[eDebate] Topic idea: Intelligence Reform

Noah Chestnut noahchestnut
Fri Apr 4 14:50:08 CDT 2008

We have a unique opportunity this year as topic papers are not due until next week (see Gordon?s earlier post from this month).  Too often we complain about topics because we could not get involved in their formation since we were busy prepping for CEDA/NDT.  This excuse no longer applies.     
  I?m looking for people who want to work with me to write a topic paper about intelligence reform.  If you are interested e-mail me back at noahchestnut at gmail.
  Below I will outline some of the reasons for why I think this could be a great topic for all participants in the community.
      First, the topic should be thought of as dealing with both the producers and consumers of intelligence.  The intelligence community (which is a term of art that includes a variety of actors ranging from the CIA to the State Department) is responsible for producing intel.  Political decision makers (Congress and the Executive) are the primary consumers of intelligence.  This topic should focus on not only the mistake made in creating actionable intel, but also the errors in the political process? use of that intel.  Taking a step back, this topic asks not only how did 9/11 happen, but also how did Iraq happen?  

Second, the literature is both recent and developed.  I would be hesitant to introduce this topic in 2002 or 2003, but there has been over six years for scholars, professionals, intellectuals, columnists, reporters, and congress people to hash out this topic.  One of my problems with this previous topic was that the phrase constructive engagement was not all that relevant in the literature concerning the Middle East.  Reform has a lot of meaning in this literature which guarantees that negatives will have counterplans and disads that are grounded in the literature, not artificial debate constructs (such as the plethora of add a condition cp?s that we saw at the NDT).  
    Third, it is a great election year topic.  Intelligence reform will clearly play a role in the upcoming elections as both candidates will be continuously pressed as to how they will manage the global war on terror.  In addition, this is an important issue for the first 100 days of the new president since this is not a topic that can be delayed, such as healthcare or immigration.
    Now, I?ll answer some anticipated frequently asked questions: 
  ?Won?t this topic just devolve into different ways to solve a terror advantage??
  No.  While confronting terrorism will play a large role in this topic, intelligence reform raises questions about US primacy, diplomacy, human rights, relations with allies, relations with adversaries, governmental structure and the perception of this nation.  This is not close to an exhaustive list of the possible debates that you may hear.  I also don?t think that this topic needs to be worded so that aff?s have to defend the current war on terror.  Topical aff?s could ban rendition or even the CIA (a proposal floated around by qualified scholars).  This leads me to the second criticism.
  ?What will the hippies say??  
  Come on, the negative k ground on this topic is pretty fantastic.  I shouldn?t have to elaborate.  The aff ground is also good.  There are obviously aff?s that can revolve around banning a poor intelligence practice, but there are also affs that can attempt to politicize an aspect of intelligence and hold it democratically accountable.  
  ?What about novices??
  This is one of the easier topics to get novices involved in.  The topics are salient and you could get debaters started by reading the 9/11 Commission Report and the Iraq Study Group (two texts that every one of us should have read by now).  More of this discussion should occur when resolutions are being discussed.
  ?How do we create a fair balance of ground??
  I am still not sure of how I would want this topic to be worded.  Let?s say the topic is:  Resolved: The United States Federal Government should enact substantial intelligence reform.  I am not sure what the core DA is to that topic.  The problem for me is that the verb in this resolution is enact, which is too vague.  I think a better resolution would use a more specific verb.  For now, that verb is reform.  Even with reform, I am not sure that the negative has amazing disads to the topic.  
  One possible solution would be to specify an agent in the resolution.  Make the aff defend Congress so the negative has its internal reform cp and da?s to increasing congressional oversight.  In the beginning of the year this will provide stable ground, while after a month or so, negatives will start innovating as they always do.  
    I believe that with more research, we can write a resolution that benefits both affs and negs.
  More to follow later.  Regardless of what you think about this topic, get involved and think of what you want to debate next year.  
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