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The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

Does the U.S. have a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,564 times Debate No: 49158
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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Hello! This will be a serious debate on the resolution of "Does the U.S. have a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts?"

Here is the schedule:

Round 1: Arguements
Round 2: Rebuttals
Round 3: Rebuttlals

Round 1: Arguements and rebuttals
Round 2: Rebuttals
Round 3: Rebuttals

Faiilure to adhere to the schedule will have consequences.

Thanks and here is my case:

“The tragedy of 1918 is that the timely U.S. intervention into European and world affairs wouldn’t be sustained over the coming decades. The Senate’s contentious 1920 decision not to ratify the Treaty Of Versailles - and hence the League Of Nations, which was stillborn without U.S. leadership - doomed the global order the President Wilson had wanted to forge. The U.S. decided in 1920 not to involve itself in further entanglements. With Britain and France too exhausted and irresolute to keep Germany down, a dangerous vacuum would grow up in Europe that the Nazis would later fill. Thus, a generation later, the U.S. would again be obliged to intervene in world affairs - in even greater strength.

-Nick Lloyd, WSJ writer and senior lecturer at Kings College London.

Today, as America’s global burden seems to be getting heavier, we should not forget the lesson of the Great War. Both world wars remind us how devastating the lack of U.S. global leadership can be. In 2014, the American role in the world may be even more vital than it was a century ago.”

I agree with Nick Lloyd and believe that the American role in the world may even be vital than it was a century ago. I stand stand affirmed the United Stats has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts to uphold national security. Before we get into definitions, I have one point of resolutional analysis:

Resolutional análisis - 1 - It is possible to have a moral obligation and not uphold it.

Now let’s look at a few definitions to make this debate clear.


National Security: The requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power.

Moral Obligation: An duty arising out of considerations of right and wrong.

Mitigate: To lessen in force or intensity, To moderate.

International Conflict: A fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle between to parties. Conflict as a whole.

United States: The United States of America.

International security: International security consists of the measures taken by nations and international organizations, such as the United Nations, to ensure mutual survival and safety.

Contention 1: Mitigation leads to international security.

App 1: Libya. In the 1980’s Libya was threatening international security. Libyan citizens repeatedly carried out terrorist attacks on innocent people and the Libyan government was trying to become a nuclear power. The U.S. decided to stop this with a small and powerful intervention that lasted for only 12 minutes. With this raid, the U.S. helped sway the Libyan government from their actions and the U.S. preserved international security.

App 2: Grenada. The U.S. again led a small group of soldiers into Grenada to attack a violent military coup that was ruling the island with a population of nearly 100,000. The U.S. succeeded in this intervention and upheld international security. The island of Grenada has devoted a thanksgiving day every year dedicated to thanking the Americans who helped save their country.

When the U.S. has successfully mitigated in the past, they have preserved International Security.

Contention 2: International Security leads to National Security.

Some of the U.S.’s most prosperous times have come during International security.

App 1: The roaring 20s - The roaring twenties was the period after the first world war. Several government movements helped spur on this time of prosperity for America. The car business boomed and small towns prospered. Large cities also had their most successful decade during this time. All of these were possible because of the lack of foreign threats.

App 2: Post WW2 prosperity - This period took place from 1946 until 1973. During this time, this middle class swelled and the Global Domestic product increased greatly. This period has been called the golden age of capitalism. Lack of major worldwide conflict led to national security for the U.S.

International security, as shown in the above applications, is the leading factor in determining national security.

Obama: “As 9/11 showed us, the security of Afghanistan and America is shared.”

Contention 3: The United States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflict to preserve national security.

The preamble to the United States constitution says this: We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.

The constitution was written as a sort of contract from the government to its citizens. The constitution is a basic layout of laws that the government must and must not do. When looking at the constitution, we can se that the U.S. does in fact have a moral obligation to its citizens to uphold national security. quote “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, insure domestic tranquility.” Domestic tranquility is another definition of nation security. So we can see by our own founding documents that governments have a moral obligation to uphold international security. How does this relate back to the resolution? As I have shown you in my case, mitigation leads to national security. The government has a moral obligation to uphold national security. Because mitigation is a way to reach national security, the united States has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts to uphold national security.


Today I have shown you first that mitigation leads to international security. Then we looked at how International security leads to national security. Finally, I have shown you how the government has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts to uphold national security.

As Nick Lloyd said, both world wars show how devastating the lack of American leadership is in the world. The United States has learned their lesson and since that time, no world wars have slung into existence. American leadership in 2014 is more vital than ever before.



Thanks for the debate, Pro.

I'll make my own case and then refute my opponents.

Note first that my burden isn't to prove that the US should never intervene in conflicts, or that intervention is morally wrong. I merely need to prove that the US doesn't have a moral obligation to mitigate conflicts.

What is a moral obligation?

Pro defines a moral obligation as a "duty arising out of considerations of right and wrong". The most important aspect of this is "duty". A duty is a responsibility, something that one must do. Thus to affirm the resolution means affirming that the US always has to mitigate every conflict. This interpretation is consistent with mainstream philosophy; philosophy pages defines a moral obligation[1] as: "That which binds us to act in accordance with duty. Obligatory acts are those one is morally, legally, or contractually required to perform". Therefore Pro's observation that one can have a moral obligation and not uphold it is bunk--either the US has to intervene in every conflict or it does not. It's possible that the US could have an obligation and not do it, but that's outside the scope of the resolution. Vote based on which world is preferable: the one where the US tries to mitigate every conflict, and the one that it doesn't.

Note also that Pro hasn't given much of a framework to determine what is meant by "mitigate", but considering that all of Pro's examples and advantages come from military intervention, I'll focus on the negative aspects of that for now.

With that, I offer my contentions:

C1: The resolution is untenable

The US cannot afford to mitigate every conflict. As it stands now the US is desperately wallowing in a national debt of a staggering size, the US treasury reports that total government debt exceeds 17.5 trillion dollars[2]. The US is the worlds top economy, and the debt is of such size that Trading Economics reports that in 2012 the national debt has exceeded the GDP[3] and that ratio is predicted only to grow in the near future. This statistic is harrowing enough on its face, but the implications are even more scary. In a report to the U.S. Monetary Policy Forum in 2013[4], economists Greenlaw, Hamilton, Hooper, and Mishkan analyzed advnaced economies and identify a debt-to-GDP "tipping point" ration of about 80%. They explain that nations over that ratio: "are vulnerable to a rapid fiscal deterioration as a result of these tipping-point dynamics."

The point is, the current state of spending in the US is unsustainable and will lead to economic deterioration. Intervention is expensive. ABC News explains that the 2011 intervention in Libya cost about $30-100 Million dollars per day[5], and the US did essentially nothing except help to enforce a no fly zone. Indeed Obama was extensively criticised for "leading from behind" in Libya and not doing enough. Real wars cost significantly more, with National Priorities explaining that the wars since 2001 have cost about 1.5 trillion, or in other words over 10 million per day[6]. This not even counting the massive opportunity cost of hundreds of thousands of soliders stationed abroad and several thousand killed when they could've been producing economically at home. The US needs less spending, not more.

And yet these wars were extensively planned by the US. Imagine what would happen if the US was drawn militarily into a large, sudden, and violent conflict without any time to prepare.

Just looking at the map on the Wikipedia article about ongoing military conflicts shows how impossible the resolution is[7]. The US would have to invade (or re-enter) Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and several other countries just to account for major wars going on. For all conflicts the list extends to such nations as India, Turkey, and Russia. Obviously this would cost far too much and collapse the economy, stretch the military to far beyond it's breaking point, and almost certainly escalate everything. Unless any American voters want to be drafted to go and fight someone else's war, they should vote Con. Keep in mind as well that it's extremely likely that some kind of conflict, even a slight one, will occur over hegemony in Ukraine. Affirming the resolution likely means war with Russia.

My opponent may argue that military intervention isn't the only way to mitigate a conflict and I offer two responses. The first is that economic sanctions are a double edged sword as the US loses it's trade too and, economic sanctions can also lead to war such as the US oil embargo giving the Japanese the casus belli to attack Pearl Harbor. Secondly, you cannot do moral obligations by half measures; if the US is obligated to act that it's also obligated to act as powerfully as it can. In many cases this means military action; the US invasion in Desert Storm put a quick end to Iraq's war with Kuwait. By contrast, Businessweek explains[8] that economic sanctions hardly ever work. Despite sanctions, Iran still seeked a nuclear bomb, North Korea continued to crack down on protestors, and the Syrian civil war raged on.

C2: The state's obligation is to its own citizens

The most important development in the evolution of the modern state was the advent of the social contract theory. This theory postulates that the government holds it's legitimacy through a symbolic contract with it's people. The state enforces order and acts in it's citizens best interests, and the citizens in turn follow the laws pased by the state and don't overthrow their rulers. This philosophy was one that weighed heavily on the minds of the founding fathers, which is why Thomas Jefferson's famous declaration includes significant influences from Locke, a social contract theorist[9] and why they crafted an actual social contract in the form of the Constitution. The fact is, there are many wars that just do not effect the US enough to justify the state intervening. The state has to act in the best in the best interests of it's citizens, and sending off young soldiers to die or spening money to pick and support a side in some petty conflict does not benefit the US. The government ought to intervene in many cases, but not all as a myriad of debacles from Vietnam to Iraq show so clearly.

C3: Intervention has strings attatched

The US cannot simply intervene, stop the war, and get out without consequences. Every action in history carries with it a ripple effect, and there have been many times where the US has hastily allied with factions that later became our enemies, most notably backing Al-Qaeda during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan[10]

Moreover US intervention creates massive backlash, CATO insitute[11] explains that there is " ..a strong correlation exists between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.” Osama Bin Ladens argument for why the 9/11 attacks were justified virtually all stemmed from US meddelling abroad[12]. While sometimes intervention is justified and necessary, to argue that the US has an obligation to meddle in other conflicts is far too much of an uphill battle for Pro to win the debate.

Opponents case


My opponent gives no warrant on this international security advantage holding true for every instance of intervention. Without this his advatnages are pretty pointless, I can concede entirely that US intervention sometimes works and is good, but that doesn't affirm the resolution for two reasons. The first is, Pro made no argument on how this is a *moral obligation*. My case provides a philosophy of government for what the state should or shouldn't do, and it leads to a neg vote. Pro's C3 indicates that he, too, agrees with the Social contract. Thus you vote Con. The second reason is that the resolution isn't "The US has a moral obligation to mitigate conflicts when mitigation leads to good outcomes" or else neg could never win. My opponent has to explain why the US should always mitigate and explain it in a philosophical context.

Moreover my opponent doesn't pick the strongest cases for US intervention. The US invasion of Grenada harmed our credibility abroad, was criticized by even our strongest allies such as the United Kingdom and Canada and was condemned by the UN[13]. This is what Pro wants for the US? Pro gives no advantage either. How did the US invading Grenada help anything?


Pro blatantly commits a correlation-causation fallacy here. I can argue that the great recession happened during the twin post 9/11 wars and that this proves intervention is bad and without any warrants on either side my examples are just as valid. This also fails to justify intervening in every conflict. There's a hugely distinct difference between fighting WWII after being attacked and randomly invading countries to try and solve other peoples problems.

I'll address his C3 in the next round but will point out that my entire case turns it. The US should intervene to protect national security. It shouldn't intervene when national security is not at stake.

Vote Con.


Debate Round No. 1


Hello and thanks for accepting!

I will go over my opponents arguments and reiterate my own.

What is a moral obligation?

A moral obligation is a tricky thing so I will use an illustration to help further clarify it.

A police officer"s duty is to mediate crime. It is a duty that he is bound to uphold. When cops see a criminal chase, even while off duty, the officer has the moral obligation to stop the crime. I think we can agree on the fact that a police officer has a moral obligation to mediate crime. Now, does an officer have the moral obligation to mediate every crime? No. There are simply too many crimes for that officer to mediate all of them. So does that mean that if an officer doesn"t mediate a crime he doesn"t have a moral obligation to? No. He mediates the amount of crime that he is capable of doing, no more, no less. He still has a moral obligation to mediate crime even if he doesn"t mediate every single time.

The U.S. is like this officer: Although the U.S. doesn"t mitigate every international conflict, it still has a moral obligation to do so.

My definition of mitigate is "to lessen the force or intensity of". You can use three things to lessen the force of something: Military power, Economic power or Diplomatic power. I have used military mitigation as my primary example but the above forms of mitigation are also part of the resolution.

C1: The resolution is untenable.

My opponent laid out several examples showing how expensive military conflict is. My opponent argues that because of these costs, the U.S. does not have a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts. I do agree that mitigation can be expensive and that the U.S. should quit spending. I have two responses to this point.

Stopping mitigation will not necessarily end our economic woes.

I"m not an expert in this field, but I do know that there are other things that the U.S. could do to save money. Stopping mitigation altogether wouldn"t put us back in good shape - many other things must happen.

2. World War 2.

During the first years of World War 2, the U.S. tried their best to stay out. After all, they were just recovering from the great depression as well as World War 1. The last thing that the U.S. needed was to get involved in another war. So, they tried to sit down and not rock the boat to avoid a war. Unfortunately, the war came to them when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Before long the U.S. was neck deep into the worst conflict in history.

Why I bring this up: If the U.S. tries to avoid these conflicts, the conflict will come to them. The U.S. should try to mitigate the smaller conflicts before they get out of control.

As we have seen from World War 2, simply staying out of world affairs is not a solution.

Contention 2: The state"s obligation"s are to its citizens.

First off, I agree. The first moral obligation a country has is to its citizens.

That said, you can have more than one moral obligation. For instance, I have a moral obligation to help my mom when she"s sick and a moral obligation to help my brother when he"s sick. Similarly, a country can have more than one obligation.

Before I agreed that a country"s first obligation is to its citizens. It is because of this obligation that mitigation is necessary.

I have shown you throughout my case that mitigation is leading factor in national security. National security, (As shown in the constitution"s preamble) Is a moral obligation to the government. Because the government has a moral obligation to uphold national security, the government has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts.

That is pretty much my case in a nutshell. I am running out of time so I will address your arguments against my case next round



Thanks Pro.

==Moral obligations==

Pro is completely misunderstanding what a moral obligation is. His police officer falls flat because the wording of the resolution. Pro argues that we have obligations to mediate what we can, "no more, no less". The problem with this response is threefold: First, the resolution doesn't say "the US has a moral obligation to mitigate international conflicts when it can", it is an all or nothing statement. Secondly, the US using all of it's resources to mitigate as many conflicts as it can would still lead to all of the impacts in my case so Pro's argument gains him no advantage. Thirdly and most importantly, Pro gives no *framework* for determining where moral obligations come from. In round, the only place we see a states moral obligations stem from comes from it's socially contractual obligations to it's citizens. Therefore you have to look, again, to how intervening in all conflicts effects US citizens. Pro makes arguments from consequentalism too, so I think it's fair to use that as a standard to weigh the round. Look to the effects of the US trying to mitigate everything.

C1. The resolution is untenable

Pro argues there are more ways of mitigation than military while simulataneously dropping my attacks on economic sanctions. It's true that there are other ways of mitigation but Pro hasn't argued for them. He can't gain their advantages if he only argues for military intervention. Pro argues that the US can just cut spending elsewhere--this is true but misses the point. The point is that the current state of spending is not sustainable and intervening in every conflict would make everything worse. Pro also gives no other places to cut. He can't gain any advantage by arguing vaguely that there are "other things" we must do unless he cites what these things are. As it is, Pro has dropped all of my empirical evidence and practically all of my analysis, the fact is that we can't afford the resolution.

Pro's only response is that the US refusing to try and mitigate conflicts caused the US to get drawn into WWII. That might by a good argument if the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor wasn't motivated by the US oil embargo[1]. The US picked a side and they supported it materially from the very beginning of the war in ways such as issuing an oil embargo on Japan and lending Britian supplies through lend-lease. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (Japan was doing some pretty horrible stuff in China after all) but Pro doesn't get to access the war as an impact. The reason we went to war with Japan was precisely because we tried to mitigate the conflict. Pros response is completely turned.

Extend my impacts about having to invade a myriad of countries including most likely Ukraine if we affirm the resolution.

C2. Social contract

Pro argues that there are other moral obligations, but he doesn't explain where they come from. You can vote Con right here--the only obligation proven in round is the obligation the government has for it's citizens. The government should intervene in conflicts that threaten national security. Unfortunately for Pro, not all conflcits do which means the resolution has to be negated.

C3. Intervention has strings attatched

Completely dropped and therefore conceded. This is a huge blow for Pro as this contention calls into question the usefulness of military intervention at all. Extend the CATO card about increased terrorism following interventions, extend the impact of 9/11 happening due to US interventions, and extend the impact of the US hastily backing the wrong side in certain conflicts. Since military intervention is the only argument Pro has, if military intervention is bad then the ballot goes Con.

Pro completely drops all of my attacks on his case. Extend them all.

The resolution is negated.



Debate Round No. 2


the_streetsurfer forfeited this round.


Forfeit= I win
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by thett3 7 years ago
Nice vote bomb Hulksmash
Posted by Jevinigh 7 years ago
Interesting. Let me know when this goes to voting.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by dtaylor971 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct + Arguments to con due to forfeit.
Vote Placed by SeventhProfessor 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF, thett used sources

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