Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PF Nov 2012 - Middle East Policy Definitions

Resolved: Current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East undermines our national security


In my opinion, this resolution offers a good division of ground between the Pro and Con and so potentially it will permit a balanced debate.  For this part of the analysis, and I think this be my approach for future resolutions, I will begin with definitions followed by an interpretation of the resolution.  The terminology in this resolution is broad so definitions are important, I think.  Frankly, prior to this resolution. I knew where and what the Middle East was but not with any precision.  I mean, is Libya or Pakistan considered part of the Middle East?  I'm not sure, so we need to at least find out the general understanding of such terms.


Merriam-Webster: generally accepted, used, practiced, or prevalent at the moment

U.S. foreign policy
"Foreign policy refers to actions the United States government takes on behalf of its national interests abroad to ensure the security and well-being of Americans and the strength and competitiveness of the U.S. economy. A secure group of citizens requires protection of recognized national boundaries, a strong economy, and a stable, orderly society.

Middle East
"the lands around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula and Iran and sometimes beyond. The central part of this general area was formerly called the Near East, a name given to it by some of the first modern Western geographers and historians, who tended to divide the Orient into three regions. Near East applied to the region nearest Europe, extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf; Middle East, from the Gulf to Southeast Asia; and Far East, those regions facing the Pacific Ocean"
(src: Encyclopedia Brittanica)

As correctly pointed out in several sources, the term Middle East is principally a euro-centric or more precisely anglo-centric term.  British cartographers who drew the imaginary line between east and west through Greenwich, England, then subdivided the east, into the Near East, Middle East and Far East.  Near east referring to those countries roughly extending through eastern Europe, the Balkans region and included Turkey until Turkish influence in Europe (the Ottoman Empire) collapsed.  The Middle East included the Arabian peninsula and the lands up to the Caucasus mountains, and the Far East beyond the Caucasus, including India, Mongolia, China and Japan.

The U.S. State Department definition of the Middle East would be most useful since it is they who administer the U.S. foreign policy.  The State Department frequently uses two terms, Near East and Middle East.  The Near East includes the African nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea from Western Sahara and Morocco to Egypt and the region of the Arabian peninsular south of Turkey, extending to Iran. (src:  The State Department then defines the region around the Caucasus mountains south to the Bay of Bengal, the Central Asian region.  This includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.(src:

Therefore, technically there is no "middle east" Bureau in U.S. State Department. Nevertheless, quite often in State Department documentation, the Near East is often referred to as North Africa and the Middle East.  So it seems logical to conclude, the Middle East are the nations under the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs which exclude the countries in north Africa.  The application of these terms is consistent in official White House documentation as well, that refer to the region as MENA (Middle East, North Africa).

Merriam-Webster: to subvert or weaken insidiously or secretly
Merriam-Webster: to weaken or ruin by degrees

national security
"National security is a corporate term covering both national defense and foreign relations of the U.S. It refers to the protection of a nation from attack or other danger by holding adequate armed forces and guarding state secrets. The term national security encompasses within it economic security, monetary security, energy security, environmental security, military security, political security and security of energy and natural resources. Specifically, national security means a circumstance that exists as a result of a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or group of nations, or a friendly foreign relations position, or a defense position capable of successfully protesting hostile or destructive action." (src:

I would like to bring to your attention, there are two key meanings to "national security" and the above definition reflects only one.  As seen above, national security is an ongoing action or specifically, as a noun, a policy which results in action aimed at achieving or maintaining a state of national security.  It is the state of national security which defines it as a condition rather than a policy to achieve or maintain the condition although in reality national security tends to be an umbrella term which includes both the policy and state of security.  I very much like the Walter Lippmann and following quotations given in a Wikipedia article which defines security:
"a nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war". A later definition by Harold Lasswell, a political scientist, in 1950, looks at national security from almost the same aspect, that of external coercion. "The distinctive meaning of national security means freedom from foreign dictation."

national security versus homeland security
Though the resolution does not use the term homeland security, some may confuse the terminology.  They are not the same.  Homeland Security is more a function of self-defense as seen in this definition:
"Efforts to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards" (src:

Resolution Interpretation

The Pro side of this debate will look at the resolution as a declaration that current U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East harms U.S. national security.  It essentially weakens U.S. security or U.S. ability to maintain security or if the position is taken the U.S. has no real security, it weakens the ability to achieve security.  The unknowns that Pro will likely establish, is what policies or particular policy harms the U.S.  It is also unclear if the policy or policies are directed toward the Middle East as a region or to particular countries within the region.  It also remains unclear if the security is for U.S. interests in the region, in other parts of the world as would be the case if certain other countries dislike our policies or if the security being undermined is the security of interests within U.S. borders.  The clarification of these uncertainties will reveal the position the Pro team will choose to advocate.

The Con side of the debate will  reject the resolution by claiming U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East does not undermine national security.  Con may interpret foreign policy to be any or all specific policies since taking any other interpretation undermines the major premise of the Con position.  Con's interpretation of national security can be important.  If Con defines national security as the policy of security the case can be made, especially in light of the extreme volatility of the region (Arab Spring, recent anti-Muslim film protests) there is simply no way to claim the policies undermine since it is far too early to reach that conclusion.  If Con interprets security to mean the condition of being secure, then Con may either claim we have no security so how can policies undermine security or the policy has a net zero effect or the policy actually increases security.

For part two click here.
 For more on Public Forum topics, click here.

More on this topic will be posted very soon.


  1. Where is that definition of National Security derived from? I went to the source link, and it wasn't very clear. The 1956 Cole v. Young case doesn't seem to help shed light on its origins either.

    1. The definition source, was written based on the decision of the Court in Cole v Young. The case involved a specific Act in which a gov. employee was dismissed on the grounds of national security. In the review, the Court noted the definition of national security was not given, so the Court gave one (much like a judge would do if a debater does not give one. The definition given in the source summarizes the court definition.

  2. This is Joseph. I hope that I debate you soon. Good stuff but I thing i could present the definitions better

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  4. go fight win debate!

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  10. THank you, THis is really helpful.

  11. You're entirely missing an interp of "current." It seems that your modus operandi is to define current as "whatever exists the day we discuss it."

    That interp is absolutely ridiculous, because it has no arbiter. Who's to say we shouldn't restrict current to the current administration's policy? Or to the decade's ME policy?

    Rather, your definition of FP is misguided. FP in the ME is something much larger than simply actions taken in the ME; rather a proper def would be something along the lines of this:

    Pokharel 07

    "A foreign policy can be defined as a course of action for achieving objectives in foreign relation, as dictated by the ideology of national interest."

    Given the broader definition, current policy in the ME is best marked as post 9/11/01. U.S. FP could be seen is very nearly fluid from 9/11 to current day and the starkest change in ME FP is found in 9/11.

    Additionally, your definition of ME is destroyed by contextual statements from the White House and State Department. Operationally speaking, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are all considered to be apart of the United States' ME policy.

    However, your thoughts on "national security" are certainly interesting.

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