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

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

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/12/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,399 times Debate No: 21931
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (2)




I affirm the resolution, Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool.
Targeted Killing: According to Gary D. Solis, a Georgetown University Law professor, there are five things that must be in place for something to be considered a targeted killing. (
1.An armed conflict must be in progress.
2.The target must be a specific individual.
3. The individual must have been beyond reasonable possibility of arrest.
4.The killing must have been authorized by a senior military officer.
5.The individual must have been directly participating in hostilities.
Why we must look to my definition is because it provides a very specific checklist that allows us to identify situations that can be classified as targeted killings, making it possible to better classify a murder.
Morality: the most important code of conduct put forward by a society and accepted by the members of that society. (
We must look to this definition because it allows for the fact that different cultures have different cultural assumptions. This is the best way to ensure that no one's moral code is ignored.
Value Premise: Consequentalism; defined as "the view that normative properties depend only on consequences." Consequentalism is basically the idea that the ends justify the means. We must view the resolution through this value because it gives us a method to evaluate the whole process of targeted killing.
Value Criterion: Utilitarianism; defined as "the greatest happiness for the greatest number (Princeton University)." Basically, Utilitarianism supports the action or policy that best supports the needs of the majority. Utilitarianism is the best Criterion for the round because it bests protects the lives of the majority, and thus fulfills Consequentalism. If we are achieving the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, then we can justify the means in which we are achieving that good.
Contention One: Targeted killings are morally justifiable in armed conflicts.
In normal circumstances, killing is considered immoral, but in war, killing is the normal. In society, killing is murder. During war, killing is a way of life. Calling a targeted killing immoral is simply irrational. For example, during a battle, the senior military officer in charge of a battalion points to the enemy commander, and says to his best sniper, "while that man is in command, we can't win the battle. Make sure you take him out." So the sniper does. That is a targeted killing because it fits all of our criteria. There is an armed conflict in progress, the target is a specific individual, the individual is beyond possibility of arrest, the killing was authorized by a senior military officer, and the individual was taking part in the hostilities. Yet, nobody would have any moral complaints about this targeted killing, because it took place in the middle of the battle and is therefore legitimate.
Fernando R. Tes�n, of Florida State University, in an article examining the arguments both for and against targeted killing, concludes that targeted killing can be morally justified when stringent conditions apply. These conditions include the state carrying out the killing being involved in a conflict, there are no feasible alternatives, and the target must be a villain, culpable of waging aggressive warfare or of threatening large amounts of people. If we look back to the definition of a targeted killing, the conditions that Tes�n requires are indeed present in the definition of a targeted killing. Therefore, targeted killings in this debate, based on that definition, are morally justifiable.
"Despite the possibility of collateral damage inflicted on civilians whom the terrorist leaders use as human shields, targeted assassination of terrorist leaders is less likely to harm innocents than most other strategies for combating terror and more likely to disrupt future terrorist operations," says Georgetown University law professor Ilya Somin. What this means is that, ultimately, targeted killing has a positive effect, saving lives of innocents who would otherwise die in the conventional way of combating terrorism, and disrupting future plans. Somin goes on, "That does not prove that it should be the only strategy we use, but it does mean that we should reject condemnations of it as somehow immoral." Somin confirms the idea that targeted killing is not immoral.
Colonel Peter M. Cullen, of the United States Army, writes, "Provided targeted killing operations comply with the law of war, one can make a convincing argument that they are consistent with the just war tradition." So the question remains to be answered: what is the law of war? Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, writes, "In times of war, law-enforcement rules are supplemented by a more permissive set of rules: namely, international humanitarian law, which governs conduct during armed conflict. Under such "war rules," unlike during peacetime, an enemy combatant can be shot without warning (unless he or she is incapacitated, in custody, or trying to surrender), regardless of any imminent threat. If a combatant is captured, he or she can be held in custody until the end of the conflict, without any trial." The Law of War is that an enemy combatant can be shot without warning, and can be held captive without a trial. Isn't targeted killing shooting a specifically targeted enemy combatant without warning? Targeted killing is lawful, and according to McCullen, it is therefore a just war tradition.
Through this, Consequentalism is achieved because we are protecting the lives of many innocents, as Ilya Somin explains, which, because it is good, in and of itself justifies the means, targeted killings. Utilitarianism is also achieved, because a larger number of people are living than are being killed, which achieves the greatest good for the greatest number. Most importantly though, we realize that targeted killings are morally justified as tools of foreign policy because of the positive effects that they produce.
Contention Two: Targeted killing is a legal and effective foreign policy tool.
Matthew C. Waxman, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Law and Foreign Policy on the Council for Foreign Relations, writes, "Lethal force directed against particular individuals outside a combat zone like Afghanistan is legally and strategically appropriate in limited circumstances." Waxman confirms that targeted killings are legal, and even "strategically appropriate." Waxmen continues, "As to strategy, lethal targeting is but one important tool in the counterterrorism arsenal."
In the case of Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, the United States was attacked for using a predator drone to carry out the targeted killing. However, Avery Plaw, of the University of Massachussetts-Dartmouth Political Science Department, reports, "The US and many other states and legal experts have argued that the al-Harethi targeting was a legitimate exercise of self-defense under international law." Plaw goes on to say that many of the most influential scholars of humanitarian law defended the operation against al-Harethi and that the Israeli Supreme Court upheld in December 2006 the legality of targeted killings. Most influential scholars of humanitarian law defended the operation, meaning that the majority ruled it legal. Even more so, one of our ally's own Supreme Court upheld the use of targeted killing under certain circumstances.
Killing a terrorist leader takes away the vitality of the movement, and takes away momentum. Daniel L. Byman, Professor at Georgetown University and Research Director of the Saban Center at Brookings Institution, explains, "Killing a leader like bin Laden removes a charismatic yet pragmatic leader--one who succeeded in transforming a small group into a household name.

Vote in Affirmation


Links and what case they are are below.



Now, onto refutations of the pro case.

As an overview to contention two: my opponent makes the mistake of equating legal permissibility and moral permissibility as the same thing. This is flat out not true. In so far as his second contention is proving that targeted killing is LEGALLY permissible and not MORALLY permissible, it's going to be irrelevant going forward in this debate.

So the only thing that he could leverage offense off of is contention one. But to talk about his framework first. His framework is effected by multiple layers of the debate.
Layer One - The NC. If the NC is true, then it becomes impossible to affirm off of his framework of utilitarianism. If skepticism is true, then we cannot call anything morally permissible, which would take out his framework and be an independant reason to negate. But if he's sufficiently refuting the NC, then we go to the second layer.
Layer Two - The Disad. So even if you're buying his framework of maximizing good ends, I'm showing you by affirming, he violates his own framework by causing nuclear war. By negating, we prevent this nuclear war from happening, which means we can negate off of his framework.

So he has to be winning off of the NC and the disad before you even look to his framework. If he's not winning off of one of those, it's a sufficient reason to vote con.

Now, onto his contention one.

Let's look to his first example of the sniper killing the enemy general as justified targeted killing. It fails to actually meet his defined metric of what qualifies justified targeted killing because it's impossible to know if he was beyond possibility of arrest. Who are we to know if we wouldn't win the battle the next day and capture the enemy base and arrest the general? Targeted killing wouldn't be justified because of this.

This same principle can be cross-applied to the entire affirmative case because he fails to meet the principles set forth by his own definition. We can't ever truly know at any certain point in time if someone is beyond possibility of arrest because we can't see into the future. Maybe we could arrest him, maybe we couldn't. But since we cannot definitively say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the enemy is beyond possiblity of arrest, then targeted killing will never meet the justifications set forth by the pro case. So you can turn his own definition as a reason to negate the resolution and to vote con.

Now, let's look at the evidence he provides cited by Mr. Teson. This, again, falls under the same mistake as before because we can never fully claim that there was no other possible alternative. That entire debate would boil down to a matter of 'he said, she said' and nothing would ever get resolved. It's impossible to determine whether or not there weren't other possible alternatives to an action at any given moment. We can't see that far into the future, so we cannot fully meet his own standards for what makes targeted killing morally permissible. Thusly, you can turn this evidence as a reason to negate, since targeted killing will never be able to meet the criteria provided by the pro debater.

So this debate breaks down in a few easy ways:

1. The NC specifically states that because morality is subjective, then it's impossible to call something morally permissible. This is the first level of the debate, and if the pro is losing on this part, then it's game-over for the pro debater.
2. Even if he's successfully refuting the negative case, the disad is showing how making targeted killing a morally permissible tool leads to nuclear war, a result that violates his framework of utilitarianism. Because of this, he's failing to meet his own value and criterion, and thus is enough to merit a con vote.
3. But even if he's winning on both the negative case and the disad, he still has to refute the two turns I made on the contention one arguments that say that targeted killings will always fail to meet the justifications provided by the pro debater, and thus can never be morally permissible. This is a game-over argument, and is the absolute bottom line to vote con.

Thusly, I urge a con vote, and will now turn the floor over to the pro debater.
Debate Round No. 1


First lets look to the negative case:
Lincoln Douglas debate is, first and foremost, a values debate. Look anywhere in my opponents case for the word "value" and you will see that he doesn't provide either a premise or criterion. If for no other reason, then you must affirm because of that fact.

But lets look to the moral skepticism argument: the card claims that "one who claims that moral [skepticism] implies that everything is permissible must intend to denote some kind of permissibility other than moral." The one bringing up moral skepticism in the first place is the negative debater, meaning that he is the one who "must denote some kind of permissibility other than moral."

Now we turn to neg's point of the relativity and change of morality. The negative claims that it is "impossible to come to a morality that works so that we can even call something morally permissible." However, the very subject of the resolution concerns a variation of a very basic act: the taking of another human's life. It is the burden of the negative to prove that killing in self-defense, even in defense of a nation, is immoral. The negative bases the rest of his case on morality but never attempts to attack killing in the name of self-defense as immoral, and thus, this falls as well.

Lets move to the negative case:
Addressing my C2, my opponent misjudges the intentions of this contention, which was to prove that targeted killings are an effective tool for use in foreign policy. Thus, the argument provided is completely off target and can be happily ignored.

His first attack basically says, "if he can't refute my case, I win." I have refuted my opponents case successfully, and so that argument falls.

His second attack is based on the idea that my framework will cause nuclear war. This is what is called a slippery slope logical fallacy, which is basically that the opponent made an argument saying that a small step was taken, which in turn caused a huge effect. So, in context, I took the small step of affirming with the set framework, which in turn causes the huge effect of nuclear war. Thus his argument against my framework is false and can safely be ignored.

Addressing my C1, my opponent states that I am not upholding my definition of a targeted killing, and he cites my example of a sniper killing an enemy general. However, look back to my analyses of the example: "That is a targeted killing because it fits all of our criteria. There is an armed conflict in progress, the target is a specific individual, the individual is beyond possibility of arrest, the killing was authorized by a senior military officer, and the individual was taking part in the hostilities." It is clear that the example fit all of the criteria.

His second attack on my C1 is that there is no way to determine if someone is beyond arrest. Let me ask you, if you're in the midst of a battle, is there really any way that you could arrest the general in the situation. Or on a domestic front: if there is an armed criminal in a building, with hostages, and there is no way to get in and arrest him without endangering the lives of the hostages, then he is beyond the possibility of arrest. Through the negative logic in this point: it would be impossible to determine whether someone was at risk of heart disease because we couldn't see the future to see whether they would actually get heart disease. But, in reality, we actually can. This argument falls.

My opponent makes the claim that there is no way to determine other possible alternatives to targeted killing. Again look to the situation with the dangerous criminal and his hostages. If you can't arrest him without endangering the lives of the hostages, then the only two alternatives are to risk the lives of the hostages or kill him. That argument also falls.

The Negative argument against the Affirmative case have fallen wholly and completely. Even more so, the Negative's own case has fallen wholly and completely. He does not provide any type of definitions to counteract the ones i provide and so we use mine. He also does not provide any type of value structure for us to judge the negative side by, so that is very good reason to vote Affirmative. In addition, my case achieves the greatest good for the greatest amount through a Utilitarian Consequentalism, which is the most important value, and the only one that can be used to judge the round, because it is the only one provided. Vote in AFFIRMATION!


Sadly, my opponent seems to not understand what my evidence is saying, and seems to actually have a misunderstanding of LD debate as a whole. And thusly, his arguments run into a lot of problems. Let's start by going through them, line by line.

"LD debate is a values debate"

I understand this as well as any true LD debater. That being said, just because it talks about what we value, this doesn't entail that every case MUST have a value and a criterion. That is the case format taught to most people new to LD debate. If this were true, then the vast majority of cases run on the State and National level would be invalid. Kritiks, disads, theory, topicality, plans, counterplans, word picks, and many more. So by preventing me from running a case with a burden system, he's massively skewing my ground, which is highly abusive.

"Neg ran skep, so must denote some other kind of permissibility"

This argument is coming off of the Joyce evidence provided at the top of my NC. He vastly misunderstands what this card is saying.
1. Joyce is talking about how if skepticism is true, then nothing can be morally permissible. There may be some other form of permissibility, or some other argument that makes things morally permissible, but no such argument exists for it. So I don't have to provide some other form of permissibility to prove my side.
2. Even if what he says is true, I can concede to it and simply not provide another form of permissibility. There would still be no moral permissibility, and with no other form of permissibility to go off of, we couldn't call anything permissible, which is exactly what the negative side is advocating for. So you can turn his argument as offense for me.

"Neg must prove killing is self-defense"

Okay, this is ridiculous.
1. The resolution is talking about the MORAL PERMISSIBILITY of targeted killing. So if I'm disproving something can be MORALLY permissible, then I'm disproving the resolution. This argument doesn't apply.
2. It's the aff's job to prove that killing is self-defense, since he was the one who brought up that point. If I did that, I would be doing all the aff's work for him, which is highly unfair. I'm trying to disprove his case, not prove it. The burden he's placed on me is highly abusive.
3. I thought my opponent said this was a value debate. If this true, then the burden he placed on me wouldn't exist, since everything has to come down to a value and a criterion. So this will put him in a double bind because either a) burden's don't exist in value debate, and this argument is null or b) burdens do exist in LD debate and my case still stands. This argument would also stand, but you could then refer to argument number two of the burden being highly abusive.

"Targeted killing = effective, so C2 still applies"

I never argued against targeted killing being effective. That's not my point. Just because something's effective, it doesn't make it morally permissible. Sure, throwing prisoners into showers that spew out poison gas all Holocaust-style is a really effective way to execute people, it doesn't make it morally permissible. He MUST PROVE that targeted killing is MORALLY permissible. Thusly, my argument about contention 2 not applying to the resolution still stands.

"I refuted my opponent's case"

No you haven't. Your arguments vastly misunderstood my case, and didn't even apply to what it was talking about. In fact, you haven't disproved ANYTHING.

"The disad is a slippery slope"

This is a perfect example of the "slippery slope fallacy" fallacy. Whenever a debater shows a logical chain of events that's supported with evidence, all Hell breaks loose and the demons of the slippery slope come flying out. He hasn't actually refuted any of the evidence coming out of the disad (link to it in comments), all he's said was that it's a slippery slope (i.e. it's a chain of events).

.....Kay. Even if his argument ISN'T stupid, which it is, I can concede to it and just point out that he hasn't actually proven why what the disad is saying WON'T happen. In fact, he's basically conceded the entire thing. This is a game-over mistake by my opponent because it's showing exactly how if we affirm, we're going to be causing massively more pain than good, which violates his own framework. Thusly, because it was virtually conceded, this will be the easiest place to negate. Don't let him stand up and start refuting the evidence in his next round. He didn't think it was necessary last round, so don't let him do it in the next round.

"My example fulfills the criteria. Here, look at this quote!"

Congratz. All this is is just asserting that it does without actually backing it up with HOW it fulfills it. Warrantless assertion is warrantless.

"There's plausible doubt that we can arrest him, so it must be impossible to arrest him! Right?"

Wrong. That's like saying because there's plausible doubt that I may not live to see the next day, then there's no way I will live to see the next day. But there are still plenty of ways that I could live to see the next day i.e. not die. There's still plenty of ways we could arrest the bad guy in question i.e. win the battle and capture him alive. Because there's plausible doubt that we could arrest him or not, then it becomes impossible to definitively say (as the affirmative requirements demand) that we cannot arrest him. This is EXACTLY why my turn still applies, and the main reason why his case falls flat on it's face. All he says is that since there's plausible doubt in a lot of situations, then we can assume that it's impossible. But this assumption just isn't true. There are still ways that we can do it, even if the ways seem unlikely, they're still a possibility. Thusly, we can never definitively say that a target is beyond possibility of arrest, and thus targeted killing will NEVER meet the requirements imposed by the pro debater. The turn still logically applies.

"No alternatives, just like no arrest."

All he does is reference the same argument that I just refuted above. No need to waste characters explaining why his logic is massively flawed again.

"He didn't provide definitions, so use mine!"

Okay, so we are using your definition of what it takes to meet targeted killing? So my turns DO still apply....thought so.

So the round breaks down in a few easy ways.

1. The NC still stands. The only two arguments my opponent makes vastly misunderstand what it's actually saying, and thus don't apply. Even if they were to apply, I sufficiently refuted them. Thus, I'm sufficiently proving how nothing can ever be called morally permissible, since morality is subjective. Since nothing can ever be called morally permissible, targeted killing thus cannot be morally permissible. First place to vote con is here.
2. My opponent basically concedes the disad and says that all it is is a chain of events, and thus has to be fallacious! Not true. I refuted that argument, and he never touched a single warrant. So I'm proving how that if we affirm, we violate his own framework. Thus, by negating, I better meet HIS framework, which is a reason to negate.
3. I'm showing you how targeted killing can never meet the definitions brought up by the aff as to when it is justified. Because of this, targeted killing can never be viewed as permissible, and thus we can negate off of the turns to the aff case.

As long as I'm winning even ONE of these levels of the debate, it's sufficient for a con vote. My opponent has to disprove all three levels, but he hasn't even disproven one. Thusly, I've given you three valid reasons to vote con, while the aff's reasons were all refuted.

Thus, there really isn't a reason not to vote con.
Debate Round No. 2


writepunk forfeited this round.


As my opponent forfeited the last round of the debate, you can thusly extend out my arguments as truth. Vote con.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Oh you can't be serious. Did you really just run a "He doesn't have a value, so he can't win" argument? -.- Ay yi yi.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Yeah, disad meaning disadvantage.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago

Try that one.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Oh that's an awkward fail.
Hold on, lemme get the link for you.
Posted by writepunk 6 years ago
i'm assuming "disad" means disadvantage...
Posted by writepunk 6 years ago
you keep referencing disadvantage, but you posted the same link twice.....
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Done. Have fun.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
Oh, okay awesome. I'll get the docs posted in a sec and refutations with it.
Posted by writepunk 6 years ago
yea it's fine. I probably should have done it. About half my C2 got cut off...
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
I'm just going to assume it's okay....
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Yep 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: FF and horrid argument by pro- No Value/Value Criterion. NEVER BRING UP THAT ARGUMENT EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER UNLESS YOU HAVE A LAY JUDGE THAT DOESN'T KNOW SH!T! Please, pro, look up a few TOC, NFL, NCFL, even UIL, Finals rounds (at nationals for each) You will see a lack of a V/VC. Con had Better Arguments anyway didn't matter, refutations stand.
Vote Placed by thett3 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The forfeit caused a lot of Cons arguments to be dropped.