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The Contender
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Resolved: The United States should fight the war on terror until Al-Qaeda is eliminated.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/6/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,747 times Debate No: 11293
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (17)
Votes (2)




I would like to thank any opponent who chooses to accept this debate.

I am going to take the Affirmitive argument, that we should continue fighting the war in Afghanistan until all top Al-Qaeda officials have been killed or captured and the organization can no longer be a further threat, and if needed we should take this fight against Al-Qaeda elsewhere as well.

Unlike with the invasion of Iraq, we were clearly attacked by Al-Qaeda, and that attack killed nearly 3,000 Americans. Additionally, Al-Qaeda killed 212 people when they destroyed the United States embassy in Nairobi. They are also responsible for the deaths of 17 Navy Sailors in 2000.[1] I believe that leaving this organization in existence in any form is a danger to all people in the world. While it is true they have been significantly weakened by Operation Enduring Freedom, there is still no proof of the death of Osama bin Laden or his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. [2]

Additionally, the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India were purportrated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group heavily supported by al-Qaeda.[3] Umar Abdulmutallab, the man responsible for attempting to destroy an airplane on Christmas of 2009, reportedly met with Al-Qaeda leaders who had stationed themselves in Yemen.[4] Anwar al-Awlaki is possibly an Al-Qaeda leader within the United States.[5] All this clearly shows that they are still a threat. There is a view many people have that we should remove our soldiers from Afghanistan as we are Iraq, I feel that this is one of the worst things we could do to the world. If we do not eliminate Al-Qaeda and its leaders, we are leaving them to be a threat to all the world.

[This is my first debate using this website, so I apologize in advance if I did anything incorrectly]



Dear Sir:
Thank you for beginning this debate. This is also my first time on this website, and I'm looking forward to hearing your arguments.

I will show that the Negative should win because it is impossible for the Affirmative to meet the terms of its own resolution. Terrorism, by Osama bin Laden or any other figures, in Afghanistan, India, or anywhere else, cannot be eradicated through warfare. The United States' war on terror is an unwinnable war. This is because a) the inherent nature of terrorism and b) the specific geopolitical context in which the war on terror must operate.
A)Contention A: Terrorism, generally defined as attacks on civilians to inspire fear in governments or communities, cannot be defeated in a military war both practically speaking and ideologically.
a.Subpoint A: From a purely practical perspective, the US can't get rid of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan because Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations use asymmetrical warfare. I.e., since they wouldn't stand a chance directly against US infantry or tanks and it don't have the manpower or multibillion dollar war machine of the US, they strike in unexpected ways. There's no bases, no boundaries to fight, Al Qaeda members live in everyday communities. Tactically, routing out terrorists essentially requires bulldozing entire cities (resulting in extreme civilian casualties, which I will come back to.) Terrorist structures, including Al Qaeda, are generally decentralized, so removing one person like Osama bin Laden doesn't achieve the Affirmative's purpose.
b.Subpoint B: This brings me to my second point: Terrorism cannot be defeated via warfare because it is ideologically motivated by victimhood, therefore it is perpetuated by the violence of a dominant world-power like the United States. Terrorism thrives on the narrative of imperial powers (historically the West) coming into to other countries (historically non-white, non-English speaking countries) and taking over. The United States is doing exactly that. Millions of people have been displaced, injured, and killed over the course of the war, most of them civilians. Hospitals, schools, homes, national treasures and cultural artifacts have been destroyed without a thought. The war on Afghanistan has been the single most effective recruitment tool for Al Qaeda in the last thirty years. This is known as the "blowback" effect by the CIA. The more violence and destruction for which the United States is responsible, the more terrorism will result.
B)Contention B: Along those lines, the United States will not win the war on terror in Afghanistan or defeat Al Qaeda because it will never have popular support, in Afghanistan or from the rest of the Middle East. It's common knowledge that the United States funneled money into weapons and training for the mujahedeen in the 1970s so they could eject the Soviets. When the Soviets pulled out, the United States left a war-torn country with more guns than schools and an extreme political power vacuum eventually filled by the Taliban and reactionary religious groups. It hasn't escaped their notice that the United States could have cared less about the Afghan population, and this is the key to the United States' unpopularity in the region and around the world: our hypocrisy. We support dictatorships when it's convenient for us, and wrap ourselves in the rhetoric of freedom when we want to take out governments (often democratically elected: Chile, Iran, Haiti… etc etc) that aren't advancing our interests. In the Middle East, we support governments that imprison and abuse their own people in Saudia Arabia, Pakistan, and India, which hardly lends credibility to our case. Most importantly, the United States supports Israel's occupation of Palestine. The details of which are the topic for another debate, but it's undeniable that huge portions of the Arabic-speaking and Muslim worlds view this in a negative light. Reactionary Islamist movements are fueled by the United States' heavy handed, unilateral interventions around the world.

In summary, the Affirmative cannot meet the terms of its own case, because in your terms there is no way to "keep fighting until we get rid of these people." It's impossible, and to continue to pursue it means more and more loss of innocent life and deserved badwill towards the United States. How do we win against Al-Qaeda? Fierce, unrelenting, even when it's difficult consistency in the pursuit of justice. Spending a fraction of what we spend on cluster bombs on economic development, public education, healthcare in the United States or abroad. Supporting the non-profits and other civil society groups that argue for freedom of speech and women's rights in Afghanistan with funding and protection. Calling out our allies when they violate human rights.

I urge a Negative vote. If we want to live in a fairer, safer world, we need to start by ending the violence and destruction in Afghanistan that comes back and harms more innocent people through terrorism. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting this challenge and replying in a timely manner.

First, I will concede that it is not possible to destroy terrorism altogether. However, this is a debate about the destruction of Al-Qaeda, which I will show is possible.

To begin, it is entirely possible to cause the destruction of Al-Qaeda. While their methods may be unconventional, it is a simple matter of destroying their leadership base. Al-Qaeda and the organizations it supports cannot exist without Osama bin Laden and his cronies, who organize and plan the attacks that Al-Qaeda orchestrates.

Secondly, it is possible to defeat Al-Qaeda without killing large amounts of civilians. I will disagree that Al-Qaeda is entirely decentralized. While cells may operate individually to a point, they have leaders not just in Osama bin Laden but others around the world as well. Individual operatives do not have the resources to plan and execute significant attacks. Even if they're fighting base disguises themselves as civilians, Al-Qaeda's leadership is well known to intelligence agencies, and if you cut off the head the body will wither.

Although Al-Qaeda may have recruited more fighters over the coarse of the War in Afghanistan, their capabilities are now limited. While very active during the 90s and early 21st century, the attack on Mumbai was the only significant Al-Qaeda success since the War on Terror. This shows that they're capabilities are being weakened even if they can replenish their numbers.

My opponent's contention that the war doesn't have international support is irrelevant. While it is true that the current situation is partially our responsibility (much to the dismay of the late Rep. Charlie Wilson), this doesn't make Al-Qaeda's destruction any less important. The United States still has the support of the ISAF in the fight against Al-Qaeda, the light other Middle Eastern nations view us in isn't important to the destruction of Al-Qaeda.

While changing our foreign policies may reduce the further creation of such extremists groups, I don't think this will get rid of Al-Qaeda. They are already firmly established, and nothing short of giving them their wish of an Islamic State will stop them attempting to orchestrate terrorist actions. Al-Qaeda has already caused massive costs to the United States in both lives and infrastructure. To allow them to continue to have a leadership base with which to organize and attack is simply a high-risk action for the United States to take.


I appreciate the thoroughness of your response. I will respond to each of your contentions, but I want to begin by pointing out one simple, important point: you have not refuted the impact of ideology and political context on the strength of a terrorist organization. Terrorism including Al-Qaeda specifically, is inherently ideologically motivated by victimhood and violence, and self-perpetuates when military attacks and occupation increase civilian casualties and destruction.
Yes, it's true that leadership, providing strategic direction and planning, is important to an organization. However, to say that Al-Qaeda cannot exist without Osama bin-Laden and his "cronies" is a severe oversimplification. Do you believe that Reagan – the living, breathing man-- and his top 50 guys are responsible for the rise of conservatism in the 80s? Did the Civil Rights movement end when Dr. King and Malcom X were killed? Let's examine what makes an organization work in addition to leadership: Resources: money, weapons, food, shelter, transportation. Followers to do the work. Training programs. Messengers (churches, mosques, newspapers, TV, intellectuals and civil society) that spread and normalize ideas.
None of these exist in a vacuum, and the extent to which they can be replenished depends on support for Al-Qaeda outside of the specific leaders currently in power. An organization needs a vision: a compelling idea or analysis of how the world works, what's wrong with it, and what to do that inspires people to follow, support, and recruit others to the organization. Can you name any organization with comparable name recognition and influence as Al-Qaeda that has fallen apart because just its designated leadership was removed?
There are Al-Qaeda factions in Iraq, Pakistan, the Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Kashmir, and as you pointed out followers in the United States and other Western countries. If the United States continues killing, maiming, and alienating people inside and out of Afghanistan, the support for Osama bin Laden's ideology will still grow. Marx still has followers because of his ideology and because the problems that existed when he wrote the Communist Manifesto still exist. Similarly, the violent, reactionary Islamist ideas that drive Al-Qaeda will continue to self-perpetuate even when Osama bin Laden is gone as long as the political context remains. General McChrystal stated in 2009, "Civilian casualties and collateral damage to homes and property resulting from an over-reliance on firepower and force protection have severely damaged ISAF's legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people."
With respect, you have not explained how it is possible to defeat Al-Qaeda without killing large amounts of civilians. There have been 20,000 estimated civilian casualties in Afghanistan alone (according to UNAMA), not including military attacks on Al-Qaeda targets elsewhere (if we include Iraq, the casualty count enters the hundred thousands), for how many Al-Qaeda leaders taken out? US military camps actually draw terrorist attacks and result in more civilian casualties.
The reason Al-Qaeda is elusive is because there are so many leaders around the world who use the "brand" and collect their own resources. If Al-Qaeda leadership were well-known to intelligence agencies, the "body" as you called it will still thrive with new recruits as long as the ideology continues.
The attack on Mumbai was not perpetrated by Al-Qaeda. There have been four major terrorist attacks since 2001, but there have been many small attacks against the military occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. That shows that those Al-Qaeda factions are choosing to fight in a different way. The fact that after eight years they are still keeping the largest military in the world on its toes is strong evidence that they are still finding ways to replenish and grow.
I am not arguing that because the war doesn't have international support we shouldn't be concerned with preventing terrorist attacks on civilians. I am arguing that the lack of international support will make dismantling Al-Qaeda through warfare impossible. All you have to do is read my original thesis. I have established that it's impossible to simply keep blowing things up without recruiting more resources, members, and legitimacy for Al-Qaeda's cause.
What is true for all nations is true for Afghanistan, Iraq, and all other nations where Al-Qaeda operates: nations have symbiotic relationships with their neighbors. People, goods, money, ideas, jobs, terrorists, armies all cross borders. The ISAF has decreased in size over the last eight years because so many countries no longer believe the United States' strategy and tactics are valid. Iran and Pakistan have made more threats because they know how many people who live in the Middle East find our hypocrisy and disregard for human life appalling. Our allies are helping less and our adversaries are bolder—and you think the light other Middle Eastern nations view us in is irrelevant?
What makes Al-Qaeda unique is not that it wants an Islamic State. Saudia Arabia, one of our closest allies in the Middle East, is a theocracy. Al-Qaeda is driven by a specific anti-imperialist, nationalist, reactionary ideology fueled by our history of invading Middle Eastern countries, supporting dictatorships, and killing civilians. Will all of those activities on our part end or be wiped away in one fell swoop? No. But withdrawing military forces and using alternative methods of diplomacy, economic development, etc will help.
I have shown that you can't destroy Al-Qaeda because you can't destroy the brand with bombs and guns. Capturing Osama bin Laden or even his top commanders will not kill the idea, even if we kill the man. The Affirmative has not shown it is possible to meet his own resolution, and additionally has not refuted that continuing to pursue this strategy will result in further losses of life. I urge a Negative vote. Thank
Debate Round No. 2


DavidSSabb94 forfeited this round.


I would like to close by thanking my opponent for this debate. I have enjoyed reading your arguments and I appreciate the respectful, intelligent tone with which you have written.

Let's return to the Affirmative's resolution: "that we should continue fighting the war in Afghanistan until all top Al-Qaeda officials have been killed or captured and the organization CAN NO LONGER BE A FURTHER THREAT (emphasis added), and if needed we should take this fight against Al-Qaeda elsewhere as well."

The Affirmative cannot meet the terms of his own resolution. Terrorism does not happen in a vacuum. It is motivated by political context and history. The threat Al-Qaeda poses cannot be neutralized by fighting the war in Afghanistan, killing or capturing its top officials, or expanding the war to other countries. In fact, continuing our strategy of ground war, bombs, extradition and torture (and intervention elsewhere in the Middle East, like Palestine and Iraq) will only recruit more people to Al-Qaeda's IDEAS and harm more civilians in the process. The war on terror is an unwinnable war. To create a safer, fairer world, we need to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and seriously reform our foreign policy. I urge a Negative vote.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 3
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
I'd rather not, I picked a pretty bad topic now that I think about it.

Thank you for two rounds of great debating.
Posted by emmalmalcolm 6 years ago
sorry about your power outage, just saw your message. we can rematch if you want.
Posted by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
Any vote I make won't be impartial, so I've voted all ties.

BTW, DDO should add something that prevents people from voing for themselves, it just seems unfair.
Posted by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
I a typing this from my phone because my power is out its storming here. Idk how long it will be but im busy most of tommorroww afternoon so if i cant get my argument in i acept my forfit or we can redebate starting with round 3. if banker really uses ddo from his blackberry i know how he feels now lol
Posted by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
Dios Mio, I hope that what I think is happening isn't happening.

Please don't be the 4th person who fails to see this debate through.
Posted by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
Thank God a reply, and a good one too. I shall start working on my rebuttal immediately.
Posted by wjmelements 6 years ago
I had to do homework, so I couldn't finish my argument.
Posted by InsertNameHere 6 years ago
Seriously, don't ask. Me and her have a very twisted sense of humour sometimes. Most people don't even understand our humour.
Posted by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
Really? You've got to be kidding me.
Posted by InsertNameHere 6 years ago
You really wouldn't understand as I was partly thinking about an inside joke between me and a friend. It just came to mind when I saw this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by y0ungDuB 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by DavidSSabb94 6 years ago
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