Resolved: When forced to choose, a just government ought to prioritize universal human rights over its national interest.It's classic LD, a clash between cosmopolitanism and sovereignty, and among competing visions of the social contract. It's timeless--and, thanks to recent American involvement in Libyan strife, perfectly timely.
I wrote about this resolution in my summer preview of my favorite topics; it was number three on my list. It reminds me of the UN vs. sovereignty resolution from a few years ago, and will include some of the same basic arguments.
I've reposted some of my initial thoughts, have added more, and will continue to add more material as demand arises.
First, some key questions:
What is a "just government?" What is the nature of its social contract? And which contractarian gets it right? If the world is a Hobbsean "war of all against all," the argument is quite different than if the ideal of justice is Rawlsian egalitarianism.
I'd imagine that many Affs would have a value of justice aligned with a criterion of "protecting rights." But the Neg has to ask in Cross-Ex, immediately: where do rights come from? What defines or limits them? If "universal human rights" includes, for instance, trade or labor rights, must nations abandon protectionist trade schemes, or, conversely, stop trading with nations that allow sweatshops--even if it means a loss of economic security?
Why have nations at all? Why not have a universal government? Wouldn't that be the best way to protect universal human rights? Would affirming the resolution lead to a super-state?
Who or what defines "national interest?" Who is the "agent of action" in the resolution? The people? Government agents? Can we make any assumptions about the nature of the government in the debate?
What situations might lead to an forced choice between universal human rights and a nation's interest? (Some might include, but are not limited to, war, torturing terror suspects, immigration / refugee crises, trade agreements, dealing with dictatorships / oppressive societies.)
If a nation's citizens know that its government is going to prioritize universal human rights, will they remain loyal in a time of crisis? What are the upsides of nationalism?
What obligations follow from prioritizing universal human rights?
Do universal human rights exist? Can the Aff, for the sake of clarity, presume that they do--otherwise there's no forced choice?
Links, Analysis, etc.
1. Which human rights? A post from the vault noting the fractious origins of the United Nations' approach to human rights law.
2. Speaking of, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
3. The SEP's article on human rights is, as typical, excellent.
4. How should we define "national interest?"