On balance, Obama's foreign policy has done more harm than good
This is the final round of the November Beginner's Tournament. Congrats to my opponent for making it here, and good luck!
All words are assumed to have their common definitions, and the meanings of "harm" and "good" ought to be defined based on who has the best framework for this argument.
R1 is for acceptance only.
No new arguments in the last round.
Other than that, how you use your 10,000 characters is up to you (barring silly things like posting a link to a Google Doc with 20 pages of extra argument).
The BoP is shared.
I look forward to an exciting debate.
Introduction: First, I would like to thank 1harderthanyouthink for his can-do attitude and making sure that the debaters took initiative in this tournament. Despite many forfeitures, he was able to carry on efficiently and without fault. Kudos to you. Secondly, I would like to congratulate SolonKR on making it to the final round of this tournament! Hopefully this debate does not descend into chaos but remains on a level of intellectual discourse. May the best debater win!
Framework: A “good” foreign policy, or a foreign policy that does “harm” can be interpreted in many ways. My perspective is built on the foundations of outreach in the world community. In contention with my opponent’s views on a “good” foreign policy, I suggest that “good” should mean that countries around the world who have had interactions with the United States should be improved in some way, given chances to alleviate current predicaments in their country, or dealing with enemies of the state in a peaceful yet blunt fashion. When these three things, collectively or individually, are achieved by the foreign policy of the United States, then our foreign policy has done “good” and we can safely say that we are a contributing factor in world affairs. I would ask voters to take into consideration the outlinings of “good” from both sides and weigh them in their logic and applicability to the cases proposed.
Iraq: President Bush, created a situation that President Obama inherited which has led some to assume that Obama is the one to blame for circumstances in the Middle East. For instance, the conflict in Iraq. It was Bush’s foreign policy that spearheaded the invasion of Iraq, and it was clearly the act of Obama’s foreign policy that withdrew troops in 2011 (1). In comparison, Bush’s ideal of an adequate foreign policy was to invade other nations to enforce american will, while Obama took a cautious approach and tried not to make the wrong moves, therefore the harms of Bush’s foreign policy outweigh those of Obama’s. For Obama to be blamed wholly for the now ensuing conflict in Iraq would be a misguided accusation; Obama did not cause the situation because it was not on his orders that the U.S. wrongly invaded the nation of Iraq. As the president who inherited this situation, it was his job to resolve it with little to none problems, and he succeeded. At every turn in the Iraq war, the U.S. devoted time, money, and equipment to the Iraqi military forces. In the Bush campaign in Iraq, a total of $26 billion was spent on U.S. aid to Iraq. Some outlets of this donated money include training ($1.32 billion), supplying the Iraqi military with aircraft, boats, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other gear ($3.4 billion), and providing military, logistical, and maintenance support for the Iraqi military ($2.6 billion). After billions spent on training and improving the efficiency and capabilities of the Iraqi military, we accomplished one face of our multi-faceted foreign policy; giving not only chances but the capabilities to alleviate predicaments in Iraq to the military and government (2). Knowing how much money had been spent on military training, equipment, and the war as a whole, Obama did withdraw troops from Iraq. When the U.S. departed from Iraq, we did not leave the country defenseless; we had spent the last eight years spending billions on training and equipment to increase the wartime capabilities of the Iraqi military. In conclusion, when you look at the tangible evidence I have provided, withdrawing troops from Iraq was the reasonable thing to do at the time; the Iraqi military had been armed and trained extensively. It was not an error of the Obama administration, but an error by the Iraqi administration for not having the initiative to expand upon the training and equipment to form a capable fighting force. Obama had seen that they had the tools to utilize in the alleviation of conflict, and made the decision to withdraw.
Economic Isolation: A noteworthy aspect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been the economic isolation and sanctioning of countries around the world that pose a threat to the U.S. itself and its allies. Instead of invading countries and trying to enact our will by brute force, Obama has greatly impeded the economies of enemies of state, and the economy is the lifeline of a country. A major part of Obama’s foreign policy has been aimed at dealing with Iran. The threat they pose is based off of two things: Their hostilities with Israel, and their ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, which existentially poses a threat to the U.S. (we are allied with Israel). Our reaction to the ambition and hostilities of Iran has been one bearing a cool and calculating manner. What Obama has gotten right is that we cannot approach threats abroad with brute force, but we should instead aim to cripple the essential lifeline they need to run their country, in order to lessen the posed threat. The Council on Foreign Relations (3) states that, “Under the 2011 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), foreign-based financial institutions or subsidiaries that deal with sanctioned banks are barred from conducting deals in the United States or with the U.S. dollar,” and, “Prior to 2012, oil exports provided half the Iranian government's revenue and made up one-fifth of the country's GDP; its exports have been more than halved since.” The following graph supports evidence of the utter crippling of the oil industry by American sanctions (3):
Instead of instigating armed conflict or starting warfare of any sort, Obama has aimed at crippling the economy of Iran so that they are aware of the circumstances that they face and they discontinue their previous acts of attempting to proliferate nuclear weapons of mass destruction and the funding of terrorist organizations abroad. By targeting the oil industry, which before accounted for one-fifth of the country’s GDP, and making Iran an outsider economically in the world community, they were hard pressed for economic growth and could not find anyone to deal with them. Using these methods, the Obama administration coerced the Iranian government into agreeing to a historic deal (4) that leaves little to no room for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, let alone the materials. All things considered, Obama succeeded in performing one crucial facet of the U.S. foreign policy; dealing with enemies of the state in a peaceful yet blunt fashion.
Overview: I would ask voters to judge solely upon the cases proposed and their entireties, and nothing else. Each case should be analyzed heavily for the values, criterion supplied, and the good and bad of case should be weighed to form the best conclusion. I have provided tangible evidence and clear reasoning to prove that Obama’s foreign policy has done more harm than good, and I will provide more evidence for my case in the rounds to come.
Conclusion: Once again, I would like to thank my opponent for extending his arguments due to Christmas, and I hope that this debate flows smoothly from here on out. Thank you to my mentor YYW for giving me the foundation to produce my case. I hand it over to you Pro!
I hid some sick humor in this, yo. This round is a bit shorter, but I decided based on the loss of a round to not bother with extending the argument beyond the Middle East; after all, it is the most volatile situation and the biggest threat to national security at the present time.
Framework: I proposed that good foreign policy produces situations favorable to the US in foreign countries, and Con has proposed that good foreign policy should help build up foreign countries/stabilize countries/deal with enemies peacefully. The principles that guide each of Con’s assertions contradict each other, especially the idea of dealing with enemies while somehow building them up. Stabilization is also contradictory to dealing with enemies. Even Obama’s policies of sanctions are meant to destabilize enemies, through degradation of their economies. So, I must assume that the building-up and stabilization of nations only applies to allied or neutral nations in Con’s framework. This means that Con’s framework has no conflict with my own, as building up allies is one way to produce favorable conditions (think back to the Marshall Plan, for example). That only leaves “peaceful yet blunt” as a contradiction. Con provided no justification for why foreign policy must always be peaceful--off the top of my head, I can think of at least the Korean War, the arms race of the 80’s, and the first Gulf War as examples of militaristic actions that made conditions better in foreign areas for the US--South Korea is a strong ally, the USSR went broke, and Kuwait continues to be a strong US ally as well.
Iraq: I never blamed Obama for the war in Iraq; clearly, I established, “for a policy to be a failure of Obama’s, it must be something that Obama had the capacity for changing while in office.” Con has not challenged this framework. Now, the resolution weighs the harms and good of Obama’s foreign policy in itself, not as opposed to Bush. If it did, I would have lost this before it even started. Con states “the harms of Bush’s foreign policy outweigh those of Obama’s”, but this is irrelevant to the resolution. I never stated that Obama should be blamed wholly for the current state of Daesh, but that does not mean that he shouldn’t be blamed at all or even mostly.
“As the president who inherited this situation, it was his job to resolve it with little to none problems, and he succeeded.” “In conclusion, when you look at the tangible evidence I have provided, withdrawing troops from Iraq was the reasonable thing to do at the time; the Iraqi military had been armed and trained extensively. It was not an error of the Obama administration, but an error by the Iraqi administration for not having the initiative to expand upon the training and equipment to form a capable fighting force.”
This analysis is half true. Yes, the excesses of the Iraqi government made it easier for it to nearly collapse. However, the US did not have to support this development. Doug Bandow at The National Interest writes:
“like its predecessor it also intervened too much rather than too little. For instance, President Obama continued to back Iraq’s Maliki government despite the latter’s sectarian excesses. That commitment left Washington with little leverage to press ruling Shia politicians to make concessions to disaffected Sunnis” (1).
The amount money spent on them is irrelevant. It’s how that money is used. To appeal to the hip youth on this site, for example, our government spends hella cash on healthcare, but we ain’t got rhythm to show for it. Obama should have known whether or not we had progress to show for our spending, and he miscalculated.
Economic Isolation: I do not contest that economic intervention is on balance a good plan. But, in weighing the impacts, the good created by this is minute. We got Iran to agree to a nuclear deal based on sanctions, I agree. However, Iran will, as the deal illustrates, act in their own self-interest. Whether or not they have a bomb is relatively irrelevant, for the same reason that it doesn’t matter that Pakistan has nukes--they will never use them, as they, being a rational entity, will adhere to MAD. The Iranian government will not hand the nukes over to terrorists for that same reason.
The Middle East
“In early 2013, Obama asked Brennan to lead the C.I.A. The President appointed as Brennan’s deputy Avril Haines, a National Security Council lawyer who had worked on drone-strike rules and operations. The number of drone strikes carried out in Pakistan fell. Since Brennan became C.I.A. director, according to the data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there has not been a single documented civilian casualty, child or adult, as a result of a drone strike in Waziristan.”
“According to former Obama Administration officials, the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, which oversees the agency’s drone operations, generates an after-action report, which includes an assessment of whether there was collateral damage. The center has a specialized, independent group that conducts post-strike investigations. The investigators grade the performances of their colleagues and bosses—not exactly a recipe for objectivity. But it seems clear that, over time, the Administration’s record improved significantly in avoiding civilian casualties……. In 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration, at least one child was reported killed in a third of all C.I.A. drone strikes in Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism—a shocking percentage, if it is accurate. In Obama’s first year in office, the figure was twenty per cent—still very high. By 2012, it was five per cent.” (3)
As seen in the quote above, Obama has in fact done something to reduce the amount of civilian casualties, child or adult. A change in administration may not seem like a big improvement, but because of the change there has been a massive improvement in collateral damage from the drone strikes that my opponent never fails to bring to light. There is clear and tangible evidence that the civilian casualties in drone strikes has significantly improved under the presidency of Obama.
My opponent’s claims that Obama “let” ISIS take over swaths of land in Iraq and the surrounding Iraq is also incorrect. The U.S. military had severed military involvement to the bare minimum in the area and we were not ready to put ground troops once again to fight a futile war. It was not unwillingness on Obama’s part to act upon the growing threat of ISIS, it was a feeling of deja vu that kept him from engulfing the United States into another trillion dollar quagmire. Once again, it was not just a campaign promise that led Obama to pulling troops out of Iraq, it was the fact that we gave Iraq the needed tools and training to alleviate any crises that might arise.
Arab Spring Arguments
Libya and the dictatorship of Qaddafi had long been a thorn in the side of the U.S., since we were allied with them. For a country so supportive of human rights and pro democracy throughout the world like the United States, Qaddafi’s regime gave us a blemish on our relatively clean sheet of foreign policy. According to A Guide To Countries of The World (4), “Qaddafi was assisted by “revolutionary committees” who controlled most institutions, including the media….. Human rights abuses rang from arbitrary arrests and torture to extra-judicial executions and disappearances…… In the past he (Qaddafi) has used Libya’s oil wealth to bankroll a range of guerilla groups from the PLO to the IRA.” This evidence shows how much the actions of Qaddafi’s regime during that time but a blemish of the foreign policy record of the U.S., and what influenced Obama’s decision in the years to come.
In the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprising in Libya, Obama saw an opportunity, albeit a risky one, but an opportunity for a democratization accomplishment nonetheless. Therefore he acted in the favor of the rebels in the hopes that they would be able to overthrow Qaddafi and form a democratic government favorable to the U.S. and the world community. If the democratization had not failed in its infant stages, Obama would have been praised for years to come for the birth of a pure democratic nation in Libya. It was not instinct or a lack of evidence and blind notions that made Obama intervene, but another motive behind the scenes for another democratic nation in the Middle East.
In response to Syria, my opponent’s claims are invalid. Interventionist policies might have worked in the favor of Libya, but Syria was another ball game. A policy of intervention in order to produce “situations favorable to the United States” cannot be used for one and all nations around the world, and Syria is a perfect example of that. My opponent refuses the need for adaptability in the foreign policy of the United States, and used two different events to base his claims off of, which were different on multiple levels. What my opponent can say in hindsight is that we should or should not have acted in these situations. He does not acknowledge that Obama was a bit reluctant to intervene in Syria after the resulting collapse of the Libyan democratic government. Nobody can be sure that intervening or not will result in a democratic nation or a situation that is favorable to the United States. One important asset of Obama’s foreign policy has been his reluctance to act in many questionable situations following Libya. Sometimes in order to prevent nations from worsening in relations with the U.S., abstinence is key.
Firstly, I would like to note that a large portion of my rebuttal was sourced from one of my opponent’s own sources. Secondly, I would like to point out to voters that everything my opponent said about the crises in the Middle East has been in complete hindsight, and he did not take into consideration the intricacies the situations posed at the present. Lastly, nothing my opponent provided in his arguments has deviated from the middle east, which does not encompass the entirety of Obama’s foreign policy. Therefore I stand with my claims that Obama’s foreign policy has done more good than harm. The events in hindsight are of lesser importance compared to the actions performed at the present.
Allow me to start with the most succinct rebuttal: Con’s stance makes no sense. The presence or absence of the word “dealings” is semantics, I could say “a good foreign policy should logically produce situations favorable to us in other states through our dealings with them”, and it would mean exactly the same thing as without the last five words. “Dealings” is implicit with any foreign policy, as any foreign policy, shockingly, makes conscious decisions about how they will deal with other nations. The rest of his first paragraph is a non-sequitur; there’s no logical connection between the necessity of having different policies toward different nations and the “favorable situations” criterion’s inadequacy. Producing favorable situations, indeed, requires different responses to different nations.
W.r.t. the second paragraph, I’m glad Con clarified his position… except that he has still given us absolutely no reason to accept his framework over mine, simply spouting opinions like “[Pro’s framework] ignores the inner workings of [foreign policy] and only scratching the surface.” Yet, they have no legs to stand upon.
My example of conflict is not irrelevant, because it clearly demonstrates that Con’s interpretation of a good foreign policy has no basis; we have effectively dealt with our enemies in forceful ways before. Con simply has no ground to stand on when he says that foreign policy is good when it does X, Y, and Z; furthermore, the resolution is about whether Obama’s foreign policy has DONE good, not whether it’s a foreign policy that can be considered good based on abstract qualities, which is my opponent’s interpretation. My framework provides this, as “good” means “producing favorable situations in other states”. Meanwhile, the only substance Con has provided to his framework is that “countries around the world who have had interactions with the United States should be improved in some way, given chances to alleviate current predicaments in their country, or dealing with enemies of the state in a peaceful yet blunt fashion.” We’re given no reason why this is the case.
The Middle East
The excuse that Obama had hard decisions to make is ridiculous; again, the resolution is whether his foreign policy has done harm or good, “toughness” aside. That would be like absolving pre-LIncoln presidents of the blame for the Civil War because the slavery created a tough political problem.
W.r.t. drone strikes, Con hasn’t substantiated his claim that drone strikes save lives in the long run, and I also never said that civilian casualties weren’t lowered. For the rest of this, I need only quote things I’ve already said. “While drone strikes have been improving in their precision, between 10-20% of drone strike deaths are civilians (3). The damage has already been done. In Pakistan, where arguably the first major drone campaign took place, more than half of Pakistanis view the US as an enemy (2).” “There are two ways in which these negative consequences could have been avoided. One, the US could have “investigated reported errors and compensated survivors, as the U.S. military has done routinely since 2005 whenever it mistakenly kills civilians in Afghanistan.” (2). Two, it could have kept a larger number of troops on the ground. The withdrawal from Iraq in particular, which Obama made no efforts to renegotiate, allowed ISIS to rapidly spread, taking over major cities in the country (4).His unwillingness to fill the power vacuums in the Middle East set us up for another terrorism crisis.” My counterplan was completely dropped, so my argument stands permanently. His statistic about Brennan and the casualties in Waziristan is misleading for the reason that there are places in the world that aren’t Waziristan. I already showed that civilian deaths didn’t magically poof away in my opening argument. With regards to the second quote--which, again, I already acknowledged--shinier poop is still poop. Drone strikes are poop, as I have shown.
With regards to Obama letting ISIS arise, he clearly miscalculated. It doesn’t matter what his motivations were at the time; he still clearly made the objectively wrong decision, because the collapse of Syria and the near collapse of Iraq did happen on his watch. We’re debating consequences, not whether or not he had good intentions.
“Libya and the dictatorship of Qaddafi had long been a thorn in the side of the U.S., since we were allied with them. For a country so supportive of human rights and pro democracy throughout the world like the United States, Qaddafi’s regime gave us a blemish on our relatively clean sheet of foreign policy.”
With regards to Syria, my opponent doesn’t say why my claims are invalid, other than the “Obama was reluctant.” Again, we’re arguing consequences, and the consequences of his action were great harm, as I showed.
I don’t see what the point of his first thought is. W.r.t. the second thought, that’s irrelevant to the resolution; what happened is all that matters. W.r.t. the last thought, I wasn’t aware that this is a gish gallop and I’m required to list terrible things he’s done in every single country. My opponent had every opportunity to list some good that Obama did, but he spent the entire debate simply trying to minimize the presentation of the harms rather than advance positive arguments, and that’s his problem. Just because I didn’t mention countries like Russia or China doesn’t mean there weren’t mistakes made there; to claim that just because I didn’t mention anything outside the Middle East, the rest of the world is perfect thanks to Obama is silly. I focused on the Middle East because it’s the most important.
Obama made blunder after blunder in the Middle East, and I’ve clearly demonstrated that his foreign policy has done more harm than good. Thanks to my opponent for this debate.