This House opposes U.S. hegemonic military power

During the Cold War Era, the United States vastly expanded its military capacity; today, the US military vastly outstrips any other military in the world. For the majority of its existence, the American public has favored an isolationist outlook for foreign policy; during the lead-up to World War I, armaments manufacturers were referred to as “merchants of death.” However, the public’s viewpoint dramatically shifted in the second half of the twentieth century due to the perceived threat of Communism and nuclear war. Since the end of World War II, the US military has intervened in many conflicts where its claims that the opposition posed a threat to US security have been somewhat dubious- these interventions vary significantly in their level of success. In preparing for the debate, both sides will want to have a general understanding of the major incidences of US intervention in the post-WWII era. Interventions after the end of the Cold War will of be greater significance because the US’s foreign policy shifted significantly at that time to adjust to a multi-polar world.

Debaters may wish to break the debate into two basic categories; morality and pragmatism. On the first issue, debaters should consider whether US unilateral military force could be just. Within the category of pragmatism, debaters may further divide the debate into immediate effectiveness and possible alternatives. Effectiveness is paramount to the debate, but is a difficult area to evaluate because it is impossible to know what “would” have happened in any particular case if the US had not intervened. Consideration of possible alternatives (or lack thereof) is not essential to the debate, but can add substance to both sides. While the Pro may simply take a normative stance and argue that US hegemonic power is detrimental, it will be in a much stronger position if it can demonstrate that there is a preferable alternative. Conversely, the Opp may want to explain why there are no viable alternatives, and why the lack of alternative world police options justifies US military dominance.

Title 
The United States is not an appropriate agent for monitoring international security because it is only representative of one nation.
Point 

The U.S. is an independent nation, not an international entity. Thus 96% of the world population has no voice in its’ government’s decisions.[1] The US government has authority over its own citizens, and it is justified in engaging in war if its citizens are under direct threat. However, citizens of other nations have no means of expressing their opinion in the US government. If the US government abuses its power, these people have no reliable legal means of recourse. Consequently, the US government has no authority to intervene in their affairs.

[1] “Country Comparison: Population,” The World Fact Book, Central Intelligence Agency.

Counterpoint 
  1. All conflicts are a threat to the entire international community.

As is discussed in the Opposition’s arguments, conflicts have the ability to spill over into other regions and to destabilize governments. Such conflicts endanger the international community because they increase the risk of irrational/non-state actors attaining weapons of mass destruction. This is problematic because irrational actors do not necessarily have a sense of self-preservation, and thus cannot be deterred by threats of mass retaliation. Thus if such an actor attains nuclear weapons, there is little that can stop them from using such weapons. Non-state actors are problematic because governments do not know with whom they are negotiating or where/how to find them. Thus the US is justified in intervening in such conflicts as a means of self-preservation.

  1. The Pro’s argument is based on a theory of sovereignty that is already violated in most of the conflicts in which the US interferes.

The Pro’s argument is based on the notion that the proper agent to act on behalf of a group of people is a legitimate government that has earned the right to sovereignty. The Opposition does not dispute this theory. However, many of the conflicts in which the US intervenes involve abusive governments or invading nations that violate human rights on massive scales. The people that the US seeks to protect often do not have a legitimate government to represent their interests. US protection may not be the ideal means of protecting global human rights, but it is better than not protecting them at all.

Title 
The US government’s obligation to its own people is mutually exclusive to acting on behalf of the international community.
Point 

A government derives its sovereignty from a social contract with its citizens. Citizens surrender some of their freedoms in exchange for government protection; if a government does not serve its people’s best interests, it is not legitimate. Thus in any situation where the interests of the American public are not aligned with those of the global population, the US military cannot serve the international community without failing to meet its obligation to its own citizenry. Because the American public has the ability to oust a leader that does not promote their interests, the military is much more likely to choose the option of serving American interests. This may not be unreasonable behavior, but it is indicative of the need for other entities- either other nations or international organizations- to have comparable military power to that of the United States.

Counterpoint 

The Opposition acknowledges that the US government’s obligation to act in its own nation’s best interest reflects a flaw in the US’s international role. However, this flaw is outweighed by the benefits of US protectionFirst, other countries can use soft power to prevent the US from abusing its military power. In 2010, US exports exceeded $1.8 trillion and imports exceeded $2.3 trillion; international trade accounted for 14% of US GDP.[1] The US is vulnerable to economic sanctions. Furthermore, the US enjoys the position it holds in international relations; were it to lose respect and bargaining power in the international community, Americans would strongly question the wisdom of government decisions. Furthermore, Americans are strongly attached to an ideal of American morality. This ideal places a check on the nation’s willingness to engage in foreign combat without any moral justification. Thus there are checks in place to keep the US from acting only in self-interest.

[1] William Baumol and Alan Blinder, Macroeconomics: Principles and Policy 12th Edition, (Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning), 2011, 23.

Title 
Failure after failure has made it clear that the US military is not an effective actor for maintaining international stability.
Point 

The US military makes problems worse just as often as it makes them better. The US intervened in Vietnam on the grounds of protecting the free world from communism; over 58,000 American soldiers and approximately 2 million Vietnamese civilians were killed while the US failed to subdue the Vietcong. The United States provided covert support to Augusto Pinochet after his military coup d’etat over Chile’s democratically elected government under Salvadore Allende because the US feared Allende, a socialist, would promote communism.[1],[2] Today, Pinochet is remembered as a bloody dictator that ruled through terror for 17 years. US intervention in Somalia in 1992-94 resulted in little more than the loss of American lives.[3] The US experienced similarly negatively results during its intervention in Beirut (1982-84), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), and Haiti (1994).[4] More recently, the US has occupied Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly ten years without brining long-term stability to the region. The United States military needs to step down from its self-assumed role as world police officer because it is not effective and its failed attempts lead to huge civilian casualties.

[1] Reel and Smith.

[2] “Covert Action in Chile,” U.S. Department of State, December 19, 1975.

[3] Richard W. Stewart, “The United States Army in Somalia: 1992-1994,” U.S. Army Center of Military History.

[4] “A Chronology of U.S. Military Interventions: From Vietnam to the Balkans,” PBS Frontline

Counterpoint 

The Pro only identifies US military failures; there are also many occasions of US military success. The Opposition case details examples of military success in Panama, Kuwait, and Bosnia. The recent success of Libyan rebel attempts to overthrow Gaddafi is partially attributable to US military assistance.[1] Furthermore, US military strategy is constantly changing and adapting. The rules of international engagement change relatively quickly; when the rise of the Soviet threat rendered isolationism impossible, the US adapted its foreign policy to a bipolar world in which mutually assured destruction was an effective means of preventing direct conflict. The fall of the USSR created a multi-polar world in which MAD became a more complex and less reliable strategy. Today, the US is adjusting to the increasing threat of Islamic terrorism. These constant changes render perfect implementation of military force impossible- this impossibility is not unique to the US. But with constant reevaluation and assistance from the international community, the US can be a reasonably effective peacekeeper.

[1] Steven Erlanger, “Panetta Urges Europe to Spend More on NATO or Risk a Hollowed-Out Alliance,” New York Times, October 5, 2011

Title 
US unilateral intervention is a form of the Western imperialism that has caused so much of the strife that exists in the modern world.
Point 

Western domination is not the answer to political conflict; it is the cause of many predicaments that result in the violation of human rights in countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East today. Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, who led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, wrote in his 2005 book, Imperial Hubris, that “[Bin Laden] could not have his current- and increasing- level of success if Muslims did not believe their faith, brethren, resources, and lands to be under attack by the United States and, more generally, the West. Indeed, the United States, and its policies and actions, are Bin Laden’s only indispensable allies.”[1] The United States’ unwavering support for Israel and its dubious grounds for invading Iraq are further source of anger in the Arab world.[2] The US justifies its military dominance by arguing that terrorist groups pose a serious threat to American society, and then this military dominance increases support for such terrorist groups. America cannot act as the world police because such a system will never lead to peace.

[1] Scheuer, iii.

[2] Ibid.

Counterpoint 

There are currently no viable alternatives to US military dominance. All would simply lead to more strife; dominance by another, probably less peaceful power, no dominance at all leading to anarchy or a balance of power, which usually leads to war as in the 18th Century. All of these options would create considerably more conflict than there is at the moment.(See Opposition argument)

Title 
As long as the United States works unilaterally to quell violent conflict, progress is not being made towards a better, internationally coordinated system.
Point 

The United States spends approximately $700 trillion annually on its military; China, the world’s second largest military spender, spends $114 trillion.[1] The US outpaces other possible peacekeepers by such a large gap that these other powers have little incentive to even try to keep up. Unilateral US intervention undermines international actors such as UN troops because it communicates the US’s refusal to submit to the interests of the international community. Thus US military intervention becomes a “quick fix” which prevents genuine long-term stability

[1] “SIPRI Military Expenditure Database,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2011.

Counterpoint 

The Pro’s perspective is backwards; as long as other nations do not move towards providing viable alternatives to US military dominance, the US cannot afford to reduce its own defenses. The US should not have to provide an incentive for other nations to improve their defense systems; their own self-preservation should be a sufficient incentive. In June 2011, then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that European NATO members’ reluctance to fund their share of NATO operations could be negative impacts for the alliance’s future. The New York Times related Gates’ words; “[Gates] warned of a ‘dim if not dismal future’ for the alliance unless its European members increased their participation, and he said that Washington would not forever pay for European security when the Europeans could do that for themselves.”[1] The US may be able to alter its role to be less unilateral, but it cannot do so until after other military entities improve their defense systems.

[1] Erlanger.

Title 
The United States has several qualities that allow it to act honorably on behalf of the international community.
Point 

It is essential that there is some agent in the international community that is able to step into situations that threaten global security, such as a collapsed government in a state with nuclear capacity. The US is an appropriate agent because its internal checks prevent it from abusing its military capacity. First, the US government contains a system of checks and balances that prevent an individual corrupt leader from going to war. Second, the US is a democracy; few civilians are eager to send their sons off to die in unnecessary wars. Thus political leaders must fear repercussions for engaging in excessive conflict. Third, the US is a relatively open economy; it is not unimpressionable to external influence. The Opposition does not contend that everything the US military does is perfect. However, the myriad of checks listed above ensures that excessive use of US military force will not go unchallenged, either domestically or internationally.

Counterpoint 

The variety of checks upon the US military may prevent it from total global domination, but these checks are not sufficient to make the US a genuinely altruistic actor. The US justifies intervention on the grounds of promoting democracy, but selectively intervenes. The US has supported non-democratic regimes in Chile and Iran,[1] and Guatemala, and has relatively close relations with Saudi Arabia. The US rarely criticizes the Israeli government for expanding settlements, while at the same time providing support to rebel forces in Libya. The Pro does not contend that the US is a completely amoral actor. However, ideologically inconsistent foreign policy demonstrates that the US is willing to prioritize its own interests over the rights of other nations’ citizens. Thus the US is not an appropriate entity to protect global human rights or international stability.

[1] James Risen, “Secrets of History: the C.I.A. in Iran,” New York Times, 2000.

Title 
The United States is entitled to take measures to protect its citizens.
Point 

In a nuclear world, it is impossible to dismiss another nation’s instability as “their problem.” If a government with nuclear weapons collapses, irrational actors (such as ideological terrorist groups) may attain control of such weapons. Nuclear war has the potential to destroy all of humanity- even in the case of a limited conflict. Alexis Madrigal of Wired Science explains, “Imagine that the long-simmering conflict between India and Pakistan broke out into a war in which each side deployed 50 nuclear weapons against the other country’s megacities […] Beyond the local human tragedy of such a situation, a new study looking at the atmospheric chemistry of regional nuclear war finds that the hot smoke from burning cities would tear holes in the ozone layer of the Earth. The increased UV radiation resulting from the ozone loss could more than double DNA damage, and increase cancer rates across North America and Eurasia.”[1] Thus it is impossible for the US to turn a blind eye to conflicts and instability in other regions. Furthermore, the stakes of nuclear fallout are so high that very few chances can be taken. Even if the chance of a conflict ending in nuclear war is very small, the damages that would occur are so great that even small chances cannot be taken. Thus the US military is justified in intervening in international conflicts because such intervention can be decisively linked to the welfare of its citizens.

[1] Madrigal.

Counterpoint 

The Opposition correctly identifies the threat, which is nuclear war. However, hegemonic US military power is not the solution to this threat. The first nuclear arms race began during the Cold War; because neither the US nor the USSR wanted the other to have the upper hand in nuclear capacity, each produced enough weapons to destroy the entire world. In the 1970s, Pakistan developed nuclear weapons; Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto argued that “the Christians have the bomb, the Jews have the bomb, the Hindus have the bomb, why not Islam?”[1] As the US continues to increase its military strength, other nations that are not sure they can rely on the US as an ally feel compelled to increase their strength in response. This leads to a perpetual armaments race. Armaments races are a waste of resources that would be better spent on civil services, and create widespread paranoia that the other country may attack at any time. Furthermore, continuously increasing military capacity is not an effective way of combating non-state actors. Terrorist groups operate underground; because they are difficult to detect, they are most effectively addressed through community engagement with government security. Thus excessive military development puts the US and other nations at risk without effectively addressing security threats.

[1] Sijo Joseph Ponnatt, “The Normative Approach to Nuclear Proliferation,” International Journal on World Peace, March 1, 2006. [http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-152972617.html]

Title 
The United States has greater military capacity than any other entity in the world.
Point 

The US accounts for 43% of global expenditures on military.[1] The US has greater capacity to prevent global security threats than any other entity. Furthermore, the US has used limited military intervention successfully in the recent past. In 1989, the US sent 27,000 troops to Panama to protect the lives of 35,000 Americans in Panama and to protect Panama’s own citizens. The invasion led to the removal of the dictatorial leader Manuel Noriega and the implementation of an elected government.[2] In the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, the US successfully forced Iraqi troops to retreat from Kuwait.[3] In 1995 the US used limited military tactics to protect civilians in Sarajevo from Bosnian Serb forces, leading to a peace agreement between the warring parties.[4] The Opposition does not contend that every US military intervention is or will be successful, or that military intervention is all that is necessary in addressing conflicts. The Opposition also promotes constant reevaluation of military tactics so that past tragedies are not repeated. But despite its drawbacks, US military intervention has the potential to be a source of stability and protection in the modern world from nuclear threats, terrorist attacks, and other large-scale violations of human rights.

[1] “SIPRI Military Expenditure Database,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2011.

[2] “A Chronology of U.S. Military Interventions: From Vietnam to the Balkans,” PBS Frontline.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Counterpoint 

Brute force is not sufficient to maintain global security. Just as one cannot simply strike a stone repeatedly and expect to replicate Michelangelo’s David, one cannot simply produce more tanks and train more soldiers and expect to resolve the complex problems that create modern global threats. The US has failed to establish a stable and safe environment in Iraq and Afghanistan despite almost 10 years of occupation. The Pro’s arguments point to failed or misguided intervention in Vietnam, Chile, Somalia, Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, and Haiti. These examples demonstrate that the US is not receiving much benefit from the vast resources it puts into its military. The US is only one country, and thus does not have the capability to view global conflicts from an international perspective. The world would be better served by greater investment in international military entities, such as NATO or UN peacekeepers. An international response to global conflict has greater perceived legitimacy than a unilateral response by one nation; perceived legitimacy reduces backlash from groups that feel victimized. Thus US military intervention is not a very effective means of attaining sustainable peace.

Title 
There are currently no viable alternatives to US military dominance.
Point 

The 2011 Libyan revolution demonstrates the world’s dependence on US military support. Although NATO unanimously agreed to intervene in the revolution, less than half participated, and even fewer actually conducted airstrikes. In August 2011, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Wall Street Journal “The fact is that Europe couldn’t have done this on its own […] the lack of defense investment will make it increasingly difficult for Europe to take on responsibility for international crisis management beyond Europe’s borders.”[1] Other prosperous nations criticize the US on the grounds that it needs to share military power, but these nations are not actually willing to increase their own involvement in order to share responsibility. The second largest military in the world belongs to China; because China is an emerging power, the international community cannot be sure how they will wield this power. Until US allies increase their military participation so that there are viable alternatives to US military involvement, the US cannot safely step down from its active military role.

[1] Filer and MacDonald.

Counterpoint 

US unilateral intervention is a form of the Western imperialism that has caused so much of the strife that exists in the modern world. There are alternatives –while some may contend they will be worse we do not know that this is the case. The United States would remain dominant but it would not need to use its military power in the overbearing way that it does now but rather in a much more constructive way that relies on diplomacy rather than military force. (See proposition argument)

Bibliography 

“A Chronology of U.S. Military Interventions: From Vietnam to the Balkans,” PBS Frontline. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/military/etc/cron.html]

Baumol, William and Alan Blinder. Macroeconomics: Principles and Policy, 12th Edition. South-Western Cengage Learning, Ohio, 2011.

“Country Comparison: Population.” The World Fact Book. Central Intelligence Agency. [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/21...

“Covert Action in Chile.” U.S. Department of State, December 19, 1975. [http://foia.state.gov/Reports/ChurchReport.asp#A.%20Overview:%20Cover%20...

Erlanger, Steven. “Panetta Urges Europe to Spend More on NATO or Risk a Hollowed-Out Alliance,” New York Times, October 5, 2011.

Filer, Stephen and Alistair MacDonald. “Europeans Retreat on Defense Spending.” Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2011. [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405311190346130457652450362582997...

Madrigal, Alexis. “‘Regional’ Nuclear War Would Cause Worldwide Destruction.” Wired Science, April 7, 2008. [http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/04/regional-nuclea/]

Ponnatt, Sijo Joseph. “The Normative Approach to Nuclear Proliferation.” International Journal on World Peace, March 1, 2006. [http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-152972617.html]

Reel, Monte and J. Y. Smith. “A Chilean Dictator’s Dark Legacy.” Washington Post, December 11, 2006.

Risen, James. “Secrets of History: the C.I.A. in Iran.” New York Times, 2000. [http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html]

Scheuer, Michael. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. Potomac Books, Washington D.C., 2005.

“SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2011. [http://www.sipri.org/databases/milex]

Stewart, Richard W. “The United States Army in Somalia: 1992-1994.” U.S. Army Center of Military History. [http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/somalia/somalia.htm]

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