[eDebate] 'But we always debate foreign policy/prolif'...

helwich at macalester.edu helwich
Tue Apr 10 15:06:04 CDT 2007


Travis asked me to forward this for him. For what it's worth, I agree

_______________________________
	Please forward for me:

I wanted to comment on a common thread which has seemed to appear in several of the discussions over the potential topics, which is the 'but we've been debating the same foreign policy shit every year for years' complaint.  I'm not going to try and discern the cause of this practice, but I would like to throw in a few ideas as to how this argument interacts with the controversy areas presented (and the non-proliferation topic in particular):

 

First, so long as we push topics such as proliferation aside under the rubric of 'we'll debate those issues inevitably,' we are simply sustaining the very trends that we bemoan.  Given the (near) complete lack of willingness by negatives to engage case advantages either through advantage counterplans, defense, or impact turning, these issues are assigned a secondary status in debate.  Because they are never challenged or contested, teams get away with reading 'x causes x causes y which is key to z, khalilzad.'  Nine of ten neg's response to 'x,y,z, utgoff' is to say 'Generic CP solves it, oh yea our net benefit solves prolif too.'  I don't blame them for that decision, but it's also really really boring to hear 60 or 70 times a year.  But I think it will persist in a world where both the structure of the topic and the attitudes of the community allow the case to be ignored.  That conclusion necessarily introduces my second point.

 

Second, these trends are not a reason to reject a topic dedicated to their discussion out of hand.  In fact, a topic such as non-proliferation or arms control would help ameliorate these problems in two ways.  First, it would force an evolution in our research.  I think a strong tendency exists for debaters to recycle old shitty arguments because they can get away with it.  They know if they read any combination of khalilzad or mead, they can count on those being credited and in the bank.  If those impacts and the policies behind them are the focus of debate for a full year, I think it would put pressure on teams to update and innovate.  The second reason, which also is tied in with the third, is that the nature of non-prolif and arms control debates tend towards more case focused debate.  This is because the literature itself has unfolded as a debate centered around a concrete action (e.g. 'should the US honor it's NPT commitments/ratify the CTBT/draft a space weapons treaty/alter its weapons postures?).  Because the propensity of literature leans this way, the best arguments are most often disads or case specific turns, all of which assume the plan action/direction.  Imagine a world where a strong case debate is a necessity for neg or aff success and the majority of case turns and disads aren't contrived bullshit.  Sounds pretty wonderful to me.

 

Finally, a net benefit no one has really mentioned in their pitches for the prolif topic: evidence quality.  While I'm sure there are some waiting in the wings to condemn these authors as baby-eating fascists, they are some incredibly smart and qualified people who introduce each paragraph with a clear topic sentence stating their claim, followed shortly by warrants and evidence substantiating that claim.  They also vigorously address and debate their detractors or opponents in published, peer-reviewed sources.  Not only does this lend towards welldeveloped evidence, it also can facilitate source and qualification debates, something that is also sorely lacking in many (including my own) debates.

 

I've heard stories of the mythical treaties topic where everything was awesome (unless you were hitting death penalty) because people actually answered the case and the aff wasn't totally jimmied by some generic counterplan.  If we're tired of a world of debate where everything is measured by the size and quickness of our advantages, maybe we should select a topic that addresses some of those advantages and issues at their core.  I think the proliferation topic offers an excellent avenue by which to access this.

 

-Travis Cram
Wyoming 
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