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Resolved Unilateral military force by the US is justified to prevent nuclear proliferation

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There will be one constructive round, one rebuttal round, and one final conclusion round.


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I affirm the resolution, Resolved: Unilateral military force by the United States is justified to prevent nuclear proliferation. To elucidate this debate round we would propose to define the following term:

Nuclear Proliferation - according to the US Legal Dictionary, is a term used to describe the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information.

Observation 1: The United States has an obligation to protect its citizens from the threats of nuclear proliferation. Michael Skopeks writes in The American University Law Review Michael Skopets – “Battered Nation Syndrome: Relaxing the Imminence Requirement of Self-Defense in International Law” – American University Law Reviews – February 2006 that “A nation, as a political entity, is responsible for the well-being of its citizens, and while death is arguably the most drastic harm that can befall a person, an individual's death is less significant than the deaths and destruction that ensue when a nation is attacked, especially with non-conventional weapons. Therefore the greatest good for the American people would be to protect as many Americans as possible.” Since the United States has an obligation to protect its citizens, when an action threatens those citizens, the US is justified in removing that threat to protect its constituents. Since the resolution looks to justifying the united state’s actions, safety of civilians must be valued above all else in terms of justification.

Contention 1: The threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of rogue states and terrorists increases as more countries possess them.

Subpoint A: Selling to militant groups and/or countries with intentions to use nuclear weapons.

Beginning in the 1970s, Pakistan used extensive clandestine procurement networks to obtain technology for its own nuclear weapons program. Former Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan directed the procurement [of Pakistani nukes] and used a similar network [as used to obtain Pakistani nuclear information] to supply Libya, North Korea, and Iran with designs and materials related to uranium enrichment for profit.( RL34248.pdf)

[!]Here we can clearly see an example of what happens when action is not taken against the countries who are in possession of nuclear technology, whether they are showing signs of imminent threat or not. Everytime nuclear information is distributed it increases the number of people receiving that information, thus causing nuclear proliferation. The United States is 1justified to prevent this action that causes proliferation because the mere existence of nuclear technology poses a threat to United States citizens.

Subpoint B: We cannot wait to be attacked on a nuclear scale, by a terrorist group, therefore preemptive measures are justified.

Almost all terrorist groups operate in secret making it difficult for the United States to determine their intentions in advance, hence we should always be ready for the worst, and not wait until it is too late. According to Matthew Bunn, an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, states “First, some terrorists are actively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, and the plutonium or highly enriched uranium needed to make them. Osama bin Laden has called the acquisition of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction a “religious duty”, and al-Qaeda operatives have attempted to buy nuclear material and recruit nuclear expertise.”(

[!]If the United States doesn’t interfere right now and stop nuclear proliferation, there could be the risk of terrorist acquiring nuclear weapons from countries, or worse, stealing them. This in itself is nuclear proliferation; the spread of nuclear weapons from countries with nuclear capabilities to terrorist organizations. Because of the exponentially increased risk that the US faces with nuclear terrorism, the US is justified in removing or minimizing this threat to protect its citizens.

Contention 2: The development of nuclear weapons creates a self-perpetuating cycle of proliferation among other states.

The development of nuclear weapons encourages other countries to develop them as well. Rationally governed states without a nuclear deterrent are unlikely to allow themselves to be placed in a position where a nuclear armed neighbour can mount attacks against them with impunity. They therefore feel that they too need nuclear weapons in order to prevent the new nuclear power from taking advantage of their new capability. According to an article from The Guardian, on June 29th 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, states "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."

[!]Already unable to compete with Iran on a conventional level, states like the UAE would have every reason and motive to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Clearly we are seeing that when one state starts to develop nuclear technology, surrounding countries also feel like they need to create some as well, and the likelihood that someone will use them, on purpose or on accident, increases exponentially. This increased risk is what the United States is avoiding by preventing proliferation.

Contention 3: If unilateral action is not taken, the United States risks too many threats

According to a Foreign Affairs article from November 12th, 2009, The dangers of Iran's entry into the nuclear scene are well known: emboldened by this development, Tehran might multiply its attempts at superseding its neighbors and encouraging terrorism against the United States and Israel( With a nuclear Iran, the risk of both conventional and nuclear war in the Middle East would escalate and broader efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons would be undermined.

[!]The arrival of a nuclear Iran -- even one that is satisfied with having only the materials and infrastructure necessary to assemble a bomb on short notice rather than a nuclear arsenal -- would be seen as a major diplomatic defeat for the United States. The obligation that the United States has, to protect its citizens, justifies the prevention of nuclear proliferation, especially with Iran.

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