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

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

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/1/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,265 times Debate No: 23321
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
Votes (3)




Lets do this LD style :D I just copied my constructive so bear with some of the grammar as it should be read aloud.

Round 1) Constructive (Neg with first rebuttle at end)
Round 2) Aff and Neg Rebuttle
Round 3) Aff rebuttle, no neg (you the end of first round, I didn't)

In the world of international relations and foreign policy, perfect justice cannot exist. Though it would be ideal to be able to capture and try terrorists in a court of law, this is simply not possible. Instead, in a world of organized terror, we must pursue national security through policies that actually work. Because targeted killing is a critical tool in the fight against terrorism, I affirm:
Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool.
For clarity, I offer the following definitions:
According to Nils Mezler, an oxford professor, Targeted Killing is
"The use of lethal force by a nation with the intent, premeditation and deliberation to kill individually selected persons who are not in the custody of those targeting them."
Morally permissible: to meet some baseline requirement of morality. In other words, for something to be morally permissible, it does not necessarily have to be the best course of action or a moral duty, but must only be not immoral.
Foreign policy: the policy of a sovereign state in its interaction with other sovereign states.
The debate must focus on the idea of targeted killing itself, not how it has been misused. We are talking about the process not examples of how it has been misused.
Another way to think about it: many unjust wars have been fought throughout the ages. But this does not mean that war is not morally permissible as a foreign policy tool. The same reasoning can be applied here. Though there are certainly a few instances where it has been misused, there are also times when it is by far the most effective and most appropriate response to a crisis.
That said; my core value for today will be Kant's categorical imperative. Kant states that the outcome of a situation does not dictate whether or not an action is morally permissible. He says that the reason or motivation to do an action dictates whether it is morally permissible or not. Within the context of a nation's foreign policy, the single most important motivation for targeted killing is national security. National security should be a government's primary concern because without security there can be no rights or liberty.
Contention 1: The rise of terror has made traditional war obsolete
The most important reason that countries like the United States and Israel have turned to new policies, such as targeted killing, is to the problems of the new world. Terrorism.
In his report "Targeted Killing", Professor Daniel Statman of the University of Haifa (hi-fa) in Israel explains this:
"Tanks, jets, and submarines are helpful when confronting other tanks, jets, and submarines, not hijackers carrying knives or terrorists wearing explosive belts." That is how war has always been. If one country gets weapon A, another country will get weapon a plus. Why should this normal act not apply to the modern war of termism? Nation's must adapt to combat the new threat of hijackers and terrorists.
Targeted killing has only emerged as a response to terrorism. The new form of armed conflict, terrorism, requires a unique solution.
Contention 2: Targeted killing has had an extremely high rate of success in the war on terror.
a. Against terrorism, counter offensive measures make sense
By definition, terrorism shifts the front lines away from the battlefield to the home front, where a defensive policy is difficult if not impossible. In response to such attacks, the only strategy that makes sense is one that neutralizes the attacker before they have a chance to attack. To paraphrase Steven David, professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University:
Terrorism is an offensive attack, which leads to battles on the home front. Targeted killing is just a defensive measure, for protecting the home land. In such situations, the best response to terrorism is to go on a counter-offensive, that is, to eliminate the terrorist threat before it can be launched.
b. Targeted killing cripples terror organizations
The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates the effectiveness of a policy of targeted killing against terror groups. For example, according to the article "Do Targeted Killings Work?" by Daniel Byman of Georgetown University, Israeli targeted killings severely disrupted the ability of Hamas to carry out attacks:
"The National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (mipt) reports that in 2005, only 21 Israeli civilians died at the hands of Hamas—down from 67 in 2004, 45 in 2003, and 185 in 2002"
Meaning, when targeted killing was employed as a policy, the number of lives that terrorists took dropped by 88 percent over three years. Clearly, the killings we're employed properly and saved the lives of many, at the expense of one or two.
Contrary to popular myth, 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. When these individuals are arrested or killed, their organizations are disrupted. The groups may still be able to attract recruits, but lacking expertise, these new recruits will not pose the same kind of threat.
Contention 3: Under Kantian (Kant-ean) ethics, targeted killing is morally permissible.
We all could say killing is not morally permissible, and yes I'd agree with that statement too. But, when you include a reason why, then you can certainly change the validity of an argument under Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative. Kant says a claim is not dependent on the outcome, but rather the initiative and motivation for such action. Such as killing someone for talking would not be morally permissible since they can talk. Yet, the killing of a man who murdered people in the past, and are going to continue to murder innocent people is morally permissible only since the goal is to pursue justice and peace. The same logic should be applied today. The goal of the targeted killing is to purse national security and keep the rights and liberties of many and that is indeed morally permissible. So simply stating that killing its self is bad is not a valid argument under Kantian ethics.
Nevertheless, in terms of self-defense situations where a state's population is threatened by violence, the state has the right and obligation to protect the population against such threats and in so doing may use lethal force in certain situations. "Even if this implies depriving people of their lives […]"Self-defense is still a right, just now in the form of a large body of people.


Targeted Killing: Collateral damage, or collateral murder?

Because I believe Targeted Killing to be murder and not damage I negate the resolution, Resolved: targeted Killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool.

Value: National Security. Today I will be valuing that of National Security. National Security is a state's right to protection and safety within its physical limits. It should be a nation's obligation to achieve their own National Security; therefore any action that infringes upon this should be deemed immoral. Because Targeted killings involve another nation stepping over their bounds, targeted killings are immoral.

Value Criterion: Cost-Benefit Analysis.This round should be judged based off of a cost-benefit analysis. The side that better argues the benefits of using or not using targeted killing outweigh the costs should win this round.

Now, moving onto my contentions.

Contention 1: Targeted Killing results in the loss of innocent life which is counterproductive to the goal of National Security.

Without human life within a nation, there would be no nation to protect. Because every nation aims to achieve national security the human life within each nation becomes an invaluable commodity. Targeted Killing then becomes counterproductive towards the goals of national security. There are numerous sources of evidence for collateral damage caused by targeted killing, but I will spare you a debate that’s centered on multitudes of cherry-picked evidence. Regardless of the source used, the point is this: Targeted killing results in the loss of innocent life. In no cases is there a 1 to 0 combatant to civilian death rate. The fact that we blatantly disregard the lives of others for our own goals is highly immoral just as the practice of Targeted Killing is to reach these numbers. When applying this to national Security we can see how Targeted Killing is not by any means a moral solution. By killing innocent citizens and marking them as collateral damage we put a bulls-eye right on the heart of national Security. By using Targeted Killings and tearing down the purpose for making a nation secure, we undermine its very reason for existing.

Contention 2: Targeted Killings allow for one judge, jury, and executioner.

One person with all the power, what they say goes and there isn’t anybody else to say otherwise. This is a dictator, this is tyranny, and this is the reality of targeted killing. Checks and balances are not required, just the okay go from one man in the executive branch. The problem with one person holding this much power is the fact that immoral judgment can and will occur. Take for example the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen. Anwar had potential ties to Al Qaeda and instead of detaining him per his American rights he became a VICTIM of targeted killing. This is a case of extra-judicial process and is why we have things like checks and balances. Especially in cases like Anwar’s we can see a major flaw in Targeted Killings and National Security. Targeted Killings allow you to murder your own citizens which is the opposite of securing a nation. To allow targeted Killings is to allow a nation to unleash havoc on itself.

Contention 3: Targeted Killing is like skiing down a slippery slope.

We can begin by killing a person who has taken the lives of 3000 innocents, but then what? 1500 innocents and you’re dead, 500 and you’re dead, 50 you’re dead, all the way until one innocent and you are the next target. With this slippery slope, targeted killing leads to further immoral and justified actions. A good example would be the Patriot Act. The government passed this act in the interest of protecting the American citizens from foreign threats. Although, only three of the 763 “Sneak-and-peak” requests for the fiscal year of 2008 involve terrorism cases. Whereas 65% involved drug cases in the U.S. [1] The Patriot Act, intended to protect is actually being used to harm U.S. citizens. These basic infringements on citizen rights deter us from achieving national Security. Targeted Killing is a slippery slope that my opponent will have you believe is a helpful tool, when really they are only Band-Aids to a festering wound, a quick fix to a snowballing problem.

Targeted Killing has a greater effect on National Security than one might originally think. They have the ability to throw a nation into extreme dishevel. We want nations to be secure. National Security promotes safety and stability, but as I’ve shown, targeted Killings threaten to dismantle this very important institute. It is because of this that I strongly urge you to vote for the negative, thank you.

Pro Case

Value: Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

It is accurate to say that Kant is concerned with the intentions of actions as opposed to the consequences, however pro leaves out something very important to the categorical imperative; the formulations. The Categorical Imperative has several formulations, but for the purposes of this debate, the Humanity formula will be of particular importance.

The Humanity Formula states: “that we should never act in such a way that we treat Humanity, whether in ourselves or in others, as a means only but always as an end in itself.” [2] (Underlines for emphasis)

What this essentially means is that we should never use a human being with the intention of achieving a goal. When we engage in targeted killing, we are using the terrorists as a means to achieve an end. That end is National Security. In order for this action to be morally permissible, we must treat the targets as ends in themselves. By killing them, we are not doing this.

Additionally, the humanity formulation provides a solid foundation for human rights and liberty, which is what we both want to achieve, but targeted killing is not doing that. The Categorical Imperative negates this resolution, and serves the con case better, so based on this point alone we can safely vote con.

Contention 1: The rise of terror has made traditional war obsolete.

This contention basically asserts that because targeted killing is an effective way to fight terrorism, it makes it morally permissible. This is not true. Just because something is effective, it does not make it morally permissible.

For example, while using nuclear warheads to decimate the areas which terrorists are known to reside in may be an effective way of eradicating terrorism for good; the unnecessary loss of human life would not make it morally permissible.
Furthermore, with the Categorical Imperative turned over to the con case, this contention has no connection to morally permissible at all.

Contention 2: Targeted killing has had an extremely high rate of success in the war on terror.

This entire contention rests on the premise that targeted killing has been the reason for the success in the war on terror. Pro cites evidence that we are succeeding in the war on terror, but there’s a problem with this claim. Correlation is not equal to causation. Unless pro provides evidence that explicitly details that targeted killings alone have been responsible for this success, then we can’t take this contention seriously. It may very well be that this success was caused by our traditional warfare, so it is up to pro to prove that it was only targeted killing that caused this.

A good example of correlation not being equal to causation is Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler. Both were totalitarian dictators known for committing atrocities during World War II. A correlation between Hitler and Stalin is the fact that they both have mustaches. If correlation does indeed equal causation, then we can safely say that both dictators were evil because they had mustaches, and furthermore, mustaches are the cause of evil. This claim is obviously absurd, so my attack on this contention is valid.

Contention 3: Under Kantian ethics, targeted killing is morally permissible.

In my attack on pro’s value, I have already refuted this claim.

Sources in comments.
Debate Round No. 1


Purlstone forfeited this round.


Extend all points. Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 2


Purlstone forfeited this round.


Extend all points. My case has never been attacked, so this is an easy vote for Con.
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
And Carpediem, I'm aware of that. I always make sure I bring Israel into the debate somehow. It is kind of ridiculous how many people only focus on the U.S.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
He closed his account D:
Posted by carpediem 6 years ago
Every time I debated this topic at a tournament, both sides always used examples of when the U.S. has utilised targeted killing as a foreign policy, yet the resolution never specifies the United States. When we affirm the resolution, we are also acknowledging the moral permissibility of a scenario wherein, for example, a foreign nation or organisation implemented that policy on the U.S. Bringing this up as neg always brought favour from the judges who didn't want to justify such a scenario.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
Posted by Purlstone 6 years ago
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
Is National Security your criterion?
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Full forfeit by Pro. Also, use spaces between paragraphs. That's just irritating.
Vote Placed by vmpire321 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited and hence never responded to Con's case.
Vote Placed by Xerge 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit..