[eDebate] Agriculture over Russia

cohnnd at whitman.edu cohnnd
Thu Apr 24 16:42:29 CDT 2008

Russia has a lot of potential as a topic area, but this topic repeats 
many mistakes that have plagued prior resolutions.

In two of the last three topics, the community has chosen a mechanism 
that was not a term of art that led to predictable cases or chose a 
mechanism that was an insufficient locus for negative offense. On the 
China topic, ?pressure? didn?t adequately constrain the number of 
potential affirmatives, but was sufficient for the negative to 
consistently generate offense because there is core literature that 
argues that pressure was bad for relations/because stratfor said so, 
etc. On the Middle East topic, ?engagement? was even worse for 
negatives because there isn?t a core reason why ?engagement? is 
bad. The resolution attempted to include two additional mechanisms 
(security guarantee/foreign assistance), but neither appeasement nor 
the spending disad was sufficient to ensure a stable basis for negative 

The Russia topic may very well be worse for negative ground then the 
Mideast or China because there aren?t generic disads that link off of 
?bilateral cooperation.?

Some have said that the Russia topic would have ?sweet disads,? but 
few examples have been given. If anything, Russia advocates have both 
implicitly and explicitly acknowledged this lack of offense. The topic 
paper accurately describes the paltry negative ground as including 
disads that the negative is clearly on the wrong side of, such as 
?Red Spread? DA, Russia/US Relations BAD, and disads that presume 
that the plan profoundly alters the present balance of international 
power, such as ?regional hegemony disads,? or ?allied backlash.?

Certainly, in some debates these disads could be powerful tools in the 
negatives arsenal. However, it is unlikely that most affirmatives will 
choose to ?cooperate? with Russia in a way that might trigger these 

Russia advocates have said that unlike the Middle East topic, where 
affirmatives could engage on any potential issue, that the specified 
areas of cooperation (counter-terror, peacekeeping, etc.), would 
sufficiently constrain the affirmative in a way that guarantees 
negative ground. I?m very skeptical of the idea that ?areas? can 
ensure an appropriate amount of core negative ground. The China topic 
also had ?areas? and it wasn?t exactly limited. Ground on the 
China topic was primarily accrued from ?pressure? and less from 
?trade? ? if the China topic had said ?bilateral 
cooperation,? the negative would have suffered greatly and likely 
would have resorted to even more abusive and less educational 

Specifically, areas can?t ensure negative ground on the Russia topic 
because there isn?t a general reason why ?counter-terror,? 
peacekeeping, or space cooperation with Russia is bad, which hurts the 
negative and fundamentally calls the nature of the controversy into 
question. There are an unlimited number of ways that the U.S. could 
cooperate on ?peacekeeping? (US-Russia peacekeeping in any place on 
the planet), outer-space (it?s real big), arms control (rehash of the 
Iran part of last year?s topic with every other potential nation with 
arms), ?counterterrorism? (every aff where the US and Russia work 
together to solve terrorism is topical?). Rather then limit the 
affirmative to require substantial, world altering U.S.-Russia military 
cooperation, nearly every major issue in the world is topical 
affirmative ground (as proven by the way that Russia advocates always 
seem to note ?but you can debate x issue on a Russia topic!!!). They 
are right. That?s the problem.

Even if, somehow, this topic had reasonable limits, areas don?t 
provide a stable mechanism for the negative to access disads. There 
isn?t a generic reason why counterterror, peacekeeping, or space 
cooperation with Russia is bad. If you need proof, read the topic paper 
? many of the potential areas don?t have listed negative ground 
beyond the unimpressive list of generic disads mentioned above.  Once 
again, remember that the aff isn?t being forced to fundamentally 
transform the U.S. Russia relationship in a way that the aforementioned 
disads assume.

Why would agriculture be better?

Well, I think it would be better for a lot of reasons. The primary 
reason is that the topic provides a stable basis for the negative to 
generate offense while putting a limited affirmative on the right side 
of the topic literature. This is the perfect recipe for clash and good 

The idea that repealing Ag subsidies is ?boring? or lacks neg 
ground is wrong. Ag is an IMPORTANT issue ? it is at the intersection 
of globalization, international relations, and the global economy. 
It?s a domestic topic that people outside the U.S. care about. The 
advantage/disadvantage ground is diverse, interesting, and timely. 
Maybe the best part about it is that on every major question the ground 
is reciprocal: repealing AgSubs would hurt segments of the US economy 
but help segments of the global economy; it would hurt relations with 
some nations like Europe, and boost relations with others; there are 
arguments for why certain agreements at the WTO are good or bad, let 
alone the entire enterprise of free trade. This clash in the literature 
ensures that debates will be driven by quality research and will 
incentivize the best debates. The topic paper discusses this in more 
detail, and other posts have discussed other negative positions like 
trade credibility and food prices.

Disads on the Agriculture topic also won?t have to deal with the 
link-uniqueness problems that have plagued the last three topics. 
Obviously the U.S. engages in bilateral cooperation with Russia now. 
The only argument in response to this is ?but, not military 
cooperation,? but the suggested resolution doesn?t require the type 
of military cooperation that these posts suggest. The bottom line is 
that subsidies won?t be repealed and you?ll never have to hear 
?contention three subsidy cuts coming.? Given that this is a 
presidential election year, choosing a politically untouchable topic is 
an excellent way to ensure that Obama doesn?t destroy the topic 
during his first 100 days.

Some Russia advocates have argued that impact-uniqueness is an issue 
for the Ag topic. To a certain extent that?s true, but it is less 
damaging then the lack of link-uniqueness on Russia. True, the global 
economy isn?t doing that well, but this is hardly terminal. As an 
example, pick any product that the US subsidizes -- that product is 
undermining some other countries industry in that product and the plan 
would undermine that industry in the U.S. ? ?global econ down,? 
overlooks the specificity of the debate. Let?s also not forget how 
great the politics debates will be.

It?s unclear to me whether or not the counterplan ground on the ag 
topic is particularly good or not. Quite frankly, I?m not especially 
concerned. The courts and china topics are excellent examples of the 
dangers of unnecessarily powerful counterplans that exclude the 
mechanism and access the majority of affirmative?s advantage ground. 
Without a clear ?mechanism key? warrant, affirmatives will 
consistently lose. This topic gives the affirmatives a much better 
structural starting point then previous topics.

Part of the reason that I support the AgSubs topic is because it 
reflects the best approach to deal with ?neg bias? in debate. The 
problem isn?t that affirmatives are too limited or that they can?t 
run enough cases. The China and Middle East topics were virtually 
unlimited, and Russia promises the same. Well crafted topics CAN solve 
the real problem that affirmatives face ? an indefensible mechanism. 
On Courts/China, the affirmative was defending a mechanism that was on 
the wrong side of the literature (ie: pressure and overrules clearly 
weren?t preferable to engagement/constitutional amendment). The most 
reasonable way to remedy aff bias is to put the aff on the right side 
of the literature ? negative flexibility, research, and the block 
ensures that negatives won?t suffer.

Maybe this is only persuasive to me, but I also think that this topic 
is particularly educational. Debate usually only engages economic 
issues from the stand point of spending, and we?ve managed to largely 
avoid debating about the WTO/Trade and Agricultural issues for a long 
time. Debate about agricultural subsidies would educate the community 
on a wide variety of issues that are almost never talked about. It is 
my understanding that ag did come up on the Europe topic, but so did 
everything else, apparently no one ran it either, and no one who is 
debating was around on the Europe topic. This topic is on a different 
issue that the community hasn?t had to debate in depth, but still has 
internal links to big impacts ? this isn?t the courts, or even the 
health care topic.

Final notes?

?AT:  Alternative Domestic Topics?

Unlike most domestic topics which don?t access a broad amount of 
advantage or disadvantage ground, agricultural subsidies are vitally 
important to a diverse set of issues like trade, domestic and 
international economies, and international relations. Health Care and 
reparations are important issues, but the advantage and disadvantage 
ground is typical of most domestic topics ? constrained, small, kind 
of boring. AgSubs also have a clear usfg key warrant. Who likes the 
States CP?

?AT:  Arms Control?

I think this is a very good topic and it doesn?t suffer from the 
problems that have plagued prior topics and would plague a Russia topic.

My issue with this topic has less to do with how well the resolution 
was crafted, and more to do with whether or not it?s a sufficiently 
diverse topic for an interesting debate season. Greta is absolutely 
right that NPT compliance is a timely and relevant issue, but the 
primary reason for controversy surrounding the NPT is not directly 
related to the list of affirmatives in the potential resolution (North 
Korea and Iran). Instead, the topic is a list of potential actions that 
have been around for at least eight years, and I question whether or 
not this will be much more then a rehash of arguments that we?ve all 
heard before. I think that the best way to describe the literature for 
affirmatives on this topic is ?stale.? The only substantive 
complaint I have about this topic is that because there isn?t really 
a single mechanism, just a single goal (complying w/NPT), there isn?t 
really core negative ground except for deterrence (and even then, I?m 
not sure that?s necessarily true). This is probably my second choice.

?AT:  Russia?s really cool so I?m going to vote for it?

Let me say at the outset that I get it? farmers don?t have nuclear 
weapons and Russia does. For weeks prior to the topic papers 
announcement, I was excited about a Russia topic. It was just too many 
nuclear weapons to oppose! I recently had a dream in which Medvedev 
whispered softly into my ear, ?Ten Thousand.? I was sold.

But really, this topic isn?t nearly as debatable as it is 
interesting. Every year everyone complains about how bad the topic is 
and how much the topic committee messed up blah blah ? if you vote 
for the Russia topic you are asking for it. The topic paper provides 
little direction for a stable and effective mechanism for negative 
ground. The Russia topic promises to be a repeat of the Middle East 
except written worse and in a different part of the world. The 
affirmative will be able to do whatever it wants because there aren?t 
limits, the negative will get to do whatever it wants because they are 
negative, and the disads will be bad and non-unique.

In contrast, the ag subsidies topic would put the affirmative in a 
sustainable position on the right side of the literature while the 
negative would be ensured a stable mechanism from which to generate 
offense, ensuring clash and good fair debates.

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