Perhaps the most heated thing going on in politics today is over the Syrian conflict and the United States’ possible role in it. President Obama has made his opinion on the matter clear, he supports a carefully planned strike at specific targets in Syria but has promised no actual American “boots” onto Syrian soil. Yet, the only thing keeping his for ordering the attack is his lack of support from Congress. Some argue the president, being the commander in chief of the armed forces has the right to send in troops if he feels it is in the nation’s domestic and international security. Others, however, feel that Congress should decide play a role in vital diplomatic situations in order to keep the president’s power in check.
On September 10, 2013 debate teams from several universities including George Washington University, Georgetown University, University of Pittsburgh, and other met at George Washington University to debate that very question, what role should the president play concerning war? Throughout the debate, many types of rhetorical devices were used back and forth all to get across their idea across.
For the most part, debates, at least to my understanding, would appeal to logos, and occasionally to ethos, to get their points across. One would want to simply overwhelm their opponent with concrete evidence, facts, to show how they are right and those that debate against them are wrong. What I found interesting was that at the beginning of the debate, both of the opening statement makers from either side began the statements with appeals to pathos. For example, when the student from George Washington made her opening statement for limited war rights to the President, she initially stated that her generation (born after around 1990) has known nothing other than war. She mentions how it was a sad fact that our generation has almost never remembered or seen peace. What effects do you think such an appeal to pathos would have on an audience? Does such a technique that both opening statement makers make do more than just collect the audience’s attention?
Further into the debate, there was the typical crossfire of words as each team tried to pull apart the argument of the other. One interesting aspect of the debate that I noticed was the fact that many of the debaters relied heavily on the usage of specific examples. “If such a law was passed”, they said, “such legislature would be stuck in debate in Congress for month, putting our national security at risk”. Back and forth, each debater would take stabs at each other in such a way. As a person with little experience in watching debates, it was slightly difficult to follow the dialogue. Do you think such hypothetical scenarios are actually that helpful in a debate. It is quite easy to fake a scenario of what is going to happen, exaggerating some things while underplaying others. In debates such as these, do you think that happens often, and if it does, do you think it is necessary, or even fair?
We debate every day, whether it be for important things or things that really are not important. What specific tools in debates do you or people in general use to get their points across? This got me thinking. Debating, on an evolutionary aspect was something that could be said to be that was beneficial to humans, meaning if a person could debate well, they were more likely to get what they wanted. Do you think humans have evolved to debate successfully for what they want and do you think we have evolved to have an innate ability to debate or compete with each other?