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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: 2/11/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,513 times Debate No: 30141
Debate Rounds (4)
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Since my previous opponent forfieted on this topic, I'd like to try this debate again.

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.

1. Citations & clarifications should be made in the Comments section
2. Semantic arguments past the R2 will be discounted, they're just a detrment to the discussion.
3. Independant moral frameworks for analysis are allowed (e.g. Pro uses Utilitarianism, Con uses Kantian Morality), both debaters should engage with the different frameworks if new ones are proposed. Limit 1 per debater.

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

Definitions from Merrian-Webster:

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."


Hi, thanks for the debate. All definitions accepted and agree that this primarily concerns Western state actors in a modern-day context.

Just to clarify - I certainly won't be arguing that all hegemonic behaviour by Western countries has been noble, just as I imagine you wouldn't want to argue that all displays of leadership or dominance by Western countries have been immoral - the issue is whether the exercise of Western hegemony is moral, on balance.

Personally, I would prefer to narrow the debate to whether the exercise of Western hegemony does more good than harm, but am happy to run with your broader definition of whether it is moral. Let me know at the beginning of your round 2 piece. Look forward to it!
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.

I accept my opponent's clarification that we are assessing this behavior on balance of whatever moral paradigm(s) we use. I think you'll find the ability to debate with me what "good" and "harm" it does, I make some analysis on this at the end here, if you feel more carification is needed take it to the Comments so that we aren't spinning our wheels.

To the audience: As per the resolution, I am asserting that hegemonic practices are immoral. The basis of voting for who you think won the debate should be if I successfully defend the immorality of both forms of Hegemony. If you think that Con has successfully attacked either form or other assumptions I make, then I would urge that you vote for him.

In the actor of the United States, I will offer the common policy interpretation and implications of Hegemony as a case example. While there may be problems with focusing on this actor, it is the most powerful actor in the Western World and through it we can see the implications of it's Hegemony more clearly. 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 without damaging it's foreign and domestic interests.

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. [2] Additionally, the United States has used their veto power to protect themselves from scrutiny: [3]

    • 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.

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. [4] Additionally, the embargo have actually empowered Fidel Castro by giving him an ever-present foreign enemy and an excuse for the failures of his command economy [5] causing opposition within Cuba to be nearly nonexistent because of the population's dependance 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 Soft-Power also extends to trade relations and protection of “intellectual property rights”. The aim of these protections is to maintain the U.S.A.'s technological, and thereby economic, dominance. However, by staunchly protecting our IPRs,

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 dependance 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).” [6]

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 and then the latter separately:

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 long 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 Middle Easterners 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%.
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”. [7] This can be observed in the origin of Al-Queda and it's growth during the Iraq War and in response to airstrikes in Somalia.
“The U.S.-led war on Iraq gave Al-Queda the opportunity to reinvigorate its weakened terrorist network with new recruits and more funding” [8]
“In response to the intervention of U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces (largely Christians) in July 2006, Somali Islamists looked to Al-Queda for support.“ [9]
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.” [10] 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.

I look forward to my opponent's arguments.


Lange forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2

Pro pro.


Lange forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Krestoff forfeited this round.


Lange forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
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