[eDebate] Possible Topic Area

Calum Matheson u.hrair
Tue Dec 23 00:26:36 CST 2008

thanks dylan.  here are my initial reactions, although i will have to do
some research again to dig up evidence to support some of them, the cites
for which i have forgotten.

1. enforceable meaning for grand strategy

one thing i like about this phrase (and again--anyone with alternatives, let
me know) is that it may make the aff implement broad changes in US
strategy.  "grand strategy" can be distinguished from just "strategy," or
more usefully, defined by its scope--iraq is one theater, as is afghanistan,
the arctic, etc.  i think you could credibly define the term to force the
aff to change US military policy in general--something like "selective
engagement," or "offshore balancing," or "isolationism" is a dictate
intended to govern american responses world wide.  world war II's "germany
first" policy, for example, was a grand strategy, as is the policy of global
military preponderance--they are partly defined by broad goals, not just
actions to accomplish them.  this is the "levels of war" thing i was hinting
at earlier.  here's a world war one example: artillery drumfire--tactical;
the ludendorff offensives (1918)--operational; the attempt to capture the
channel ports--strategic; the attempt to force the BEF off the continent
(because jerry thought that meant winning the war)--grand strategic.

you are probably right that some affs will try only to withdraw troops.
however, i think there's a few things the neg has going for them: a) grand
strategy = multiple theaters (above) b) the aff still has to "significantly
reduce" presence (or some similar phrase) c) the word "deployed" helps to
limit out the "coast guard missions" or whatever (maybe "forward deployed"
would be even better?) d) ultimately, the aff has to withdraw troops from a
place where there's an advocate to do so--the need for an advantage will
limit out some of the very small fears.

here's one definition of the word "deployed," just from dictionary.com:
"To position (troops) in readiness for combat, as along a front or line."

2. neg cheating
to some extent this is unavoidable of course, but i'll talk about some of
the specific things you've mentioned.  consult counterplans are a perennial
plague, but in this case, a lot of them won't solve the case, and their net
benefits are the reverse of the aff anyway.  would japan accept a US
withdrawal from asia?  probably not, and if they did, it would seriously
mess with the usual net benefit--the US-japan alliance.  NATO?  methinks
they would say no, and if they said yes, same deal with the net benefit.
russia would say yes, but the NATO-russia council would of course say "no,"
as both the NAC and NRC operate based on consensus.  also, even if one
doesn't like consult counterplans, at least they make sense on this topic.
it's pretty much the thing that consultation is intended for, so i don't
think it would be the end of the world--there's definitely going to be
evidence about the topic.  probably about each individual aff.

"redeploy without changing strategy" i think is not a concern either.  the
withdrawal of troops is an example of grand strategy--if the plan only did
this, and so did the counterplan, it wouldn't compete; if the plan did more
than this, the c/p would be a pic and the aff would just have to win that
the other parts of the plan were important.  i think it's like "lift
sanctions but don't constructively engage" on last year's topic.  don't
think you can do that.  as for all the temporary c/ps/redeploy elsewhere
etc. i think they either wouldn't solve the aff, wouldn't have net benefits,
or would just be impossible.  it takes a minute or two to redeploy, say,
100,000 troops from iraq.  if we decided to send them to korea, it would
take months.  that's why we forward deploy in the first place.  there might
be evidence about this, and so i could be wrong, but i think it's either not
there, or not good enough to beat the aff.  "leave troops in this one place"
will probably not compete--most advocates of disengagement don't think we
should disengage everywhere; most affs won't put "all forces" or whatever in
their plan; the net benefit to it is probably the opposite of the aff; there
are only so many of those places to begin with and the aff will probably be
ready.  the courts counterplan gets into a deference debate where there's at
least literature (that, and a "that's crazy the world would explode" debate
based on the courts dictating military strategy).

3. global u
"global" uniqueness isn't global, actually--really just iraq.  the "you
surrender american hegemony" disad, for example, will not be made not-unique
by iraq withdrawal.  if the aff just withdrew from iraq and said that we
were doing that anyway, it wouldn't really change grand strategy--it would
only implement it.  we're probably going to ramp up presence in afghanistan,
too, so there's that.  there will be theater disads unaffected by that too,
like korea, japan, europe, and central asia.  other things like chinese
aggression, appeasement, and russian imperialism (ahem) will be unaffected
by iraq probably, or at least good ev will exist to suggest that they are.
it might mess with the politics disad.  it's going to do that anyway,
regardless of the topic.  and i don't think politics will be the best disad
on a topic that requires a military draw down.

4. too expansive
this is something i've thought about, and it's definitely a concern for the
wording, but not a fatal one i think.  first, no matter what the aff does,
they have to reduce US military deployments--bottom line.  those are where
the best disads come from.  if they do stuff unrelated to that, the neg can
easily pic out of it all.  this realization i think will mean that affs
don't do it in the first place.  second, economic and diplomatic initiatives
can plausibly be included in grand strategy--in fact, they usually are.
there are narrower definitions though, like the one from robert art that
distinguishes grand strategy from foreign policy by saying that all those
other concerns are foreign policy, although (not in that quote) he
acknowledges that the term is broad.  as always seems to be the case, i
believe that the narrowest possible interpretation will probably come to be
accepted as the orthodox one.  i hope no one poops their pants over this,
but i don't think that having a lot of aff plan possibilities is so bad
anyway.  i'd kind of prefer it, as long as some central theme pulls it all
together, which in this case it does.

something else about this that i think deserves saying.  i got a lot of
backchannels last year before the tragic defeat of the russia topic (by
nazis? most probably, yes) where people made fun of me for talking about the
critical arguments possible on that topic, because no one defends the topic,
or it's not a useful conceptual category, or "k teams" don't matter, or

bite me.

the critical ground on the grand strategy topic is, in my opinion, very
strong.  i'll leave aside the low-hanging fruit of imperialism, orientalism,
militarism, capitalism, nuclearism, and many, many others.  the aff gets to
reduce US military deployment, so the lukewarm K affs could be excellent.
"grand strategy" allows all sorts of interesting things, like military
humanitarianism, that have solid critical defenses.  affs that don't want to
defend a plan but instead do something more radical have great
opportunities.  you get to say the military is bad.  seriously.  it's even
topical.  there's a section in "metaphors we live by" by lakoff and johnson
(if i'm remembering this correctly) about the way that "strategic" and
military metaphors are used in debate--just one of many ways that one could
use reference to this topic to make broader statements about the debate
"community," if one wished to.  the neg critique ground is similarly
strong--layne, gholz, press, and a variety of others who are the chief
advocates of these affs are also offensive realists.  the usual mush of
dillon, shapiro, tickner, and ashley cards, the plagues of generic critique
debates, are now directly relevant.  trust me, they will make more sense
when they actually link to the aff.  there will be an impact.  it will
relate to the case.  i'm in favor of that simply on the grounds that we will
be applying opposed arguments to each other in ways that make sense and for
which they were intended.  not everyone is going to be happy, but then
again, not everyone ever will.  this topic is better than most in that
regard.  there might not be something for everyone, but it could be a whole
lot worse.

it could be courts.


On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:11 PM, Dylan Keenan <dylan.keenan at gmail.com>wrote:

> I like this topic idea ---- the impact lit is already fun, and would be
> made better when it central to the topic (although ME seems to disprove this
> a bit. How were people still getting away with Steinbach generic ME war goes
> nuclear when it was pre Iraq). I agree with Calum that a lot of heg debates
> are kind of shallow. Part of the problem is that the debate often ends with
> "heg inevitable ? we just make the US good at it/make the world hate us
> less" ---- this topic seems like, if well debated, it could avoid some of
> that.
> I do have a few thoughts/concerns
> 1)      Can we stick the term grand strategy with any enforceable meaning?
> That is, what is to stop the aff from say getting US security out of Nigeria
> (not sure if we actually have military personel there) or withdrawing from
> the Arctic, or stopping coast guard good will missions to X country and
> nothing else. I get that the term grand strategy is a term of art, and is
> designed to deal with this. I also know that terms like "energy policy" or
> "constructive engagement" which are designed to make affs do something
> significant frequently devolve to the minimum and nothing more. Given the
> idiocy the neg gets away with these days something like that is perhaps
> necessary but still, it is a concern because small affs ALWAYS reduce the
> quality of debate.
> 2)      Conversely, I think we should center a lot of the topic discussion
> around how the neg will try to cheat and write the topic to prevent that. Is
> it possible people will have a counterplan to redeploy without changing
> grand strategy (basically do the plan under a different name). To have host
> countries force the US out? Use temporary redeployment to other areas?
> Consult CP is a concern that always arises. Since the supreme court doesn't
> set grand strategy a courts CP may be used with some stupid self serving
> justification like "tests grand strategy" ? or con/con or amendment ? all
> that trash. And some possibly legit PICS (offshore balancing except one
> brigade at one port which is at risk of terrorism).
> 3)      Global link U questions will come up. Obama is gonna wind down in
> Iraq. I don't want to hear a year of "drawdown now" = no link uniqueness.
> 4)      Is the topic a bit too expansive on the mechanisms besides
> military power. That Layne def. mentions economic power. Is this basically
> sanctions or trade policy as well?
> A few pluses:
> 1) Advantage innovation. I think that is a big problem this year. I doubt
> it would be when you have the whole military, planet, and economy to play
> with
> 2) I bet there are cards about the importance of a public statement
> shifting US strategy for states as well as non-state actors. That might help
> deal with negative BS counterplans
> 3) Big impact debates on a lot of different impacts = good for outweighing
> disads.
> On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 11:28 PM, Calum Matheson <u.hrair at gmail.com>wrote:
>> This isn't really a reply to Dr. Glass, but just an explanation of why I
>> suggested the phrase "grand strategy."  I'm certainly open to alternative
>> suggestions.
>> "Strategy" can be defined to narrowly--a military strategy, as opposed to
>> a grand strategy, may be defined as a plan to accomplish a particular
>> military objective.  Grand strategy can be defined as a broader policy, by
>> the civilian leadership, fitting the use of force into an overall plan to
>> achieve American objectives.  I want the aff to be able to do things other
>> than simply reduce US deployed forces--offshore balancing for example--and
>> be able to make the requisite changes in force structure, etc.  The phrase
>> "military strategy" is properly used (according to some narrow definitions)
>> only to describe land forces (so JFC Fuller was a military strategist, for
>> example, as opposed to Alfred Thayer Mahan, a naval strategist).
>> "Doctrine" was also not what I was looking for, although I intend to
>> explore it as a separate area within the broader topic. It is my
>> understanding that this describes a set of rules or procedures governing the
>> conduct of the military.  So Operation Gericht (the WWI German operation
>> around Verdun, 1916) was an "operation," the "strategy" was attrition, but
>> the "grand strategy" was the overall German plan to dominate continental
>> Europe (presumably for the purposes of evil, knowing them).  I could
>> certainly be wrong about this (the terms, not the intent of Germany to do
>> evil).
>> Is anyone interested in this topic willing to suggest (directly to me, if
>> you wish) alternate terms?  "Grand strategy" is not meant to be the primary
>> limiting term, but rather to allow the aff to include broad changes in force
>> deployment.  The "reduce deployment" part is supposed to be the primary
>> limit.
>> Some examples of how "grand strategy" is used:
>> Christopher Layne uses it to describe a policy of offshore balancing,
>> including the end of large-scale forward deployment (in "The Peace of
>> Illusions," for example).
>> This is Robert Art, in "A Grand Strategy for America:"
>> "Grand strategy, like foreign policy, deals with the momentous choices
>> that a nation makes in foreign affairs, but it differs from foreign policy
>> in one fundamental respect.  To define a nation's foreign policy is to
>> lay out the full range of goals that a state should seek in the world and
>> then determine how all the instruments of statecraft?political power,
>> military power, economic power, ideological power?should be integrated and
>> employed with one another to achieve those goals.  Grand strategy, too,
>> deals with the full range of goals that a state should seek, but it
>> concentrates primarily on how the military instrument should be employed to
>> achieve them.  It prescribes how a nation should wield its military
>> instrument to realize its foreign policy goals."
>> On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 9:44 PM, David Glass <gacggc at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> hmm I'd just get rid of the words "grand strategy to"
>>> grand is obv problematic
>>> a strategy need not be implement even if its purpose is to do something
>>> so consider:
>>> Resolved: The United States Federal Government should  significantly
>>> reduce its overseas military deployment.
>>> On Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 5:14 PM, Calum Matheson <u.hrair at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>> > I may or may not work on a Russia topic, but I'm interested in another
>>> one
>>> > too, about US military policy.
>>> >
>>> > I'm thinking about something like this:
>>> > Resolved: The United States Federal Government should adopt a grand
>>> strategy
>>> > significantly reducing its overseas military deployment.
>>> >
>>> > Topical affs would include offshore balancing, various incarnations of
>>> > selective engagement, strict isolationism, and more radical options
>>> like
>>> > discontinue the war on terrorism, disband the military, and so on.
>>> Policy
>>> > advantage areas would include terrorism and proliferation of course,
>>> but
>>> > also (in my opinion) a much more nuanced discussion of military power
>>> than
>>> > that to which we have recently been accustomed.
>>> >
>>> > The advantages wouldn't all be about hegemony, but it has bothered me
>>> for
>>> > some time now how often we talk about that, and how rarely actual
>>> strategy
>>> > is involved, and how shallow our discussions must necessarily be when
>>> > neither side can actually change the way military force is used, as
>>> opposed
>>> > to the simple level of its power.
>>> >
>>> > I'd like to include a version with a non-US actor, something like this:
>>> > Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially
>>> change
>>> > one or more of its operational doctrines.
>>> >
>>> > "Operational doctrine" is a term of art that would create a somewhat
>>> > different focus for the topic than the US-only resolution above. I'm
>>> not
>>> > sure what I think about international actor resolutions yet, but there
>>> seems
>>> > to be some interest.  I like the idea of NATO as an actor: the c/p
>>> ground is
>>> > particularly interesting (US or EU, with multilateralism, burden
>>> sharing,
>>> > and EU defense as extremely well-developed net benefits/disads), and it
>>> > avoids the most common objection that I've heard to these topics,
>>> namely
>>> > that there is insufficient advocacy literature in English.
>>> >
>>> > I've already done a fair amount of research on this, especially the
>>> terms
>>> > that might be included, although the resolutions above are very much
>>> > preliminary ones. Anyone who is interested in
>>> > helping/criticizing/questioning/attacking me without clogging the
>>> electronic
>>> > tubes should feel free to contact me at u.hrair at gmail.com.
>>> >
>>> > Calum
>>> >
>>> > _______________________________________________
>>> > eDebate mailing list
>>> > eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
>>> > http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate
>>> >
>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> Dylan Keenan
> Debate Coach
> Barkley Forum
> Emory University
> dylan.keenan at gmail.com
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