The Instigator
Voltaire2.0
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
Cooperman88
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

The United States Should Set a More Constructive Example for Future Superpowers

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/13/2007 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 896 times Debate No: 353
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (7)

 

Voltaire2.0

Pro

The United States of America has experienced a meteoric rise in power over the course of its brief existence. A mere two-and-a-quarter centuries ago, our nation did not exist; today we are the world's greatest economic and military power. In fact, we are the most powerful political unit in the history of mankind.

As quickly as our exalted position came, however, it can (and will) go. The signs of our decline are already present. The developing economies of India and China will outstrip ours in a mere ten to twenty years. The European Union continues to strengthen economically as well.

In short, we will not be the world's greatest power for much longer. We must begin thinking of our legacy, and the example we set for powers to come.

The events that brought us to the height of our power, namely World Wars I and II, also earned us the world's goodwill. We demonstrated our willingness to intervene on behalf of our allies. Following WWII, we went to great lengths to help rebuild the shattered economies of Europe and Japan. We acted benevolently, and were recognized for our actions.

Since we have taken the mantle of the "World's Greatest Superpower," however, we have acted foolishly more often than not. Our actions have most often been motivated by self-interest and greed (see: Cuba, Vietnam War, Iran/Contra, Central American "regime change," Gulf War, Iraq War) than not (Irish peace accords, Kosovo).

Our new doctrine of "pre-emptive war" is particularly disturbing. Not only has pursuing this doctrine in Iraq damaged our standing in the global community, it has set a very dangerous precedent.

To illustrate why we must change course, please join me in some speculation.

Imagine, if you will, the world half a century hence. China's economy and military dominate the global scene.The European Union is a close second. Trailing behind are the U.S., Russia, and India. The U.S. finds itself in a heated territorial dispute with China regarding a source of fuel. Rhetoric escalates. China, in the interest of its "national security," launches a pre-emptive war against the U.S. to disarm us of our nuclear weapons.

This is the kind of precedent we have set. We must change it, before it is too late.
Cooperman88

Con

I would like to challenge your very basic of assumptions made before you even started to debate this round. You assumed that the United States set an example. You assumed that the other nations, are going to copy us. Who is stopping them from copying Rome with it's military might, or ancient Greece with it's Philosophical and Academic superiority. What about Persia? All of these were superpowers before the United States. Who did we copy? Surely not England with their monarch. Surely not the ancient Greeks with their lack of central government. Surely not Rome who took over everything they could. Same with Persia. So who then did we copy? The answer is no one. We created ourselves. So with many precedents set, we chose to go our own way. Who is to say that the next superpower won't do the same? To assume that China or another nation will follow in the footsteps of the U.S. is absurd. China's culture is extremely different, as is India's or most of the other countries around the world. Why would they follow in our footsteps? They wouldn't. There is no evidence supporting this claim. Where have we seen a superpower copy another superpower? The closest example is that of persia and rome, but even they did it differently. The romans used the Senate and an Emperor, while the persians just had one ruler. The romans let everyone stay where they were, while the persians sent most of the people they captured back to Babylon. they would interbreed hoping to breed out the ones they captured, and only have pure persians. Never in the history of the world has one superpower copied another. To assume that the next one would start is absurd. The reason for that is because by the time the next superpower arises, the previous one has fallen. Why would someone want to copy something that didn't work? America isn't setting an example for future superpowers. No one is. No one has. And no one will.
Debate Round No. 1
Voltaire2.0

Pro

Thank you for accepting my challenge. Good luck!

I did indeed assume that the U.S. is setting an example. It is folly to believe otherwise.

I did NOT assume that other nations will "copy" our actions. Even so, our actions DO set precedent for how other nations will interact. I will take your response in two parts.

First, you essentially claim that we charted our own course as a nation from the beginning. This is both true and false. Certainly we made our own decisions, and we chose to do things in ways that had not been done before.

It is false, however, to claim that we did not follow precedents of any kind. We followed precedents from England's common law. We stole whole cloth from ancient Greek and Roman ideals. Did we "copy" any one system? No. But our founders, and we, were HEAVILY influenced by past nations.

Second, you claim that it is absurd to say that future superpowers will follow in our footsteps. This is absolutely false.

Never before has the global community been so close-knit. Never before have nations had so much information about each other. Never before has there been such scrutiny of nations' actions.

Yes, China's people have a different culture. Yes, they will make different decisions as a nation than we have made. My point was that we have set dangerous precedents as to how a superpower acts.

You ask when a superpower has copied another superpower. There have never been superpowers like ours before. Never before have nations wielded such a magnitude of military and economic power. Rome, for all its glory, could not have wiped the planet clean of the human race; we can do so with the push of a button.

So, we are the first nation in history that in indisputably the most powerful nation on the planet. We are one of only a few nations with ultimate destructive power, and the only one with the means to truly implement it. We have entered a new stage of human history, and we are the first power to sit atop the world's throne.

But, if you want examples of nations copying other powerful nations in the past, you might look at Europe during the 15th - 19th centuries. The powerful European nations took cues from each other constantly regarding what was acceptable and not acceptable.

You also confuse the intention of my argument. You continually talk about political structure in reference to your arguments; e.g., how the Romans had a "Senate and an Emperor, while the Persians had just one ruler." I could care less about the political structure of superpowers; I refer only to how they act.

You are hung up on the word "copy." Nowhere did I state that any power would "copy" our actions. My argument is that what we do now, as the world's first true, modern superpower, sets precedent for how superpowers will act in future.

My argument stands: our actions have set a dangerous precedent. We must change this course, for the sake of the world.

Finally, I cannot leave your gross historical misunderstanding without comment. You talk about Rome and Persia in the context of "copying." Rome certainly did not "copy" anything Persia did. Roman leaders primarily attempted to emulate ancient Greek (Trojan, actually) ideals, until the time the Roman Republic started to become the Roman Empire (it was NOT always an empire). Once Octavian Augustus became Consul and gathered power to the Consulate, the senate lost all of its real power. So in practice, the Roman Empire was an autocracy from its inception - as was the Persian Empire.
Cooperman88

Con

You say that we as the U.S. took whole pages from Greece and Rome and England. Yes we did. But we aren't talking about how countries are formed. And how a government is set up. What we are talking about is superpowers. The difference between the American superpower and every other superpower is how we became a superpower. America is a superpower because of WWII, and it's economy. Yes, I realize our economy is a touchy issue, but we are rich compared to essentially every other nation on earth. What nation before us has done that? Other superpowers have been information superpowers like ancient Greece, with their influence over the modern thought at the time. Others were military superpowers like Rome and their conquest of the mediterranean area. We are unlike anything before us. Yes, we have military might, but we don't own half of the world. We have our borders, and we don't go around taking other nations by force and claiming them as our own. Our military might is different from every before. Our wealth is envied more than anything else we have. While in eastern europe, I was asked to buy something from every vendor on the street. Why? Because I was an american, and I was rich. Our power is not from the size of our nation, but rather from our economy and ability to defeat others. Not that we have to defeat other nations, but we can if we needed to. Now lets talk about setting the precedent. By setting the precedent, we would be giving the other nations something to base themselves off of. You say that I shouldn't use the word copy, but that is exactly what setting the precedent is. If there is a precedent, then people who use that precedent, are taking something they see, and using it. That is copying something. You say that the world community is close knit. You are correct. It is. There is great scrutiny of the world's actions. I agree. But this doesn't mean that the other countries are going to use the mandate set by us. There are many countries who hate the United States. Take for example a lot of Muslim nations. Take for another example many eastern asian countries. While they do business with us, they don't particularly like us. Why then would they accept our mandate? The fact is they wouldn't. You haven't proven how they would take and act upon our mandate. It hasn't been empirically proven in the past, and to assume it will start now doesn't mean anything. It can't be proven. We must look to the past to find what happens. Not only that, but you don't argue my point of why they would want to when we fell. Why would a country want to do the same thing as a country who did it and then lost their superpower status. They wouldn't want to copy a failing model. They would want their own chance to perfect it. Just like we wouldn't keep inventing the same thing if it didn't work. We would continuously be trying to improve upon that. The same goes for superpowers. You say that there have never been superpowers. That is true. Which means that we have perfected it more than anyone else so far. But the resolution implies we are going to fall, so i'm debating like we are going to fall. So, when we do fall, they will have no reason to follow our precedent. You give the example of European nations taking cues from each other as to what is acceptable and not accptable. Once again. We are talking about superpowers. Each superpower has been different. Because they don't want to fail as the others have failed. There is no sense in doing something that has failed. Doing the same thing hoping for a different result is crazy. That's why we don't have to worry about the precedent we set. It won't matter.
Debate Round No. 2
Voltaire2.0

Pro

It's good to see that we agree that the U.S. is the first modern superpower. Thank you for acceding to my point.

Actually, you seem to be very confused as to whether there have been superpowers or not. I quote:

"The same goes for superpowers. You say that there have never been superpowers. That is true."

A later quote:

"We are talking about superpowers. Each superpower has been different."

If we are agreed that there have been no superpowers of our kind before, these quotes make no sense.

Further, you are correct: >I< was indeed NOT talking about how governments are set up; YOU brought that up in your original answer. There are many other precedents (regarding HOW NATIONS ACT) set by England, Rome, Greece, etc. that we have followed (and others that we have disregarded, granted).

I agree that historical major powers have been very different. Their differences, however, DO NOT RULE OUT their following the precedents set by past powers.

You continue to use inaccurate terms, such as "copy" and "mandate." Precedent is not about "copying;" it is about taking an action that other powers may then do something SIMILAR to. For instance, in our pre-emptive "disarming" of Iraq, we ended up taking over the whole country. Another power may strike pre-emptively without taking political control of a nation - but the doctrine of pre-emption has a precedent. Do you see the difference?

Also precedent is not a "mandate," and I never claimed it to be. My point is that our actions set a precedent that MAY be used in the future. I did NOT claim that any other nation MUST follow our example (which would be a mandate).

You are correct in this much: there is no guarantee that future powers will use the precedents we set. We should certainly hope they do not. That just speaks to MY point that other nations MAY use the precedent we set; and right now, that precedent is dangerous.

I have not seen any successful contestation of my point that we are setting a dangerous precedent by our actions.

Your defense of the con position rests on the arguments that 1.) there is "no proof" that any power has ever followed the precedent set by another power in the past; and 2.) that since there is "no proof," obviously no future power will follow our precedent. These are completely ludicrous claims. Indeed we must study the past to understand the possibilities the future holds and you, sir, have obviously not studied the past.

1.) There is plenty of evidence of international precedent-setting in history. As I pointed out, one example-rich period is the time of the early-modern European nation states. One small example:

The transatlantic slave trade grew from the demand for plantation slaves in "New World" colonies in the Americas. The model for plantation-slavery that most of the various nations' colonies followed was based on the Portuguese system implemented on the island of Madeira.

Other nations saw the PRECEDENT that the Portuguese had set in buying slaves from African slave traders to supply labor to their plantations. The other nations FOLLOWED PORTUGAL'S PRECEDENT, and began to buy slaves for their new colonies' plantations.

There is a lot more evidence out there. It doesn't take a lot of effort to find it.

2.) There is evidence of precedent-setting and -following from history, so your second point is moot; but I'll talk about it anyway.

You contend that no future powers will want to follow our precedent. You claim this is so because they will "want their own chance to perfect [a failing model]." You are either naive or foolish to believe this.

People and nations will almost always seize any precedent to justify their actions. Continuing my original illustrative fiction, China might decide that the U.S. is a "dangerous rogue nation" and pre-emptively disarm us based on our own precedent. WHY would they do this? For their nation's gain (remember, in the fiction the conflict began as a trade dispute).

Just because we will no longer be the world's greatest superpower does not mean that future superpowers will not follow our precedent. They will believe, like we did, that our fate will not be their fate - so THEY can get away with it.

Your counter-argument essentially boils down to "we don't have to worry about the precedent we set. It won't matter" (your own words). I believe that I have shown how dangerously foolish this view is.

We cannot continue to act with impunity, hoping against hope that no future power will do to us what we have done to others. We have acted with a dangerous combination of disregard for global opinion and tyrannical bullying.

Our nation's actions DO set historical precedent. It is always possible that that precedent will not be followed, but do you want to stake our lives on it? How about our kids' and grand kids' lives? I do not. Therefore I reiterate my statement: we must change our nation's course on foreign policy, or risk grave consequences in the future.
Cooperman88

Con

I do agree that the U.S. is the superpower of today. To say otherwise is absurd. But what I'm saying is that we are different from other superpowers. You still have failed to show me how our superpower status is similar to another's superpower status. What did we get from the example of other superpowers. Look back to my first argument talking about how America as a superpower is completely different from all other superpowers before us. I never mentioned how America started. I know you don't believe me, but go back and read it, and when you do. Tell me where I say that on the discussion below. It never happens. I was talking about how we as a superpower did everything different.

Now for where you were confused when you quoted me. There have never been superpowers of our kind before. Yes, we can both agree on that, but that is because we changed the mold of what a superpower is. Just like Rome did, just like the ancient Greeks did, just like the Brits did, just like the Germans did, just like every other superpower before us did. You give the example of the slave trade, and the Portuguese, the portuguese were never a superpower. You are giving examples of countries who weren't superpowers. This whole debate isn't about whether or not countries follow examples of other countries. yes they do, but it is about whether or not superpowers follow the example of previous superpowers. Just because some countries mimicked each other doesn't mean that superpowers will. you still have not provided me any historical examples as to where a SUPERPOWER has followed the example set by another SUPERPOWER. Until that happens, we can't assume that it will all of a sudden start.

Now let's go to the example/mandate/copy debate. you say that another nation doesn't have to copy us, they just have to do something similar. I would say that is one and the same. If they do something similar to what we did, as in the case that YOU PROVIDED of China preempting us. They copied what we did to Iraq. They will be doing THE EXACT SAME THING THAT WE DID! how more obvious does this get? Yes they might change some things, but the general gist is still the same. and once again THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!!!! Never in the history of the world has a superpower done that. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

You say that you don't see any cotestation of your point that we are setting a dangerous precedent, that is because i'm not challenging the point. I'm challenging the basis of the point. The belief that we do set an example. There's no reason to cut the branches off the tree if you're digging up the roots. You say that just because it hasn't happened in the past, it doesn't mean it won't happen in the future. But you can't prove that it will. In order to get a look at the future, we must first look at the past. If if hasn't happened in the past, then we have no reason to believe it will happen in the future. Crazy is believing that doing the same thing will produce a different result. To believe that a superpower will set an example for a future superpower is a groundless belief. There is no reason for you to think that. It has never happened.

You give examples trying to prove your point, but they don't prove anything. All they prove is that nations set the example for other nations. But that's now what we're debating. We're debating whether or not superpowers set the example for superpowers. And they don't. All of the examples you provide are between nations. Not superpowers. And i'm not naive or foolish to believe that other superpowers will want their own chance to perfect the model of superpowerism. I'm looking back at history to see what it tells me does actually happen. In fact, I would say that you are the foolish or naive one to assume that history won't repeat itself. And we may have acted bullyish towards other nations. that's not what we're debating. But if we did, why are we going to assume that a nation whose culture is completely different from ours is going to do the same thing our culture did? This argument goes dropped throughout the entire round. You still haven't proven that another superpower will follow the example we set. In fact, you have chosen a debate that is impossible to prove on your behalf. In order for you to win, you must prove that the U.S. will set an example for future superpowers. How can you do that? Can you predict the future? NO. you can't, so you have chosen to debate a side that you can't back up with evidence. I have shown how the past goes against what you are saying. I have shown how the past doesn't point to your conclusion at all. Not even in the slightest instance have you proven your point. There is absolutely no way that we can know if the United States sets an example for future superpowers. Whether that is good or bad, it doesn't matter. We can't know if it will happen. Therefore you can't win this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Korezaan 9 years ago
Korezaan
Wow.

Okay first of all, I think the whole "we drew our basis from other sources as well" argument shouldn't be there. This is whether or not AMERICA should be like one of those sources. Whether future powers pick us to be a precedent or not should be up to them; the debate is supposed to be as the PRO stated in R1: "In short, we will not be the world's greatest power for much longer. We must begin thinking of our legacy, and the example we set for powers to come."

The CON then says "You assume that they will", but I don't see where the PRO does that and the CON does not tell me where to look.

In short,

PRO: "...Further, you are correct: >I< was indeed NOT talking about how governments are set up; YOU brought that up in your original answer. There are many other precedents (regarding HOW NATIONS ACT) set by England, Rome, Greece, etc. that we have followed (and others that we have disregarded, granted)."

CON: "You give examples trying to prove your point, but they don't prove anything. All they prove is that nations set the example for other nations. But that's now what we're debating."

I disagree.

Also,

CON: "In order for you to win, you must prove that the U.S. will set an example for future superpowers."

I think we are. On this argument, the burden of proof is on the CON to prove that we're not. Right now the US is a hegemonistic nation and basically has a geopolitical stranglehold on the rest of the world. The US WILL be an example and very likely to be a precedent, because of how sucessful we are in controlling everyone else.

We need to set a better example.

RFD: PRO
Posted by Voltaire2.0 9 years ago
Voltaire2.0
Thanks Korezaan! What did you think?
Posted by Korezaan 9 years ago
Korezaan
I like this one. Posting a comment so updates will be emailed to me :D
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