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The Contender
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R; The practice of hegemonic soft-power and hard-power are immoral.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/30/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,335 times Debate No: 29685
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




As my first debate on this site, I figure why not go big and take on hege?

To limit the debate to a reasonable scope, I am hoping we can discuss this in the context of Western actors and Western philosophy - unless my challenger feels there significant issues that we need to touch on by non-Western actors and moral paradigms. If so, please mention which issues from outside of the "Western World" you wish to discuss so that I may do some background research.

Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Constructive Arguments
Round 3: Constructive Rebuttals
Round 4: Final Rebuttals (no new arguments)


I negate, The practice of hegemonic soft-power and hard-power are immoral.

This will be my first debate as well. And as per my opponent's introduction, we are in agreement that the discussion will center around western players and their foreign policies and philosophies with regards to hegemony, as opposed to the policies and ideals of the non-western world. For purposes of avoiding semantics. here are some general definitions of the key terms:

Hegemony (n) - "Leadership or dominance displayed by a group over another group."

Soft power (n) - "A non violent approach to international relations, typically involving economic or cultural influence."

Hard power (n) - "An approach to international relations that involves the use of force or intimidation."

Western players (n, pl) - "The collection of specific nations located in Western Europe and North America, generally supporting UN and NATO resolutions such as democracy, global stability, and human rights, among other things."

I look forward to a fun and informative debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to thank my opponent for accepting this challenge and agreeing to the limits on the debate. I hope that we can have an educational discursive discussion on this topic as we both tread into the waters of online debate.

As per the resolution, I am asserting that hegemonic practices are immoral as a whole and it is my burden to prove them both to be immoral.

In the actor of the United States, I will offer the implications of Hegemony as a case example. While there may be problems with focusing on this actor, we can see the implications of it's Hegemony more clearly because of it's hegemonic strength. Finally, I will review how Hegemonic practice is immoral by interrogating the methodology of the practice and a indictment of it's harms.

Actions of Soft-Power:

The United States regularly takes a leading role in world affairs, utilizing it's position as the economic, political and military power house of the international stage. It uses the practice of hegemony to attempt to maintain it's dominance by spreading democracy.

Politically, using “Soft-Power”, we can agree that the U.S.A. displays dominance in the U.N. where it is both a founding member and a permanent member of the Security Council where it has veto power over U.N. resolutions. The U.S.A. has regularly used it's veto power to protect unpopular allies such as The State of Israel and South Africa during Apartheid, such as condemnations and termination of military & nuclear collaboration. [1] Additionally, the United States has used their veto power to protect themselves from scrutiny:

      • The 1999 resolution calling the U.S.A. to end it's trade embargo on Cuba, which by that time had been widely opposed by the international community.

      • The 1989 resolution condemning U.S.A. support for the Contra army in Nicaragua who were fighting the SNLF, a major democratic socialist political party in Nicaragua.[2]
There are a number of other examples but in the interest of brevity we will only cite these.

Economically, using “Soft-Power”, again the U.S.A. displays dominance in it's economic policies. For instance, the United States has utilized it's economic Soft-Power over Cuba in order to prompt regime change through embargo. However, clearly, there has been none. Instead this policy has only served to hurt the people of Cuba, both in putting them at higher risk of death and socioeconomic suffering. [3] Additionally, the embargoes have actually empowered Fidel Castro by giving him an ever-present foreign enemy and an excuse for the failures of his command economy [4] causing opposition within Cuba to be nearly nonexistent because of the population's dependence on the Cuban government. This same scenario has been played out throughout the world; Iran, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and North Korea are a few examples of current and historic failures of economic Soft-Power that have only served to hurt the local population. Economic

Another form of “Soft-Power” is food aid. The examples here are numerous but a common trend between them all is that:
1. The food aid was captured and used by dominant political & military entities to enforce cooperation on their people. For an example, we can look to Somalia where local warlords intercepted food aid and used it in conjunction with their Monopoly on Death to enforce their will, which essentially meant they had the Monopoly on Life and Death.
2. The food aid had the effect of crippling local agrarian economies with demotivation and causing dependence on foreign aid in order to survive. “The primary concerns are that beneficiaries will lose the motivation to work to improve their own livelihoods after receiving benefits, or that they will deliberately reduce their work efforts in order to qualify for the (food aid).” [5]

Actions of Hard-Power:

“Hard-Power” is most often observed through the use of military force and deployment. This takes several forms; Conventional Warfare (Iraq & Afghanistan), Covert Warfare (the “War on Terrorism”) and Deployment of Intimidation (Turkey & Japan). All forms have similar effects so we will consider them together:

The typical implications of warfare are economic destruction (both instantaneous and continuous) widespread casualties, political unrest and cultural objectification by one party or the other. While the material implications of war are reason enough to shy away from it, the cultural implications are just as powerful because they have both a large scope and a multi-generational lifetime. What are these implications?

1. Objectification; during and after conflict, adversaries socially construct the other as an enemy, a threat. This creates unfounded prejudice upon all people associated with that “enemy”. For example, when George H.W. Bush implicated Muslims as the ones responsible for the 9/11 attacks, hate crime against people of Middle Eastern heritage and other groups such as Indians and Turks skyrocketed 3000%. This indicates a drastically shifted attitude that views persons from the Middle East, even other groups not even related to the issue, were reduced to a common denominator: "terrorists", an enemy. This stripped individuals of their humanity and enabled them to be treated as non-humans.

2. Threat Rhetoric; both sides of conflict use rhetoric that construct the other as an ever-present threat which enables two clear responses:

a. Asymmetrical Violence: The construction of threat rhetoric, in addition to the pains inflicted by warfare, creates cultural responses among subaltern populations that favor radical actions against the “other”. [6] This can be observed in the origin of Al-Queda and it's growth during the Iraq War and in response to efforts in Somalia:

“The U.S.-led war on Iraq gave Al Qaeda the opportunity to reinvigorate its weakened terrorist network with new recruits and more funding” [7]

“In response to the intervention of U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces (largely Christians) in July 2006, Somali Islamists looked to al-Qaeda for support.“ [8]

b. Fascism: Naomi Wolf argues that any state, including our own, can quickly move to fascism in ten steps, the most critical of which is “invoking a terrifying internal and external enemy.” [9] We can observe this in Iran currently and Somalia which is trending towards fascism in it's opposition parties. This has implications for U.S. citizens as well however as they (we) are subject to the same rhetoric that enables the development of fascism.

Moral Weighing:
So, how is this all immoral? In order to answer this, we will use a utilitarian framework: that which does the most good with the least harm is moral. While “harm” is a generic consideration, anything that causes suffering is a harm, we will evaluate what is “good” through the Western ideological championing of democracy, liberty and freedom. Essentially, if these ideas become manifest directly because of some action, then that action is “good”. These are ideals that, in some ways, Hegemonic practices attempt to spread. However, the harms caused by Hegemony not only inhibits this spread but reverses it. Now, while I will admit that the quantification of such comparisons of "most" and "least" are subjective, it provides our audience to use their own interpretations of our arguments instead of using a tit-for-tat approach which serves only to reduce the debate to "who can make the most arguments" instead of who can make compelling & educational arguments.

With that said, let us continue.

Hegemonic practice causes a large amount of harm; the effects of embargoes and food aid on local populations which both serve to empower their leaders instead of causing uprisings, the effects of threat rhetoric and objectification.
At the same time, these effects are counter productive to the supposed "good" that the practices could do by enabling and encouraging fascism.

Therefore, the practices of Hegemony are neither good nor cause little harm. They are wholly and completely immoral.

Thank you, vote for the Pro.


Theo forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Theo, my appologies if I was a bit too hard-core in the debate, I'm used to folks being able to b.s. the topic with me easily. If you want, message me to talk about hege in general.

I guess this is still up for voting... so vote pro?


Theo forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Hege is bad, mmmkay? vote pro.


Theo forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Krestoff 5 years ago
An argument I considered including but in the interest of space decided to put here. I do not think this should have weight in the consideration of the debate but I do think it has some educational value:

...let us clarify the subject of the resolution. Theo offers excellent definitions to give us a general idea of the subject, however these definitions are somewhat ambiguous in their relationship to international politics. While I doubt that particulars of the definitions would be used against me, I'd like to interpret and clarify regardless the definition of hegemony:

"1. The preponderant influence or authority over others; 2. the social, cultural, ideological or economic influence exerted by a dominant group" Merriam-Webster. [1]

Meaning, that these influences are available only to those dominant in power relations and while the subaltern group might fight against hegemonic influence, their own conflict is not hegemonic in of itself.

In the same way, a child stealing a toy from another would be considered stealing but the reaction of the wronged child to use equal or lesser measures to re-obtain their toy is not considered stealing, it is a just response. However, should one exceed the wrongs done to them, e.g. by taking another toy, their actions become unjust- they become stealing. We can consider then that the reciprocal response of subalterns to Hegemony is not Hegemony in of itself so long as the actions they take do not exceed the boundaries set by precedent. This becomes problematic in some situations however, where some subalterns go further than the precedent. Unfortunately we do not have enough space to discuss this so I would like to table that topic for another debate.
Posted by Theo 5 years ago
The definitions are the standard Webster, with some minor modification on my part to ensure relevance to the topic at hand. My apologies for not including the source in my argument.
Posted by Krestoff 5 years ago
Excellent definitions! What is your source btw?

I'll hopefully have my PM ready to go tomorrow night.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Subutai 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: FF.