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

Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/7/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,900 times Debate No: 21713
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I will defend consequentialism, particularly the ethics of responsibility. The moral agent must be a government policy-maker. There is no formal definition of targeted killing that includes killings carried out by private citizens.

Professor Dan Brock begins by noting that policy-makers must weigh ethics differently:
"The different goals of academic scholarship and public policy call in turn for different virtues and behavior in their practitioners. Philosophers who steadfastly maintain their academic ways in the public policy setting are not to be admired as islands of integrity in a sea of messy political compromise and corruption. Instead, I believe that if philosophers maintain the academic virtues there they will not only find themselves often ineffective but will as well often fail in their responsibilities and act wrongly"
(Brock, 1987). Brock, Daniel W. (1987). "Truth or Consequences: The Role of Philosophers in Policy-Making," Ethics, Vol. 97, No. 4, P.786-91, JSTOR.

The foremost duty of government is to protect its populace. Owen Harries, borrowing from Max Weber, notes that in politics, "it is ‘the ethic of responsibility' rather than ‘the ethic of absolute ends' that is appropriate" (Harries, 1993). Harries draws a comparison to human rights and notes that:
"While an individual is free to treat human rights as absolute, to be observed whatever the cost, governments must always weigh consequences and the competing claims of other ends. So once they enter the realm of politics, human rights have to take their place in a hierarchy of interests, including such basic things as national security and the promotion of prosperity"
(Harries, 1993). Harries, Owen (1993). "Power and Civilization," The National Interest, Spring, Lexis.

This responsibility mandates that the government engage in proportionate and distinct targeted killings against those who pose a threat to innocent citizens. George Schultz, the Secretary of State under the Reagan administration, states the case very clearly:
"There should be no moral confusion on the issue. Our aim is not to seek revenge but to put an end to violent attacks against innocent people, to make the world a safer place to live for all of us. Clearly the democracies have a moral right, indeed a duty, to defend themselves"
(Canestaro, 2003). Canestaro, Nathan (2003). "American Law and Policy on Assassinations of Foreign Leaders: The Prcticality of Maintaining the Status Quo." Boston College International and Comparative Law Review Vol. 26 No. 1, Winter, p. 1-34, Lexis.

Another moral defense is that targeted killing is an act of self-defense. This clearly falls within the tenets of Article 51 of the United Nations charter. It is performed against an actual use of force, or hostile act. It is also justified under the preemptive self-defense against an imminent use of force, which is clearly established by the actions of those targeted. It is also appropriate to use self-defense against a continuing threat, which forces of terrorism clearly constitute.

Yet another defense of the morality of the practice can be found in the realist school of moral philosophy, which argues that the laws of morality must adjust to the laws of war, rather than vice versa. Michael Walzer summarized this well in his book Just and Unjust Wars, writing
"(In war,) men and women do what they must to save themselves and their communities, and morality and law have no place. Inter arma silent leges: in time of war the law is silent"
(Walzer, 1977). Walzer, Michael (1977). Just and Unjust Wars. Basic books, p. 3.

Many negatives will argue that the way targeted killings are selected is undemocratic, and will propose a law enforcement model as an alternative. This is a problem with the process of selecting who to kill, not with the act itself. One proposal, raised by Professors Murphy and Radsan, would implement a clear due process procedure and follow-up investigation that would still respect the need to preserve sensitive national security information (Murphy and Radsan, 2009). Murphy, Richard W., and Radsan, Afsheen (2009). "Due Process and Targeted Killing of Terrorists" Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 31, p. 405, 2009, Lexis.

The pure law enforcement model, as noted by Major Matthew J. Machon, "appears insufficient when the disturbing level of violence that non-state actors can inflict has caused significant uncertainty about the suitability of situating criminal acts related to terrorism within the purview of law enforcement and the terrorists operate within the territory of states either unwilling or incapable of cooperating" (Machon, 2005). Machon, Major Matthew A (2005). "Targeted Killing as an Element of U.S. Foreign Policy in the War on Terror", Monograph published by U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, School of Advanced Military Studies 250 Gibbon Ave Ft. Leavenworth, KS 66027.

Consider the practical impacts of arresting Osama bin Laden: it would also create the rallying cry effect, but would also put every aspect of the U.S. proceedings under a global microscope.

Many negative teams will argue that targeted killings present a number of logistical difficulties. I believe the affirmative should forcefully stress that logistical difficulties don't prove that targeted killing is morally impermissible; they only prove it is difficult and should be used with extreme caution.

Additionally, there is reason to doubt the difficulty of overcoming logistical hurdles. "Blowback" and retaliation are tautological; targeted killings are self-defense in the eyes of the attacker. Further, effective targeted killings hamper the size and scope of an organization's ability to perpetrate violence. While recruiting is important, expertise is even more important. Byman weighs the issue very well by noting that "the number of skilled terrorists is quite limited. Bomb makers, terrorism trainers, forgers, recruiters, and terrorist leaders are scarce; they need many months, if not years, to gain enough expertise to be effective. When these individuals are arrested or killed, their organizations are disrupted. The groups may still be able to attract recruits, but in lacking expertise, these new recruits will not pose the same kind of threat" (Byman, 2006). Byman, Daniel (2006). "Do Targeted Killings Work?" Foreign Affairs, Mar-Apr, p. 95, Lexis.

There is also a difference between the number of members and the lethality of attacks. Masterminds are responsible for devising clever methods to kill thousands. The number of recruits does not linearly correlate with the number of deaths each is responsible for.

I believe three key factors serve as a framework/criterion for decision-making:

(a) Determining the moral agent. If the moral agent is a government policy-maker, they must win their ethical arguments as they relate to the competing goals inherent within policy-making. They must prove potential liberty concerns outweigh death to policy-makers.

(b) Weighing who best protects innocent lives. Terrorist attacks kill THOUSANDS of innocent citizens. Most targeted killings inflict few, if any, civilian casualties. Inflcting casualties is a goal of terrorists: avoid them is a goal of targeted killing. Targeted killing is a moral duty carried out using the utmost caution in the face of madmen bent on destruction.

(c) The burden of proof is on them to disprove every instance and example of a targeted killing. They must prove it is *morally impermissible* not just *generally unadvisable*


Thanks to my opponent for challenging me to this, I hope we have a good round. A full rebuttal of the Aff will come in the next round.

Right now as we speak the world is on the brink of using nuclear weapons and destroying the planet, and it's because of our mentality of violence. We have to promote ways of thinking to get away from this violent thinking and prevent the destruction of the planet.

Burke 07 (2007, Anthony Burke, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at UNSW, Sydney, Ontologies of War: Violence, Existence and Reason, Theory and Event)

The nationalist ontology of war claims to link violent means to political ends predictably and controllably, modern politics and government engages in a sweeping project of mastery and control in which all are made part of a process of which war and violence are viewed as normal features. Such cravings for order and certainty continually confront chaos, resistance and uncertainty we are witness to an enduring political and cultural theme: of a craving for order, control and certainty in the face of continual uncertainty.

This view of politics makes nuke war inevitable

Davis, 01 (Doug, Ph D Georgia Institute for Technology, Doomsday Summer, "A Hundred Million Hydrogen Bombs": Total War in the Fossil Record,

Making nuclear weapons "absolute weapons" was a historical choice, , the massive destruction promised by nuclear deterrence becomes more than a protestable fact of geopolitical life and turns into a state of nature as a naturalistic fable the theory may make the nuclear war machine and the society that built it seem all that more natural, and even necessary.

Thus we can conclude that our world today is on the verge of using these nukes and blowing our world into pieces and possible extinction, and its all because of our epistemology of violence being used to solve violence.

bell hooks, Author, social activist, writes in her book All About Love in 2000

We can all change our minds and our actions. I talked about the necessity of changing our thinking so that we see ourselves as being like the one who does change rather than among those who refuse to change. What made these individuals exceptional was that they were willing to live the truth of their values. If you talk to average citizens, there is a gap between the values they claim to hold and their willingness to do the work of connecting thought to action, theory and practice to realize these values and thus create a more just society. They are afraid to act on what they believe because it would mean challenging the conservative status quo. Refusal to stand up for what you believe in weakens individual morality and ethics as well as those of the culture. No wonder then that we are a nation of people, the majority of whom, claim to believe in the divine power of love, and yet collectively remain unable to embrace a love ethic and allow it to guide behavior, especially if doing so would mean supporting radical change. Fear of radical changes leads many citizens of our nation to betray their minds and hearts.

bell hooks points out the major hypocrisy the world lives in today. We say we value life, love and peace, yet we don't take actions that exemplify these things. We are afraid of changing our actions to correlate with the way we think, all because we have been taught by our leaders that we must take these actions even if they go against our value system. This goes against our moral and ethical values, this weakens our community as a whole, and this is what leads us to the Nuclear War which we must prevent. bell hooks proves we must go through a radical change of our mentality if we are ever to protect that which we believe, and in order to do so we must embrace a love ethic.

Thus the standard is to discourage violence

Because Targeted Killing is part of the same violent mentality that is going to destroy our planet we must reject it in order to move away from that mentality and get more humane and even effective alternatives.

Thus I contend that we need to reject the AC in order to discourage violence, prevent nuclear war, and articulate real solutions to Terrorism.

De Angelis '03

(Massimo, Department of Economics University of East London, THE COMMONER, Winter,, uw/mjs)

In order to take the many calls for and practices of alternatives seriously, we have move from movement to society through a language. We need a discourse that helps to articulate the many alternatives that recognizes the power we have to shape alternatives

Hinman explains the only true way of resolving the issue of Terrorism, which includes rejecting targeted killing policies.

(A Vision of Peace by Lawrence M. San Diego Union-Tribune, October 12, 2001, B7)

Our principal response ought to be a concerted effort to bring conditions of genuine economic and social justice to the Middle East. this is the long-term answer to terrorism. We will never be able to eliminate fanatics like bin Laden, but we will be able to remove the basis of popular support such extremists must have to flourish. In the past, the United States has demonstrated the wisdom of such an approach, The Marshall Plan, at the end of World War II, is probably the best example of this enlightened self-interest: by helping a vanquished Germany to rebuild, we established a staunch ally and avoided the cycle or retribution and recurrent war that marked the end of World War I. We need to pursue a similar policy in the Middle East, We cannot wipe out the rebels, but we can erode their power base by reaching out to those who live in one of the poorest and most embattled countries in the world.

Impact: If you see things only in binaries, then you can't possibly see any other possibilities. Affirming the resolution, embraces that there's a dichotomy with terrorism- either you kill or be killed. The Aff's flawed epistemology forces us to think only one way and restricts creative thinking that can create new alternatives. Instead of endorsing the idea of kill or be killed we must think outside of the box and we must also stop thinking in violent, hateful ways if we are ever to prevent nuclear war, terrorism, and live the way that many people say they wish to live but are too afraid to make the change and live in such a way.

Now onto a short rebuttal of the AC

This is going to be a very basic and short overview of the AC

The AC tries to defend a Util standard, and tries to advocate that by Affirming we defend our citizens and promote self-defense.

The first response will be towards "Self-Defense". Self-DEFENSE is a Defensive action, while Targeted Killing is an offensive action.

The second response to the Affirmative would be the Hinman card. Hinman proves how the most effective plan to end terrorism or combat it is through the Marshal Plan.

Third the Affirmative replicates Terrorism.

Counter-terrorism experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum

In Pakistan civilians are terrified that they will become the next accidental target of American aircraft. a teenage boy who spoke with a BBC reporter last year, lost both of his legs in drone strikes. Three of his relatives, all civilians, have also been killed by American strikes "My brother, my nephew and another relative were killed by a drone in 2008," said Khan. "They were sitting with this sick man when the attack took place. There were no Taliban." killing leaders has typically had only a short-term impact on repressing terrorist violence, while every civilian killed represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased.

Thus for every drone strike the Affirmative spawns more terrorists.

I now await my opponent's arguments :)
Debate Round No. 1


brianR forfeited this round.


My opponent has FF'd, sadly due to school and life in general, I'm unable to make any responses. I urge a Con vote !
Debate Round No. 2


brianR forfeited this round.


I guess that's it ._. I don't have time to formulate any responses (School) so I'm just going to say great round to my opponent. Vote Con !
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Guitar_Guru 6 years ago
I'll accept only if you make it more than 2 rounds long....
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RougeFox 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Obvious