best, that targeted killing is a good way of killing someone (as if we needed this debate to know that dropping a missile on someone did a good job of killing them), but he's not giving you any kind of reasoning as to why it's morally permissible, nor is he giving you any kind of reasoning on any kind of "morally". Even if you're not buying the K and you go with self-defense, it has no framework to convert self-defense into any kind of moral permissibility. Since he's not showing you this, it's impossible for him to actually affirm the resolution.
  • His first argument of self-defense is entirely refuted and turned around on him by the K I read and he tried to laugh off. But even if you're not buying the K, even though there's literally zero reason you shouldn't unless you're, like, Wylted and you just categorically hate any kind of kritical lit for some reason, he's not linking it back to any kind of moral framework to turn self-defense into moral permissibility. So even if he's winning this argument, there's no actual offense coming off of it.
  • His second argument of effectiveness is equally as useless. Let's just ignore the back and forth between stats and whether or not it's actually effective (because I don't feel like sorting through his "okay well we just don't TK when it sucks and TK when it doesn't suck" excuse). Refer back to my first response of why it being effective doesn't make it permissible (insert nazis, slaves, native americans reference here, again). This went 100% dropped and absolutely destroys his argument here. Moreover, even if you don't like the response for whatever reason, he's not showing why it's morally permissible because the first part of this list, which means there's literally no possible impact this argument can be having on the resolution.

And that's it. That's literally all of his arguments for affirming the resolution. There's no turns on the negative case, no turns on the K, no other arguments imtroduced later. That's literally it. From here you negate simply because a) I'm the only one with an argument that efficiently responds to the resolution, and b) I'm the only one with an actual risk of offense.

The next place you're looking is the negative case. His only response to literally the entirety of the negative case is that I'm misquoting Butler. I've already addressed that at the top of this round, but that was literally the only response. So even if, in the weird circumstance, that I'm misinterpreting Butler (I'm not, but let's humor him), he's not responding to any of the actual arguments I'm making. This means that my negative case, which shows why targeted killing is never morally permissible, is literally 100% dropped. Like, is this the easiest negative vote or what?

The last place you're looking to negate is the K. This is the silliest part of the debate because it's literally just my opponent trying to refute a K by laughing at it. Most of the explaining was done above in this round, but to quickly summarize it again: he doesn't actually respond to the warrants coming out of the K. He simply picks one part of it, the least critical or even relevant part, and tries to use it to show how it's not relevant to the discussion. This strategy ignores the actual warrants and implications of the argument, which is basically the same thing as ignoring the argument. He doesn't respond to the impacts of the K, and doesn't respond to the alt of the K either. This means that a) you negate because the alt shows us why targeted killing is never morally permissible, and b) even if you don't want to negate off of it (Wylted please), it gives you a reason to not buy the self-defense argument (even though it has no impact in the round anyway).

This breaks the debate down really, really easily for the voters. There's three ways to negate the resolution, and literally no way to affirm the resolution. The ballot becomes an easy negative vote.
Debate Round No. 4
39 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Zaradi 1 year ago
Posted by Nymphomaniac 1 year ago
But Judith Butler, really?
Posted by Nymphomaniac 1 year ago
Plus it's over.
Posted by Nymphomaniac 1 year ago
Judith Butler, seriously? I'd vote on this if I had a higher Elo, but I'm just a lowly 2300 guy.
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
Yeah, I've been there.
Posted by TN05 1 year ago
Yep, debates on intangible topics like philosophy or religion definitely take up an inordinate amount of time for research. I can (and usually do) throw together my normal debates in a few hours or so. I'm normally familiar with the topic beforehand and it isn't hard to establish why something is or isn't a good idea. With philosophy, you need to research EVERYTHING - including what your opponent will argue. I had no idea Zaradi would take this angle and I think it showed. Given this took place just as my semester was closing down, that made it even more difficult.
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
I'm right there with you. I feel so out of my depth when it comes to philosophy debates - the only reason that things went smoothly in that debate with Ajab was that I spent an inordinate amount of time researching and structuring my case, and even then it felt weak.
Posted by TN05 1 year ago
I really should have hammered more on his stance that any violence against another is always morally unjustified. That's a big claim and if I had spent more time on that and less on 'social contract' (which was a complete misread TBH) and noting rule concerns I think that could have swung the other way. Maybe if I get a few more philosophy debates under the belt I can be competitive in these in the future.
Posted by whiteflame 1 year ago
I felt you had good arguments in play here. It wasn't what I would call a blow out, though I could see some errors in judgment.
Posted by TN05 1 year ago
You really think so? IMO I really dropped the ball on this one. Maybe it's just the attention all drifted away because of the election, but this was a fairly weak final IMO.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 1 year ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Given in comments.