The Society had the first induction debate of the year on September 20th as we discussed Resolved: The US should halt all counter-terror drone attacks. Mr. Kelley began his induction keynote with the framework of the round in which he defined “drone attacks” as only drone strikes and not surveillance. He argued that there are moral and political implications to drone strikes and that these strikes violate the three principals of the Geneva Convention: civilian-combatant distinction, military necessity, and minimize civilian casualties. He continued by pointing out how the statistics in the area of drone strike fatalities are poor at best especially in determining civilian casualties. He closed by asking the Society to question whether it is acceptable for the US to ignore protecting innocents for little benefit. Our other inductee, Mr. RisCassi, responded by explaining how drones are more accurate and result in fewer casualties including US military casualties. He then elaborated on how these strikes overcome the problem of various levels of engagement and provide economic benefits for environmental, disaster relief, and border patrolling purposes. Mr. RisCassi argued that there are incentives to not kill indiscriminately with drones. Finally, he asked the society to think of alternatives and argued the affirmation does not have one.
Ms. Christensen congratulated the two newest members of the Society and proceeded to raise concerns about the effectiveness of drone strikes. She challenged the manner of counting combatants and the theory behind targeted killings which is that killing the leader disables the group. She argued that drone strikes aggravate the situation by having a spiral of violence and making us a bigger target. Furthermore, Ms. Christensen argued that these strikes are illegal under international law and set a bad precedent for the future. She concluded by asking what will happen when these drones are used against us. Ms. Brosnihan also congratulated the new inductees, a trend that continued throughout the evening, and argued that drones are very effective by using examples of Al Qaeda members killed in drone strikes. From there, she cited the domestic legality of drones and the two principals of war: distinction and proportionality as supporting the use of drone strikes. Moreover, she stated there is no rule against new weapons being used in war, and we should use our advantage against the terrorists. Ms. Brosnihan proceeded to show how other countries welcomed our use of drone strikes and concluded by stating that drone strikes are our strongest weapon in the war on terror.
Ms. Coccia opened the floor by asking how drone strikes impact our value system referencing Beowulf and the honor of war. Mr. Askonas replied that there is no honor in war citing Dulce Et Decorum Est and that targeted killings are the most efficient form of war. Mr. Spagnuolo argued that drone strikes are a way for our politicians to circumnavigate Congress’ approval for war. Ms. Wynter pushed for responsible use of drones rather than going to the extreme and halting all strikes. Mr. Edgar, using the example of Batman’s device to capture the Joker, said that we no longer need drones because our goals for their use have been met. Vice President Arber argued that to win in modern war we must use our technological might. President Marsh responded that violating sovereignty is a serious issue and that we must hold ourselves to high standards. Ms. Melendez replied that communications are difficult and that we must limit the growth of terrorism. Andrea Cohen (SFS ’15) contended that drone strikes exasperate the problem of terrorism. Andrew Carter (SFS ’13) showed that these strikes limit casualties and bad precedent has already been set in Cambodia and Laos. Nick Walker (SFS ’16) pointed out that these new weapons are not human and our freedom was in sacrificed blood. Chloe Krawczyk (SFS ’15) responded that guns, bows, and swords have no souls and that there are no viable alternatives to drones. Mr. Petallides questioned our way of counting civilians. Mr. Stromeyer pushed for people to abstain and said his good byes to the Society by hugging President Marsh and being escorted out by Mr. Petallides for approaching the president’s chair. Mr. Bade said that we are inspiring more terrorists by killing women and children. Mr. Dulik responded with the example of FDR as his motivation as a child and that we need to step up to the plate technologically to protect ourselves. Mr. Snow responded that these strikes are unjust because the American people are not sacrificing or even knowing of the multiple wars we are battling. Ms. Madinaveitia argued that we didn’t start the wars and that drone strikes are not ideal, but she argued halting is to extreme. Mr. Donovan disagreed with who started it referencing the innocent civilians killed in the attacks. Mr. Miller stated that drone strikes are a way of getting over the American public’s casualty aversion. Elijah Jatovsky (COL ’16) challenged the philosophy of the attacks and how it is just a push of a button to kill many.
Ms. Brosnihan started the concluding keynotes by returning to the economic benefits of drones in saving the government money. She concluded by saying that drones follow the law, save lives, save money, and lower casualties. Ms. Christensen responded that the negation is predicated on effectiveness which is questionable at best and horrible at worst. Furthermore, she said we dehumanize our enemy and harm the regions we strike after the attacks. Mr. RisCassi responded that there is evidence that drones work and that we must use all of our technology. Ultimately, he asked what alternatives are they and said the affirmation has provided none. Mr. Kelley replied that we are violating our basic principals with the attacks and that Al Qaeda is no longer a threat. He concluded the debate by saying that the attacks are not worth our moral sacrifice.
The Society voted 25-1-34 to negate.
The Society inducted Mr. Kelley and Mr. RisCassi! Huzzah!
Christopher M. DiMisa