Posted on December 26, 2012

Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) hosted a lively debate, as two teams of its students showed off their persuasive public speaking skills, arguing the case for and against the contentious topic: “This Class Believes That The United States Is Justified In Using Drones To Kill American Enemies”. The war of words was waged in front of an audience of more than 60 faculty and students, at the SFS-Q campus.

Karine Walther, Assistant Professor, SFS-Q who organized the event commented, “Our students are always debating in class, and this is a great opportunity for them to do it in public. The teams were given the topic at the beginning of the year, and asked to prepare both sides of the argument. A great deal of preparation went into the debates heard here, as they have diligently learned both sides of a very complex topic.”

The fate of both teams was left to the flip of a coin immediately preceding the debate to determine which side of the argument they would represent. Arguing for the motion, “The Untied States Is Justified In Using Drones To Kill American Enemies” were students from Professor Howe’s Ethics and Conflicts Class. While from Walther’s Diplomatic History II class were three students who put forward arguments against the question.

The debate got off to a strong start as each team was given five minutes to present their argument without any direct response from the opposing team. Following this, the teams were given the opportunity to convene and prepare for rebuttal, refuting the other team’s claims and re-building their own case. Next was the cross-examination section of the debate, followed by concluding remarks by each side in which they eloquently refuted any outstanding arguments and made a direct critique of the opposing side’s position.

A panel of judges made up of, Gred Nonneman, Dean, SFS-Q, Todd Kent, Assistant Dean, Texas A&M University, Qatar, Dr. Jeremy Koons, professor at SFS-Q and Dr. Mehran Kamrava, director of CIRS, then gathered to weigh the arguments and make their decision on which team performed strongest during the debating challenge. In the end, the judges ruled that Team Howe, arguing for the motion, best presented their case.


Speaking on the occasion, Nonneman said, “We had to leave the room for quite some time in order to reach our decision, and this should give an indication of the complexity of the subject. The fact that neither team knew which side of the argument they were going to argue until seconds before is very impressive, and shows the level of preparation both sides went through in looking at both sides of the argument. The entire debate was of a very high standard in terms of the potency of points being made, and I would like to congratulate all the students that took part in the debate.”

The audience was also given the opportunity to evaluate the topic and the debate play out in front of them. Pre-debate audience polling saw 71% vote against the United States being justified in using drones to kill American enemies, while 29% were in favour. Following the debate the polls saw little change, with 75% voting against and 25% in favor - a result that clearly made Team Walther the audience’s favorite.

When asked about how he felt about his experience Student Nikhil Lakhanpal said, “We learned a lot about the subject prior to this and even though it’s a somewhat intimidating set-up, I feel we did our best to argue a very difficult position on what is a challenging topic.”

SFS-Q debater and student David Daniel went on to conclude, “It was a very enjoyable experience. It was certainly a contentious debate, due to the complexity of the topic. However, I think we put forward our argument quite well. Speaking on behalf of all the students who took part, this is why we come to SFS-Q, because we all aspire to be the foreign diplomats of the future and events like this are a great way for us to practice skills that are central to this ambition.”

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