The initiative known as Plan Columbia was originally instituted as a kind of anti-drug program aimed at reducing or eliminating the production and export of cocaine from the South American country of Colombia. Cocaine use and abuse was a growing problem in the U.S. in the 1980s and was fueling an underground economy which was supported by corruption, violence, gangs, and exploitation. At the time, most of the cocaine coming into the U.S. was believed to have originated in Colombia, a nation in which the central government was weak and ineffective due to poverty, poor infrastructure, civil unrest, and powerful anti-government factions battling for overthrow of the unpopular government. Most of the production and transportation of cocaine was managed by powerful, criminal gangs; the co-called cartels which not only violently resisted government attempts to stop them but also fought one another for control of the cocaine market. In the late 1990s, President Andres Pastrana assumed power of the government of Colombia and reached out to the U.S. for help in stabilizing the government by strengthening its military and revitalizing the Colombian economy. At the time, FARC, the most powerful of several Colombian militant guerrilla groups were conducting various terrorist acts aimed at taking down the central government. Meanwhile, Colombian farmers were being pressed into serving the interests of the cartels and had little incentive to grow any products other than cocoa plants. The U.S. quickly took the lead in fashioning the policy which became known as Plan Colombia. Of course the U.S. was mainly interested in ebbing the flow of cocaine across its borders and so forged an agreement which focused heavily on supporting Colombian military and police armament and training for counter-narcotics operations. The initial aid package was passed by Congress in the year 2000. Plan Colombia has continued to evolve over the years to satisfy the changing political and strategic objectives of the U.S. and its relationship with Colombia.
Through the last sixteen years, Plan Colombia has driven an array of military operations, resulting in huge numbers of casualties. A massive program of aerial spraying of herbicides has destroyed thousands of acres of cocoa plants with associated claims of environmental and human health effects. Charges of humans rights abuses on both sides of the anti-drug war and counter-insurgency wars have been exposed. Yet despite these harms, there is also evidence Plan Colombia has been very successful in breaking the power of the cartels, limiting the impacts of anti-government militant groups, and shifting the Colombian economy away from cocoa.
The United States
Once again, it should not be necessary to define United States. While the United States is a federation of fifty states and can be expanded to include the territories, military installations, etc, under the jurisdiction of the federation. In this context we narrow the definition to mean the government of the country known as the United States.
This word is very often defined as a word used to express an obligation but it can be more loosely defined as a strong suggestion. The Pro position will favor an interpretation that 'should' suggests the resolution is saying, Plan Columbia MUST be terminated; no exceptions.
In this resolution, end is a verb. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it simply as to finish or stop. Again, we do not need to define the word since every English-speaker on the planet should understand its meaning in this context. It is unlikely that any team would try to take a position there may be degrees to what is meant by 'end'. For example, will a team argue only some unpopular or particularly problematic aspect of Plan Columbia should be terminated? Unlikely. We assume, the resolution intends every program, action, or spending measure allocated under Plan Columbia be terminated.
Amnesty International says, Plan Colombia is, quote, "the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means.", end quote. I think this definition is sufficient for the purposes of this analysis of the resolution since each side will tend to focus on specific aspects of the plan and its various provisions.
This resolution calls for the end to Plan Colombia. We are not given any clues as to why. Thus the Pro debater is forced to justify the call for ending the program based on criteria which must be determined by research. Moreover, there is no implied framework in the resolution. Unlike a resolution which explicitly calls for an "on balance" weighing of harms and benefits, this resolution leaves it entirely up to the debaters to establish a framework for the judge to make her decision. This is somewhat complicated by the fact the rules of Public Forum debate permit either side to speak first. Thus, it is possible both sides could be urging different and competing evaluative standards for the judge. Of course, this kind of debate is not unique in Public Forum debate. It has happened before that resolutions are worded in such a way and most of the time the judge ends up sorting through claims made at the contention level and fashioning her own decision calculus by which to decide a winner. On the Pro side, it may be assumed the U.S. should end Plan Colombia because in a comparative advantage framework, the harms of militarization, spraying chemicals, and human rights abuses, outweighs the benefits of a more secure Colombian government or reduction in Colombian sourced narcotics in the U.S. Pro may also take another approach whereby the claim is made that Plan Colombia is simply no longer needed. It has achieved its goals, and should be ended. And while counter-plans are not considered legitimate in Public Forum debate, it may be argued Plan Colombia should be ended because other proposed programs or aid packages can be more effective.
On the con side, the basic position is Plan Colombia should not be ended. Of course, since Con must also advocate a position, it follows Con must justify its position. For example, the Con framework may be the benefits of Plan Colombia outweigh the harms. A variation of that framework would argue that ending the program will result in harms which outweigh any advantages gained by voting Pro.
We shall examine both sides of this resolution separately in the Pro and Con positions.
For links to the Pro and Con positions or for more information about Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.