Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool
I’m thinking about writing and publishing briefs. So, before reading the topic analysis, if you could please take a second to answer the poll below, I would appreciate it. Thanks!
Alrighty, another topic to analyze and such.
Let’s start with identifying important terms.
Nouns – targeted killing, foreign policy tool
Verbs – is
Adjectives – morally permissible
Now that we’ve identified the important terms, let’s define them.
Targeted Killing – There is no actual definition of targeted killing you can find in a dictionary. The basic definition is the intentional killing of a noncombatant individual. In short, a targeted killing is an assassination. DO NOT try and be abusive with this definition and attempt to identify very narrow circumstances in which targeted killing takes place. The debate needs to focus on the moral permissibility of the action, so just accept a good general definition of it.
Foreign Policy Tool – Please do not make this more complicated than it has to be. A foreign policy tool is something which is used to achieve something in foreign policy. Essentially, what this is doing is specifying the agent and ends of the targeted killing. The government is carrying out/ordering the killing, and it is doing so in order to accomplish some foreign policy goal. This goal could be victory in a war, preventing a nation from building nuclear weapons, deposing an undesirable regime, etc… The actual end doesn’t really matter, just that it is a foreign policy end. The purpose of including this in the definition is to prevent abusive arguments which say that civilians and private organizations should not be allowed to conduct targeted killings.
Morally Permissible – Like the last topic, this is the most important part of this one. In order to argue the resolution, you must explain how we determine whether or not something is morally permissible. This explanation will occur through your value structure, and it will inform the rest of your case, so it is the most crucial part of the case. It is up to you to develop this definition in your value structure.
Ok, with those definitions in mind, let’s talk about some potential case positions.
Utilitarianism – On utilitarian grounds, targeted killing is morally permissible. Targeted killing leads to more expedient victories in armed conflicts, leading to fewer overall casualties. Not to mention, if rogue regimes are prevented from developing nuclear weapons as a result, then the utilitarian calculus definitely favors targeted killing.
Just War Theory – Traditional Jus in Bello war ethics permit targeted killing. Asa Kasher does a very good job picking apart the principle of distinction in his writing and outlines precisely why traditionally accepted moral criteria in war permit the use of targeted killing.
All is Fair in War – General Sherman argued that everything should be permitted in the context of war as it is the only true way to propel us towards a society which does not approve of war at all. Essentially, if we allow everything to be permissible in war, then people will see how terrible war can be and just refuse to go to war in the first place. Therefore, because everything is permissible in war, targeted killing is permissible.
Utilitarianism – Targeted killings cause more violence. When leaders or important individuals are eliminated, their followers are energized by the fervor of vengeance. Not only that, assassinations often leave a power or authority vacuum which splinter groups try to capture, often violently competing with one another. Furthermore, the threats which targeted killing attempts to thwart are unrealistic and often only speculative.
The Principle of Distinction – It is always morally impermissible to target noncombatants regardless of their involvement in the conflict. If they are not directly involved in fighting, they have not directly threatened anyone’s right to life, and therefore, still retain their own right to life.
Targeted Killing Makes Government Illegitimate – Targeted killings are carried out as unilateral actions, and therefore, violate the rules of morally permissible military actions. These killings do not have the consent of the international community, nor do they have the consent of the people which the government rules over. The government derives its right to defend its people from the people’s consent to be defended. At the point where the government begins ignoring this consent, it becomes illegitimate. Therefore, targeted killing is morally impermissible because an illegitimate government is immoral.
I hope this helps get you started. Feel free to ask questions, and good luck! 🙂