Feb 13, 2014

value / criterion pairs for the humanitarian aid resolution

This post consists of value and criterion pairs for the March-April 2014 LD humanitarian aid resolution, which states:
Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.
These ideas are intended to kickstart your own thinking. Feel free to adapt them for your own purposes. I can't claim they'll win you any rounds, but if they do, be sure to give me 80% of the credit, more or less.

Also, this is a work in progress, so feel free to suggest additions in the comments.

Trending Affirmative

Value: Justice (defined morally)
Criterion: Preserving human dignity.
Humans are worthy of fundamental respect and have inherent worth. Regardless of role or station, we have a moral obligation to preserve human dignity. Political conditions have the potential to deny aid to those who need it most, use humans as bargaining chips and human suffering as leverage, and, if based on partisan bickering, are a moral obscenity and an affront to human dignity.

V: Justice
C: Protecting Human Rights
If protecting human rights is essential to justice (or morality), and if PPCoHA leads to the loss of human rights (as thousands or even millions suffer and die when aid is denied), then PPCoHA is unjust.

V: Justice
C: International Law / International Human Rights Norms
Since the resolution does not specify a particular society, we can't be 100% certain which rights must be protected. Best, then, to look to the prevailing standards of international law--the rights that people across societies, cultures, and even times have agreed are essential. Is this criterion open to attack? Certainly. But it also presents a clear, highly defensible set of rights.

V: Justice
C: Deontology, especially the 2nd Formulation of Kant's Categorical Imperative
Kant argues that as humans are autonomous moral agents, it is wrong to use them as mere means to an end. Political conditions do this by treating suffering and dying humans as bargaining chips for a nation's purposes.

V: Justice
C: Retribution
In this view, withholding aid for political reasons is a punishment. If this is a correct reading of the situation, it violates a fundamental principle of retributive justice. Innocents should not suffer for the sake of their country's leaders, since they are not due punishment.

V: Justice
C: Rawls's "Law of Peoples"
Rawls's "Law of Peoples" is an attempt to apply his contractual reasoning to international relations. The seventh and eighth rules are most salient: "Peoples are to honor human rights," and "Peoples have a duty to assist other peoples living under unfavorable conditions that prevent their having a just or decent political and social regime."

Trending Negative

V: Justice
C: Social Contract
The resolution uses the phrase "is unjust," which can (should?) be defined in moral terms. The moral obligations of the State are based on its contractual duties and limits. The contract (in most classic formulations) requires no positive obligations toward the citizens of other countries. (There may be negative duties--to not violate the human rights of foreigners--but humanitarian aid is not a moral obligation for states.

A potential "turn" exists if the social contract is linked to consequentialist reasoning (i.e., the State has to act in a way that benefits its citizens or keeps them secure). If unfettered humanitarian aid improves the donor nation's security, it might have a moral obligation to avoid political conditions.

V: Prudence (defined as carefully weighing political options; see Morgenthau)
C: Political realism
The idea here is that nations act in their best interests, independent of overarching moral considerations, charting a careful course in a chaotic, Hobbesian world. Justice isn't a proper description of international relations, so the resolution is a category error, analogous to claiming that numbers are too heavy, or colors are too fearful. (Be aware that some judges hate political realism. I mean really, really hate it.) Realism can also be turned, potentially, in the way the Social Contract argument can be turned, if realism is discussed in terms of its consequentialist impacts, rather than in its inherent approach.

Could Go Either Way

V: Justice
C: Consequentialism (or Utilitarianism, Act or Rule)
Any case predicated on a body count, a dollar figure, or any other quantifiable metric of success is essentially consequentialist. If justice is defined morally, and the State looks to consequentialism as a way to decide whether its actions are moral, then consequentialism can work as a criterion for justice. However, this seems like a weaker link (as it makes justice into a matter of majority rules). Also, any affirmative would have to beware of potential turns.


Anonymous said...

Aff -
V- Justice
VC- Effective diplomacy

Neg -
V- Justice
VC- Hegemony

Mr. Anderson said...

Interesting pairings, anonymous.

For the first, how does effective diplomacy link to justice?

Similar question for the second, with an additional question: whose hegemony? (Especially since, as worded, the resolution isn't nation-specific.)

Raahema said...

Hi so I have a question about the neg using the v/vc of justice and the social contract. So for my first contention I was gonna talk about how the state doesn't have that moral obligation etc but for my 2nd contention I wanted to talk about how sometimes the political conditions are needed because of inhumane acts that the foreign countries' govts are administering to their people. The problem is that I feel like if I use that then I would be violating the social contract theory because the govt would be thinking about the other country's people over its own. What should I do?

Anonymous said...

logic would be a good value on the neg side because why would we help someone who has the potential to harm un?

Mr. Anderson said...

Raahema, you're wise to have figured out the apparent inconsistency. However, it's not a contradiction. Governments may have very practical reasons for wanting to apply conditions. They're not unjust in the SC framework, but don't supply any "offense" either, as that reading of the resolution is more of a truth-testing approach.

The solution is to save those ideas as a block against the Neg, and to really flesh out your case, spending lots of time warranting your criterion. That's where you're going to win the debate, so you have to go "all in."

Anonymous, ah, but isn't that true of just about any aid scenario? We can never be sure who will turn out to be a frenemy.

If you can show a greater threat likelihood from past examples or good data, you'll be on more solid ground.