Resolved: The United States is justified in intervening in the internal political processes of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.
IntroductionI 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.
DefinitionsThe 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.
"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.
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.
of, relating to, or occurring on the inside of an organized structure
of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of government
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.
Not formally defined we understand "other countries" to mean nations other than the US.
attempt (to stop)
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
a corrupt practice or custom
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 ResolutionBased 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 ResolutionThe 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
What Is Political, George Washington University
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