The Instigator
Freeman
Pro (for)
Losing
38 Points
The Contender
J.Kenyon
Con (against)
Winning
67 Points

The United States should allow the limited use of torture.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/17/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 19,205 times Debate No: 12249
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (58)
Votes (23)

 

Freeman

Pro

The limited use of torture should be permitted in the United States in order to safeguard the wellbeing of the general public. This policy should be put in place because torture can be both an effective means of acquiring information, and it can be reasonably justified in some circumstances. These circumstances may include any case where tremendous amounts of human wellbeing are placed in jeopardy. Undoubtedly, some may be worried that allowing this policy would pave the way for all sorts of unnecessary human rights violations. But ultimately, this is not the case; torture can be conducted with moral justification and in a way that can be reconciled with the pursuits of a civil society.

C1: Torture can be a feasible means of gathering information.

Despite what many people may believe, there is ample evidence to suggest that torture can be an effective means of gathering information. Consider, for example, the French military's use of torture in Algeria. In 1956, the Algerian FLN (National Liberation Front) initiated a terrorist bombing campaign in Algiers that often targeted civilians. As a result, the French Government, with the aid of Gen. Jacques Massu, began a counterinsurgency campaign in Algiers that included the strategic use of torture. [1] With these tactics and a powerful military presence, only months later France was victorious over the Algerian forces. In fact, the campaign was so successful that the English military theorist Brian Crozier put it like this, "By such ruthless methods, Massu smashed the FLN organization in Algiers and re-established unchallenged French authority. And he did the job in seven months -- from March to mid-October." [1] This strong evidence from history indicates that it is possible to use torture as a feasible means to gather information.

Additionally, there are other cases in recent history that would seemingly provide strong reasons to suppose that torture can be used effectively in dire situations. In 2003, a law student named Magnus G�fgen kidnapped Jakob von Metzler, the 11-year-old son of a prominent banker in Germany. [2] After the kidnapping, Mr. G�fgen murdered the 11-year-old boy by wrapping his mouth and nose in a type of duct tape. Later on, he was captured for his role in this crime, and when he was questioned about this incident, he refused to provide the whereabouts of the child. Fearing that the child was in imminent danger, German authorities sought and received legal permission to bring in a torturer to extract information. And as soon as the torturer came in, G�fgen, not wanting to be hurt, disclosed where he had put the child. From this incident, it seems quite clear that torture can help produce valuable information.

C2: Torture can be ethically justified in certain circumstances.

Given the increasing proliferation of destructive technology, it's possible to envision a scenario in which the refusal to administer torture would not only be unwise, it would be perverse, especially given the prospects of nuclear terrorism. Martin Hellman, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, who has been focusing on nuclear deterrence for the past 25 years, estimates that there is a greater than 50% chance that a nuclear weapon attack will occur in the next 80 years unless the number of weapons and available weapons-grade material is radically reduced. [3] Moreover, organizations that make it their business to study nuclear proliferation, such as Harvard's Belfer Center, now agree that a terrorist organization acquiring a nuclear weapon is a very real danger. [4] And according to the Belfer Center, "In a 2005 poll of international security experts taken by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the median estimate of the chance of a nuclear attack in the next ten years was 29 percent — and a strong majority believed that it was more likely that terrorists would launch a nuclear attack than that a state would." [4] Therefore, the potential that we can gain information about future terrorist attacks that utilize nuclear material is very real, and it becomes progressively more likely as nuclear material continues to proliferate across the globe. Consequently, it should be evident that torture can – at least potentially – help us avoid nuclear catastrophe.

C3: Incurring collateral damage is far worse morally than the torture of certain people.

Torture should concern us far less than collateral damage during wartime concerns us. Inevitably, certain parts of any military campaign simply won't be successful, and these mishaps are occasionally responsible for killing innocent men, women, and children that were not the intended targets. And unlike terrorists, the victims of collateral damage are completely innocent of any wrongdoing. As such, the death of innocent children from collateral damage should be far more troubling than the temporary discomfort of avowed terrorists. Sam Harris, a philosopher and neuroscientist, points out the following, "What, after all, is "collateral damage" but the inadvertent torture of innocent men, women, and children? Whenever we consent to drop bombs, we do so with the knowledge that some number of children will be blinded, disemboweled, paralyzed, orphaned, and killed by them. It is curious that while the torture of Osama bin Laden himself could be expected to provoke convulsions of conscience among our leaders, the unintended (though perfectly foreseeable, and therefore accepted) slaughter of children does not." [5] Indeed, it is truly bizarre that collateral damage is less morally troubling to most people than judicious torture.

Furthermore, even if we were resolved to only fight defensive wars, the point would still remain. Whenever any nation engages in modern warfare (for either offensive or defensive purposes), thousands of innocent people will certainly be killed, blinded, and maimed as a result. Thus, if we are unwilling to engage in torture to achieve certain objectives that are of grave importance, then we should also be unwilling to wage modern warfare. And if we are willing to wage modern warfare, then it logically follows that we ought to allow the limited use of torture.

::Conclusion::

Historical evidence regarding the utility of torture and moral reasoning both suggest that torture may truly be preferable in some scenarios, especially in ‘ticking time bomb' cases. Of course, certain people may still be worried about the possibility of torture being used for non-essential purposes if it were allowed. In attempting to calm these fears, Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, suggests the following, "we should never under any circumstances allow low-level people to administer torture. If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice." [6] Whether or not we can all concur with Dershowitz on his specific proposals is irrelevant. The point is, of course, that there are situations where torture can be conducted with oversight, accountability, and moral justification. Thus, there are good reasons, both practically and morally, why the United States should allow the limited use of torture.

Sources:
1. Schulz, William F., and Juan E. . M�ndez. The Phenomenon of Torture Readings and Commentary. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2007. p. 255
2. http://www.nytimes.com...
3. http://www.cbsnews.com...
4. http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu...
5. Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. p. 194
6. http://edition.cnn.com...
J.Kenyon

Con

Thanks, Freeman, for your patience. Good luck, this should be a good one!

===> INTRO <===

"When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When people fear the government, there is tyranny" – Thomas Jefferson, 1806

Torture is an ineffective, immoral, and dangerous practice. It degrades and devalues the humanity of both torturer and victim. It violates international law as well as the United States constitution. By engaging in torture, the United States gambles with its diplomatic relationships and creates enemies around the world. Additionally, information obtained through torture is unreliable; it can give false leads and damage subsequent collection efforts.

===> NEGATIVE CASE <===

C1 – Torture Violates International and Domestic Law

Torture violates multiple international statutes and agreements, including the Geneva Conventions.[1] of which the US is a signatory.

Torture also violates the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states that "[n]o person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,"[2] while the Eighth Amendment explicitly disallows the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.[3]

In the past, the United States has tried and executed foreign combatants who engaged in torture.[4] This extreme hypocrisy will further destroy our marred international reputation. It will weaken our diplomatic position and destroy our ability to use soft power effectively.

C2 – Torture Creates Blowback Risk

Matthew Alexander, an Air Force counterintelligence agent who personally conducted or oversaw more than 1,300 interrogations found in Iraq that "the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda."[5] Mozzam Begg, a British inmate released in 2005 states that "Guantanamo Bay is the most notorious prison on earth," and believes it is a radicalizing force for militants around the world.[6]

Additionally, torturing terror suspects (especially with public knowledge, as my opponent proposes) puts our troops at risk. In 2004, Al-Qaeda beheaded 26-year-old Nick Berg in retaliation for the prisoner abuse that took place in Abu Ghraib.[7]

C3 – In Fourth Generation Warfare, the Moral Battle is Crucial

Fourth generation wars are fought by non-state forces against states.[8] Military expert William S. Lind describes the moral level of war as "the most powerful level, the decisive level, the dominant level, and the all-important level."[8]

Lind summarizes the idea "don't do anything to someone else that, if it were done to you, would make you fight."[8]Like the French did in the Battle of Algiers, we can level Fallujah, but if the policies that brought it about are a disaster at the moral level, they will prove disastrous in terms of the war's ultimate outcome.

===> REBUTTALS <===

C1 – Torture can be a feasible means of gathering information

This is the most crucial element of the debate. Torture is not an feasible means of obtaining information. The 2006 US Army Field Manual on Interrogation states that "use of torture is not only illegal but also it is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the HUMINT (Human Intelligence) collector wants to hear."[9]

Acting on intelligence gathered through torture is risky at best; dangerous and irresponsible at worst. People under duress can be made to say anything. For a prime example, look no further than Al-Shaykh Al-Libi. False confessions extracted through torture established the non-existent link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda that lead directly to American involvement in the region.[10]

Most counter-terrorism experts, including Alexander, agree that non-torture methods are superior; Alexander was tremendously successful using them in Iraq. On detainee went so far as to tell him "I thought you would torture me; when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."[11]

The example of the Franco-Algerian war that my opponent uses is incorrect and only serves to highlight my earlier points about blowback and the crucial role morality plays in fourth generation warfare. Lt. Colonel Kenneth Detreux writes "As the stories of brutal acts and torture became revealed, the vehement public outcry and disgust would contribute to turning the tide of both French support and the international community."[12] The 2007 U.S. Army/U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual specifically cites the French experience in Algeria as the ultimate cautionary tale. It is a straightforward matter: lose moral legitimacy, lose the war.[13]

C2: Torture can be ethically justified in certain circumstances.

I want to first point out that this contention rests on the C1 assumption that torture is an effective means of gathering information, a claim I have fully refuted.

Second, experts agree that the possibility of terrorists carrying out a nuclear attack against the United States is virtually nonexistent. Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical intelligence at global intelligence company Stratfor, points out that many countries have multi-billion dollar budgets, universities, research facilities, and teams of scientists working towards developing nuclear weapons and are still unable to do so. Purchasing one would be even more difficult, since a number of nations would immediately attempt to acquire it themselves. In addition to this, the United States currently spends roughly $1 billion per year tracking and purchasing nuclear materials to keep them off the market.[14]

More importantly, this utilitarian line of thinking leads down a slippery slope toward disregard for basic rights and human dignity. If getting information out of terrorists is our top priority, why stop at torture? Most terrorists are willing to sacrifice their own lives and wellbeing for their cause. In a ticking time bomb scenario, a much easier way to extract information would be to kidnap his family and place them in front of him. Interrogators would proceed to brutally beat, rape, and disfigure his wife or daughter and crush his son's testicles. If he's still unwilling to talk, the interrogators would execute them one by one. If my opponent is truly morally consistent, he should have no reason to object.

Moreover, why limit our use of torture to extreme circumstances? If it can save lives, it's negligent not to use it in other, less extreme cases. Is it immoral to torture someone in police custody who may have information that can save lives? If so, why? What about torturing women? Or children? There is no reason to make such arbitrary distinctions.

C3 – Incurring collateral damage is worse morally than the torture of certain people

While I agree with my opponent's sentiments, like C2, C3 again pre-supposes the efficacy of torture, which I addressed in C1. Unless my opponent can give a more compelling reason why this is necessarily the case, his point is utterly without merit.

Even granting this, he has failed to take into account the collateral damage torture itself incurs. As I pointed out earlier, torture is extremely helpful -- to terrorist organizations looking to boost recruitment. As the French case illustrates, where conflict exists, torture worsens it.

---> CONCLUSION

Torture is the outmoded tool of oppressive institutions useful for extracting false confessions and little else. Respect for basic human rights forbids its use and the practical scenarios existing in the real world effectively illustrate that it is not necessary for America to sacrifice her soul to win the war on terror.

Thank you, the resolution is NEGATED. With that, I turn it over to my opponent.

-- SOURCES --
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Debate Round No. 1
Freeman

Pro

Let me begin by thanking my opponent for his time and thorough argument. Hopefully, we can manage to reach some sort of consensus by the end of the debate, but perhaps that would be hoping for too much. At any rate, my opponent will probably be unsurprised to learn that I haven't found his arguments persuasive. In fact, even if the central claims of all three of my opponent's arguments were valid, it is unclear how they would present any substantial basis to negate the resolution. Having said that, let's now examine the arguments as they are currently presented.

A1: Torture Violates International and Domestic Law

Given the nature of my argument, it is simply of no importance whether or not my proposal is in accordance with international law or constitution law. Sometimes the constitution must be temporarily suspended for the greater good. This is why the President has the authority to initiate martial law. [1] Indeed, it is trivially easy to envision numerous scenarios where someone would have to break the law in order to act ethically. Imagine, for example, that you had to temporarily steal a car in order to save the life of a small child. In this situation, would it be ethical to let the child die and not steal the car? Of course, the answer is no. The basis of moral philosophy is not to be found in the dogmatic adherence of any document regardless of circumstances, it is to be found in a careful analysis of the causes and conditions of human and animal suffering.

A2: Torture Creates Blowback Risk

My opponent argues that torture has very serious and negative effects, both militarily and diplomatically. It is unclear how this is significant to all instances of torture (e.g., the kidnapping case in Germany), so I'll let him connect the dots on that one. In any case, he concludes that torture shouldn't be allowed given its propensity to produce undesirable consequences. Although I would tend to agree with him about the negative effects the atrocities of Abu Ghraib have had on our war efforts, I cannot bring myself to see the relevance of these conclusions to the topic at hand.

In this context, I am inclined to ask my opponent one question: How are the tragedies at Abu Ghraib similar to either case that I brought up regarding torture in Algiers or Germany? The events at Abu Ghraib were nothing more than casual sadism; they did not represent a strategic or intelligent attempt to extract information. [2] Similarly, abuses at Guantanamo Bay were so common that they hardly would qualify as one of the emergency cases for torture that I have expounded upon. [3] It should be obvious that I'm not advocating for unmitigated sadism, nor am I advising that we use torture regularly. Therefore, to compare the unregulated and often pointless war crimes that occurred at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay to my argument for judicious torture is a false comparison.

A3: In Fourth Generation Warfare, the Moral Battle is Crucial

Among other things, my opponent seems to imply that it is necessary for any nation to maintain its moral credibility as it engages in matters concerning war. On this point, we could not possibly agree more. Nevertheless, I do not recognize my proposal as being morally wrong in any way. Moreover, my opponent hasn't explicitly challenged this view in his argument in this section. He merely cited the opinion of a military officer who gave his view on a rather general policy for military engagement. And although Lind's opinions are sensible, they do not demonstrate the conclusion my antagonist is reaching towards.

C1: Torture can be a feasible means of gathering information.

It would seem as though this issue about the effectiveness of torture must be confronted seriously before the debate can truly progress. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that the only thing I have sought to demonstrate in this section is that torture can help produce good intelligence; as such, ethical questions can be dealt with later. The real question before us can be adequately framed like this: Given the optimal effectiveness and risks of torture (whatever they may actually be), does that effectiveness reasonably justify its use in certain situations. With this question in mind, the answer seems very likely to be yes.

For obvious reasons, we cannot conduct experiments to gauge the effectiveness and reliability of torture as a means of gathering information, but we can look back through history and draw reasonable conclusions from the historic record of both Algiers and Germany. Clearly, the army is wise not to consistently use risky tactics like torture that may be only effective some of the time. However, this ratio of success still makes torture acceptable in certain scenarios (e.g., the kidnapping case in Germany). As my opponent suggests, torture can occasionally be unreliable, and there are often situations where non-torture methods are better at acquiring information. This much is both true and uninteresting. It's simply incorrect to make a universal rule from an inconclusive and incomplete set of data.

C2: Torture can be ethically justified in certain circumstances.

For starters, the basis of my argument doesn't depend solely upon the possibility of nuclear terrorism. However, the notion that the possibility of nuclear terrorism is nonexistent is truly detached from empirical reality with regard to the facts about current trends in worldwide nuclear proliferation. And all the real experts on nuclear proliferation agree on this point, such as Harvard's Belfer Center. This unfortunate state of affairs has been made possible by a variety of factors. For example, materials used for nuclear weapons have occasionally gone missing in the past. [4] The United States has made good strides in safeguarding the general populous from nuclear weapons, but to prematurely declare that the U.S. is safe from the reckless use of nuclear weapons is unjustifiable.

Secondly, there is no reason to suppose that my opponent is correct in claiming that my proposal leads to a dangerous slippery slope that will authorize the rape and disfigurement of women and children. I've already shown this view to be without merit when I referenced the expert opinions of Alan Dershowitz. Additionally, neither the case regarding torture in Germany nor Algiers devolved into outbreaks of rampant sadism. As such, my opponent's views on this matter can rightfully be put aside, because the slippery slope he envisions is nothing more than a mirage.

C3: Incurring collateral damage is far worse morally than the torture of certain people.

Interestingly, my opponent seemingly agrees with the central ethical claim of my argument in this section. However, he still maintains that torture isn't a feasible means of gathering information. So, for now, the weight of this argument should be viewed in conjunction with the weight of my first two arguments.

::Conclusion::

In summary, my opponent's first argument is unpersuasive at best and irrelevant at worst. Even if my proposal were illegal, this hardly provides for a strong reason to refuse to engage in torture by itself. His second argument doesn't fare much better, since it unfairly compares instances of torture that are entirely dissimilar. And lastly, he hasn't managed to clearly show how my proposal is ethically wrong in any way. On top of this, my three arguments remain quite intact. In at least some situations, torture has been a reasonable way to get accurate information. Moreover, there is no reason to conclude that judicious torture with strict oversight leads down the slippery slope my antagonist has alluded to. For these reasons, it is still a good idea for the United States to allow the limited use of torture.

Sources: http://www.debate.org...
J.Kenyon

Con

===> INTRO <===

I'm eager to address my opponent's arguments, so I'll get straight to the point.

===> NEGATIVE CASE <===

C1 – Torture violates International and Domestic Law

The question here is not whether or not at times breaking the law can be morally justified, but whether or not such exceptions should be built into the law itself. The example my opponent gives of martial law is off base – primarily because the authority to temporarily suspend habeas corpus is incorporated into the Constitution itself, and also because it is not the President who has this authority, but Congress.[1]

I agree with my opponent that legalism is a terrible foundation on which to build an ethical system, but from this shared premise we draw opposite conclusions. Torture is an extremely dangerous power. Government should not be entrusted with it. It has been outlawed in civilized countries for centuries, and for good reason. Virtually useless for gathering intelligence, in the past, its only purpose has been oppression and extraction of false confessions.

The alternative is allowing our leaders to act as they please, regardless of the law. This, I believe, is even more dangerous. The idea that rulers should be held to the same standard as any other citizen is the driving force behind the rule of law, and it is a vitally necessary to maintain a civil society. Moreover, should my opponent choose to interpret the resolution in this manner, it would necessarily invalidate his own position: torture would not be allowed by law, it would be carried out in spite of it, so in reality, the United States would not be enacting any real change in torture policy.

C2 – Torture Creates Blowback Risk

I agree that the kidnapping case in Germany wouldn't negatively impact foreign policy, however, I have several other objections that I address more fully in my rebuttal to C1.

PRO claims that the events at Abu Ghraib were "nothing more than casual sadism." If this is the case, by condemning the proceedings, he has undermined his own position. Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, asserts that they were not simple brutality or a breakdown of military discipline. Torturers used CIA techniques developed in the 1950's. In fact, the CIA was in charge of Abu Ghraib! Army intelligence was merely enlisted to support their mission.[2]

C3 – In Fourth Generation Warfare, the Moral Battle is Crucial

I'm glad we can agree on something. Unfortunately, my opponent's criticism seems to be somewhat misplaced: I never claimed that torture is objectively "wrong" in all cases, however, since this debate is not over the morality of torture, but the much more open ended question of whether or not the United States government should adopt it as official policy, this is unnecessary to uphold the resolution.

Moreover, morality has two similar, though slightly different meanings. It can be used in the descriptive or normative sense.[3] Descriptive ethics simply describes a code of conduct put forward by a society or other group, such as religion. Normative ethics refers to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.[3] When my opponent says he does not believe torture is immoral, he means this in the normative sense. When I say the moral battle is crucial, I do so in the descriptive sense. What we have is a case of equivocation.[4]

The word "moral" is not necessary for my argument to stand; I could just as easily substitute a different phrase, such as "In fourth generation warfare, gaining popular support is crucial." My claim that torture is immoral (in the descriptive sense) should be uncontroversial; clearly, as I argued in earlier rounds, torture is not conducive to gaining the support of the citizens whose countries we currently occupy! Thus, because my opponent's view of ethics is tied closely to utility, his claim that torture is not immoral begs the question: if it causes America to lose the war on terror, it has undermined its own goal and is therefore unethical.

===> REBUTTALS <===

C1 -- Torture can be a feasible means of gathering information.

PRO has seemingly done little to bolster his case. As my opponent himself states, the instance in Germany did not in fact involve torture but merely the threat of torture. Moreover, it is completely inapplicable to the debate unless PRO wishes to refute his own position. He maintains in Round 1 that "torture is…to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives." Clearly, this does not fit the description. I asked in my first round whether my opponent considers it ethical to torture suspects in police custody and I still eagerly await an answer.

Regarding the Algerian case, Darius Rejali, professor of political science at Reed College writes: "the French won by applying overwhelming force in an extremely constrained space, not by superior intelligence gathered through torture."[5] Note that the professor is referring only to the Battle of Algiers, not the Franco-Algerian War, which France lost.

Additionally, the French had an extremely effective network of Algerian informants. Most of the useful intelligence the French gathered came through public cooperation and informants. According to Rejali, "no rank-and-file soldier has related a tale of how he personally, through timely interrogation, produced decisive information that stopped a ticking bomb."[5] Jean-Pierre Vittori, one of the French torturers, states that victims gave up little more than names of militants who were already dead or on the run and old hiding places where nothing of interest was found.[5]

C2 -- Torture can be ethically justified in certain circumstances.

While the threat of nuclear terrorism may not be the sole conceivable justification for allowing torture, it is a major one. The article my opponent cites is from ABC news. It claims that enough material from Russia is missing for terrorists to build a nuclear weapon. The article is dated to February of 2005. However, I have more recent evidence (July 2010) from none other than Harvard's Belfer Center. Much of the missing material has been recovered and never existed in a sufficient quantity to build a nuclear weapon.[6] In any case, Dr. William Perry of the Belfer Center argues that torture is not justified under any circumstances. The damage to our international reputation and the danger it exposes our soldiers to make it too great of a risk.[7]

In my first round, I followed PRO's moral reasoning to its logical conclusion. Dershowitz may be an expert, however, in light of my argument, his opinion is entirely arbitrary; he merely states that torture *should* only be used in extreme circumstances without answering *why.* It in no way refutes the causal link I established.

C3 -- Incurring collateral damage is far worse morally than the torture of certain people.

Indeed, I agree with this to a point, so I'll keep my response brief.

If the worst possible outcome we could expect from engaging in torture was the collection of useless intelligence, that alone would be sufficient to negate this point. However, it is not only useless intel that comes from torture, but often bad intel of the kind that led to our invasion of Iraq. Obviously, the chances of another tragedy of this scale occurring are slim. However, in the present bombing campaign in northern Pakistan (or any similar situation), it's easy to imagine how faulty intel could lead to loss of innocent life. Mozzam Begg, the British prisoner I referred to earlier, stressed that under duress, he would have said virtually anything.

---> CONCLUSION

The substance of PRO's claims regarding the utility of torture remains unchanged. Semantics aside, the very real risks involved in torture far outweigh any dubious perceived benefits.

-- SOURCES --
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Debate Round No. 2
Freeman

Pro

I honestly do appreciate my opponent's sincere effort to beat me. However, in his eagerness to defeat me, he has allowed his powers of reasoning to wane ever so slightly. Among other things, I can see this debate starting to become slightly dirtied with the specter of semantics. Such tactics never fail to bore me. Deliberately confusing words is not my modus operandi; I don't play that game. As the record will show, my own arguments should be given more weight than those of my opponent because they are built upon a well grounded body of facts and logic.

A1: Torture Violates International and Domestic Law

The fact that torture has been outlawed in many countries for a long time does not demonstrate that we shouldn't engage in torture. Moreover, my opponent says that the government shouldn't be entrusted with the power to torture people. However, I don't see the power behind the reasoning of his argument. By my opponent's own logic, the government should not be allowed to engage in war, since government sponsored wars have also been used to commit crimes and subjugate innocent people. This is an absurd position; therefore, the conclusion of my opponent's argument should be rejected.

Furthermore, saying that something should be allowed doesn't necessarily mean that it should be legal. For example, if I were to steal a car to save someone's life, the police will have allowed me to act in that manner, insofar as they don't arrest me or press charges later on. Similarly, whether torture is legal or not, the government will be allowing torture if it refuses to prosecute certain instances of torture. In either case, the resolution can be adequately maintained. Accordingly, my opponent's attempt to play semantics has failed.

A2: Torture Creates Blowback Risk

Neither my opponent's argument nor his irrelevant source in this section manages to demonstrate his conclusion. The fact that the CIA ran Abu Ghraib doesn't change any of the other relevant facts. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are in no way analogous to the instances of torture I have defended. They are, in fact, false comparisons. As such, the conclusions my opponent draws in this section are irrelevant. And even if my opponent's assertion was both 100 percent true and extremely important, it would simply be immaterial to numerous instances of torture that take place outside of the confines of a war.

A3: In Fourth Generation Warfare, the Moral Battle is Crucial

What is at work here is not my supposed attempt to equivocate; it is, rather, my opponent's attempt to play with words. If my opponent wants me to interpret the word "moral" to mean "gaining popular support," then he shouldn't have been so ambiguous in his second round. I simply do not possess the requisite omniscience necessary to predict what my opponent really means by the words he chooses to use.

Additionally, Con's claim that my utilitarian calculus on these matters undermines my own position is simply unsupported. As was demonstrated earlier, this argument is based off of the false comparison my antagonist has laid out between my argument and the events at Abu Ghraib. Moreover, not all (or even most) emergency situations that may require torture take place in the context of a military campaign.

C1: Torture can be a feasible means of gathering information.

Mr. Kenyon has argued at length that torture doesn't work. I've given evidence to the contrary, but let's set that aside. As the journalist Megan Mcardle points out, even if torture didn't work at all, that would not be a reasonable basis to conclude that we shouldn't use it. Rather, it could merely be an argument that we should improve our techniques. If, for example, we managed to create reliable functional neuroimaging lie detectors, then torture could become extremely effective. [1] As a neuroscience major, I am in a good position to appreciate just how likely this actually is. Indeed, this prospect alone renders every single one of my opponent's sources on the efficacy of torture completely irrelevant. In this context, it is also important to reflect upon the fact that Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before he finally created a light bulb that consistently worked. [2] Obviously, the fact that something doesn't work well now doesn't prove that it will never work well later on.

On a side note, the words my opponent cites about the ticking time bomb case were not mine; they belong to Alan Dershowitz. I did not bring them up to limit the scope of my own proposal. I brought them up to address various concerns people may have with my argument. Additionally, the vagueness of my opponent's question about torturing someone in police custody puts me behind a veil of ignorance. My answer on this matter would vary depending on other relevant facts that are not available to me.

C2: Torture can be ethically justified in certain circumstances.

I think it's a good thing that the nuclear material from Russia was safely recovered. However, this does not alter the fundamental issue here. My opponent's beliefs about nuclear proliferation are completely unsubstantiated. Harvard's Belfer Center and the United Nations International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism both agree on this point. [3] The notion that the United States is in perfect control of all of the nuclear weapons and nuclear material around the globe at every moment of every day is a faith position that is demonstrably false.

Moreover, my opponent claims that I still haven't managed to demonstrate why the logic of my own position doesn't lead down a slippery slope. To this assertion, I have a simple answer: It would be inappropriate and illogical to utilize torture in any situation that wasn't extremely grave. The cost benefit ratio of harming people with torture that makes it desirable in some situations would simply be set off balance if it were used in common situations.

C3: Incurring collateral damage is far worse morally than the torture of certain people.

Once again, Con agrees with me on this point. However, he denies that the argument is important by maintaining that torture is useless and that it is dangerous to act on information gathered from torture. His thoughts here are without merit. As I've pointed out earlier, technology will, at some point in the not so distant future, allow torture to become incredibly effective. Ergo, by acknowledging the force of my ethical argument for torture, he has managed to create the demise of his own position.

::Conclusion::

As it turns out, none of my opponent's three primary arguments can withstand honest scrutiny. His first argument is orthogonal to the resolution. The conclusion of his second argument is based off of a false comparison and is rather limited in scope, even if it were perfectly valid. Lastly, his third argument is simply based off of the poor conclusions that were arrived at in his second argument. On the other hand, it should be quite clear that I have managed to successfully defend the two major premises of my argument. Torture is both effective enough to merit its use. And it can be reasonably justified in ethical terms. Indeed, even my opponent agrees with this second point, although he denies that torture is effective at gathering information. By doing this, he has (whether or not he realizes it) conceded the debate. The rapid expansion of scientific knowledge makes it very likely that torture will be extremely effective sometime in the near future. Consequently, the weight of the arguments leans heavily in support of the resolution.

Sources: http://www.debate.org...
J.Kenyon

Con

===> INTRO <===

I thank Freeman for an interesting and well thought out response. This round seems to have brought out the key differences that form the basis of our disagreement. I would like to go into much greater depth on political philosophy, but unfortunately the limitations of the format make it impossible to do them justice.

PRO has also introduced a new argument in an attempt to salvage his primary claim that torture is a feasible means of gathering information. However, far from helping his case, the brain scanning technology he claims can be used to make torture more effective ultimately renders it wholly unnecessary.

As one final note before entering the body of my case, I will not be specifically addressing PRO's Third Contention regarding collateral damage. I have made my case about the efficacy of torture and agree with my opponent that the question ought to be viewed in this light.

===> NEGATIVE CASE <===

C1 - Torture Violates International and Domestic Law

Before going into detail on philosophy of government, I want to respond to my opponent's flawed comparison of war and torture. I pointed out that, historically, torture has led to massive rights violations and unnecessary human suffering; it is a dangerous power government should not be trusted with. Shockingly, PRO responds that the same could be said of war, and if war is allowed, why not torture? This reasoning is fallacious – three rights may indeed make a left, but two wrongs do not make a right![1] War is immoral and tragic. Unfortunately, there is no way to outlaw it. The best we can do is make sure never to engage in any war of aggression, and, when attacked, adhere to some form of Just War philosophy.

My opponent has largely avoided the key issue here. Of the two possibilities I mentioned – either legalizing torture or doing it in spite of the law – he has apparently chosen the latter. This positively Orwellian notion amounts to a reversal of more than two millennia of progress in western jurisprudence. Rule of Law dictates that leaders must, by moral necessity, be held to the same standards as any other citizen. No one is above the law. This is the key to any civil society. Besides torturing terror suspects, Presidents Bush and Obama have allowed the CIA to wiretap American citizens without a warrant, imprison them without due process, and in one case, even ordered an assassination.[2] Does the president really have that kind of power? If he does, then under the theory that these actions are considered permissible, are there *any* actions that can on their face be prohibited? It is na�ve and dangerous to allow our leaders' wisdom and restraint to be the sole check on their own worst impulses. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "in questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

C2 – Torture Creates Blowback Risk

PRO seems to want to dismiss this argument without actually addressing it. He has failed to show how my source is "irrelevant." Regardless of how one attempts to justify it, prisoner abuse has created and will continue to create animosity and hatred toward America. Even if one ticking time bomb is defused (a very unlikely scenario), it makes it much more likely that more attempts will be made.

My opponent also claims that many instances where torture could be acceptable exist outside the context of war. While this seems hypothetically plausible, it is nonetheless an extremely remote possibility. A hostile foreign government or terrorist organization is infinitely more likely to develop or acquire a weapon of mass destruction. Fortunately, psychotic billionaires of the Bond villain variety are, at least for now, confined to the realm of fiction.

C3 - In Fourth Generation Warfare, the Moral Battle is Crucial

While it may have been an honest mistake, my opponent's response was nonetheless a strawman built on equivocation. Clarifying the definition of the word "moral" has done absolutely nothing to change the substance of my argument. Given the context, my meaning was perfectly clear from the start. I summarized the core of my contention by quoting William S. Lind: "don't do anything to someone else that, if it were done to you, would make you fight." I further expanded on this by citing the example of the French experience in Algiers as a classic case of winning the battle but losing the war due to their ruthless policies. My opponent's attempt to label my defense as petty and semantic belies the fact that he has not adequately refuted this point.

===> REBUTTALS <===

C1 – Torture Can Be a Feasible Means of Gathering Information

PRO claims that neuroimaging lie detectors could increase the effectiveness of torture. This technology already exists, though serious questions remain regarding its reliability. In fact, it was recently deemed inadmissible as evidence in court.[3] So far, it has only been tested under controlled lab conditions with healthy, cooperative individuals. Similar to the way a polygraph measures physiological changes to detect deception, fMRI scanners must establish a neural baseline.[4] This can be extremely difficult to do with an uncooperative terror suspect, especially while being subjected to torture.

Much more importantly, brain scanning technology puts the final nail in the coffin of my opponent's case. If it proves effective, torture would be rendered obsolete. Brain fingerprinting, as it is called, can detect patterns in oxygen flow to specific areas of the brain when subjected to a visual stimulus. Detainees can be shown images of suspected terrorists, locations, or equipment and the scanner can determine if they recognize them.[5] Even the most unwilling, uncooperative suspects would have no way of resisting.

C2 – Torture Can Be Ethically Justified in Certain Situations

As much as my opponent would like you to believe, the consensus opinion is not that a nuclear attack is inevitable. The UN article he cites is merely a long list of protocols for preventing nuclear proliferation. It only makes a brief mention of the actually thread in the preamble.

According to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, "NATO's nuclear weapons are stored under highly secure conditions. They have been well-tested and meet the highest safety standards. The U.S. PAL devices ensure an additional safeguard against accidental or unauthorized use. Allies are confident in the safety and security of their nuclear weapons."[6]

While I'm glad PRO agrees that torture is inappropriate in situations where enormous numbers of lives aren't at stake, he has still avoided a crucial ethical question. Is it ethically justifiable to torture the innocent family members of a suspected terrorist? As per my opponent's own reasoning, if many lives are at stake, I can only conclude that he believes this is indeed allowable. I on the other, hand, believe that the torture of any innocent person, regardless of any outcome that can attained by it, is always prima facie morally wrong. The ends simply do not justify the means.

---> CONCLUSION

The risk of potentially catastrophic scenario that can only be prevented through torture is utterly detached from reality. This sort of alarmism ultimately poses a greater threat to both liberty and security than any terrorist organization ever could. Even if such cases existed, torture is ineffective. Even if technology were developed to make torture effective, it would render it unnecessary.

I thank Freeman for a stimulating debate. I would also like to thank the audience for reading and voting.

The resolution has been strongly NEGATED.

-- SOURCES --
http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 3
58 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Evaninmontana 6 years ago
Evaninmontana
I have studied this topic extensively and I side with the pro, that being said I do not the resolution was specific enough leaving many issues up to debate that should have been simply clarified in the resolution. I would also like to point out that the torture at Abu Ghraib was NOT sanctioned which should have been noted in the debate.
RFD (PRO)-- I should note I'm probably a bit biased and thus i drew from my own research but i believe the way SANCTIONED torture has been used in the past shows that the government understands both sides to the debate as well, the contention with argument against the international legality should have been used better, if you were strictly obeying those standards there would not be a debate. My decision came down to the fact the CON could not prove (1) that torture doesn't work
(2) That torturing a terrorist is better than Americans dying {in fact you ceded this point} (3) The first two negative contentions were kind of disappointing, I already talked about the first one and the CON let the second become a side issue (4) the last CON contention seemed more like a rebuttal against the last two PRO contentions and thus wasted I believe.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
I did it to counter BlueLemon's votebomb. Then a bunch of other people votebombed (mainly for me), so it ended up not making much of a difference.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
The thought of my opponent voting for me does make me slightly uneasy. As such, I reciprocated all points that I received to my opponent in order to even things out.
Posted by JohnBear 7 years ago
JohnBear
There are few things I would place lower on an ethical scale than torture. Many people might argue no matter what it takes to get there, ultimately the end justifies the means. At first glance this argument seems to hold a fair bit of logic. Yet, I'm not so convinced. Consider this; a man works a double shift job to make ends meet for his family and one day he is robbed and left with nothing. Now this man has every right to be angry, however this man takes it to the next level. He rationalizes in his head that if he was stolen from than it is only fair if he steals back from society. So this man robs a bank of just the amount of money that was stolen from him, nothing more. Now the man ended up back where he started. Does the end justify the means now? Some might say yes, but just like this man's situation, I find torture ethically wrong. By allowing "mild" and "controlled" forms of torture we might not be opening the door for greater uses of torture, but we are definitely leaving it propped open. A house with a door propped open to such an iniquity is not a place I would want to live, where I would want my children to live. That goes for our country too.
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
Posted by J.Kenyon 9 minutes ago
"To put my reasoning simply, the ends justifies the means."

"But that itself is an ethical standard, it's called utilitarianism."

It's not quite that simple
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
"To put my reasoning simply, the ends justifies the means."

But that itself is an ethical standard, it's called utilitarianism. I find it problematic for various reasons. Freeman argued for it, I argued for human rights and also contended that his case didn't fulfill his own value criterion.
Posted by popculturepooka 7 years ago
popculturepooka
I'll be re-reading and giving an RFD soon. This was a great debate. Kudos to Pro and Con!
Posted by piymonk 7 years ago
piymonk
To put my reasoning simply, the ends justifies the means.

Sorry, It's late and i'm tired.
Posted by J.Kenyon 7 years ago
J.Kenyon
If ethics don't apply universally, they can't rightfully be called ethics.
Posted by piymonk 7 years ago
piymonk
I said in some cases.
23 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
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