Friday, February 1, 2013

LD March 2013 - Human Rights Definitions



March/April Topic
Resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.

Introduction

I think this resolution will allow for some pretty interesting debates, especially in the first month before a certain limited number of favorite arguments begin to dominate the districts.`I hope to explore the key issues in pretty good depth as I feel it is a very interesting and educational topic that will examine the right of state sovereignty and what some may consider the moral duty to uphold universal human rights.  At first examination one may be thinking Aff has the advantage in this debate but I hope to be able give a good sense of the issues which support the Neg position as well.
As usual, to begin this analysis, I would like to look first at the definitions.  Like many of these topics, the dictionary definitions will not be sufficient to convey the depth of what I feel is essential to understanding the topic.  Nevertheless, we will start there as a basis for understanding and then focus on key areas of analysis which will help solidify the positions.

Definitions

The United States
It probably is not necessary to formally define the "United States" since I am sure everyone debating this topic will have a defacto understanding of what the "United States" means.  It is important to note that for some reason this resolution has specified the US.  I mean, it could have just as easily said, a government, state or country "is justified..." rather than limit the debate to the US.  Regardless, I doubt that limitation will be significant in most rounds.  Nevertheless, Neg is still free to flip the argument and claim other nations may intervene in the internal affairs of the US in order to stop human rights abuses perpetrated by the US as a way of dampening judge enthusiasm for the Aff position.

justified
"A sufficient or acceptable excuse or explanation made in court for an act that is otherwise unlawful; the showing of an adequate reason, in court, why a defendant committed the offense for which he or she is accused that would serve to relieve the defendant of liability."
West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.

Also known as the choice of evils defence, and derived from the common law doctrine of necessity.
In the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Justice Papadakos presiding (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Berrigan), in a tort case:
"The defense of justification will lie only where the actor offers evidence that will demonstrate: 1) that the actor was faced with a public disaster that was clear and imminent, not debatable or speculative; 2) that the actor could reasonably expect that the actions taken would be effective in avoiding the immediate public disaster; 3) that there is no legal alternative which will be effective in abating the immediate public disaster; 4) that no legislative purpose exists to exclude the justification from the particular situation faced by the actor."

This particular word is important to understand.  First of all, one should not automatically assume there is some kind of association between the value of justice of the quality of being justified.  I intentionally selected the first definition in order to highlight a particular aspect of a justifiable action.  The action taken must be one that would not, under ordinary circumstances be considered desirable or even legal.  It is an acceptable reason to perform an extraordinary action.  We also consider, for this resolution, two contexts for justification.  One is the legal justification and the other the moral justification.

intervening
to intervene

Merriam-Webster:
to interfere usually by force or threat of force in another nation's internal affairs especially to compel or prevent an action.

"Humanitarian intervention" refers to a state using military force against another state when the chief publicly declared aim of that military action is ending human-rights violations being perpetrated by the state against which it is directed.(http://mises.org/daily/5160/Is-Humanitarian-War-the-Exception)

Intervening conveys the idea of standing between two opposing sides as a third-party.  In the context of this resolution the two conflicting sides would be the government of the other nation perpetrating human rights abuses against some maligned group on the other side.  Thus the US would be the third-party.

internal
Merriam-Webster:
of, relating to, or occurring on the inside of an organized structure

political
Merriam-Webster:
of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of government

process
Merriam-Webster:
a series of actions or operations conducing to an end

I resort to dictionary definitions for the phrase, "internal political processes".  First of all, "political processes" is one of those terms used very often which is very rarely defined, yet most reasonably informed people have a pretty good concept of what it means.  The internal political processes will be those which take place within the borders of a nation and so exclude international politics or diplomatic interactions.  It specifically limits the debate to those affairs which most states consider "off limits" to outside interference.  I still think we must make a minimal effort to define "political process" and based on the dictionary meanings can understand it describes the purposeful actions taken by a political body and is perhaps the process which results in decisions taken by the government.

other countries
Not formally defined we understand "other countries" to mean nations other than the US.

attempt (to stop)
Merriam-Webster:
to make an effort to do, accomplish, solve, or effect

This may be an important word if one side tries to take a position the US must succeed in stopping human rights abuses in order to be justified in taking an action.

human rights abuses
Collins English dictionary:
acts that contravene human rights

abuse
Merriam-Webster
a corrupt practice or custom
physical maltreatment

human rights
Amnesty International:
Human rights are basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status.
Human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression; and social, cultural and economic rights including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, and the right to work and receive an education.  Human rights are protected and upheld by international and national laws and treaties.

Interpretation of the Resolution

Based on our initial attempt to put some meaning behind the words of this resolution and we can interpret the resolution to mean, the United States has legitimate reason to interfere with another country's private governmental actions to try to prevent violation of the rights and freedoms of people by that country.

Why The Resolution

The debate this resolution addresses is nicely summarized in this text by Eric Adjei:
"The doctrine of unilateral humanitarian intervention has been in existence and debated for the past several hundreds of years. However, the legality of this doctrine in international relations has always been subject to some debate because it is in direct conflict with one of the most fundamental norms in international relations, the principle of state sovereignty."

For hundreds of years the principle of non-interference has been a fundamental right of international law.  This resolution states the United States is justified.  As we have learned above there is a clear indication that to be justified, it means the action taken is one that it is not necessarily legal in and of itself apart from being sanctified by an international body such as the United Nations.  Since the resolution does limit the action to the United States, we can assume there is no coalition sponsoring the action and so it can be thought of as a unilateral action.  Even if the UN does give some kind of prior approval to the action, it may still be considered a unilateral act by the U.S. under the wording of the resolution.  Regardless of how the debate is framed, the idea of interference in the internal affairs of another nation, even for humanitarian purposes is rife with controversy.

Eric Adjei continues:
"The doctrine of humanitarian intervention conflicts with one of the fundamental principles of international law. Therefore a clear legal justification is needed in order to warrant its continue use. The moral justification, de lege ferenda is not hard to find. However, the legal basis, de lege lata is very difficult to ascertain.
In contemporary times, the legality of this doctrine remains one of the most controversial issues in international law. Many governments and scholars are resolute in their belief that the United Nations (UN Charter), which regulates the use of force in international relations, prohibits all unilateral use of force, including humanitarian intervention. However, a growing number of scholars argue forcefully that unilateral humanitarian intervention is legal, or at least, a limited right exists."

For background information, click here.

The Legality of Humanitarian Intervention, University of Georgia School of Law
Eric Dejei, 2005
http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=stu_llm

What Is Political, George Washington University
Amitai Etzioni,
http://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/etzioni/A312.pdf

The Ethics of Intervention – Human Rights, National Sovereignty and the Balance of Risk
Debate with dr. Jean-Baptist Jeangène Vilmer and prof. Malcolm Chalmers,
Speakers’ Corner Trust, 2011
http://www.speakerscornertrust.org/5166/the-ethics-of-intervention-human-rights-national-sovereignty-and-the-balance-of-risk/


44 comments:

  1. Hurry the eff up! I HAVE REGIONALS NEXT WEEK!!!

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    1. Yeah. We do too but everyone is debating rehab v retrib.

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  2. yo don't be rude. anonymous person. shame..

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  3. Naw, J-dog. We're debating this topic on Saturday too. But I find it to be more benefical to me if I write my own case.

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  4. Thank you so much for giving me a place to start! :)

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  5. Thank you this helps soo much

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  6. I'm just wondering, why do you do this??

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    1. I do this to contribute to the debate community. I am interested in educating myself and others.

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    2. Well i appreciate it greatly!

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  7. Some people are arguing on the Aff that the U.S. can act w/ the UN and doesn't have to be unilateral, because the resolution doesn't say unilateral. This obviously takes out a lot of neg offense. How can the neg respond to this?

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    1. I was wondering if you have looked at my Neg position yet? (Click here). It's true the action does not need to be unilateral but if the UN supports, authorizes and participates in the intervention, then does it still need to be justified? Maybe to the American people, but not to the members of the international community whose sanctions could be detrimental to the U.S.

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  8. Thank you, but another question. Is it plausible to assume from the neg position that the basic interpretation is unilateral? Or can the aff assume the position that the United States can mean with the approval of the United Nations...

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    1. I see nothing in the resolution to suggest it means unilateral and nothing to suggest the U.S. needs to take the lead. Maybe I am making too big of a deal about the word "justified" but I think the key to the debate around the level of U.S. involvement hinges on the definition of "justified". Is it based on a legal interpretation or a moral/philosophic interpretation of merely "having a good reason" to act?

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    2. My case specifically is based on a sovereignty approach, and the comparisons of previous interventions that have clearly failed (NATO in Kosovo, etc). So what would you suggest my approach to the definite interpretation be?

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    3. The resolution says "attempt" which kind of implies the US does not need to succeed. BUT...you can find support in the "just war theory" principle of "probability of success" (see: section 2.1 item 5) While the opponent may counter with intervention does not mean war, the principle still applies since intervention is a violation of the other nation's sovereignty. So, if the US has a high-probability of success but they fail, so be it, but if they go in with a low probability of success as you can prove historically, then the intervention is unjust.

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  9. A somewhat random question: should you say when you are the negative that because the United States is not "above" any other country as such, they specifically cannot be justified without consent from like the United Nations, or a group of nations??? --please respond SOON

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    1. A legitimate question...Okay, the U.S. is "above" in terms of hegemony, but not in legal standing. You can support your idea completely by researching a concept known as sovereign equality. Here is a link to get you started: sovereign equality .

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    2. Thanks sooo much :) that really helped!!

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  10. Thanks for all of your analyses James. Quick question. How viable do you think a neg case with a value or morality and VC of maximizing safety would be if paired with contentions stating that the US typically has other goals that may super-cede the humanitarian assistance and that intervening may actually cause an increase in death and rights violations would be? Thanks.

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    1. Very viable. I think that has been the historical reality most of the time.

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  11. So confused on this issue: so when an intervention is sanctioned by the United States, on which ground would you consider it???

    -novice debater :)

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    1. nvr mind - I meant UNITED NATIONS not sanctioned by United States... sorry about that

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    2. The UN is a sort of legal body so when it sanctions an action, it is justified in the legal sense. Prior to the first Gulf War (Desert Storm) we presented evidence to the UN about chemical and biological weapons in Iraq. The UN sanctioned our invasion. It was justified. Later everyone realized the weapons never existed. So, though legal at the time, now it is questionable if the war was justifiable based on that evidence. Attacking someone is illegal unless it can be legally justified. But even after an intervention is legally justified people may still question if the motivations or reasons are justified. In other words, is there a good reason for the action? Maybe it was legal but that doesn't mean it was right. So justified can be taken in two senses; the legal sense or let's say the practical/moral/philosophical sense. It's up to you to decide how you want to debate it.

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  12. Would a statistic for the percent of human rights violations that are actually serious be good? And would you happen to have a starting place for uncovering that statistic?

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    1. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch track and report violations continuously. But what is "serious"? Generally they say it is abuses that "shock the conscience". However, certain forms of torture may shock the conscience, but not necessarily justify an intervention such as armed invasion or air strikes.

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  13. What would a good value criterion be for aff? Justice for value and preserving human dignity for criterion?

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    1. Really, I like human dignity as a value premise, and there is no reason not to use human rights as a value premise. For value criteria, there are many and it depends a lot on your evidence and the link to your value. For the value of justice, it depends. Look at your case amd ask yourself, how does my case uphold justice? The answer is your criterion.

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  14. Would you presume that it is technically correct if the negation assumes that the Iraq War was an exact failure of humanitarian intervention? -Novice Debater in search of assistance...

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    1. The 2003 Iraq War began as a self-defense claim by the U.S. and then evolved into a humanitarian intervention as support for the defense claim crumbled. It may be possible to make the case the humanitarian internvention part of the war failed but since the removal the Hussein regime, we are not aware of human rights violations on the same scale as before.

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  15. Good evening. If I was to run Governmental Legitimacy and Majority Rule on the Neg, would that work? Because since a government is only legitimate by an autonomous will, the U.S must respect that autonomy in order to keep the Government legitimate right? And then Majority Rule ties into that because the only time we should intervene is when the Majority Rule ties into it and the majority of the people ASK the U.S for help. Then it would be justifiable right?

    Sound good? If so, please give me any ideas on any refutations you might have for it so that I can be prepared for the worst.

    Please and thank you ;)
    Have a swell night.

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    1. I find the idea of autonomous will interesting and can see how you may be able to claim it is a component of governmental legitimacy. But for majority rule you must be prepared to claim that dictorships or countries run my ruling minorities are not legitimate. (for example China?) Why not a value of gov legitimacy with a criterion of respecting the autonomous will? It's kind of risky and would need substantial warrants but it is intriguing.

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  16. what would be a good criterion and value for neg??? please tell me!! :P
    -cari

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    1. I would love to help you out Cari, but the possibilities are many. Use national autonomy with a criteria of respecting international law. Of course there is absolutely no way for me to know if that fits your research. Good luck.

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    2. thank you so much!! that helped
      -cari

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  17. Would it be a bad to (on the aff), define justified as morally justified? Like, with an observation that we do not consider legal justification/ assume it already is legally justified. My circuit is very morals-based, and I'm trying to figure out how to conquer this topic.

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    1. I see no problem with defining justified as being morally justified. If one believes intervention is necessary despite the objection of others, they are several ways it may be justified. It may be argued that morality over-rules legal objections since laws are usually built upon moral principles.

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  18. Does internal political processes have to include actions such as war? From my interpretation, the inclusion of "internal" seems to suggest political intervention rather than violent interventions.

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    1. For me, "internal" would mean within the borders of the other nation. However, I agree it does not mean war in the conventional sense. Any number of clandestine actions may qualify. The evidence for these actions will be more difficult to find since we typically don't brag about such things. Personally, I think a key requirement is the intervention is uninvited.

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  19. IM PARTH PATEL BITCHESSSSS FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @parthpatel96

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  20. Hello,
    Do you think for Aff using Humans rights as value and quality of life as criterion would work ?

    Thanks
    Asim, a novice debater

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    1. Hi Asim,
      Yes. Finally someone has thought of human rights as a value. I suggested it in a comment to another debater. It is a natural fit for this resolution and of course QoL as a criterion works nicely. Good idea.

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  21. Would attempting to create an argument about different areas defining human rights abuses differently therefore showing the U.S. is not justified to make that call for other areas be too abstract? How can an argument like that be pulled off?
    Thank you :)

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    1. I think one can make such an argument, only on a very high level, in other words, as a general principle. However, the argument becomes difficult to defend when looking at specifics such as genocide. Practically no rational person, regardless of ideology could defend genocide as acceptable. The only way I can think to pull it off is to use it as an additional argument...one more reason...why intervention is not justified.

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