Monday, December 22, 2014

PF Jan 2015 - U.N. Peacekeepers Offensive Power - Con Position

Resolved: United Nations peacekeepers should have the power to engage in offensive operations

Con Position

To support the idea that peacekeepers should be allowed to engage in offensive operations would support a contradiction of terms.  Simply put, the UN claims UN Peacekeeping operations are guided by three principles (UNPKO undated), and indeed these principles are found repeated throughout their literature: 1) Consent of the parties.  This means the factions involved in conflict must mutually agree to allow the UN to conduct peacekeeping functions. It implies, there is an explicit agreement as what those operations shall be. 2) Impartiality. This means the UN peacekeeping force will take no actions which advantage a particular side in the conflict; the UN will not favor a position or act in a way which demonstrates partiality. 3) Non-use of force (except in self-defense and defence of the mandate). In other words, the UN peacekeepers will only exercise force in order to protect themselves or their mission.  Self-defense is rarely ambiguous.  It must be proportional to the threat (not excessive force), must be in response to imminent danger (basically the enemy has started the attack) and typically the use of force in self-defense is the last resort.  If there is any wiggle-room in these precepts it is in the third pillar phrase "defense of the mandate" and this where the UN gets into trouble and spills-over into what is termed peace enforcement.

Oliver (2002):
The meaning of the term peace enforcement is often misunderstood. Consider that when soldiers are performing enforcement actions under a UN Security Council mandate, they are still called peacekeepers. The term’s origins are found in the UN Charter under Chapter VII and Articles 39, 41, and 42. Article 47 goes on to outline the procedures for managing “breaches of peace and acts of aggression”. It establishes a Military Staff Committee to manage the armed forces placed at the disposal of the UN Security Council.4 Unfortunately, the Member States that comprise the Military Staff Committee never came to an agreement on how the UN would use military forces placed at its disposal. {page 101]

Back To Basics

Let's start this analysis with a review of two infamous UN peacekeeping missions.

In the 1991-1993 time frame, civil war in Somalia resulted in a flood of refugees and starving, dying civilians in need of aid.  Cease-fire agreements were made and the UN sent a peacekeeping force to oversee relief operations.  However, the warlords continued their fighting and threatened relief operations.  The U.S. offered to head a task force to secure relief operations but other countries failed to send troops so the force was understaffed while conditions continued to deteriorate. It was 1993 when the UN-sanctioned task force headed by the US assumed an enforcement role under Chapter 7 of the UN charter aimed toward securing the safety of the mission by kidnapping warlord Mohamed Farrah Adid. The ensuing Battle of Mogadishu culminated in the infamous events described in the novel "Blackhawk Down" resulting in loss of US troops and a failed mission. Not long afterwards, the UN ceased peacemaking efforts in Somalia.

In 1995, during the Bosnian War in former Yugoslavia, UN peacekeepers established a "safe-area" for the Bosnian Muslims in the area of Srebrenica. In July of the year, Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serbs resulting in the mass murder of thousands of Muslim civilians.  The massacre was blamed on UN deficiencies in personnel and resources.  The event resulted in the UN declaring that borders would no longer protect leaders who abuse their citizens and authorized an enforcement campaign. Subsequently NATO launched punishing airstrikes against Serbia under US command.

Hillen (1995):
in January 1995 the secretary general retreated from An Agenda for Peace and stated, "The UN operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina . . . [was] given additional mandates which required the use of force. These were incompatible with existing mandates requiring consent of the parties, impartiality, and the non-use of force. The resultant combination was inherently contradictory. It jeopardized the safety and success of the peacekeeping mission." What the secretary general did not recognize is that, along with the strategic incoherence of those operations, the effort to pump vast amounts of humanitarian aid into the former Yugoslavia and to use UN forces to keep a lid on tensions in the region has backfired. 

To be sure, the UN has conducted many more than two Peacekeeping missions (see the link here). which demonstrates UN Peacekeeping is capable of performing an important and vital mission to promote an agenda of peace and humanitarian aid.  What examples like Somalia and Bosnia illustrate is how the peace mission fails when the UN attempts to move pass the security of its three foundational pillars and take a more pro-active, offensive role in peacekeeping. In Somalia we see the result of peace enforcement by attempting to prevent a warlord from disrupting peace operations and in Bosnia there is a kind of peace enforcement which sought to punish the country of Serbia for UN failures to uphold the peace.

NYTimes (1995):
The use of major powers' troops for enforcement operations under a U.N. flag, like the British, French and Russians in Bosnia or the Americans in Somalia, has not worked well and should not be repeated. Enforcement missions require the kind of firepower that only major powers can supply, but these powers do not easily subordinate their armies to U.N. command. There should be a shift back toward more limited objectives like policing cease-fires. These missions should be carried out by specialized forces from smaller and neutral states operating under U.N. command. When major enforcement missions are clearly warranted, they should be assigned to the armies of major military powers, under Security Council mandate but national combat command. This will only be possible where there is a consensus on the Security Council and where an appropriate country is willing to undertake the mission -- for example, the French last summer in Rwanda. U.N. peacekeeping does what it can do very well. It makes no sense to continue eroding its credibility by asking it to do what it cannot.

We can conclude this contention with a statement made by the former Special Assistant to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and tie in the second contention.

Tharoor (1995):
Can the United Nations expect to mix peace-keeping and coercion, as the Security Council has obliged it to do in Somalia and now in Bosnia and Herzegovina? The United Nations Operation in Somalia's'" ("UNOSOM") attempts to impose peace led to the loss of political support and its eventual withdrawal from Somalia; the United Nations Protection Force ("UNPROFOR") has been blamed for failing to do things it was never mandated, staffed, financed, equipped, or deployed to do. Public opinion and political rhetoric have tended to outstrip both the mandate and means given to the United Nations [page 417].

The Impacts

Peace enforcement or any kind of offensive force carried out by "peacekeepers" can have a multitude of negative impacts arising from injecting oneself into a politically charged conflict.  Offensive force can change the balance of power, which actually results in prolonging conflict and it can strengthen the resolve of combatants by a "rally around the flag" effect which strengthens the power of illegitimate leaders. In fact, even non-offensive peacekeeping missions can prolong hostilities. Consider the comments of Richard Betts with respect to the Bosnian war.

Betts (1994):
There, the West's attempt at limited but impartial involvement abetted slow-motion savagery. The effort wound up doing things that helped one side, and counterbalancing them by actions that helped the other. This alienated both and enabled them to keep fighting. The United Nations tried to prevent the Serbs from consolidating their victory, but without going all the way to consistent military support of the Muslims and Croats. The main U.N. mission was humanitarian delivery of food and medicine to besieged communities, but this amounted to breaking the sieges—a military and political effect. {Page 24]

Intervention by UN peacekeepers, even if authorized by the UN General Assembly, engages the participants as combatants and thus exposes them as participants in the conflict they are resolved to mitigate. Even when the UN positions itself as a possible aggressor, it opens itself to defensive and preventative attacks from regional forces which could subject the peacekeepers to capture, and possible death.  In fact, this happened in the former Yugoslavia when NATO forces, acting under UN authority threatened to bomb certain targets. UN Peacekeepers were abducted and tied to the targets as human-shields.

If UN Peacekeepers carry out offensive operations, an enemy must be identified and struck.  This removes the pretense of impartiality and threatens the balance of power in a regional conflict which could erupt into a wider war.

Hanson, et al (2004):
From the concept pursued in this new peacekeeping doctrine, it is evident that peacekeeping must engender two dimensions of activity. One brings it closer to a state of war (i.e. peacekeepers must always be prepared for combat and maintain an enforcement capability). At the same time, however, the impartiality principle prescribes that it must also be capable of building consent so as to limit the necessity for the enforcement of compliance. If this is not achieved, it becomes far more likely that peacekeepers will be drawn into a prolonged military enforcement role, thus increasing the danger of ‚crossing the Mogadishu line‘, i.e. of taking sides and being drawn into the conflict directly. Unless practitioners engage seriously in the consent-promoting dimension of peacekeeping, by focusing on the goals of conflict resolution and post-conflict peace-building, they will, under this new doctrine, run the risk of becoming embroiled in full-scale warfare.

Coalition of the Unwilling

Con needs to point out that allowing the UN to conduct offensive operations means someone has to launch the missiles, drop the bombs, or fire the bullets and these "someones" are international troops assembled from participating countries.  Usually, when a decisive action must be taken, a world-power must be enlisted to "drop the hammer" because only powerful armies have the resources to get the job done effectively.  Thus, enforcement or offensive peacekeeping requires cooperation by powers which are often politically unmotivated or unwilling to engage in such operations.

The answer is, to keep a strong distinction between UN Charter Chapters 6 and 7.  One is for appeals for redress and aid, the other for war.  By standing on the foundational pillars, the UN peacekeeping missions have the best chance of success and if the combatants are not interested in keeping the peace, then it may be best to leave and perhaps authorize other actions.  It is confusing for the UN Security Council, the Peacekeepers, and the world to mix the responses and try to justify offensive actions by peacekeepers.

For all these reasons and more, we urge a Con ballot.


Betts, RK (1994), The delusion of partial intervention; Foreign Affairs, Vol 3 No. 6; accessed 12/16/2014.

Hanson, W; Ramsbotham, O.; Woodhouse, T (2004); Hawks and Doves: Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution;  Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management - Edited version Aug 2004; accessed 12/16/2014

Hillen, JF III (1995); Killing with Kindness: The UN Peacekeeping Mission in Bosnia; Cato Foreign Policy Briefing No. 34, Jun 30, 1995; accessed 12/16/2014

NYTimes (1995); The Future of U.N. Peacekeeping, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 8, 1995; archived source; accessed 12/16/2014.

Oliver, GF; 2002, The Other Side of Peacekeeping: Peace Enforcement and Who Should Do It?; International Peacekeeping: The Yearbook of International Peace Operations, Volume 8, 2002, p. 99-117; accessed 12/16/2014.

Tharoor, S (1995); The Changing Face of Peace-Keeping andPeace-Enforcement; Fordham International Law Journal, Vol 19, Issue 2, Article 20, 1995; accessed 12/16/2014

UNPKO (undated) What is peacekeeping?; United Nations Peacekeeping; Peacekeeping Operations; accessed: 12/16/2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

PF Jan 2015 - U.N. Peacekeepers Offensive Power - Pro Position

Resolved: United Nations peacekeepers should have the power to engage in offensive operations

Justification for Force

The justification for offensive force for UN peacekeepers begins in 1999 with the passage of U.N. Resolution 1279 to affirm what was known as the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. This agreement aimed to end a long and horrific conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The conflict which became known as he First Congo War involved several nations and resulted in the deaths of millions from both direct hostilities and humanitarian crises. As the First Congo War raged, the rest of the world struggled with images of the Rwandan massacre, child-soldiers kidnapped and armed with automatic weapons, and waves of refugees streaming into camps under the most horrific conditions.  The world welcomed "peace" and the U.N. subsequently authorized a small group of observers to document compliance with the peace treaty brokered at Lusaka.  The roots of conflict remained and continued to stir, especially in eastern Congo, so the UN continued to expand its role to include assisting in the release of prisoners of war, providing support for humanitarian efforts and assisting in the removal of land-mines. Over the next ten years the UN peacekeeping force expanded to more than 20,000 personnel with close to $9 billion spent to maintain the deployment. It was during this time, the UN peacekeepers were accused of certain abuses such as rape and regional conflict emerged into what has become known as the Second Congo War which has involved nine African countries and resulted in more than five million deaths. In my opinion, the eruption of one of the deadliest wars in the history of planet earth, and the U.N. failure to provide any sort of meaningful deterrence or protection to citizens resulted in the U.N. deciding to take more decisive action to enforce "peace".  (To be sure, the 2013 Congo situation was not the first use of force by the U.N. One need only research Congo -Resolution 169-, Somalia -Resolution 837- and Bosnia -Resolution 836- to realize the U.N. has engaged in offensive operations in the past.) This leads us to where we are today and provides a background for the Pro position.

Neutral Force

One of the key aspects of UN offensive operations is the presumed lack of partiality.  While the Pro acknowledges U.N. Peacekeeping operations have and do involve some offensive operations, these are limited in scope and aimed toward deterring aggression which disturbs peacekeeping missions.  The UN use of force is not attempting to give one side or the other advantage. It is thus an act of forcefully keeping the peace.

Findlay (2002):
It is in this sense that such missions aim to ‘enforce the peace’. They do not attempt to militarily defeat the party concerned, but rather to coerce it to comply with the will of the international community and with its previously agreed commitments. They usually attempt to act impartially in dealing with all the parties, in the manner of an umpire, but in doing so may be forced to penalize one or more of them, including through the use of force. They are not normally only involved in peace enforcement, but will undertake the range of activities involved in expanded peacekeeping, including humanitarian assistance and ‘nation-building’. Like peacekeeping operations, they employ both positive and negative inducements (the proverbial ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’), but they also have the use and threat of the use of force as the ultimate negative inducement. [page 6]

The UN has fairly consistently stuck to a norm which authorized the use of force for self-defense and it is relatively simple to draw distinctions between using force in self-defense and using force in an offensive way. Self-defense is commonly recognized as an application of force which is equal to the threat and generally employed when other reasonable attempts to avoid force have been exhausted. But, it is considered a mission of UN Peacekeepers to act as a deterrent to aggression and this has failed many times. Nevertheless, U.N. peacekeepers are authorized to use force as a deterrent to actions which would interfere with UN mandates.

UNPKO 2014:
In certain volatile situations, the Security Council has given UN peacekeeping operations “robust” mandates authorizing them to “use all necessary means” to deter forceful attempts to disrupt the political process, protect civilians under imminent threat of physical attack, and/or assist the national authorities in maintaining law and order.

Facing Reality

In 2000, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, commissioned a panel headed by Lakhdar Brahimi to review and report on all aspects of U.N. Peacekeeping operations. The resulting landmark document known as the Brahimi Report provided a much needed dose of realism in the idealistic mission of the U.N.

Findlay (2002):
While conceding that ‘there are many tasks which United Nations peacekeeping forces should not be asked to undertake and many places they should not go’, it declared that when the UN does send its forces to uphold the peace ‘they must be prepared to confront the lingering forces of war and violence, with the ability and determination to defeat them’. Although force alone could only create the space in which peace may be built, no amount of good intentions could substitute, it said, for the ‘fundamental ability to project credible force if complex peacekeeping, in particular, is to succeed’. [page 333] 

Part of the failure of past missions and the perceived lack of UN deterrence stemmed from very ambiguous and conflicting Rules of Engagement (ROE).  It needed to be clear both to UN commanders and regional combatants the UN would be prepared to carryout its mandates with sufficient resolve and force.

Findlay (2002):
The panel urged that, once deployed, UN military units must be capable of defending themselves, other mission components and the mission’s mandate. ROE should be ‘sufficiently robust and not force UN contingents to cede the initiative to their attackers’. Mandates should specify an operation’s authority to use force. ROE should not limit contingents to ‘stroke-for-stroke’ responses but allow ‘ripostes sufficient to silence a source of deadly fire’. UN forces should be bigger and better equipped and become ‘a credible deterrent threat, in contrast to the symbolic and non-threatening presence that characterizes traditional peacekeeping’. Brahimi advocated that: ‘UN forces for complex operations should be sized and configured so as to leave no doubt in the minds of would-be spoilers as to which of the two approaches [traditional or complex] the Organization has adopted’ [page 334]

Even before the decision was made in 2013 to send attack helicopters into Congo, the UN had already been softening its non-force position claiming "peacekeeping" was a complex mission which includes more than standing between combatants. In the 2008 document, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Principle and Guidelines, describes the complex characteristics of peacekeeping as related to conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and peace building.(UNPKO 2008: 17-18). The UN establishes guidelines for what it terms, "robust" peacekeeping and peace enforcement.

UNPKO (2008):
Although on the ground they may sometimes appear similar, robust peacekeeping should not be confused with peace enforcement, as envisaged under Chapter VII of the Charter. Robust peacekeeping involves the use of force at the tactical level with the authorization of the Security Council and consent of the host nation and/or the main parties to the conflict. By contrast, peace enforcement does not require the consent of the main parties and may involve the use of military force at the strategic or international level, which is normally prohibited for Member States under Article 2(4) of the Charter, unless authorized by the Security Council. 

While the conflicting and intersecting roles of "robust" peace are blurry and not always conforming to set boundaries, Pro should probably limit discussion on peace enforcement as outside the scope of the resolution.


I think Pro must recognize words have power and politicians play word-games in order to influence positions.  Offensive operations conducted under the authority of the UN termed "peace enforcement" have attached a negative view of such operations.  However, the UN, as seen in the Brahimi Report recognizes that so-called "robust" peacekeeping operations can be effective in supporting the mission and mandates of the UN Peacekeeping operations.  The fact that certain terminology is applied should have no bearing on the debate but unless the Pro can properly center the debate on the broader issue rather than semantics, the failure of past missions will loom large. The idea of punitive actions to enforce peace will likely invoke an undesired response in the mind of judge. Finding the right balance between robust peacekeeping and more aggressive responses to restoring peace in places of conflict is part of the general U.N. mandate. Since inception, the UN has reserved for itself the authority to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and to take military and nonmilitary action to "restore international peace and security" [UN Charter, Chapter VII, article 39]. When considering the role of a UN peacekeeping operation, a similar semantic conundrum exists when considering the differences between preemptive and preventative actions. While preemption deters perceived, imminent threats, preventative action designed to deter future attacks are considered illegal under UN and international law. In the context of peacekeeping, preemptive actions may be considered not only justified, but moral in response to an imminent threat but whether or not preemptive actions may be defined as an exercise of offensive power is a question that must be answered in the round if Pro decides to run it.

R2P Opens the Door

A major component of UN peacekeeping operations is humanitarian in nature.  More often than not, it is population at large; the non-combatants which suffer the most during the time of conflict and as witnessed, for example, by the First and Second Wars of the Congo, starvation, disease and homelessness can affect millions, threatening entire populations. Under these circumstances the UN possesses a framework for robust peacekeeping.

UNR2P (2012);
The duty to prevent and halt genocide and mass atrocities lies first and foremost with the State, but the international community has a role that cannot be blocked by the invocation of sovereignty. Sovereignty no longer exclusively protects States from foreign interference; it is a charge of responsibility where States are accountable for the welfare of their people. This principle is enshrined in article 1 of the Genocide Convention and embodied in the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility” and in the concept of the Responsibility to Protect.

Thus the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) establishes a requirement for the international community to intervene in humanitarian crises which are not being mitigated by the state in which the crisis is occurring.  In fact, the R2P emerged out of international frustration over the Rwanda massacre. R2P is based upon three pillars; 1) a state has the prime responsibility to protect its population from genocide; 2) the international community has a responsibility to assist the state in protecting their population; 3) the international community should take collective action when state acts fail to protect their populations.

Gerber (2012):
Peace operations with a civilian protection mandate reinforce all three pillars of the R2P framework, though in varying ways and degrees depending on the form and objectives of the mission. At the strategic level, all UN peace operations are approached as a “pillar 2” tool to “assist States under stress” in protecting their populations through direct security provision and local capacity building. While rare, peace operations such as the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo temporarily assume full “pillar 1” responsibility in the territory they administer. More frequently, POC-mandated peacekeeping missions act under “pillar 3” to ensure protection when local actors prove unable to do so. [POC is Protection of Civilians].

When one considers the overwhelming crush of humanity affected by the Second Congo War, 20,000 peacekeepers have very little ability to effectively carry out this mission in protecting millions of civilians over a region of thousands of square miles.  Robust peacekeeping recognizes the need to give the international force the best chance of success and justification within the limits of its mission to defend itself and the population it is charged to protect. However, while the peacekeepers may take actions to protect themselves, the use of external intervention forces to protect the peacekeepers and local populations violates the principles of self-defense.

Sartre (2011):
To justify the recourse to these interventions, the legitimacy of the duty to protect should be substituted for that of the right to self-defense. This step forward should be established in a doctrine, which I will outline below, which establishes the notion of an intervention force as part of the missions; and gives the Security Council and the Secretariat the tools to limit its use to the protection of the force, its mission and the local population and exclude its use for pursuing the objectives of the operation. By definition, self-defense can only be defensive. Protection, on the other hand, can be seen as temporarily and locally offensive, when an outclassed unit of the peacekeeping force has to be relieved by an intervention operation. If protection is recognized as being a duty that justifies temporary and locally offensive actions then two things that have for a long time been seen as contradictory can be reconciled: giving the operations robust means of reacting against any aggression and prohibiting them from using those means to force the consent of the parties. [page 9]

Sartre quotes Jean-Marie Guehenno's concerns that UN peacekeeping forces provide an illusion of safety for local populations, despite being unsuitable for the enormity of the mission they are expected to carry out. The Democratic Republic of Congo has over 70 million inhabitants (Sartre 2011:11) at risk.

Sartre (2011):
Jean-Marie Guéhenno has warned against making the concern for the protection of civilians, or, we should add, military personnel, the sole reason for the robustness of peacekeeping. In practice, the first objective of robustness should be the freedom of action, the pre-condition for the success of its missions: protecting itself, protecting the populations, and retaining control of the crisis area so that political progress is possible. This freedom of action is all the more necessary because it is normal for a peacekeeping force to lack both numbers and resources. This means that it must retain a mobility that enables it to exert its control of the situation and to protect itself where and when it wants without hindrance. Peacekeeping must indeed not let itself become coercive; this is what distinguishes peacekeeping from enforcement. But it must not give way either, and this is why it should be robust. Whatever violence may be taking place between the parties, it must continually keep open the space needed by the political process to bring peace nearer; neither giving way nor coercing, but protecting to persuade.

The Pro Position

Thus it is clear that over the decades, UN peacekeeping missions have engaged in offensive operations in the past.  The early experiences in Congo in the mid-sixties and later Somalia and Kosovo were considered disastrous and the argument can be made that was mostly due to a very nebulous and poorly defined understanding of what the limits and authority of the operations were supposed to be.  The Brahimi Report helped provide some solidification of the principles and justifications for offensive operations by peacekeepers.  Nevertheless, the requirement that intervention by peacekeepers must take place under the consent of the states involved and mandate that peacekeeping operations should be neutral and non-coercive forces a fuzzy view of what is acceptable or not in times of conflict when rules and international law seem distant and unclear.  The Pro position, not only recognizes the need to engage in offensive operations to effectively carry out its mission, but provides a framework under which that mission can be carried out with in the context of current UN mandates and international law.

Here is the Con position.


Findlay, T. (2002); The use of force in U.N peace operations; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, accessed 12/15/2014

Gerber, R. (2012), Peacekeeping and Responsibility to Protect, The Stanley Foundation, May 2012; accessed 12/15/2014

Sartre, P. (2011), Making UN Peacekeepers More Robust: Protecting the Mission, Persuading the Actors; International Peace Institute, August 2011; accessed 12/16/2014

United Nations Peacekeeping (UNPKO 2014), Principles of U.N. Peacekeeping, accessed 12/15/2014

United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO 2008), (Capstone Doctrine) United Nations Peackeeping Operations, Principle and Guidelines; United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support; accessed 12/15/2014

United Nations Prevention of Genocide (UNR2P 2012); Responsibility to protect; accessed 12/15/2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

LD Jan/Feb 2015 - Just Governments & Living Wages - Introduction

Resolved: Just governments ought to require that employers pay a living wage


I guess it's time to debate just government, a staple of LD debate, as one coach recently proclaimed to me.  But requiring employers to pay a living that practical?  My first thought was, suppose we increase the pay of all working citizens to some mandated minimum which meets the standard defined by "living wage".  It seems logical to think, the cost of goods and services would soon increase to compensate for the fact people are receiving higher wages and so we are back to square one since the level of income needed to maintain our lifestyles will ratchet up due to the increased costs.  Either prices increase or employment falls but either way, the economy will right itself like a ship in the waves. But does it really work like that? If so, the pragmatic debate is lost before it even begins.

living wage
Let's start at the end. What is a "living wage" and how is it different from something like the U.S. minimum wage? No problem, wikipedia can be a starting point for research because everyone should know, wikipedia provides citations, like this one leading to the New York Times.

Gertner (2006):
Workers in some of Baltimore's homeless shelters and soup kitchens had noticed something new and troubling about many of the visitors coming in for meals and shelter: they happened to have full-time jobs. In response, local religious leaders successfully persuaded the City Council to raise the base pay for city contract workers to $6.10 an hour from $4.25, the federal minimum at the time. The Baltimore campaign was ostensibly about money. But to those who thought about it more deeply, it was about the force of particular moral propositions: first, that work should be rewarded, and second, that no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.

Okay, so now we can begin to formulate a standard that a "living wage" should elevate the recipient above the poverty level and we also can see, in the U.S., the federal minimum wage law may not provide sufficient compensation. Adams and Neumark gives us more background.

Adams & Neumark (2005):
The number of cities, counties, and school districts with living wage ordinances across the United States has swelled to nearly 100. Living wage laws have three central features. First, they impose a wage floor that is higher—and often much higher—than traditional federal and state minimum wages. Second, living wage levels are often explicitly pegged to the wage level needed for a family with one full-time, year-round worker to reach the federal poverty line. Typical living wage levels as of December 2002 (when our sample period ends) were $8.17 (Los Angeles), $9.05 (Detroit), and $10.25 (Boston). Third, coverage by living wage ordinances is highly restricted. Frequently, cities impose wage floors only on companies under contract (generally including non-profits) with the city. Other cities also impose the wage floor on companies receiving business assistance from the city, in almost every case in addition to coverage of city contractors. Finally, a much smaller number of cities also require that municipal employees receive a legislated living wage. Previous estimates have found that living wage laws increase the wages of low-wage workers. On the flip side, however, there are negative employment effects on workers at the low end of the skill distribution.

While we have no specific definition for living wage, we can see the requirement varies from place to place and there are a number of ways the requirement is applied. But never fear, I found a good definition of living wage.

Roosevelt (1912):
We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living--a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.

Check the source on this, you may be surprised to learn the debate over living wage is not new and at least in the U.S. has been part of the political landscape for some time.

This term is simple. An employer is any person or organization that employs people (Oxford Dictionary). The same source lets us know that "to employ" means to give work to someone and to pay them for it. There was probably no need to define the word and there is practically no chance anyone would dispute its meaning.  Its only purpose in the resolution is establish a mechanism by which the government can provide its citizens a living wage. But we should be clear, the government itself is also an employer and so it too would be required to provide a living wage to its employees.  This distinction is necessary so the debate does not require people to receive a living wage just by virtue of the the fact they reside within the jurisdiction of the government.  The debate is limited to individuals who are employed by an employer under the jurisdiction of the government.

to require
In the context of this resolution, "to require" means to compel as means to achieving a purpose or establishing an essential condition. I suppose a dictionary definition is suitable if necessary for clarification.  In this resolution it is a government which establishes the requirement and we assume, in order to have any force, it must be empowered by law.

I defer to all of my previous discussions of this powerful word which means so much more than "should".  In the past (just look at this LD topic, for example) I have provided links to Ralph Wedgewood's paper, "The Meaning of 'Ought'".  I think philosopher David Hume would require, when faced with the word "ought", to provide a reasonable explanation of how statements which describe how things are lead us to a normative statement about the way things ought to be. I believe and often advocate that debaters should be able to debate in a purely theoretical universe in which things happen as they "ought to" but humans are grounded in physical reality which requires one to build a very sturdy bridge between what "is" and what "ought" to be. For many, that bridge is rooted in the concepts of morality since it is not too difficult for most judges to conceptualize a universe in which things behave according to basic human standards of right and wrong. Otherwise, it is necessary to make the link between what is and what ought to be with real-world harms or benefits.

just governments
I guess we can entertain several definitions of "just" in this context and I suppose many will link it to traditional definitions of justice such as giving each his due, and indeed, there is no reason such values cannot be used in traditional LD cases.  In this context, however, I think when one sees the specific terminology, "just government", just is derived from the word justified. The Oxford dictionary defines just as "based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair" and gives the example of a "just society" or a "just cause", Merriam Webster says "being what is called for by accepted standards of right and wrong". This definition of the word is thus very similar to the common definitions of "moral".  However, claiming a government (or corporation) is moral has its own complications since moral agency is usually attributable to beings possessing free-will and capable of rational choice. Nevertheless, the actions and decisions of governments can be guided by standards established by moral beings. It was Thomas Jefferson who said "man is not made for the State but the State for man, and it derives its just powers from the consent of the governed".  While this resolution is not specific to the U.S. we can to look to the founding fathers for understanding about the role of the just governments. James Madison, for example, supported the idea that governments should only serve to preserve our natural rights when he wrote, " This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own". (Madison 1792).

Off We Go

So, I think I have laid a bit of a foundation for the Aff and Neg positions and we should be able to find enough evidence to build reasonable approaches to both sides of the resolution.  While I do believe there could be more interesting debates for just government, this one will allow us to learn more about the practical effects of wages on society and business while allowing us to also explore ways to discuss hypothetical worlds of what is and what ought to be.

The Affirmative position is here.


Adams, S., Neumark, D. (2005) The Effects of Living Wage Laws: Evidence from failed and derailed living wage campaigns, Working Paper 11342, National Bureau of Economic Research. Accessed 12/4/2014.

Gertner, J. (2006), What Is a Living Wage?, New York Times Magazine. accessed 12/4/2014

Madison, J. (1792), Property, 29 Mar. 1792 Papers 14:266--68, A collection of essays retrieved 12/3/2014:

Roosevelt, T. (1912), Address by Theodore Roosevelt before the Convention of the National Progressive Party in Chicago, August 1912, Archived by the U.S. Social Security Administration. Accessed 12/5/2014

Wedgewood, R. (2011) The Meaning of 'Ought',  Oxford Studies in Metaethics, ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, vol. 1 (2006), 127-160. Accessed 12/2/2015.

PF Jan 2015 - U.N. Peacekeepers Offensive Power - Intro

Resolved: United Nations peacekeepers should have the power to engage in offensive operations

Let him who desires peace prepare for war.-Vegetius

My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.-Ferdinand Foch

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.-Niccolò Machiavelli
Quotations source:


Is it just me or is this resolution an oxymoron reminiscent of the time in the mid-1980s the U.S. government decided to name the MX intercontinental ballistic missile (an offensive weapon with 10 warheads) the "Peacekeeper". I guess by definition, once a peacekeeper becomes a war-maker the peacekeeper ceases to exist unless somehow it is possible to engage in an offensive of peace.  Oh wait, perhaps it is possible -

Merriam Webster Dictionary
peace offensive
a campaign designed to serve the interests of a nation by the expression of wishes to end a war or of intentions to resolve conflicts peacefully and thus cause hostile or unfriendly nations to relax their efforts or become less vigilant

United Nations peacekeepers
Obviously, the United Nations peacekeepers are a group organized and managed by the United Nations (I hope there is no need to "define" United Nations.  Their own website defines their mission: "United Nations Peacekeeping helps countries torn by conflict create the conditions for lasting peace. We are comprised of civilian, police and military personnel."  U.N. peacekeeping began in 1948, as a multi-national group of military observers whose mission was to monitor the "Armistice Agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors". Typically, this is the role of the United Nations peacekeepers.  Following a period of war, unrest, revolt, or conflict, the United Nations may agree to send a "force" of military personnel to maintain a negotiated or mandated truce or peace agreement.  As observers or monitors they will report any attempted violations of the agreement between conflicting parties and do what they can to aid and protect innocent people caught in between and generally serve as a deterrent to aggression or violation of the peace agreement. Historically, U.N. peacekeepers are lightly-armed with defensive weapons and have depended on the aid of other regional or international powers to protect them in case conflict erupted beyond the ability of the peacekeeping force to maintain their own safety.  As a result, "More than 3,220 UN peacekeepers from some 120 countries have died while serving under the UN flag.".

So, while the original mission of U.N. peacekeepers has been considered to monitor peace the role has expanded to included limited offensive operations in recent years which I will discuss shortly.

Offensive Operations
While most of you are probably familiar with offense and defense in sports we can extend that analogy to military operations and understand that when a troop is projecting its force with intent to gain some advantage or objective it is engaged in an offense operation. When a troop "digs in" behind barriers or in safety zones in anticipation of being attacked, it is considered a defensive position.  You also should know in debate, the difference between attacking (offense) and defending (rebutting attack). A Mississippi College ROTC document describes offensive operations:
Offensive operations are chiefly designed to disrupt the enemy’s combat power—
firepower, maneuvering, protection, and leadership. You plan and execute them to:
• destroy the enemy and his will to fight
• seize terrain
• learn enemy strength and disposition
• deceive, divert, or fix the enemy.
Offensive operations suppress enemy strengths and take advantage of weaknesses.
[page 335]

should have the power
When one makes a statement which proclaims one "should have the power" to do something, there are several ways we can look at it.  First, we may consider by using the word "power" we can think of authority.  This is because the word "power" imparts a sense there must me more than a simple ability to carry out an action. We may also apply a sense of ability (strength) to do something that is directed toward a particular purpose. Perhaps the famous, former Professor of Political Science at Yale University, Robert Dahl can help us conceptualize power.

Dahl (1957):
Unfortunately, in the English language power is an awkward word, for unlike “influence” and “control” it has no convenient verb form, nor can the subject and object of the relation be supplied with noun forms without resort to barbaric neologisms. 

Then again, perhaps not, since Dahl takes over 14 pages in his paper to describe the concept of power and this is Public Forum debate where the longest speech is only four minutes.  Therefore , an appropriate dictionary definition may be sufficient.

However, the Pro side of this debate is making a claim by way of the resolution, U.N peacekeepers are lacking something they should have, namely power to engage in offensive operations.  Therefore, we must for now assume, they do indeed lack this authority, ability, influence, or "power" and there is a very compelling reason to believe such a thing should be imparted to them now. This is, in fact, the very nature of debate affirmative positions.  A problem exists in the status quo which is producing significant harm. The solutions, for some reason are not or cannot be corrected without some heretofore, ungranted, unenabled or unenacted condition and when the barrier to acting is removed immediately, the harms can be solved and other advantages may ensue.  In classic debate the negative will claim there is no reason to change the status quo, since the harms may have other causes, the affirmative proposal will lead to other harms or there may be other ways to solve the harms without affirming the resolution.

As soon as you begin researching, you will discover, the 'classic' debate positions do not apply for this resolution.  Oddly, as it turns out and depending on your point of view of current peacekeeping operations, it may be the pro  position is NOT advocating a change to the status quo and depending on how the Pro positions itself it may turn out to be the Con needs to advocate a change to the status quo.  In other words, we could interpret the words "should have the power" as saying "should continue to have the power".  As if someone says, "hey, UN peacekeepers have the power to engage in offensive operations" and Pro says, "well, yes, they SHOULD have the power to do so".

UN News (2013):
With peace efforts under way with the M23, the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is shifting its focus to other rebel groups and working with the Government to maintain the fragile gains in the eastern part of the country, the Security Council was told today. “We will go on with this fight against all armed groups,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country, Martin Kobler said, referring to the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC (MONUSCO) which he heads.

So what exactly does this mean when Kobler says, "this fight against all armed groups"? As it turns out, Kobler's peacekeeping operation was given the "power", so to speak.

UN News (2013):
In March, the Security Council authorized the deployment of an intervention brigade within MONUSCO to carry out targeted offensive operations, with or without the Congolese national army, against armed groups that threaten peace in eastern DRC.

This report in Aljazeera America serves nicely to frame the impact debate.

Brooks (2013);
While the world's attention has been fixed on Syria over the past few weeks, the landscape of diplomacy quietly but radically evolved amid the dense green hills of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A flock of attack helicopters descended there on Aug. 28, in a town north of Goma, in the eastern region of the beleaguered Central African nation. The aircraft were filled with armed United Nations peacekeepers, along with Congolese military forces. The first-ever U.N. peacekeeping force with an offensive combat mandate – tasked with "neutralizing" and disarming rebel forces in one of the world's most intractable conflicts – was in action. Within two days, the peacekeepers and army had forced rebel militias threatening Goma to withdraw from the front lines. On Thursday, a rebel group known as M23 agreed to resume peace talks with the Congolese government. Despite the military and diplomatic gains, what impact the force will have on the ground in the eastern DRC remains to be seen – the country has suffered both internal and regional strife for decades. But the impact on peacekeeping is likely to be profound.

Yes, Oxymoron

As it turns out we are looking at an oxymoron. Either that or we need to define a new category of operations for UN forces.  But more importantly we, as Public Forum debaters need to consider the advocacy shift which has occurred and Pro must realize they must now support the status quo while Con must advocate for change. This is much more subtle than demanding Pro to advocate a negative position and tends to make coaches like me think the resolutions of late may be indicative the category is perilously adrift.

The Pro position is found by clicking here.

Unlinked Sources:

Brooks, C. (2013), UN tests combat brigade in Democratic Republic of Congo, Aljazeera America, September 6, 2013; accessed 12/3/2014

Dahl, R.A. (1957), The Concept of Power, Behavioral Science, 2:3 (1957:July)
p.201; accessed 12/3/2104

UN News Centre (2013), DR Congo: UN peacekeeping on offensive after defeat of M23, says senior UN official, 11 September, 2013; accessed 12/3/2013