Friday, October 9, 2015

PF Prioritizing Humanitarian Needs over National Interests - Con Position

Resolved: In response to the current crisis, a government should prioritize the humanitarian needs of refugees over its national interests.

For the start of this analysis, click here.

Con Position

The Con should be able to put together some pretty good stances. Since the main point to discuss is prioritization, the Con should be comfortable in the fact that it does not need to reject asylum-seekers, refugees or anyone else who may under normal circumstances be admitted into a country.  The Con argues a government still has an obligation to uphold its self-interests and more generally the best interests of its citizens, regardless of what melt-downs may be occurring in the outside world.  The Con can say, of course we are going to help.  Of course we will do or part.  Aid to those in need has always been a priority but guarding our self-interests, by necessity,  is more important.

The way this is argued can take several directions. We can start with the general premise which arises from the concept of the social contract, that a government has a duty to protect its citizens, life, liberty and property. Couple that with the idea that dangerous people are lurking at the gates and you have a case which prioritizes protection, or at least, erring on the side of caution. This can be expanded into the realm of internal relations theory of realism which holds to the idea that nations will always act out of self-interest driven not only by duty to citizens but the duty to preserve itself. Now the debate gets really interesting.

Finally, in answer to the question of moral duty which may be argued by the Pro, Con reminds the judge that governments do not have moral agency. This fact is borne out by many sources and even if the judge does not want to buy that argument, Con holds to the position a government's actions are consequentialist in scope, and utilitarian in practice.  And to be clear, the utilitarian responses of government are not carried out by some innate sense of moral obligation. Governments do not feel guilt. They act the way they do because such action is inherent in the nature of legitimate government. They really have no choice.

Heyman 1991:
[John] Locke emphasized that, because government is established for this purpose, it is "obliged" to secure every individual's life, liberty, and property. When it acts contrary to this trust, the government is dissolved and the community regains the right to establish a new form of government. Such dissolution occurs, in Locke's view, where the government invades the rights of subjects, or where it fails to use its power to secure those rights.g° Locke implied that the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which King James II was dethroned and replaced by William and Mary, was justified on these grounds.[515]

This editorial piece expresses the ideology of the primacy of government protection as well as any. It is because we value all of the services the government can provide, such as guaranteeing a minimum standard of living we must give first priority to national defense.

Daily Mail 2011:
It should go without saying that the first and overriding duty of every government is the defence of the realm. This is not to underestimate the importance of other functions of the state – from maintaining law and order and a trustworthy currency to providing essential services and guaranteeing a decent minimum standard of living for all. On the contrary, it is because we value all these components of our liberal democracy so immeasurably that we attach paramount importance to keeping up our ability to defend them.

The Cost

There is an enormous economic cost to the mass-emigration of millions of people. For example, we can look to this report in the the International Business Times which details the cost to Germany and provides insight into where some of the funds are going.

McHugh 2015:
The cost of caring for refugees and integrating them into German society could cost Germany from 1.8 billion to 3.3 billion euros in 2016, German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles said Tuesday, Reuters reported. Thousands of refugees fleeing violent conflict have been arriving on Europe's shores throughout the summer, and one of the most popular final destinations has been Germany, where the economy is one of the strongest in Europe. The European nation has said it expects to welcome between 240,000 and 460,000 refugees in the coming year, and the cost of caring for that many new people will translate to a high additional cost in Germany's social spending. As of Aug. 25, however, Germany reported a 21.1 billion euro surplus in its national budget, and the money will likely come out of the surplus, a local newspaper reported. Money allocated for refugees would cover costs such as healthcare, education and food assistance. Many of the refugees arriving in Germany have come from Syria and Iraq and do not speak German. The additional budget money would also go to paying for German classes so that the refugees could integrate into society and find work more easily.

But we must recognize that Germany is the strongest economy in Europe and while the costs are high in the short-run, analysts believe they can recover in the long-term when those refugees begin contributing back to the economy through work, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. However, other nations in the EU and western Asia are not financially well off.  Jobs are in decline, budgets are strained, and the cost of refugees represents a significant percentage of their national budgets.

Malik 2013:
Jordan’s ability to absorb Syrian refugees has become a growing issue. Its fiscal position has deteriorated since the beginning of the Arab Spring; hosting 500,000 refugees has already cost Jordan over $800 million since the Syrian war began, and unrest across the Arab world, particularly in neighboring Syria, has cost Jordan's economy as much as $4 billion. Furthermore, foreign assistance, on which Jordan was able to rely while dealing with the influx of Iraqi refugees, is insufficient. Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour recently stated in an interview that “the foreign assistance extended to Jordan is not enough in the face of the extraordinary numbers of Syrian refugees who have sought a safe haven in the Kingdom since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011.”  

Nations like Jordan are straining and the economic conditions in some EU nations are much worse. Greece is essentially on the verge of bankruptcy. High upfront costs for care and resettlement can push some countries over the brink.

Welcoming Terror

It seems while governments are guarding their borders and watching for security breaches, the enemies they fear may be coming right through the open front door disguised as asylum-seekers.

Vermaat 2015:
Muslim extremists and jihadists pretend to be asylum seekers and apply for asylum in Europe, according to reports from intelligence and security services since the mid-1990s. The then Dutch Domestic Security Service BVD (now the AIVD) reported in May 1998 that radical Muslims from Tunisian, Egyptian and Algerian terrorist organizations had applied for asylum in the Netherlands. “These asylum seekers can count on the support of local sympathizers.” And in April 2001 the BVD/AIVD warned of “Islamic war veterans” posing as people who “are looking for asylum or illegal migrants who seek refuge in Western countries who will continue the fight or support it.”

Certainly, members of the United States government are aware of many attempted infiltrations by terrorists or those suspected of complicity or sympathy with terrorist organizations.

Dzubow 2015:
According to a letter from four members of Congress to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson,  a “recent disclosure [by USCIS] regarding the number of aliens found to have a ‘credible fear’ in cases where the terrorism bar to asylum eligibility may have applied raised the concern that hundreds of known and suspected aliens with terrorist connections may be attempting to take advantage of our country’s asylum system.” The “recent disclosure” from USCIS to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform revealed that “the terrorism bar to asylum eligibility may be applicable to 299 aliens who were found to have a ‘credible fear’ of persecution in the first four months of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, and to 339 aliens who were found to have a ‘credible fear’ in FY 2014.”

But even when governments are aware of the danger possibly admitting a terrorist and actively screening each applicant for asylum, it does not mean they are safe. One standard of refugee care and a defacto human right is the provision for freedom of communication and according to Vermaat's report, Jihadists are trying to actively recruit refugees who are already inside a host country.

Vermaat 2015:
The Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTB) reported on June 29, 2015, that there are clear indications that jihadists tried to recruit asylum seekers who are currently staying in the Netherlands. This abuse of the immigration system must be tackled. “The intelligence and security services are receiving a growing number of indications from the immigration authorities of matters that could affect national security,” the Dutch  Minister of Security and Justice reported to the parliament in The Hague on June 29, 2015. “This is the result of both awareness-raising campaigns and an increase in the number of asylum seekers entering the Netherlands, particularly from Syria.” Several criminal investigations into efforts to recruit asylum seekers for the jihad began in Holland in the past months.

These sources clearly show the first priority of a government must be its internal security if it is to uphold its duty to protect its citizens.  Of course the asylum-seekers will be treated humanely while detained but the first concern is to mitigate the existential threat to security.

The State of Morality

It is common in nowadays, to attribute moral agency to all sorts of corporate entities such as, well, corporations, and such as governments.  Whereas, it may seem legitimate to pin moral culpability on a sovereign leader or business owner who is the sole decision maker, the identification of moral agents becomes much more difficult and perhaps unjustified in real-world situation of today. First it can be argued a government is essentially a structure erected for the purpose of protecting the rights and security concerns of the citizens. Its purpose is served, not out of some moralistic sense of right and wrong, but simply by virtue of the fact it is built for a purpose devoid of intentions.

Kennan 1985:
The interests of the national society for which government has to concern itself are basically those of its military security, the integrity of its political life and the well-being of its people. These needs have no moral quality. They arise from the very existence of the national state in question and from the status of national sovereignty it enjoys. They are the unavoidable necessities of a national existence and therefore not subject to clasiification as either "good" or "bad." They may be questioned from a detached philosphic point of view. But the government of the sovereign state cannot make such judgments. When it accept the responsibilities of governing, implicit in that accpetance is the assumption that it is right that the state should be sovereign, that the integerity of its political life should be assured, that its people should enjoy the blessings of military security, material prosperity and a reasonable opprotunity for, as the Declaration of Indepenedence puts it, the pursuit of happiness. For these assumptions the government needs no moral jstification, nor need it accep any moral reproach for acting on the basis of them.[206]

Even if it can be argued governments do, or ought to, function under a kind of moralistic code,it would be conceptually different than the moral code upheld by humans, especially in consideration of its relations to other governments.

Sorley 1891:
But the state has to do not only with its own citizens, but also with other states. Can any ethical principle hold of its behavior towards them? Is there any such thing as international morality which bears to states a similar relation to that which the laws of private morality bear to individual men? In this region of foreign relations the conflict between the different views of national morality is accentuated and brought to a point. There is a sufficiently strong analogy between the state and the individual to give an appearance of reason to the assertion that, when different states are brought into relation, their conduct should be governed by the same laws as those which regulate the conduct of individuals. But, on the other hand, the analogy is weak enough at places to give support to such a contention as that urged by Lord Lytton. "First of all," he argues, "the subjects of private morals, that is to say, individuals, differ from the subjects of public morals, that is to say, nations, so widely that hardly a single proposition applicable to the one can be properly applied to the others. In the next place, of the classes of obligations which constitute private morals, only one, namely, justice, has a place in public morals at all; and the sort of justice which finds its place in public morals is totally different from the justice which relates to individuals." [436-437]

From my point of view, expecting states to adhere to or carry out the morality-based duties common to humans in dealing with other nations, and their people fundamentally changes or perhaps disables the inherent purpose of the state to preserve itself and its citizens.

In the introduction to this Con position, I mentioned realism theory and its view of chaos as a norm for describing international relations. If every action of a nation is driven by self-preservation a picture emerges as to why some nations enter into treaty relationships, why some avoid one another, and why, often, states appear unaffected or disinterested in the distress and travails of others.  I leave that research to you, the inquisitive debater.


Daily Mail (2011), Shameful betrayal of the state's first duty, Daily Mail Comment, published online and accessed 10/5/2015 at:

Dzubow, J (2015), Congress: Asylum System Letting in Terrorists, The Asylumist, publish online and accessed 10/5/2015 at:

Heyman, SJ (1991), THE FIRST DUTY OF GOVERNMENT: PROTECTION, LIBERTY AND THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT, Duke Law Journal, Vol. 41, accessed 10/5/2015 at:

Kennan GF, (1985) Morality and Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, accessed 10/6/2015 at:

Malik, N (2013), Economic and demographic strains from the Syrian refugee crisis are impacting Jordan’s own domestic balance of power, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, accessed 10/6/2015 at:

McHugh, J (2015), EU Migrant Crisis 2015: Germany Could Spend Billions On Refugee Care And Integration, Labor Minister Says, International Business Times, accessed 10/6/2015 at:

Sorley, WR (1891), The Morality of Nations, International Journal of Ethics, Vol.1; accessed 10/6/2015 at:

Vermaat, E. (2015), Jihadists Disguised as Refugees, Frontpage Mag, published on line, accessed 10/5/2015 at:


  1. just a tip, ur link to the last source, vermaat, doesnt work because the last "t" in his name is cut off.

    heres the link to anyone who wanted it:

    1. Thanks for the notice. I have fixed it.

  2. Just wanted to thank you for this awesome website. Really cuts my research time in half


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