The Instigator
Aietius
Pro (for)
Winning
24 Points
The Contender
Harboggles
Con (against)
Losing
9 Points

The United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/8/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 15,898 times Debate No: 3567
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (11)

 

Aietius

Pro

Because the United States has a contractual responsibility to promote peace, I affirm the resolution. The American Heritage dictionary defines mitigation as the act of moderating in force or intensity and an international conflict as a dispute between two or more nations. A moral obligation is an ethical duty imposed by standards of right and wrong. Thus, the resolution can best be summed up as the United States possessing a moral obligation to promote peace and security internationally. Because the resolution asks the affirmative to demonstrate the existence of a moral obligation, the most sensible value for the round is the accurate determination of moral obligations, not only because it provides the most concrete link between the standard and the resolution, but also because it reflects the true nature of the resolution as a declarative statement that is either true or false. The burden of the affirmative is to prove the resolution correct, which requires that we first establish the source of obligations and then demonstrate that the act of mitigation falls under the umbrella of that obligatory foundation.

There could be innumerable sources of moral obligations, in the sense that we could potentially derive a moral obligation from a wide range of starting places; however, the resolution specifies that the burden of the affirmative is to prove the existence of a single moral obligation. The thesis of the affirmative, then, will be that the moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts is an obligation derived from the basic ethical requirement to respect contractual agreements made with other parties. Therefore, the sufficient standard to affirm is comprised of two interrelated burdens:

The affirmative must demonstrate that a contractual obligation is tantamount to a moral one, and I have to prove that we have a contractual agreement to mitigate international conflicts.
Meeting this dual burden of proof would meet the semantic and logical conditions that would make the resolution a true statement, and would thus mandate an affirmative ballot.

My first justification establishes that contractual agreements produce moral obligations of compliance. A contract is a voluntary agreement enacted by the will of the agent in question; since autonomy is the basis of contracts, and autonomy is the foundational element of morality, the two are inseparable. Jean-Jacques Rousseau explains that:

"To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature: the renounce all liberty is to renounce all morality from his acts. "

The reasoning behind this is simple: any system of morality necessarily has at its center a respect for a person's autonomy. Actions and behaviors can only be described as right or wrong insofar as people can be held responsible for the decisions they make; we do not assign moral judgments to rocks or squirrels because they do no have the same level of culpability that humans do. The ability to make choices leads necessarily to the capacity to be held responsible for those choices; to use one's autonomy to enter into an agreement, then, generates corresponding duties to be bound to that contract. Shelly Kagan explains that:

"The particular obligations that we find ourselves under, thanks to the specific promises we have made, are often positive duties. Thus, promises can generate positive duties to lend you my car, to meet you after work or what have you. But our intuitions shift if we redescribe this very same requirement in the language of constraints. For now we have a constraint against breaking your promises, and this makes it sound like a negative duty."

Making a promise in the form of a contract formalizes responsibilities; the agents within the contract are said to be morally obligated to fulfill the terms of the contract because they voluntarily chose to be bound by those terms. Michael Sandel clarifies:

"From the standpoint of autonomy, a contract's moral force derives from the fact of its voluntary agreement; when I enter freely into an agreement, I am bound by its terms, whatever they may be. The fact that they are self-imposed provides one reason at least why I am obligated to fulfill them."

We can conclude, then, that contractual obligations have a distinctly moral component. Autonomy means that people are held morally responsible for the decisions that they make; since a contract is a voluntary agreement to do something, the responsibility is generated to meet the conditions of the contract.

My second justification proves that the United States is contractually obligated to mitigate international conflicts. First, in 1945 the US Senate ratified the Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco. The Preamble of the UN Charter stipulates that the organization is dedicated to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and "to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security." The charter further obligates members of affirm "faith in fundamental human rights; in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small." Article One of the First Chapter states: "To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace." The Second Article further requires that "All members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter."

Therefore, the UN Charter clearly defines an obligation to mitigate international conflicts and meets the second standard of the criterion.

Second, the United States has contractual obligations to its citizens that require mitigation. The Constitution charges the government of the United States to respect and protect the rights of its people as enshrined in the Articles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. International conflict threatens citizens because, as Claudia Grossman explains:

As the world is becoming more integrated, the range of factors that influence both national and international peace and security has expanded. Threats to national and international well-being can arise from environmental, social, economic and human rights problems, as well as from traditional military sources. For example, social conflict in one area of the world can interrupt the supply of goods and services to countries across the globe, as well as cause human migrations that overtax the resources of other countries and internationalize local conflicts.

We can see then, that because international conflicts negatively affect the citizens of the United States, the government is contractually obligated to mitigate them.

The argument of the affirmative, then, can be summarized easily: contractual obligations give rise to moral obligations, and there is a contractual obligation on the part of the United States to mitigate international conflicts. As a result, there is a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts, and the statement in the resolution is true. As Immanuel Kant concludes:

"A good will is good not because of what it performs or effects, not by its aptness for the attainment of some proposed end, but simply by virtue of the volition…if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing, and there should remain only the good will, then like a jewel, it would still shine by its own light, as a thing which has its whole value in itself."
Harboggles

Con

We have NEVER in the last 70 years of our policy entered a conflict for "peace" reasons or to mitigate conflict. Every single invasion we do is for the benefit of the foreign policy of the current president.

Korea-Prevent spread of Communism
Vietnam-Prevent spread of communism
Gulf war- oil
Iraq -oil

The last time we have ever been in a war was WWII. Congress has not declared war since that war.

There are wars and conflicts in over 100 countries around the world and the United States is not involved.

But you ARE arguing a "moral" obligation...

How is it our responsibility? Our sending troops over only wastes American lives, the problems in the countries such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Darfur are deeply rooted in economic issues. Killing some of the rebels (which has proven ineffective in Vietnam and Iraq) would be a waste.

Our primary moral obligation is to restore the rights of the people in our country, and establish our own economic prosperity and security before we even CONSIDER helping other countries. I am fine with sending diplomats thats totally within our grasp, but expending troops on a situation with no REAL enemey and no REAL goal is pointless as history has shown us.
Debate Round No. 1
Aietius

Pro

First of all, I'd just like to thank Harboggles for agreeing to debate. It's a very interesting topic, and I was worried that no one was up for it. This is my first real debate, so we'll see how it goes.

Before I proceed to rebut my opponent's arguments I think it's necessary to point out that my opponent neglected to rebut any of my points. My argument is simple: contractual obligations give rise to moral obligations (I support this with a basic analysis of social contract theory), and there is a contractual obligation on the part of the United States to mitigate international conflicts. It's a simple syllogism, and there can only be one conclusion: the United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts.

My opponent made no effort to counter my topical analysis, my evidence, or even the syllogism itself. In fact, I'm not even sure he read my argument. In context of debate, when an argument goes unaddressed it is inherently and implicitly accepted. For my opponent to fail to address my argument in any way is in essence him forfeiting the debate.

But that's a shitty way to win =D. For the sake of the debate, I will show very clearly that my opponent's arguments are A. non-topical and B. do not prove that America does not have this moral obligation. For the sake of clarity I will put markings on each distinguishable argument of my opponent, making it easier for me to rebut and for you to follow.

1. Harboggles starts his argument by presenting a cursory and bare bones analysis of four wars in recent American history: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the War in Iraq. He chalks the first two up to be motivated by a legitimate fear of the spread of Communism and he chalks the last two up to be motivated by a legitimate fear of instability in the oil market.

2. He then continues to point out that the United States has not declared war since World War II. I'm not quite sure why this is significant and neither, it seems, is my opponent. His argument continues in this unguided manner: he says that there are many conflicts all over the world that the United States is not involved in. Okay? He says that problems in places like Sudan and Zimbabwe are rooted in economic instability. Okay?

3. His last paragraph holds his most coherent argument, which is that America's "primary moral obligation is to restore the rights of people in our country . . . before we even CONSIDER helping other countries."

I will address these arguments in order.

1. For him to say that in the past, American intervention was never motivated by interests of promoting peace is both A. wrong and B. non-topical. For instance, in our intervention in the Bosnia-Serbia conflict in the 1990s, there was very little strategic gain to be had from the mission. There was no oil, no democracy to prop up, no communism to defend against, and no Al Qaeda to kill. There was just genocide, injustice, and persecution that needed to end. It's pretty clear that our intervention was motivated by our desire to promote human rights.

Furthermore, even if I accept what you argue to be true, why does this therefore prove the resolution wrong? So what if America has acted with ulterior motives in the past? Does this therefore mean that we don't have the moral obligation? Think about this example: A policeman's obligation is to keep the peace. If he accepts a bribe and looks the other way when a murder happens, does this therefore mean that his obligation to keep the peace no longer exists? Of course not! Your argument is simply non-topical and doesn't prevent a compelling case to vote Con.

2. I'm grouping these various statements together because they are unguided and don't seem to contribute to the debate, but they're worth responding to. First of all, why does it matter that America has not waged war since WWII? Mitigating international conflict does not immediately entail a military invasion. It could mean diplomacy, international sanctions, appeals to the UN, sending doctors and foodstuffs. Second of all, why does it matter that there are many conflicts in the world that America is not involved in? Like I demonstrated earlier, just because we fail to uphold our moral obligation does not mean that our moral obligation does not exist. And finally, when you say that the conflicts in Sudan and Zimbabwe are deeply rooted economic issues, how does this therefore mean we should vote Con? And why does this therefore mean that American should not mediate the conflict with, say, diplomacy or economic aid? All of these arguments are misguided and fail to prove anything.

3. This is my opponent's most coherent argument. He says that we have a more important moral obligation, which is to help ourselves before we help others. Regardless of whether or not I agree with him, I'd just like to point out that competing moral obligations can exist, even in contradiction. If I see a mugger assaulting a young woman in a dark alley, even though I want to run in and punch the guy in the face, my moral obligation to protect those in need contradicts my moral obligation to not hurt others. In this situation, they can both exist concurrently, and I can simply choose to value one more. In this case, I'd punch the mugger right in the chin. Both moral obligations still exist =D

In other words, the resolution only asks that the affirmative prove that a single obligation exists; how that obligation is weighed against competing obligations does not fall within the scope of the resolution. A car salesman has an obligation to provide for his family, which translates into an obligation to sell as many cars as possible. There is a competing obligation to not lie or misrepresent his products, even though he could probably sell more cars if he did. Both obligations exist, and they are mutually exclusive to some extent; however, acting on one does not remove the other because the obligations have self-contained value.

For all these reasons, I urge you to vote Pro.

~Aietius
Harboggles

Con

I admit I forgot to address your argument

"The united states has a contractual obligation" From what? Where did we sign up to be world police? Oh, the UN! You later discuss. Since when is the UN a moral authority in the world? As I already mentioned there are hundreds of wars all over the world that not even the UN is touching. Despite being the creators of this contract! All of these countries that are in conflict are due to economic reasons. We have a pseudo responsibility to mitigate in a diplomatic sense, that is fine. But our contract with the UN implies that any and all actions must be approved by the UN. Otherwise every country in the UN would have a blank check to invade a country to "aid" them.

The united states has no moral authority to be the world police and the world agrees. Europe hates us for being the way we are at the moment. However any time we have had a UN sanctioned event everything in fine.

It is not the will of the founders for us to be the world police, but we continue to become more and more so.

My argument of when the united states enters conflict was refuted with the idea of the Bosnian-Serbian conflict, but I would like to point out in relation to my earlier discussion that that conflict WAS APPROVED by the UN and therefore we had the contractual obligation to help.

My main point is that moral is so subjective. I cannot in good conscience recommend the spending of our tax dollars (that we don't even have, we have to borrow them!) to save a 3rd world country from going from unstable to unstabler rather than educate, clothe, feed, and provide healthcare for our own citizens (which would be easier and cheaper given the infrastructure already in place)

Contractual agreements do imply a moral obligation, but only if following with the terms and conditions of the contract. Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan are all NOT UN sanctioned conflicts and therefore not a moral obligation.
Debate Round No. 2
Aietius

Pro

Nice rebuttal, Harboggles. It's much more fun to debate when we're talking about the same thing =P!

I will start by responding to the arguments given by in my opponent's 2nd round and will finish up by crystallizing why I won this debate.

My opponent begins his rebuttal by critically analyzing the contact between the United States and the United Nations. He argues that all actions must be approved by the UN, otherwise all nations would be able to invade other nations under pretext of "aid." His assumptions require quite a leap of faith, and I would like to note that he provides evidence for none of it. Every argument that I have given has had substantial evidence.

He then goes on to say that the US has no moral authority to be the world police, and the world agrees. However, this is irrelevant and non-topical. I'm not saying America should intervene in every conflict nor am I advocating for more military force. All I am saying is that the moral obligation exists to mitigate international conflict. We ALSO have the moral obligation to respect the sovereignty of our neighbors! Like I explained multiple times in both my Round 1 argument and my Round 2 argument, multiple moral obligations can exist, even in contradiction of eachother.

Ultimately, my opponent completely ignored the second part of the minor premise of my syllogism. For the purpose of clarity, I'll briefly resummarize what I'm referring to.

Major Premise: Contractual obligations give rise to moral obligations, according to Rousseau and the Social Contract Theory
Minor Premise: America has contractual obligations to mitigate international conflicts, with two examples:
1) US signed UN Charter in 1948, obligated to promote human rights, save generations from scourge of war. "All members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter."
2) The United States has a contractual obligation TO ITS CITIZENS as enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution to protect the people, including from international conflicts. Since international conflicts affect US citizens, and the US has a contractual obligation to mitigate harms done to US citizens, the US therefore has a contractual obligation to mitigate international conflict.

"As the world is becoming more integrated, the range of factors that influence both national and international peace and security has expanded. Threats to national and international well-being can arise from environmental, social, economic and human rights problems, as well as from traditional military sources. For example, social conflict in one area of the world can interrupt the supply of goods and services to countries across the globe, as well as cause human migrations that overtax the resources of other countries and internationalize local conflicts."

We can see then, that because international conflicts negatively affect the citizens of the United States, the government is contractually obligated to mitigate them.

This argument was completely ignored by my opponent, even though I brought it up in the 1st Round.

As can be seen, I have successfully proven that A. contractual obligations give rise to moral obligations (which my opponent agreed with) and B. the United States has a contractual obligation to mitigate international conflict. THEREFORE: The United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflict.

It's a simple syllogism, and it's a shame that my opponent has failed to respond to it successfully. As such, I urge an Affirmative (Pro) vote.

~Aietius
Harboggles

Con

When we invaded iraq, the first thing we did is look to the UN for a blessing, we didn't get it, but invaded anyway.

Further, without the contract there is no moral obligation since the terms of the contract need to be met for the moral obligation to be introduced. This is not hard to understand, the UN charter would not allow the US to mitigate as it pleases without some oversight.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Just because Con was incompetent doesn't mean you've "guaranteed" the syllogism- it means you got away with it :D
Posted by Aietius 9 years ago
Aietius
"That is to say, the US as such is not an entity and cannot enter into contracts, and the US government does not have the right to force such "Contracts" on it's citizens."

That's the best and indeed the only way to really tackle my argument. While one may disagree with what I'm saying, if I can defend the syllogism, which I feel I did effectively, the affirmative is still true.

"One thing I am unclear on. PRO stated that America was under a "contractual agreement" to always step in ofr humanitarian reasons. What contract is this, and how does that not constitute nation-building? As well, how does that not foist on other nations "our" sense of civic duty, and promote our morals on others?"

In my Round 1 argument I presented two examples of contractual agreements made by the United States to mitigate international conflict. My first example was our signing into the UN to promote peace, human rights, etc.. My second example was our own Constitution, which states that the government has an obligation to protect the American people from harm. If international conflict harms the American people, then we have an obligation to mitigate it in order to uphold the obligation spelled out in the Constitution.

I must admit that the UN example was thrown in to throw the opponent off. I was hoping that he would concern most of his time there, as it was something that I could throw away, and could instead stand on the second example, which would, hopefully, remain untouched and forgotten by the opponent in his rebuttals. As long as I can guarantee the syllogism, I don't see how you can vote con.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
That is to say, the US as such is not an entity and cannot enter into contracts, and the US government does not have the right to force such "Contracts" on it's citizens.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Pro made the better argument and gets my vote. However, clearly, the contracts he speaks of is illegitimate. Contracts derive their power from voluntary associations, but the US is not a voluntary association. It is an involuntary nation. Con failed to address this fact, or he would have won :D
Posted by Paradigm_Lost 9 years ago
Paradigm_Lost
While I believe that PRO made a better argument, and voted on those merits alone, I find myself neither in total (dis)agreement with the premise.

This has always been the problem which presents a bit of a crux: How do you balance cultural diversity without affecting individual rights? We have a society, richly diverse, with long traditions that, if lost, would only bring the world in to a more Westernized way of thinking. You have some groups that say this is an intrusion on their way of life. Its a good argument. Because some countries have said that American and/or European influence has tainted their culture.

On the other hand, simply allowing any society to live life as they see fit also means having to turn a blind eye to moral qualms that we have with that particular society because it does not maximize individual freedom. Female circumcision is a prime example of this.

In fact, this crux is exactly what is going on in many African and Middle Eastern cultures. How do we say that we appreciate your cultural diversity (i.e., leaving you alone), without also compromising on our time-honored Western beliefs, which is the expansion of individual right (i.e., don't cut off her clitoris because she is entitled to keep it)?

Its quite the little conundrum.

One thing I am unclear on. PRO stated that America was under a "contractual agreement" to always step in ofr humanitarian reasons. What contract is this, and how does that not constitute nation-building? As well, how does that not foist on other nations "our" sense of civic duty, and promote our morals on others?
Posted by HoosierPapi 9 years ago
HoosierPapi
Aietius, I would suggest that you take the hole that Harboggles left in his argument, and drive a mack truck through it. As a part history pajor, I can tell you that i nthe past 70 years, we have indeed entered into a conflict primarily for the purposes of peace. As Harboggles himself/herself alluded to immediately aftedr the "70 year" comment, we entered WW II. The Second World War reached world war status once we were attacked in Hawaii. While FDR certainly (and secretly) wished to enter the conflict prior to December 7, 1941, it was not first and foremost to preserve any foreign policy interests. We were trying to stop the spread of Facism throughout the globe. PEriod. There may have been other motives for pursuing a conflict, but make no mistake: first and foremost, we wished to preserve the sovereignty of our allies throughout the world, and to stop Italy, Japan and Germany in their quest to conquer as much of the world as they could.

This is a massive error in Harboggles's logic.
Posted by Aietius 9 years ago
Aietius
Agreed, Hoosier. It is a shame that contemporary policymakers seem to be overstepping their boundaries and exploiting our role as a mediator in international conflict for selfish and counter-productive gains.

Why does no one debate the serious topics on this site? I presented a well-thought out, well-reasoned argument and I'm still waiting for a response. Meanwhile, people like Beemor take all the easy debates or debates that don't require any real cognition. It's frustrating.
Posted by HoosierPapi 9 years ago
HoosierPapi
Gotta admit, I agree with Pro, which would essentially run counter to what George Washington argued about American involvement abroad until his dying day.

However, posturing as a mitigator as a pretense to invasion and war is NOT beneficial to the United States, nor to the world at large. We are inching ever so much closer to the self destructive behavior that saw Rome reach its breathtakign collapse.
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