Archive | Featured Debates

Resolved, that national security is more important than protecting individual liberties.

Background: Policymakers know that whenever government takes any action, some individual rights are going to be encroached upon.  Thus, they must seek a balance between the benefits an action affords society and the costs to individuals within the society. In the United States, the Constitution supposedly lays down certain inviolable individual rights which government must always respect. However, legislation like the Patriot Act and suspension of rights during war time show that Americans are willing to make an exception for that one issue we so fear and yet pride ourselves on: our national security.  Racial profiling and the Arizona immigration law, airport security, DNA databases, torture–all of these issues beg the question, which is more important: preservation of rights, or pursuit of national security?

Pro:

  • Government has one primary obligation: to keep citizens safe, regardless of the costs.  The most necessary, basic right of every citizen is the right to feel safe from domestic and foreign threats.
  • We must be willing to sacrifice the rights of one to protect many.
  • We must allow some governmental regulation as a way of promoting the common good.

Con:

  • Government’s primary obligation is the protection of equality and our rights.
  • Absolute rights must be upheld, even when greater rights protection may result from the initial rights infringement.
  • “National security” really a nebulous goal simply constructed to increase government’s oppressive bio-political power over its citizens.

Sources:
NPR (http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/liberties/index.html)
MIT’s The Tech (http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N40/long3.40w.html)
PBS News (http://www.pbs.org/weta/crossroads/about/show_security_vs_liberty.html)

KS/APR/11

Posted in Featured Debates1 Comment

Resolved, that pursuing contact with extraterrestrial life should not be a government priority.

Background: “Contact” here refers to human beings consciously and deliberately seeking to contact other sentient life forms in the universe–the primary purpose is to “connect” with them, like through communications devices that either send out signals or listen for incoming signals.  Efforts to prepare for contact with ETs, like the recently-created United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs [UNOOSA], or the United States military’s various instructions for responding to alien contact–especially hostile, or even the Vatican’s protocols for assessing these “other” children of God, should presumably be discontinued, too.  Some believe increased exploration of space is an especially pressing factor particularly in light of climate change and the concern that we are “losing” our one and only home planet through ecological degradation. The situation is analogous to the experience of 19th Century African natives who were enslaved in Africa and then transported in chains and under armed guard to the “New World.”

The “not worth it” premise implies that either there simply is no other sentient life out there in the universe with whom we could make contact, or that the universe is just too big a place for timely and meaningful contact to ever occur between us and them.  In other words, ET replies to our signal a hundred million years after we send same saying they will stop by Earth to visit us in about a billion years.  Thus, a “3X strategy” (like in computer strategy games) .  However, there is a 4th X that amounts to a “not worth it” reason.  It derives from our fear that.  Bottom line: It seems that the test for both the pros and the cons here is the same.  On balance, which way would better help the human species to “live long and prosper”?

Pro:

  • There is no other sentient life out there in the universe with whom we could make contact, or that the universe is just too big a place for timely and meaningful contact to ever occur between us and them
  • We can still explore the universe, exploit newly discovered resources, and expand human presence through colonization since the primary purpose is not “contacting” ET.
  • Seeking contact with ET could result in the arrival on Earth of beings with a vastly superior technology to ours could easily overpower our defenses and either enslave us on Earth, forcibly transport us to another location for some nefarious use there, or just exterminate us so they could better utilize Earth for their own purposes

Con:

  • We cannot expect to reap the advantages of deep-space exploration without also preparing for contact with ET.
  • Investing research in preparation for our “first contact” will help protect against a destructive initial encounter analogous to the experience of 19th Century African natives encountering European for the first time.
  • Blindly closing ourselves off from all other intelligent life forms out there only increases our fear of space’s great unknowns.

KS/APR/11

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Resolved, that the United States should not have used atomic bombs to end World War II.

Resolved, that the United States should not have used atomic bombs to end World War II.

Background: The Japanese Empire launched a surprise attack on America at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, thereby bringing the United States into World War II.  Japan simultaneously attacked and then brutally subjugated many countries in Asia and the South Pacific in its effort to create an empire for itself.  The United States slowly fought back over almost four years and eventually liberated the conquered areas until only the Japanese homeland remained–yet Japan still refused to surrender.

Pro:

  • Maybe Japan would have surrendered unconditionally if America had given it more time, especially since we controlled the sea and air round the home islands and the Soviet Union had just declared war on Japan.
  • America should not have persisted in demanding Japan’s “unconditional” surrender like with Germany, but instead acceded to Japan’s demand to retain its Emperor and military control of the country.
  • America should have first invited Japanese representatives to witness a demonstration explosion of one of America’s two atomic bombs in the American Southwest in order to intimidate Japan into unconditionally surrendering.

Con:

  • Japan had demonstrated its total commitment to its warrior code of Bushido (mainly “death before dishonor”) through many things like suicidal banzai charges, fighting to the last man, kamikaze airplanes and mini-submarines, committing personal and mass suicides (even civilians like on Saipan) instead of surrendering, and intensely preparing to resist an invasion of its home islands.
  • The near-total destruction of Japan’s navy and air force and the conventional bombing of its cities still had produced no discernible political effect whatsoever on Japan’s willingness to unconditionally surrender thereby necessitating the “shock value” inherent in the two atomic bombs.
  • An allied invasion of Japan in order to occupy and compel Japan to surrender would have cost America and its allies maybe a half-million combat deaths and many more servicemen wounded–plus would likely have resulted in the near-genocide of the Japanese people who were reasonably expected to fanatically resist the invasion like on Iwo Jima and Okinawa which produced horrific casualties on both sides.

~KS FEB ’11

Posted in Featured Debates, Historical4 Comments

Thought Talk: Do the political protests and recent developments in the Middle East constitute a crisis or an opportunity for American foreign policy?

Thought Talk: Do the political protests and recent developments in the Middle East constitute a crisis or an opportunity for American foreign policy?

Background: In late January 2011, ordinary people in Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan began protesting the autocratic rule by American-backed puppet dictators in their countries.  The fight for freedom has now spread to Libya and other countries. There were no particular leaders and no particular political groups leading the protests–it was just “the people” who finally after decades of repression decided that they “had had enough” and were “not going to take it any longer.” Perhaps the most common denominator among the protestors is that they are young people: the generation of the internet and social-networking. They began demanding “their rights” to freedom, liberty, dignity, and a better way of life starting with the overthrow of the existing repressive regime. American-backed governments, built on the idea that people would happily surrender their rights in return for some security and stability, seem to have lost their legitimacy in the region. The people are tired of oppression and injustice even if it entailed a semblance of order. So is this popular uprising in Arab countries of the Middle East a terrible crisis or a unique opportunity for America? The “autocratic” status quo has apparently been in America’s best interests. But would a new, freely-elected democratic government beholden to no one but the people of the Arab country behave in a similarly subservient manner in the future, especially with respect to America’s longtime ally of Israel? Is a widespread Arab movement toward self-determination in America’s strategic interest even if the people seek to establish an entirely secular democracy through a coalition of opposing parties (including Islamic fundamentalists) and the military? Any new government’s top priorities will likely be domestic political and socio-economic reforms which seem to be the impetus for the popular uprisings–not a new foreign policy toward Israel. Regardless, can America ever reconcile the apparent disconnect between its pro-democratic rhetoric with its patent undemocratic reality in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia? The Arab protestors poignantly demand that America “walks its talk.” But is the realpolitik of American foreign policy based on imperial power with “colonial” type allies too overwhelming a force in today’s world? Or will the Arab uprising blatantly expose American hypocrisy and shamefully compel us to live our ideological democratic values around the world?

~KS FEB ’11


Posted in Featured Debates, International Affairs0 Comments

Resolved, that nuclear power and clean coal should be considered “green” energy sources.

Resolved, that nuclear power and clean coal should be considered “green” energy sources.

Background: Green energy often means sustainable energy, i.e., energy that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising future generations’ needs.  Sustainable energy sources typically include renewable energy which is derived from natural processes that are constantly replenished. Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower.  Coal is a non-renewable fossil fuel resource like oil—supplies of coal and oil are finite and will only diminish over time.  Nuclear power could continue forever and is sometimes considered sustainable, but is politically controversial because of various perceived risks like radioactive waste disposal and nuclear disaster due to accident, terrorism, or natural disaster.  However, nuclear power is the least expensive form of power now known to mankind.  No belching smokestacks of filthy black smoke.  No land or water pollution.  Nothing released into the atmosphere.  Takes up a few hundred acres of land at most, compared to the tens of thousands of acres for solar or wind use with the attendant loss of natural scenery.  And no death or injuries ever in the US nuclear industry compared to the hundreds of thousands of people disabled by black lung and other respiratory and carcinogenic diseases from coal plus the thousands of worker deaths in coal mining accidents.  The arsenic levels in coal ash increase the risk of cancer hundreds of times over.  Many believe that the perceived dangers from nuclear power come mainly from Hollywood.  On the other hand, the idea of “clean” coal comes mainly from Madison Avenue.  Many believe that clean coal is merely “public relations” by the coal industry.  There is no meaningful way to capture and sequester carbon emissions from coal.   Others contend that clean coal’s pragmatic benefits outweigh potential flaws.  The matter must be resolved soon as the green movement continues to re-energize the energy sector:

~KS FEB ’11


Posted in Domestic Affairs, Environment, Featured Debates3 Comments