The Instigator
Pro (for)
16 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Targeted Killing is a Morally Permissible Foreign Policy Tool.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/24/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,954 times Debate No: 23143
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (4)




Zaradi, I would prefer that you don't accept this because I don't want to do the exact same debate all over again.


1) First round is for acceptance only.
2) Forfeit = automatic loss
3) Cases can not be posted in external links. All debate content must be posted in the round and within the 8000 character limit.
4) Typical Lincoln-Douglas debate format.
5) Questions/concerns may be voiced in the comments


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I stand in firm affirmation of the resolution, “Targeted Killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool.”


Targeted Killing – “Premeditated, preemptive, and deliberate killing of an individual or individuals known to represent a clear and present threat to the safety and security of a state through affiliation with terrorist groups or individuals." [1]

Pro Case

Value: National Security.

Specifically, the National Security of the state performing the targeted killing. National Security is defined as, “The protection or the safety of a country’s secrets and its citizens." [2] National Security is the foremost moral obligation of National Governments. Nations need to do what is necessary, not only to ensure their own survival, but also to protect their own citizens from threats.

Value Criterion: David Gauthier’s Social Contract. This round should be judged based on whichever value better upholds the obligations laid out in Gauthier’s Social Contract. According to Gauthier; "when one is engaged in interaction such that others’ actions can affect one’s own interests, and vice versa, one does better if one acts cooperatively. By acting to further the interests of the other, one serves one’s own interests as well. We should, therefore, insofar as we are rational, develop within ourselves the dispositions to constrain ourselves when interacting with others." [3]

This criterion achieves National Security because under the Social Contract, both parties can greatly benefit from National Security and therefore, both should strive to achieve it.

Contention 1: Governments have a moral obligation to protect their citizens. This contention pretty much speaks for itself. By entering into the Social Contract, the citizens and the government agree to the terms of the contract based on the premise that fulfilling said contract would be mutually beneficial. The citizens receive order, protection, education, etc. In return, the citizens give up some liberties; they pay taxes, serve in the military, etc. The most important privilege given to the citizens by the government is that of protection. The government can’t function without the citizens, and the citizens can’t function without the government, so when the citizens are threatened, the government is morally obligated to protect them to uphold the social contract. Now, I understand that the government can’t always protect all citizens from any and all harm, but they should do everything they can realistically, to do so.

Contention 2: Targeted Killing is a means by which governments protect their own citizens.

On September 11, 2001, the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, destroyed the twin towers and killed 2,800 Americans. This was not an attack on the American military, nor was it an attack on government officials. This was an attack solely on the American citizens. After such an attack, the U.S. government was morally obligated to retaliate because of the Social Contract. The government was morally obligated to act in self-defense, not out of revenge, but to prevent further attacks from occurring on U.S. citizens. The fact that targeted killing is effective in eliminating terrorist organizations is evidenced by the fact that:

1) There has not been a single terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
2) Al Qaeda has been practically wiped out of its former strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan. U.S officials report that the number of “high-value” Al Qaeda targets remaining in Pakistan has dwindled to a mere number of two.

If you acknowledge that governments have a moral obligation to protect their citizens, then there is no denying that targeted killing is indeed morally permissible. If an action is fulfilling a moral obligation, then it must be morally permissible. Targeted Killing must be morally permissible because it fulfills the moral obligation to protect citizens.

So in summation;

1) Governments have a moral obligation to protect their citizens
2) Targeted Killing is a means by which governments protect their own citizens
3) Therefore, Targeted Killing is morally permissible because it fulfills that moral obligation

Having said that, because governments have a moral obligation to protect their citizens and therefore have a moral obligation to fight terrorism, the burden on Con in this debate will be to find a way to fight terrorism and protect citizens without using targeted killing.

I now turn the floor over to my opponent.



Days will prove that the assassination policy will not finish the Hamas. Hamas leaders wish to be martyrs and are not scared of death. Jihad will continue and the resistance will continue until we have victory, or we will be martyrs,” because I agree with this position state Ahmend Yassin I deny the resolution is Targeted Killing a morally permissible foreign policy tool.


  1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    1. some other group, such as a religion, or
    2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
  2. Normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.



foreign policy - a policy governing international relations

policy - a line of argument rationalizing the course of action of a government; "they debated the policy or implicit of the proposed legislation"

The Negative will advocate the value of Justice- The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honor, standards, or law according to the freedictionary online. To support my value I offer the citation of Prevention of Collateral Damage. Collateral Damage according to Merriam Webster dictionary online, it refers to the inadvertatent casualties and destruction in civilian areas in the course of military operations. There are 2 independent justifications for the negative position in today’s debate.

Contention 1: Targeted Killings Backfire 1/2

----Targeted Killings are ineffective.

Patterson 05 (Eric Patterson, Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanguard University and Teresa Casale, Program Assistant on the California Stem Cell Program at the University of California, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTELLIGENCE, "Targeting Terror: The Ethical and Practical Implications of Targeted Killing", 2005, p. asp, AL)

The second broad category of arguments against state-sponsored assassination is pragmatic in nature. One such argument is that assassination is simply impractical, with numerous reasons as to why this is so: assassination attempts have a high failure rate; are almost impossible to keep secret (at least after the fact); and the results aresimply unpredictable. For instance, the successful "knock-off" of a foreign leader may result in a cult of martyrdom and conservative policies by the ruling elite that are the exact opposite of the intended effect. A second pragmatic argument against assassination concerns how others will react. Terrorist networks and rogue states are likely to respond in kind to attempts against the lives of their leaders. For instance, in response to the decapitation attempt on Saddam Hussein in 2003 Jason Vest argued that, at best, it would exacerbate the conflict; at worst, it would result in assassination' s return as a tool of policy in international affairs. Chalmers Johnson made a similar claim about world opinion -- targeted strikes against individual terrorists would be seen as "thuggish" behavior and turn international public opinion against the United States.

----Targeted Killings kill innocent People.

Stein 03(Yael Stein, Research Director at the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, ETHICS AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, "By Any Name Illegal and Immoral", Vol. 17 No. 1, 2003, p. asp, AL)

David claimsthis policy is not only legal, but also just and moral. Although the policy "raises disturbing moral issues, . . . "he writes, "if it is carried out strictly against combatants in the legal sense outlined above, [the policy]can be defended from a moral perspective" (p. 121). As I showed, the policy is illegal and unjustifiable in legal terms. According to David' s own assertion, then, it cannot be considered moral either. David bases his argument on

the "just war tradition, " namely, if the killings are discriminate and proportionate, using only "enough force" to accomplish the task, causing no more destruction than they prevent, and directed only against those that pose the danger, it is moral. The assassination policy, however, does not meet these conditions. About a third of the people killed in the course of these attacks so far have been innocent bystanders, according to the army' s own admission. A good example is the killing of the Hamas official Salah Shahada, carried out in Gaza on July 22, 2002. Israel killed Shahada, his assistant, and thirteen other Palestinians, ten of them minors, including two infants. The one-ton bombdropped on the house caused extensive damage to the area. Although this is unquestionably the extreme instance ofthis policy, it is also a natural consequence of having adopted it in the first place.

----TK pressures terrorist to use targeted killings.

Thomas 05(Ward Thomas, associate professor in the Political Science Department of the College of the Holy Cross, SAIS REVIEW, "The New Age of Assassination", 25.1, 2005, p.muse, AL)

U.S. officials have stopped well short of openly endorsing assassination, or of declaring open season on those who displease them. The problem, again, is one of normative coherence. Taken together, the premises of current U.S. security policy -- that the United States is at war; that this war is fought against not only terrorists but also states that

succor terrorists or may in the future act like terrorists; that individual leaders are legitimate targets during wartime; that the United States cannot afford to wait until dangers become imminent, but may (and should) act preventively against ill-formed but prospective threats -- are hard to reconcile with prohibitions on assassination.

----TK’s are self defeating the terrorists are just replaced.

Blum and Heymann 10(Gabriella Blum and Philip Heymann, Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and James Barr Ames Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, HARVARD NATIONAL SECURITY JOURNAL, "Law and Policy of Targeted Killing", June 27, 2010, accessed 2.4.2012:, AL)

An immediate consequence of eliminating leaders of terrorist organizations will sometimes be what may be called the Hydra effect, the rise of more -- and more resolute -- leaders to replace them. The decapitating of the organization may also invite retaliation by the other members and followers of the organization. Thus, when Israel assassinated Abbas Mussawi, Hezbollah' s leader in Lebanon, in 1992, a more charismatic and successful leader, Hassan Nassrallah, succeeded Mussawi. The armed group then avenged the assassination of its former leader in two separate attacks, blowing up Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires, killing over a hundred people and injuring hundre
Debate Round No. 2


The word “assassination” is brought up a lot throughout the con case. Just to clarify, there is a huge difference between a targeted killing and assassination. An assassination is defined as, “to murder (a usually prominent person) by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons.” [1]

So here’s the key difference:

Targeted Killing is undertaken for military purposes.

Assassination is undertaken for political purposes.

Clearly, targeted killing is not assassination.

Con Case

Value: Justice.

My opponent is valuing justice...which is great, but what does that even mean? Justice for whom? Justice for the victims? Justice for governments? Justice for all? Furthermore, how do we determine the standards of justice? Is there a non-arbitrary way to make a distinction between what is just and unjust? Finally, and most importantly, what does justice have to do with morality? The con is denying that targeted killing is morally permissible, but on what grounds can he do that without a moral framework? With no moral framework to go off of, we must resort to the one I have provided with Gauthier’s Social Contract.

Value Criterion: Prevention of Collateral Damage.

The problem with this criterion is that it is only a criticism of the affirmative case and nothing more. The con case offers no alternative means to combat terrorism and protect the lives of the innocent people terrorists target. Additionally, if we are to sit idly by and not combat terrorists with targeted killing, the potential loss of innocent life substantially increases. By engaging in targeted killing, we are effectively destroying terrorist organizations and their ability to wage war.

I’m a little unsure of the way my opponent formatted his case, but I will just treat each argument as a separate contention.

Contention 1: Targeted Killings are ineffective

As I pointed out earlier, a targeted killing is not an assassination. A targeted killing is strictly a military action. This contention directly conflicts with my second contention. If you acknowledge the obvious fact that U.S. soil has not been attacked since 9/11, then clearly our targeted killing efforts have been effective. As far as the world opinion of the U.S. goes, that is not relevant to this debate at all. Looking to my case, the moral obligation the government has to protect its citizens supersedes the need to maintain a good public opinion.

Furthermore, Daniel Byman writes; “Israel's targeted killings have shattered Palestinian terrorist groups and made it difficult for them to conduct effective operations.”

Then later, when commenting on the lethality of terrorist attacks; “In 2003, the [lethality] rate began to fall, dropping to 0.98 deaths per attack that year, 0.33 in 2004, and 0.11 in 2005.” [3]

The point is this: The quantity of Hamas terrorist attacks has increased, but the quality has significantly decreased. That is really what matters here. The Israeli policy of targeted killing is saving more lives.

Contention 2: Targeted Killings kill innocent People

Looking again to MY second contention, I pointed out that the 9/11 attack killed 2,800 innocent people. This attack was carried out by a group of 19 terrorists. Nineteen killed close to three thousand. Keeping that in mind, I think we can all agree that the eradication of these terrorist groups should be one of our highest priorities. It is unfortunate that innocents sometimes perish in targeted killings, but it is necessary to eliminate our targets.

Also, according to W. Hays Parks; “the death of noncombatants ancillary to the lawful attack of a military objective is neither assassination nor otherwise unlawful. Civilians and other noncombatants who are within or in close proximity to a military objective assume a certain risk through their presence in or proximity to such targets; this is not something about which an attacking military force normally would have knowledge or over which it would have control.” [2]

Contention 3: TK pressures terrorist to use targeted killings.

This contentions entire argument rests on the premise that targeted killing = assassination. I have already refuted this, so this argument has no warrant.

I would also like to remind con of the definitions of targeted killing: “Premeditated, preemptive, and deliberate killing of an individual or individuals known to represent a clear and present threat to the safety and security of a state through affiliation with terrorist groups or individuals."

If a terrorist attacks a non-terrorist, it would not be considered a targeted killing.

Contention 4: TK’s are self defeating the terrorists are just replaced

The argument is that “The decapitating of the organization MAY also invite retaliation.” Yet, only one example of this ever occurring is cited and that example is of an event that took place twenty years ago. Taking this into account, it’s safe to say that this contention is a slippery slope. Without solid evidence to justify this argument, it can not stand.

However, even if sufficient evidence was supplied, it would not change the fact that governments are morally obligated to protect their citizens and fight terrorism. Without any practical alternative to targeted killing, we must affirm this resolution.

Main points:

1) The con case has no moral framework so we must use mine
2) Con’s value is vague and tells us nothing
3) Con’s criterion is better achieved by the affirmative because I am preserving more life with targeted killing
4) All of con’s contentions have been refuted

For these reasons I strongly urge an affirmative vote. Thank you.




sorry I'm over booked with the hassmat testings
Debate Round No. 3


No worries. Extend all points.


vote tie?
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by thejmanjman 6 years ago
Correction, CIA = CENTRAL intelligence agency but is a civilian organization...
Posted by thejmanjman 6 years ago
While Pro implied TK as military actions, he never defined it as military. CIA is not military (Civilian Intelligence Agency) yet it is believed to conduct targeted killings. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines (and their sub divisions) are military. Further, Pro never defined Foreign Policy for this debate as military actions only, leaving open the possibility that Targeted Killings are morally permissible for non-military applications, another fatal error.

Again, Pro presented his case well for a debate about the effectiveness of Targeted Killing for Military purposes in particular but failed to prove his case for Targeted Killing being Morally Permissible for Foreign Policy in general. Given this, I believe he failed to win the debate.
Posted by Zaradi 6 years ago
This was a super obvious win. Con never refuted pro, while pro easily refuted con. Easiest place to vote. The S/G-Source vote is a counter to jman. His RFD makes, literally, no sense. 1. Not talking about ALL foreign policy tools, just targeted killing, which is a military action. Pro's case is still good. But 2. Even if we have to look at all FP tools, pro defined TK as a military action, thus feasibly restricting scope of ground to military only, as the debate is centered around targeted killing moreso than foreign policy. As military action still meets foreign policy, his RFD falls for that reason as well.


lern teh topix b4 u tri 2 sound kool.
Posted by WriterSelbe 6 years ago
AH! I would love to debate this. I made a case or two for it but it turned out the stupid tournament was using the previous topic instead of the current one! Now I'm out of tournaments. I will instigate another debate.
Posted by thejmanjman 6 years ago
I'm not debating you but simply clarifying my voting decision. No need to get hostile my brother.

If your debate was titled: "Targeted Killing is a valid military tool to fight against terrorists", you win hands down as that was the general theme of your position. But "FOREIGN POLICY" includes political strategies (et al.) and you yourself said targeted killing cannot be used for political purposes, as it is called an assassination. So, while you did a fine job presenting your case, I believe you made a fatal error by trying to differentiate TK from assassinations.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
Yes, I agree that foreign policy can include non-military strategies. However, we are looking at targeted killing specifically, as the foreign policy tool. We are not looking at all foreign policy tools, only targeted killing as a foreign policy tool. Having said that, the only way to determine whether or not targeted killing is morally permissible is to define it; which I have. You have not challenged any of my definitions, so there isn't any way you can say that I am not upholding my burden of proof.

BUT, even if this debate was about ALL foreign policy tools, your argument still doesn't make sense. How are we going to use economic, humanitarian, environmental, or political strategies to defeat terrorists? That doesn't make any damn sense. Terrorists aren't exactly the most reasonable kinds of people.

Now that I think about it, I haven't brought up the fact that you know nothing about LD. LD is a VALUE debate. The value provides an interpretation of the central focus of the resolution, and is the HIGHEST priority for each debater to defend/refute.

Additionally, con conceded and never rebutted my case at any point in time. I refuted his value framework and his contentions, while my case was untouched. How can you justify a con vote based on that?

Finally, your arrogant decision is a result from biased judging. As a judge, it is not your job to debate with me. Nor is it your job to vote based on what you think. Rather, you should simply be voting based on who made better arguments and who stuck to the rules of LD. What I'm seeing here right now is way too much judge intervention.
Posted by thejmanjman 6 years ago
Foreign policy includes non-military strategies. You did not prove to me that targeted killing is anything more than a valid military tool, not a valid Foreign Policy tool, which was your initial statement. There is a substantial difference. Offensive military actions are used only when Foreign Policy has failed to keep the peace or protect our interests. Foreign policy includes economic, political, humanitarian, environmental, etc... strategies - in none of these would TK be suitable. TK for military reasons? Ok. TK for humanitarian reasons? Clearly no.

In any event, so I don't think you won. Move on man.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
Are you serious? Of course this is a military situation. If the military isn't performing the targeted killing, then who is? Furthermore, I provided a valid definition for targeted killing which in no way implies that it would be used as a political tool. The definition clearly states that we are targeted and killing terrorist individuals because they pose a threat to a state's security and safety. Combating terrorist groups and individuals is first and foremost, a military objective.

Additionally, I defined assassination according to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and the definition clearly states that assassination is undertaken for political purposes.

Having said that, how is a targeted killing the same thing as an assassination? Can you provide me with a valid reason why your opinion carries more weight than the valid definitions I have provided?
Posted by thejmanjman 6 years ago
Why yes I am and why yes I did, every single one. Did you even read my voting comment? You attempted to limit targeted killing for military purposes yet your debate was over whether targeted killing is suitable as a FOREIGN POLICY tool. If you were to win the debate, you would have had to prove that targeted killing would be suitable for a non-military situation, which you did not.
Posted by TheDiabolicDebater 6 years ago
Jman, do you know anything about Lincoln-Douglas debate?

Secondly, did you even read the arguments?
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by thejmanjman 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Primary reason for voting Con wrt convincing arguments is the debate was that TK is a morally permissible FOREIGN POLICY tool, which is political in nature supported by the weight of a country's military. Pro lost me when he attempted to limit TK to military purposes (vs. assassinations) when his debate topic was primarily political.
Vote Placed by seraine 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro had a case and a refutation of Con's case, so he gets arguments. Con's format was really bad, so Pro get's Spelling and Grammar. Pro gets conduct because Con essentially forfeited.
Vote Placed by Zaradi 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Wallstreetatheist 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro had a case and a rebuttal to Con's case, so he wins arguments. Con's case was extremely difficult to read and was infuriating in format, so he loses s&g. Con essentially conceded, so conduct goes pro. Sources tied.