[eDebate] Russia: Agriculture, Ground, Etc.

Calum Matheson u.hrair
Thu Apr 24 20:57:12 CDT 2008

The agriculture topic is good.  I think it's second best.  This is why I
prefer Russia over agriculture.

No matter what topic is chosen, it is not going to destroy debate.  Much
further work will be done on resolutions and their potential wording.  If
the Supreme Court topic didn't strike us all dead from apathy and boredom,
debate must be immortal.  I made fun of the desire to talk about corn and
stuff already, but I was mostly joking (I called everyone Nazis at the end,
if you recall).  I realize it's more than corn.  It's also wheat.

Some have objected that Russia is boring; we debate it all the time.  The
issue of what topic is most interesting is subjective, and little can be
done to convince the hardliners in the Corn and Cows Contingent.  I've
already shared my opinion. Some may agree, some not.  That's okay.  We
unfortunately live in a democracy.

We mention Russia on other topics because US-Russian relations touched every
aspect of world politics from 1944 until the present?it is powerful,
influential, and enigmatic.  If "we have mentioned it before" is a standard
for exclusion, you can't vote for agriculture?it was a politics impact, and
we read economy impacts more than Russia, so that's out.  Obviously that
would be a poor reason.

What we haven't done is examine US-Russian relations on a more than
superficial level.  I have mentioned this before?everything from the design
of the American highway system to racial segregation, from military force
structure to the hidden "dirty wars" of the CIA, can only be understood by
doing this.  The USSR dried up the Aral Sea, dumped nuclear waste into the
Barents Sea, reduced Lake Baikal to an open cesspool, and covered up the
worst nuclear disaster in history, all as an outgrowth of superpower
competition.  The USSR competed by borrowing against the future, and it is
just now that the debt is coming due.  It's not all nuclear weapons, Russia
lets you talk about almost anything?as an impact, of course, which doesn't
mean unlimited plans.

Don't forget about the nuclear weapons, though.  I have been criticized for
my graphic descriptions of nuclear war, and a "missiles are cool" stance.
Indeed.  They are, you see.  The grandiloquent language of fate, history,
survival and destruction is the vocabulary necessary to discuss the
issue.  Nothing
else suffices.  The feeling that my language is too lurid is a byproduct of
our inoculation to the possibility of nuclear war?everything I said was
entirely literal.  Don't vote for Russia "because it has nukes," vote for it
because it makes our inevitable discussions of nuclear war better.  In my
mind, nuclear weapons *are* important.  They *are* fascinating.

The history and policy of a country that absorbed twenty million casualties,
tore itself to shreds, burned its own territory, and surged back from the
ruins to dominate the lives of hundreds of millions of people is important.
We mistake awe for hyperbole.

Sophisticated intellectuals raise an eyebrow and smirk with condescension
when words like "glory," "destiny," "truth," and "patriotism" are used.  This
is pure ethnocentrism.  These concepts haven't died in Russian political
life?on the contrary they motivate millions to rally around
ultranationalists who preach destruction of the "inferior peoples" to revive
their once-great empire.  The same concepts motivate others to throw off the
shackles of imperial history and attempt to normalize their country in
partnership with other great powers as oil wealth and a surging economy
conspire to return Russia to prominence.  That's boring?  I think it is
worth discussing.

Agriculture is boring.  Sorry, but it is.  The topic paper is well-written,
well-researched, and well-defended on edebate.  It will still end up being a
collection of novel ways to talk about the economy, the most boring impact
in the world.  Yeah, environment.  Yeah, food prices.  Long-term impacts
that would be unimaginably worse after a nuclear war (the impact to most
disads), so affs will be about the economy.  Gross.

Timeliness has been discussed in detail already, and I think little has been
done to dispute it.  Yes, food prices are rising, but the transition of
political power in Russia is historically unique for that country, one of
the world's most powerful, charting an uncertain course that will determine
the balance of power in Eurasia over the next few decades.  This is not
rhetorical fluff, and it is not a reflection of my love for the Soviet Union
(note: I love the Soviet Union).  This means that research is likely to be
dynamic, and representative of strongly conflicting opinions.  There is
genuine uncertainty about Russia?how Medvedev will deal with the United
States, how the next US president will deal with Russia, how much Putin will
influence the policy of the Russian Federation.  In addition, there is
debate about a larger factional struggle in Russia?that between the siloviki
(powerful individuals with military and security backgrounds) versus the
"liberal" faction (in the Russian sense of economic modernization).

Agriculture is timely, but not in the same way.  It would be an excellent
topic for 2009-2010.  It will still be relevant; there will still be
proposals for market liberalization; there will still be caged chickens
yearning to be free.  This window of uncertainty in Russia may not last that
long?it will begin to close as the new leadership of the USSR and USA begin
to consolidate their positions.

Wording?more has been made of this than I think is necessary.  One ought to
remember that the topic paper for Russia advanced a controversy?cooperation
with Russia over military issues.  Concerns about the wording of the
resolution are valid, but they are not final.  "Bilateral Cooperation" will
sum up the likely resolution choices, but it is not chiseled in stone?it's
an option.  There is plenty of time to poop yourself in fear.  I suggest two
further terms for consideration:

1.       Earlier, I was uncertain of the phrase "selective cooperation."  Ryan
Galloway has kindly directed me to more research, and I have more thoroughly
considered it.  It's viable?the only drawback is bidirectionality, which can
be solved by wording the resolution in such a way that the aff must increase
cooperation and not pressure.  For example, "should adopt a policy of
increased selective cooperation by cooperating with the Russian Federation
in one of the following areas," followed by a short list.  It says
cooperation twice.  There have been worse losses at sea.

2.       A possibly superior term has been suggested?"security cooperation."
This is a term of art roughly equivalent to military engagement with Russia.
This limits the topic, but still manages access to the best, central issues
of US-Russian relations.  See:

Here is more literature defining the phrase:


Another quick definition:


Negative ground?this is not just the Russia-China disad, as Malcolm
suggested.   Relations disads are part of it, yes, but there's more.  Russian
internal politics is, as I have said, not like other politics disads?there
are good link cards to engagement with the United States over military
issues; there are combined link/internal link cards (like engagement could
undermine Medvedev enough that he couldn't do reforms), there are many
intricate variations, etc.  Here are some arguments that have been
overlooked so far:  US military disads, like overstretch, CMR, defense
spending, and investment tradeoffs (like joint missile defense versus FCS,
for example).  There are good Russian counterparts?especially under
"security cooperation," the aff will have to deal with the Russian
military?a version of the internal politics disad that focuses on Russian
military objections to cooperation and the internal struggle between
siloviki and reformers could solve all of these "specific link/area specific
disads" concerns.  For more arguments, see my post responding to Dylan

There are also arguments about the forum for engagement.  This is an entire
controversy excluded from other topics?unilateral v. bilateral v.
multilateral creates lots of disads, counterplans, and solvency arguments.
Even if the word "bilateral" is omitted (and it may well not be), including
"its" (as in "increase its cooperation with the RF) means bilateral.  The
neg can read disads about engagement/track tradeoff, or counterplans like
"do the plan through the NATO-Russia Council, UN, G8" etc.  Say the
Congress/our allies/their allies/cows prefer multilateral engagement?this is
a whole area that hasn't been adequately discussed.  On the other hand, the
unilateral counterplan solves all the theoretical tiny peacekeeping and
counterterrorism affs.

I will not rehash this extensively, as several others have written about it
already.  Link uniqueness is not a terminal problem.  Evidence will most
certainly exist that says the US is cooperating in some areas, but this
doesn't complicate disads to security cooperation, for example?status quo
engagement is fairly limited, beyond proposals that we know the Russians
will not accept, or programs that are a legacy of years past.  One may have
to read some cards to establish uniqueness to cooperation.  This is far from
impossible?the general trend of US-Russian cooperation is negative.

Missile defense deserves some special consideration.  Yes, the United States
has broadly offered to cooperate on missile defense, which we know they
won't do.  The proposal is vague?it doesn't offer joint control, technology
development, or radar integration.  Russia has already demanded that its
personnel be directly involved in operations, which we have refused, and
nothing much more has been said.

Do a search on Lexis for "missile defense and Russia and united states and
date aft 4/22/08."  You'll see what I mean.

The most important argument I have made has still been conceded.  See this
if you need some help:


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