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American Military and Paramilitary Support in the Secret War in Laos was Justified

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With 1 vote and 5 points ahead, the winner is ...

Sum1hugme
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BOP is shared.

- Pro - American Military and Paramilitary Support in the Secret War in Laos was Justified
- Con - American Military and Paramilitary Support in the Secret War in Laos was not Justified

- Definitions for the context of this debate :

- American - Relating to or characteristic of the United States or its inhabitants [1].
- Military - Relating to or characteristic of soldiers or armed forces [2].
- Paramilitary - (of an unofficial force) organized similarly to a military force [3].
-Support - Give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act [4].
-Secret War - America's covert involvement in military actions within the borders of diplomatically neutral Laos during the Laotian civil war. Also the less covert, CIA involvement in Paramilitary organizations fighting against the North Vietnamese Army during the same period of time.
-Laos - The Country of Laos [5]
-Justified - Having, done for, or marked by a good or legitimate reason [6].

-These terms are not to be redefined during this debate.

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-I'm hoping for an interesting debate.

[1] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/american
[2] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/military
[3] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/paramilitary
[4] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/support
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos
[6] https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/justified

Round 1
Pro
  Thank you Seldiora for accepting this debate. Funnily enough, I predicted that you would be the one to accept this debate. My opening will not be very long. While there are many reasons why American involvement in Laos was justified, I will focus on only a few here. American involvement in the secret war in Laos was justified for the following reasons:

1. North Vietnam and communist allies were not respecting the Geneva Convention of 1962 [1], and violating both it and Laos' political neutrality by refusing to withdraw PAVN troops from Laos [2].
2. North Vietnam was actively using Laotian citizens for forced labor, especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail [3]. 
3. MACV-SOG operations in Laos actively disrupted NVA forces, especially along the Ho Chi Minh trail [4]. 

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GENEVA 1962

  In 1962, fourteen countries, including the United States, China, North Vietnam, and the Soviet Union,  signed an agreement in Geneva that recognized Laos as a politically neutral state [1]. Following the treaty, "The United States disbanded its Military Assistance Advisory Group and withdrew its military mission. The Vietnamese communists did not; they repatriated only a token 40 technicians out of an estimated 2,000. [2]" This is already a huge problem. The Civil war continued, and CIA paramilitary operations aided Hmong fighters with fresh mercenaries [5], food, and ammunition [6][7]. Uncle Sam's Air Force aided the Royalists with bomb strikes against PAVN forces. The U.S. was vital for the duration of its involvement, in aiding the Royalists in their defense against their aggressors. They were wiped out when American aid ended; with some managing to flee to Thailand.

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FORCED LABOR

  The PAVN aggressors were actively employing captured Laotian men as forced labor, usually to help build and maintain the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These labor camps maintained deplorable conditions, with malaria and dysentery running rampant [3]. This kind of action, especially in a diplomatically neutral state, justifies American Involvement if for nothing else, the humanitarian rights of these Laotian slaves. 

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WAR INTERESTS

  The MACV-SOG unit consistently tied up PAVN resources in Laos [8], and provided valuable reconnaissance about the Ho Chi Minh trail, along with other intelligence. The secret existence of these ground troops in Laos is justified because they provided valuable support to the war effort in Vietnam, while allowing the White House to maintain plausible deniability about American ground troops being in Laos. This permitted America to effectively fight the Communist forces in Laos alongside the very motivated Laotian Natives.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, America's involvement in the secret war in Laos was justified.  America aided the Royalists against the PAVN invaders, eventually becoming their life line, right up to the fall of Saigon, PAVN takeover of Laos was resulting in forced labor, starvation, and disease for those unlucky captives, and finally the secret American troops in Laos greatly served American war interests. I look forward to my opponent's opening. 




Con
Geneva Convention: I'm confused, why does this justify war? According to an official FAQ with Geneva Convention , the punishment for breaking is "A State responsible for IHL violations must make full reparation for the loss or injury it has caused. Serious violations of IHL are war crimes. Individuals responsible for these crimes can be investigated and prosecuted." I see nothing about going to war with the country that violated G.C. So that's first argument down.

Secondly, though the acts of slavery are despicable, nothing says America itself can be justified, especially since the distance means that it would have to unnecessarily send troops a long way to support the fight. As the same FAQ notes, "States can enforce the rules through their national legal systems, diplomatic channels or international dispute resolution mechanisms. War crimes can be investigated and prosecuted by any State or, in certain circumstances, by an international court. The United Nations can also take measures to enforce IHL. For example, the Security Council can compel States to comply with their obligations or establish a tribunal to investigate breaches." 

But considering that other states are much closer and therefore interact with the area in a more day-to-day basis, they both are more suited towards fighting, with better resources and perhaps knowing the culture better. Consider that US had to find translators, and the communication with language makes me feel accepting surrender along with negotiations would be difficult with the language barrier. In order to justify US itself having to take action, Pro must prove that other countries that were authorized to take action were useless in comparison. In other words, I'm arguing US involvement was unjustified, because it would've cost extra money and resources. For example, if you could solve the problem with the neighboring countries (which are still delivering justice) for, let's say, one million less dollars, then US involvement is unjustified. The less cost, the better.

Finally, the war's repercussion and the level of ruthlessness backfires on the US. A simple search finds an article noting: "From 1964 to 1973, the United States bombed Laos more heavily than any country on earth. The reason most Americans do not know this is because it was a secret war orchestrated by the CIA; it stands as the largest covert CIA operation to date. Since 1964, at least 50,000 Lao have been killed or injured by American bombs, 98 percent of which were civilians.

Hundreds of bomb craters scar Ban Senphan Village on the border of Laos and Vietnam Image by Erin McGoff. Laos, 2017.
But the true and ongoing tragedy lies in the 80 million unexploded bombs that litter Laos today—also known as UXO (unexploded ordnance). Over 30 percent of the bombs dropped did not explode upon impact. The most common and deadly UXO in Laos are anti-personnel cluster bomb munitions which are about the size of a tennis ball but extremely dangerous. Forty percent of UXO victims are children who pick up the bombs, usually thinking they are toys. The vast majority (almost 80 percent) of Lao people are subsistence farmers. This means making the decision to risk your life farming is a daily reality for many in Laos. The UXO issues cause a sustained hindrance for the Lao economy, especially compared to their rapidly growing neighbors, China, Vietnam, and Thailand."

US has always been the "gun trigger crazy country" stereotype, with the most guns owned, most nuclear bombs, biggest military force, etc. I feel like justifying US itself is more difficult than merely justifying "any type of involvement, any other country", which would've surely succeeded on his side. But justifying US seems like a weird stance. Why couldn't anyone else have succeeded, for less cost, less bombings, and less incidents in the future?


Round 2
Pro
  Thank you for your response. Now for my Rebuttals:

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REBUTTALS

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  • R1
"Geneva Convention: I'm confused, why does this justify war?"
  The Geneva Convention I referenced was specifically the 1962 one, where the political neutrality of Laos was officially accepted. Only to be in practice, ignored completely by Communist allies who signed the treaty. The war was initiated by PAVN and Communist Laocian forces. America began paramilitary aid to those Royalists that were fighting against the communist allies. 

" I see nothing about going to war with the country that violated G.C."
  I noted that the war was initially between the Communists and the Royalists. This prompted American paramilitary response to aid the Royalists in their fight. One reason is because control of Laos would allow NVA and VC forces to more effectively attack south Vietnam. Another reason is because America was attempting to help stop the spread of Communist influencers who weren't playing by the rules of the treaty. This lack of fair play by Laos' enemies, more than justifies American Paramilitary aid.

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  • R2
" Secondly, though the acts of slavery are despicable, nothing says America itself can be justified, especially since the distance means that it would have to unnecessarily send troops a long way to support the fight...But considering that other states are much closer and therefore interact with the area in a more day-to-day basis, they both are more suited towards fighting, with better resources and perhaps knowing the culture better."
  My opponent asserts that sending troops this "long" way is unnecessary. Firstly, America already had troops in Vietnam, some time before MACV-SOG. So it was actually quite necessary to send troops that distance, since the war was already happening in the country bordering Laos. Secondly, my opponent asserts that closer states would be "more suited towards fighting, with better resources..." CIA operatives trained Thai mercenaries to aid the Royalist Front in Long Tien [1] who were overrun in just two days during Campaign Z. American resources vastly outweighed local non-communist resources [2]. Thailand's GDP for 1964 was only a mere $3.889 Billion against America's $685.8 Billion in GDP for the same year [2][3]. The culture point is a maybe, since the Laotian Natives were fiercely loyal to the Americans, because of American Aid. Bear in mind that China, under Mao, "...provided 115,000 guns, 920,000 grenades and 170 million bullets, and trained more than 700 of its (Pathet Lao) military officers [4]." Realistically, America was the Royalists best chance at winning the Civil War. 

" Pro must prove that other countries that were authorized to take action were useless in comparison."
  I fail to see why I "must" prove this. The existence of other resources doesn't negate the justifications brought forth for American involvement. My opponent has provided no means of comparing what countries were useless out of those authorized to take action, because everybody relevant had signed an agreement not to take action in Laos, which the Communists aggressively attempted to exploit. So nobody was actually "authorized" by anyone to take action. The communists invaded Laos in violation of its neutrality and America stepped in to help Laotian Royalists.

"For example, if you could solve the problem with the neighboring countries (which are still delivering justice) for, let's say, one million less dollars, then US involvement is unjustified."
  The first problem here is that a cheaper alternative doesn't negate US justifications for helping the Royalists. The second problem is that neighboring countries couldn't solve the problem, as they hadn't the resources to fight the industrialized nation backed powers without an industrialized nation to help them.

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  • R3
"Finally, the war's repercussion and the level of ruthlessness backfires on the US. A...From 1964 to 1973, the United States bombed Laos more heavily than any country on earth.... Since 1964, at least 50,000 Lao have been killed or injured by American bombs, 98 percent of which were civilians."
  War is ruthless. America used small infantry SOG teams to do reconnaissance missions on the ground in Laos. Oftentimes though, they would contact the enemy. Their standard procedure was to call in a prairie fire emergency and get air support to fight back the hundreds, sometimes thousands of NVA troops that would be trying to overrun them [5]. In this context, aerial ordinance was necessary to protect American lives in the secret war. I personally support American aid going to help clean up the unexploded bombs, but in the context of the battles that were being fought, the soldiers calling in the ordinance were simply preserving their own lives in battle. It would be naive to suggest that because thousands of tons of WW2 bombs are still lost in Germany [6], that Britain shouldn't have fought the Nazi advance in Europe.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, American involvement in the secret war in Laos was justified. American enemies were attempting to gain a strategic advantage in the war by violating the signed treaties claiming respect of Laotian neutrality. America was the most capable of aiding the Royalists in Laos; far more capable than any non-communist neighbor of Laos. The blatant communist aggression in Laos led to 40,000 or so Laotian slaves as a direct result of PAVN control of Laotian regions. And while undetonated bombs tragically remind us of the horrors in a country that fought a twenty year long civil war, the bombs that were dropped were done so because american Military aid was primarily aerial. That means aerial aid for Hmong troops as well as MACV-SOG warriors encountering the enemy hordes. I await my opponent's response.



[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r70l9Qjzfow&t=9596s timestamp: 2:13:26 - 2:14:15
Con
The problem with pro's argument is that he only looks at the causes and not the results. Last I checked, we actually LOST the Laos war, despite having incredible military capability, despite sending thousands of bombs which are not exploded, and are still in the process of cleaning. He thinks that any effort to stop something unjust, is justified, regardless of the result. Then we could be justified to send one single soldier to help and say "hey, we helped, right?" Through losing this war, we have lost money, troops, and shame. We did not fix the problem. Our intentions meant well, but the ending result shows that this cannot be justified. We committed to this war the wrong way, and the result goes to show that the decision was unjust. So in the end we tried sending unnecessary resources to a place that was not one of our territories, and we had a net lost. Where is the justification, really?
Round 3
Pro
  Thank you Seldiora for that response. My opponent has apparently forgotten the definition of Justified that was provided in the description:

Justified - Having, done for, or marked by a good or legitimate reason 

  I argue that the reasons listed so far are all legitimate reasons for American involvement in the secret war in Laos. The result may have been defeat, but the involvement was founded on good reasons. These reasons have failed to have been refuted. 

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COUNTER-REBUTTALS

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  • CR1
"He thinks that any effort to stop something unjust, is justified, regardless of the result."
  My opponent is watering down my actual arguments here, to make them easier to attack. I never said that, I am simply arguing that in the particular Geo-Political climate of Laos during the Laotian Civil War, America's reasons for intervention were legitimate.

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  • CR2
"Where is the justification, really?"
  Within the arguments my opponent failed to address.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, America had legitimate reasons for involvement in the secret war in Laos. My opponent has failed to effectively refute these reasons. I await my opponent's response.
Con
The premise is concerning the American military and paramilitary support, and hence the way things are done are important, as are the consequences. Consider, had they thought to decide to evacuate the citizens instead and retreat instead of directly fighting the war. They would've prevented the unexploded bombs causing problems, the veterans' PTSD from dangerous warfare, lost lives, etc. The fact that alternate solutions may exist proves that Pro must prove that the way US did things was the best and/or only way possible. If they could have sent more troops to win the war and be even more brutal but stop the slavery and problems that pro claims, then there would've been something for show, and show justification. In order for pro to win he has to show both the military and the paramilitary support were necessary and justified, in the way America did it. But I'm just not seeing it.
Round 4
Pro

  Thank you Seldiora for this debate. The resolve is focused on if America had legitimate reasons for getting involved in the Laotian Civil War, not if America's methods were perfect or necessary. 

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FINAL-REBUTTALS

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  • FR1
"Consider, had they thought to decide to evacuate the citizens instead and retreat instead of directly fighting the war"
  America civilian pilots, employed for paramilitary operations by the CIA, flew hundreds of wounded men, women, and children [1] out of the combat zone in Long Tieng to get them medical treatment because the Hmong didn't have hospitals of their own. The US Embassy evacuated 160 women and children before Saigon fell [2]. America did evacuate citizens during and after the war. But retreat from Long Tieng wasn't an option for the Royalists, as there was nowhere left to retreat to.

  Sun Tzu said, "Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack [3]." 

" They would've prevented the unexploded bombs causing problems, the veterans' PTSD from dangerous warfare, lost lives, etc."
  America did evacuate many Laotians, but the fact is that the Royalists were not the aggressors. The Royalists were Laotian natives fighting for control of their homeland. The Civil war was gonna happen because of clear Communist aggression. The lost lives were gonna happen, that's war. But America had legitimate reasons for backing the Royalists that I have mentioned above (R1). In retrospect, maybe they could've not used cluster-bombs, but that does not detract from the reasons given.

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  • FR2
"If they could have sent more troops to win the war and be even more brutal but stop the slavery and problems that pro claims, then there would've been something for show, and show justification."
  My opponent ignores my rebuttal in round three to this. I have demonstrated many solid reasons for American involvement in Laos, and the fact that those reasons are solid, in the context of the Geo-Political climate of Laos at the time, justifies the support. 

"In order for pro to win he has to show both the military and the paramilitary support were necessary and justified, in the way America did it. But I'm just not seeing it."
  I have accepted the responsibility to demonstrate that the support was justified. I have not tried to argue that it was necessary, but at a certain point, American aid became necessary, as America became Long Tieng's primary source of supplies. And when America ended support in 1975 after the fall of Saigon, Long Tieng was soon overrun.

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CONCLUSION

  In conclusion, American Military and Paramilitary support in the secret war in Laos was justified. My opponent has made little attempt after his opening statement to refute my points, and those attempts at refutation, have been thoroughly refuted. I have shown that Communist allies failed to respect the treaty they had signed claiming respect for Laotian neutrality, Communist takeover of Laos meant for a much better strategic advantage for the NVA which was disadvantageous to the American war effort in Vietnam. Also, the PAVN forces were taking slaves of the countrymen of Laos, using them to forge the supply lines that were the lifeblood of NVA and VC war efforts in Vietnam. Finally, the existence of MACV-SOG created valuable military support by means of reconnaissance and tying up at least 40,000 PAVN soldiers. These are all overwhelmingly legitimate reasons for America to support Laos resistance to Communist aggression.






Vote Pro!
Con
pro has conceded that the bombing was not entirely necessary. As such, this support was unjustified. The American support was not entirely grounded with the lost battle and the unsolved problems. America didn't really help out all that much considering Pro's lack of significant impact shown with our ideas. We should only send military if we can show we can make significant ground on a turf that isn't ours, especially fighting against an opposing ideal. As such, con has won this debate.