“The US should be willing to negotiate the conditional surrender of the Taliban.”
Thanks to the judges and the organizers. I hope not to bore you. I’m going to keep my opening statement reasonable in length and fairly
straightforward. I intend to identify and define the relevant concepts for our discussion, and I will indicate in a general way how I intend to
present my position. Throughout the course of this debate, I will show clearly that there is no reasonable alternative to the idea that the US should
be willing to negotiate the conditional surrender of the Taliban, and that any suggestion to the contrary cannot be defended rationally.
The issue of the debate is what the US should do. In order to proceed, we have to sort out what is meant by “should.” First and foremost, the
United States is bound by democratic ideology. What the United States “should” do under any circumstances is to act is accordance with the will
of its people by way of their representitives. There can be no rejection of this essential guiding principal without a much broader rejection of the
American system of government. Such a rejection would be off-topic, unrealistic, inapplicable to any grounded discussion of a specific policy issue,
and well beyond the scope of this debate. I do expect my opponent to pursue this course of argument. Ultimately, then, what the US “should” -
and will - do, is obey the will of the people.
The question, then, becomes, what should the will of the people be? Specifically, should the people accept or reject the statement that is the topic
of this debate? This is the question that will be addressed in our discussion. I propose that there is a familiar method for making binary decisions
that is better suited for our purposes than any other method. This method is the comparison of the pros and cons of each alternative; a cost/benefit
analysis. The best way to decide whether or not the US should be willing to negotiate the conditional surrender of the Taliban is to consider the
pros and cons of doing so, and then to consider the pros and cons of not doing so. The challenge here will be to prioritize the items on these lists,
but even if we can’t agree on priorities, the presentation of the lists will clarify the basis for our ultimate decision.
The challenge that is inherent to the proposed decision-making method is the prioritization of the items on the lists of pros and cons. I suggest
that there will be two categories of items on these lists: intangible considerations and tangible considerations. These categories will correspond in
large part to moral considerations and practical considerations, respectively. The difficulty with the moral considerations will be the same sort of
difficulty that surrounds all moral issues, namely, the lack of an objective basis. The difficulty with the practical considerations will be
uncertainty; we’re identifying pros and cons of hypothetical decisions and we can’t really know what would actually happen under the circumstances
that we will imagine.
While the pros and cons list will be the method by which I consider the two choices in the body of the debate, I would like to anticipate an item
that will likely appear on those lists and address it very briefly now. An idea that is likely to appear on the pro list of my opponent’s position
- an item that he will likely place on the con list of my position - is that of satisfying the American desire for revenge. He may describe this item
simply as “justice.” The idea being that the US blames the Taliban for 9/11, and that no conceivable terms of surrender could possibly be a
reasonable service of justice. I will remind the readers of a number of facts to keep in mind when evaluating this position. A) Who should be
blamed for 9/11 is a highly contested issue, both in the United States and across the globe. A large portion of the population is not convinced that
the issue is settled. While this debate only makes sense to have if we assume some guilt on the part of the Taliban, when determining “justice”
it is worth remembering that the issue of guilt is outstanding, to say the least. B) According to the FBI, none of the 9/11 hijackers were from
Afghanistan or Iraq. Source C) The perpetrators of 9/11
died on 9/11. D) The Taliban is not the same as Al-Qaeda. E) According to the US, 9/11 was an Al-Qaeda operation, not a Taliban operation. E)
The topic of debate is the acceptance of the conditional surrender of the Taliban, not Al-Qaeda. Given these considerations, the idea that
accepting surrender is not an option on the basis of justice will indefensible.
Points that will appear on the pro list of my position will be derived in large part from a list of demands that the US made to the Taliban before
1) Deliver to the U.S. all of the leaders of Al-Qaeda
2) Release all foreign nationals that have been "unjustly imprisoned"
3) Protect foreign journalists, diplomats, and aid workers
4) Close immediately every terrorist training camp
5) Hand over every terrorist and their supporters to appropriate authorities
6) Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps for inspection
I will argue that the pros of a surrender which included these conditions would be preferable by any measure to a refusal to accept any surrender at
all. I will further argue that the cons of pursuing a course of action that does not allow the enemy to surrender would be overwhelming and clearly
1) Is your position equivalent to that referenced in the title of our debate, “Kill 'em All?” In other words, is your position that we should
kill every member of the Taliban?
2) Exactly which aspects of 9/11 do you blame the Taliban for? Do you blame them for anything else, specifically?
3) What are the most compelling pros of my position and cons of your position?
4) What do you believe would be accomplished by killing them all that couldn’t be accomplished by certain conditions of surrender?
5) What are the most compelling pros to your position and cons of my position?