Feb 1, 2011

Resolved:The United States is justified in using private military firms abroad to pursue its military objectives.

The NFL LD topic for March / April 2011 has been released:
Resolved:The United States is justified in using private military firms abroad to pursue its military objectives.
The United States increasingly depends on private military firms to support its fighting forces around the world. However, that supporting role has become more of a solo act, as firms like Xe (formerly Blackwater) have moved beyond security details or logistics, into combat operations in everything but name--and with problematic results.

This raises several questions. Are private military firms effective, or even necessary? Are they legitimate--whether under U.S.law or under international law? Will their reach and influence continue to expand in a perpetual War on Terror, and, if so, what will be the costs? To whom are private military firms accountable? To whom are they loyal--especially when many of their employees or shareholders aren't U.S. citizens? Is this the "military industrial complex" Eisenhower warned about? Are we seeing the rise of shadowy corporate governance? Is "private security contractor" a mere euphemism for "mercenary?"

Expect security, justice, peace, international law, the social contract, Just War Theory, and corporatism to crop up in discussions. Also, expect huge criterial clash: the word "justified" isn't synonymous with "just."

Analysis and links, as always, are forthcoming--and, as always, your comments and questions are critical.

Added 2/2: A look at some definitions.

Added 2/3: Some initial Aff arguments mostly based on effectiveness considerations.

Added 2/13: More arguments and analysis for the Affirmative, based on military necessity.

Added 2/24: A formative list of value and criterion pairs.

Added 3/7: How postmodern developments change the nature of war.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mr.A

I was wondering if you could define some words and explain how justified is not similar to just. Also in that post could you post about the loopholes in the resolution.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that either side could make the argument that because you have to affirm/negate as a general rule, you have advocate/condemn using PMC's as a general rule as well. For instance, could you make a case about the perils of transitioning to PMC's, or does the AFF just have to advocate using them once?

Jim Anderson said...

A, already working on it.

Anonymous, if I were on the Neg, there is no way I would accept a resolutional analysis saying that the Aff would have to justify only one use. Regardless of the rules of LD (which explicitly advocate affirming or negating as a general principle), the plural phrase "military objectives" is grammatical reason against such an RA.

Anonymous said...

since this is a districts topic, what about some kritiks? PMF's would be justified if they fulfilled certain requirements or something along those lines?

Anonymous said...

Some ideas on the Value and Value Criteria, I was hoping you could help me find some better ways to match them.
V:National Security
VC:Efficiency OR Safety (of troops, people, or government)

V:International Stability

V: Democracy
VC: U.S. policy aims

V: Justice
VC: Just War Theory

About the mercenary idea, that was more of 1960's time period, and I'm sure the Neg could find a lot of examples on it, however the Aff can easily prove that the PMC's today are much different than 50 years ago. Not to say that those people and groups don't exist, but they are definitely not the majority. Also, the resolution is not stating that the U.S. will be using all PMC's, so wouldn't a good point for the Aff to make be that the U.S. government can be trusted with the responsibility of hiring firms that do not engage in mercenary activity?

Hope that made sense.

Anonymous said...

How do you define "mercenary activity," because I really don't see a difference between PMCs and mercenaries? In fact, a lot of literature on the subject seems to use the two interchangably.

Jackie said...

A general suggestion: Talk to your friendly policy debaters for information and evidence on PMCs. According to the aff cases I've heard, there are some seriously bad things they do which could justify not using them ever if you're taking a deontological approach. The neg arguments I usually run include PMCs being essential to winning any war ever.

TL;DR: Policy people can help you here.

ll LBS ll said...

i see the word justified allowing for a better argument the using ought or a word that creates the moral obligation of the action the main topic for the debate. Rather with justified u can look at it as justifying the action of its self, the intent of the action, or the moral applications of doing or not doing the action. example, is the U.S.. justified in hiring pmf's when we are overseas and r to weak in arms to carry out the actions needed to help and protect the citizens of that nation not to mention are men already over there? I’d say yes to that, but then u can turn around and say for neg look at the moral applications, these mercenaries’ for hire (which is what they r) answer to the stock holders not the government that they are contracted to so ultimately they are able to do actions to achieve that goal that as a nation we view as immoral, and that isn’t justified. i say all this to make the point there are many ways to argue this so don’t let a resolution that is meant to have many different angles be narrowed down to just a few terms. Be creative, that’s what always makes the best cases. i would appreciate some more awesome definitions like for last topic, the deffs u had posted for violent felonies helped rap up my cases smoothly.

RA said...

I'd just like to disagree with a point the above poster made; I don't see a case based around the intent of using PMFs as feasible, simply because we don't know what military objective they will be used for, much less whether or not that objective will be just. To assume that US military objectives will always have the right intent, or even that their choice to use PMFs stems from just intent, seems questionable at best. I think this type of res demands a more consequentialist approach, or at least one that discusses the obligations of the government in a realistic context.

:D said...

Can you please give me a simple outline of the resolution? Please tell me the things that I should know in order to debate efficiently. I just discovered this topic today and I have a class tomorrow. Please let me know! Thanks...

pasadenayouthsymphony said...

To everyone and "jim"

Why does everyone comment on this stupid blog? Jim is on crack anyways. He just copy and pastes all the articles he can find. He isn't real. So get real. All of you.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jim are you real?

Jim Anderson said...

I am, sadly, a social construct. Or your worst nightmare. Or whatever.

PA Debater said...

1. Its really pathetic that some people don't have better things to do than leave antagonistic comments on a guy's blog...

2. Hey Jim, I wanted to ask you a few questions, but I can't really post them in comments because I know debaters in my cfl/nfl districts read this blog religiously..comment to comment.. and with Nat/CFL Quals coming up, I really can't compromise my case ideas.
- Can I email you my questions instead? if so, what is your email address? I couldn't seem to locate it while navigating through your blog.

Ethical Dilemma said...

Jim, if my PFD team and another PFD team face each other frequently on the circuit, and I acquired their flows by LEGITIMATELY debating them.. would it be unethical to prep them out beforehand?

I mean, is it wrong to go over flows from previous rounds? especially if I am NOT sharing them with other teams.. just my OWN team?

Jim Anderson said...

PA Debater, hmm... my profile (including email address) should show up on the upper left side of the screen. If it doesn't, let me know--and it's just this blog's title at hotmail.com

ED, just to be clear, you mean that you're prepping with just you and your partner, or with another team from your same school?

Anonymous said...

Jim, i've been hearing you are really good at helping people's problems with this resolution, so here goes: do you think there could be some heavy critique or K debating on this topic? because it seems like there would be.

Jim Anderson said...

Absolutely--if not direct kritiks, at least plenty of arguments influenced or stemming from critical theory. Militarism can be criticized from Marxist, feminist, anarchist, libertarian, pacifist, environmentalist, anti-globalist, anti-ethnocentric perspectives, and more.

For instance, the language of the resolution is itself bureaucratic and euphemistic: "private military firms" rather than "mercenaries," "to pursue its military objectives" rather than "to attack and destroy its enemies." This distancing from the violence and reality of conflict is ultimately dehumanizing / depersonalizing.

Ethical Dilemma said...

I apologize if my question was unclear. My school has two PFD teams, and the prep out session was between my partner and I, and the other PFD team on my Forensics team.

Note* both our teams had previously debated the team we were prepping out.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anderson,

For my negative case I am considering using either Rule of Law or Human Rights as my value. Which would you consider the better choice?

Ella said...

Mr. Anderson,

Our debate team is relatively new and many of the rules and formatting techniques for LD briefs are unclear to me. I know what a value criteria is, but could you please further explain to me how it would be used in a brief. For example: I am using National Security as my affirmative value and might use Safety as my value criteria. Is this a good choice? Also, is it mandatory to have a value criteria? I want to do the best I can in my upcoming tournament so if you think having one would be to my advantage please let me know. Thank you!

insomniac4ever said...

Hey Jim,
I am not sure if you are real or not but you are a great help so here it goes: Aren't there around three PMF/PMC's? So would that not make the debate arbitrary, since we would be debating on which definition of PMC to use? This rez seems very definition based (i.e. 'military objectives')

1 said...

How do I refute someone on Aff who brings up the Blackwater case against Private Military Firms? Right now I'm stuck with "The Blackwater case hasn't been finalized and there is still controversy as to whether the crimes really happened."

Thanks, 1

Jim Anderson said...

ED, that's what I figured, but wanted to be sure.

I think it's ethically permissible to share information with other members of your team. After all, you probably research and write cases together, even if you don't have exactly the same materials--that's one of the reasons for (and advantages of) being on a team in the first place.

It also may depend on how thorough the prepping-out is, and whether you feel that you're competing on your own merits versus feeling dependent on your teammates.

I draw the line at "scouting," both by teammates and coaches.

Anonymous, well, the Rule of Law would depend on the legal framework you employ--U.S. law? international law? Which one is truly compelling? Human Rights is a broader value, and it would actually work with a criterion of International Law.

Ella, your value is the ultimate "goal" or "good" brought about by affirming or negating the resolution--for instance, safety. The value criterion (which I analyze in more depth and detail here) is a means to achieve the value, or a means of weighing competing values. For instance, your criterion might be utilitarianism (weighing impacts) or something like "preserving military options" (a more "functional" criterion--some debaters prefer to include verbs). In contrast, "safety" and "national security," to a degree, are too similar.

insomniac, definitional ground is always an important aspect of LD. If you're on the Aff (in particular) you need a defensible, reasonable definition of PMFs that allows for affirming the "general principle" of the resolution.

1, first off, the laws relating to PMFs are continually evolving to hold PMFs more accountable since the days of Blackwater. Second, Blackwater is one of hundreds of PMFs--it is the exception rather than the rule. The accountability is different for Blackwater (or, as it's now called, Xe) is a different thing entirely from that required of, say, a firm that builds and maintains McDonalds on the PX in Baghdad.

Jaycie said...

Hi Jim,
I was thinking of running something along the lines of "consequentialism" for the aff VC. The problem I have with that is I don't like the "ends justify the means" idea. Is there another theory that includes the actions and the effects? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Could you please explain the just war theory to me. I've had people explain it to me before, but I still have questions over it. Thanks.

Ethical Dilemma said...

Thanks Mr. Anderson. And yes, scouting is definitely a breach of debate integrity on every level. Its unfortunate that the act is so common on "the circuit".

Caroline Carter said...

Mr. Anderson,

I debate in a VERY traditional circuit, and so (as much as I would LOVE to) using CPs, Ks, or overly complicated cards is out of the question. The concepts and phrases in my constructive need to be accessible to “over stressed soccer-moms”, and I respect that, because debate is also about effectively conveying arguments and persuading judges.

The problem however is that after some research, I have found an equal amount of analysis/cards for and against the effectiveness of PMFs in terms of forwarding national sovereignty/hegemony.

I really can’t seem to find a unique argument to either side of the resolution, but I certainly hope that there are some out there.

The “virtues” of private soldiers v. army soldiers has valid analysis on both sides; I also find that the argument of PMFs being “profit driven” also has a high level of non-uniqueness to it after reading a few books/briefs on the topic, as even army soldiers are driven by some “non-patriotic” factors. The argument that PMFs aren’t held accountable for their actions is slightly stronger, but very defeatable with the right analysis.

I was wondering if you had any epiphanies of “uniqueness” particular to either side on this resolution, because without Aff/Neg specific arguments, every one of my rounds is bound to come down to a utilitarian calculus of statistics.. which no doubt will leave my judge with a headache and hatred for LD.


Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, Just War Theory has two overarching criteria: jus ad bello, the just reasons for going to war, and jus in bello, the right and proper rules of conduct in a war. This resolution, it would seem, would focus on the latter. You can read much more about JWT here.

Caroline, I agree that it's a tough resolution, but at least it's tough for both sides.

Loyalty seems like a potentially unique argument for the Neg. Consider a PMF bodyguard assigned to guard a diplomat, compared with a soldier. In the heat of battle, if a PMF bodyguard deserts his post, he might lose his job, but that's about the worst of it. However, if a soldier deserts his post, he's liable to be court-martialed--in the right circumstances, even face execution. Furthermore, a PMF employee might not even be a U.S. national, so there's no concept of treason for something like defecting.

On the other side, a lot of the Aff's uniqueness concerns efficacy, as the articles I've posted make clear. However, an Aff doesn't necessarily have a burden of uniqueness--that PMFs are better than another alternative--but that their use is merely reasonable or warranted. In other words, the Aff has to show that PMFs are "good enough" or "necessary," not that they're superior in every way.

Caroline Carter said...

Thanks Mr. Anderson, but in terms of Loyalty.. it seems as though national army members have a lesser degree of autonomy as compared to a PMF's members.

If they face the threat of being court-martialed, then it seems like national soldiers are being forced to fight/maintain a war they would otherwise have the autonomy to properly evaluate their participation in.

Actually, with this line of logic, there seems to be an element of a "consent-less civilian contract" the government is imposing upon its soldiers.

But on the same token, civic duty (theoretically) provides for more noble and loyal soldiers.

Is this too screwy of a logic to use?

Whitknee said...

Hey Mr. A,

Would this essay be of any use? Would you also help me in defining Private Military Firms? That'd be awesome(:

Jim Anderson said...

Caroline, until the U.S. reinstitutes a draft--which is a day that may never come--our fighting force is composed of volunteers who have previously given their consent when signing up. (It's also not impossible for a soldier to act on conscience and reject a conflict as illegal; Ehren Watada comes to mind.) There's some research out there that empirically compares the professionalism, ethical standards, and loyalties of soldiers versus their PMF counterparts, and soldiers come out ahead on every measure.

Autonomy is a double-edged sword, since it means reduced accountability. The Neg can focus on the "pursue its military objectives" phrase--that we have to justify the use of PMFs in those terms, so any "free agent" who wants to rewrite / deny / disclaim / abandon the objectives won't fall under the Aff position.

Whitknee, which essay? Also, I've defined PMFs in several posts linked above.

Caroline Carter said...

Thanks Mr. Anderson, but just to clarify:

"any 'free agent' who wants to rewrite / deny / disclaim / abandon the objectives won't fall under the Aff position"

^Does that mean the resolution just assumes that the soldier in question is striving to achieve the FPO on both the aff and neg?...OR..that Private soldiers have no agency?

Jim Anderson said...

What I mean is that the Neg can argue that the Aff, to at least some degree, "owns" the objectives--which ultimately have to justify whatever benefits PMFs provide. So the Aff can't say "autonomy good" without demonstrating that having autonomous PMFs will more effectively reach those objectives (even though they won't have the same side constraint of loyalty).

I'm not sure that this makes any more sense.

VarshaVeggie said...

for Neg could i have a value of Human Rights and a VC of govt legitimacy ?
and use contentions that talk about

-irresponsible hiring at PMFs (govt has no control over this, and PMFs dont care as long as the job is done)

-loyalty to the US is very low, unless US pays them a lot more (this is a waste of money and risks govt succeeding which in turn puts US citizens in danger and hurts our rights)

- accountability (regulations on PMFs are useless b/c 1) they are weak
and 2) they only "punish" after the problem is created and the US still has to clean up the mess
(according to GAO http://usiraq.procon.org/sourcefiles/military_operations_12-06.pdf
regulations are not very effective)

do my contentions link to govt legitimacy and human rights
i am having real trouble with v/vc for this topic

VarshaVeggie said...

instead of human rights if i were to use security and a vc of govt legitimacy how should i define

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this has been brought up, but would this be a valid Aff argument Jim, essentially a PMF is a business, which is subject to the pressures of a free market. With other PMF's out there, competition is high amongst the company's to land contracts with the one and only US. So wouldn't these free market pressures of competition force each PMF to refrain from any of the behaviors the negative would bring up. For example if a PMF knows that there are 20 other company's out there just waiting to land a contract, as a corporation they would not make the unwise business decision to use unethical force, or commit other heinous acts. If anyone has any counter arguments, I would love to hear them.

Kirkland said...

Hey Jim. For the Neg, I wanted to use security as the value, but I am without a value criterion to pair with it. Do you have a ny ideas?

Jim Anderson said...

Varsha, I like your contentions, but it seems that they're only partly related to governmental legitimacy. If each links into human rights, which are essential for societal welfare, you could make SW your value and HR your criterion.

If you were to use security as your value, you'd want to use something like "military effectiveness" as your criterion. Irresponsible hiring would reduce effectiveness; low loyalty would reduce effectiveness; and low accountability would create "blowback," increasing resentment, terrorism, and instability, thus also reducing effectiveness.

Anonymous, that could be a useful argument, but it raises questions: are there some PMFs (Blackwater / Xe, for instance) that have "cornered the market" in certain sectors? Is the government encouraged to "outsource" its dirty work, letting contractors violate rights while turning a blind eye? When the government itself is unwilling to prosecute its own soldiers for clear instances of torture, and has operated "black sites" outside the reach of international legal authorities, where is the evidence that the government is invested in ethical PMFs?

Kirkland, I posted a list that's linked up above. Hopefully you find it useful.

VarshaVeggie said...

thanks Jim i decided on
Security and Military Effectiveness

Caroline Carter said...

Yes. I think you mean that its a viable strategy to make the aff justify the FPO that its ultimately trying to achieve?

Re: Anonymous:.
Ideally, yes, a free-market economy would result in exquisite PMF service, character, and innovation.. however, I think this is a risky Aff strategy because

1. The US economy is NOT free, its actually a mix, and so the "true" benefits resulting from FM theories would overstep the reality of the situation.. unless you offer a plan or something with the premise of a FME

2. As of right now, the US kinda just gives away contracts to the same few PMF. There is tons of legit info out there explaining that there is a monopoly of 5 or less PMFs in the field today.

3. PMFs have money.. they do. They are corporations with money who ultimately influence congressional decisions with political funds.

josh nigel said...

Ok so I debate on a very traditional circuit, which seems to be the consensus of everyone posting her (I guess par for the course in these months), but I am wondering if you can think of any underlying philosophical principle the proves that they are just, not in so far a efficacy but just in terms of their general use?

Jim Anderson said...

The government has a moral obligation to protect its citizens. PMFs are essential to fulfilling this obligation. That's all the justification needed.

Plus, they're historically accepted, Constitutionally allowed, and more legally accountable now than they've ever been.

Besides, the vast majority of PMFs are supply / service providers, not security firms, so any putative Neg harms are relatively insignificant.

The V/C pair might be a good place to look for further ideas.

Anonymous said...

So the way I see it, there are two ways to break down this resolution, and it all hinges on how you define justified, you can take the warranted, well-grounded approach, or the morally right, or just approach. I feel like for the AFF the former definition works better, and for the Neg the latter definition works. Which route seems stronger overall? I plan on coming up with arguments for both.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,

I read the whole Mark Cancian Paper, and came away with the one conclusion he offered, that PMFs are and will always be an integral part of our military. We have reached a point that it is literally impossible without reinstating a draft to maintain the same military power without contractors. I see this as an aff argument. Basically that without the PMF national security is zero. I feel like this is a pretty powerful aff argument, the fact that the US military cannot operate today without the use of contractors. What would you propose as a negative counter to this argument.

ldbetch said...

do you think that deterrence would be a possible value? and if so, what would be a good criterion to follow?


Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, I'd agree with your strategic analysis concerning relative Aff and Neg definitions. Overall, I don't see either approach as having an inherent advantage.

Second Anonymous, one way is to argue that the only reason we're so reliant on PMFs is that we have overstretched our military by taking on too many military objectives. Scale back, and there's much less need. Another way is to argue for the many benefits of reinstating the draft (which, as it turns out, would probably also reduce incentives for further global excursions).

ldbetch, the goal of deterrence is national security, so it'd seem that deterrence would work better as a criterion with a value of national security.

moriahjayy said...

do you plan on posting a Negative synopsis anytime soon ?

Jim Anderson said...

If there's enough demand. I think the Neg is easier to map out than the Aff, given the plethora of resources that criticize PMFs.

Whitnie said...

Hey Jim!
I follow you're blog and read just about everything you write. I have a question for you. If the NEG. uses Consequentialism as their Value and Action Evaluation as their Criterion how would you attack that? Like what questions would you ask?

Jim Anderson said...

Are you referring to a particular brand of action evaluation, or to the concept in general terms?

Anonymous said...

I debated this topic at state qualifiers this past weekend and did pretty well. The one argument that kept cropping up was the fact that no pmc's have ever been successfully prosecuted. What can the aff say when the neg brings this point up?

Anonymous said...

Here is a counter to the whole Prosecute a PMF thing. I read up on corporate criminal liability, an actual corporation can only be held criminally liable, if its employees were acting criminally, but within the scope of their job as outlined by the company. So in the case of PMFs, those individuals take excessive violence against civilians are not acting within the scope of their job, whatever that may be, therefore the company at that point is not liable, but the individual is, and I am pretty sure the Blackwater men were criminally tried, correct me if I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

Where exactly did you read about corporate criminal liability? Is there a specific article you can point me to? Thanks.

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, in the case of Nisour Square shootings, 5 Blackwater employees were brought to trial, but the charges were dismissed due to an immunity deal made by the Bush administration.

So, you're right that PMF employees can be prosecuted, but unless the murder charges against Blackwater employees in Afghanistan are upheld, the prosecution's record is an 0-fer.

Anonymous said...


Maybe I missed something, but I think what I said still stands.

And as to the Blackwater shootings, I think you can spin that to the aff, in that the US did try to prosecute the men, and one of them even flipped on the others, the problem wasn't that the US couldn't try the men, it was that there was a legal snafu, the men gave self-incriminating testimony, so the judge threw the case out. So again, a procedural error in investigation let them off the hook, not the fact that no one tried to bring them to justice.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, by the wording of the resolution, the neg needs to show that the use of all PMFs in pursuing military objectives, so do you know of any good arguments supporting the idea that the US would actually be better off (economically, security, etc.) with a significantly smaller military, would demilitarizing actually help us. I mean the way I see it, curtailing our military would give us a boost in foreign diplomacy and allow us to make up for any "losses from military resizing", Just want to get your thoughts on the idea. Is America really that hated that a reduction in the fighting force would open the floodgates to strikes against the US.

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, that's exactly the right rejoinder; a failure in practice is not a failure in principle.

Second Anonymous, I think it's a valid point to argue that vastly curtailing the work of PMFs would make for a much less interventionist foreign policy, and keep the U.S. focused on defense rather than offense. (This could potentially decrease the number of U.S. enemies.) PMFs, in other words, reduce the cost of conflict, making it a too-attractive option for foreign policy.

PoteetsBlog said...

Aff : V:Nat'l Security
C : Constitutionality

Neg : V: Gov't Legitimacy
C: Just War Theory

Any main problems?

Jim Anderson said...

Constitutionality is a floor, rather than a ceiling, for moral action. In other words, it may lose out to a moral criterion that sets a higher standard. But it's otherwise fine.

I'd pair "Just War Theory" (and you'd need to specify which one--international law, for instance?) with Justice rather than Governmental Legitimacy, which seems like an indirect way to get to justice.

Lyssa said...

How would one go about defining "Military Objectives?" Would there be a loophole in defining such that "Military Objective" could include support troops, or the contractors hired to build? Or would it only include actual combat activities?

Anonymous said...

I dont suppose common-sense is a valid criterion, is it? For the Aff, specifically

Jim Anderson said...

Lyssa, that's a tough one. It really depends on how broadly you want to define the objectives. If you go too specific, it could turn into a battle over who owns the status quo.

Anonymous, it seems like an awfully subjective criterion.

Jordan said...

Im running Justice/Protecting Human Rights.

So for the negative burden, can I say, "If protecting human rights is essential to justice, then I must prove that PMF's violate rights abroad with impunity"

But since its unfair to impose a burden on yourself, without one for the affirmative, what could be a burden I could put on the affirmative?

Jim Anderson said...

First, I'd start by laying the burden on the Aff to prove that PMFs protect rights, then follow it up with your own burden to prove that they violate rights.

Even if you believe in equal burdens out of fairness, you may not have to lay a burden on yourself if the Aff has already done so.

Anonymous said...

Referring to your list of V-VC pairs, under the V-VC pair of justice and Constitutionalism you said that there were few compelling arguments which said that PMFs are unconstitutional however I found a card by Zoe Salzman reading: “Notably, in the United States, private contractors are not subject to the scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act, which greatly restricts the public’s ability to be well-informed about the government’s reliance on the private military industry. Thus, the privatization of military force allows the executive 'to operate in the shadows of public attention' and to subvert democratic political restraints. The privatization of military force also threatens the democratic state because it allows governments to make war while avoiding democratic accountability. Democratic governments are entrusted with a monopoly on the use of force because their power to exercise that force is limited by the rule of law and by accountability to their citizens. Private contractors, however, greatly undermine democratic accountability, and in so doing circumvent the democratic reluctance for war. By undermining the public’s control over the war making powers of the state, private contractors threaten the popular sovereignty of the state. The privatization of the use of force inherently removes many of the burdens of war from the citizenry, thereby reducing public debate about national involvement in the conflict. Indeed, governments may turn to private military forces not because they are cheaper, but because they are less accountable and less likely to attract political backlash. For example, by outsourcing military functions, the executive branch is able to evade certain forms of democratic accountability by circumventing congressional caps on the number of troops approved for deployment. Employing private contractors also allows the executive to avoid instituting a draft, keep official casualty counts and public criticism down, and even to avoid arms embargoes. The government is also able to distance itself from mistakes by blaming them on the contractors. By subverting public debate and by undermining the separation of powers, the privatization of military force poses a direct threat to the democratic system.” Doesn't this explain why PMFs are unconstitutional?

Jim Anderson said...

Salzman's argument is interesting, but it never answers the question, "Are PMFs Constitutional?"

They very well may subvert democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty, but those aren't the criteria in question. The criterion is Constitutionality, and Salzman would have to show where/how PMFs violate the Constitution (either in the plain text, or in the reams of judicial interpretation).

Remember, Constitutionality in many ways is a less morally stringent standard than other criteria--but then, it's also a more concrete criterion, given that it has the force of law and decades of exposition and interpretation surrounding it, and represents the closest thing the U.S. has to an actual Social Contract.

Anonymous said...

Could I argue that because the resolution merely requires the affirmation to prove that the use of private military firms is justified, rather than of the utmost level of morality, I am not required to show that private military firms are the most efficient or morally upright option, but simply confirm that their use in pursuit of national security can be vindicated?

Jim Anderson said...

That is a fairly common Aff reading of the resolution (since "Justified" isn't necessary coextensive with "just").

kev said...

If the Aff were to ask the Neg to propose a standard other than PMCs in Cross-EX, would it be appropriate to respond that the Neg does not have that burden of proof?

Jim Anderson said...


Anonymous said...

im confused on the whole resolution and i have to debate this Tuesday. can you please help me understand, and im going aff but i dont want to sound like i know nothing.

Jim Anderson said...

I'd suggest you start with the Wikipedia entry on PMFs (which is quite good), and get a handle on what they are, and what the controversies are. For the affirmative, a safe argument is that they're Constitutional (and / or necessary for effective national defense); for the Neg, an easy place to start is by arguing that PMFs, by lowering the economic and human costs of war, make it too easy for the U.S. to get embroiled in unnecessary conflicts.

Anonymous said...


You've said that the constitution seems to allow for the use of PMFs, and I agree with that statement. But my question is, Does permissibility imply Justification. It seems to me that just because something is permissible that does not mean it is justified. For example, the constitution may permit the government to fund abortions or abortion clinics, but does that mean the government is justified in said funding. I think there is a disconnect between being allowed to do something, and being justified in doing something. How would you counter that argument?

Jim Anderson said...

Part of it depends on the definition of "justified," which may be "warranted or well-grounded," or, in a legal sense, shown to have a satisfactory reason or excuse for an action.

If you have to meet a higher bar, the Constitution provides the obligation for national defense, for which PMFs are necessary.

mr debater said...

Do you know which authors talk about PMFs as mercenaries? I'm trying to write an international obligations case but I can't find much.


Anonymous said...

Are there any authors that talk about the need for government transparency/transparency is the only way a government can be legitimate?


mr debater said...

I'm thinking of writing a colonialism NC. Do you know any authors who talk about that?

Anonymous said...

What are some good value criterion pairs for aff and neg?