[eDebate] missions

Eric Morris ermocito
Sun Jul 12 18:57:00 CDT 2009

I prefer resolution 3 for its relative assurance of solid affirmative
ground. It's easier to defend a huge, straight down the middle case if
trying to be topical means usually makes you topical. If a lot of teams
choose to defend one of a few cases, it means you can be substantively
prepared in a higher percentage of debates. There will always be teams who
run to the margins or decline to be topical at all. I like having a topic
that incentivizes running one of a few big cases, even if the enforcement
mechanism isn't fully predictable.

I could make arguments about why any of the three topics could be larger,
and despite attending the topic committee meetings, I'm not fully confident
about how the community will come down on certain issues. Thus, I'm more
included to vote for what a topic solidly protects than what it excludes, as
the latter seems to vary throughout the year.

That said, I'm concerned about affirmatives which preclude single targets,
countries, and regions under topic 2. I don't trust "substantial" T to
behave consistently, and topic 2 depends heavily upon that T argument. I
don't see any benefits that would overwhelm pushing dealerting and CTBT into
the 'maybe' zone. I'm not sure that topic 1 is considerably better, but I do
think the question of what disarm commitments we've made (with all NPT
signatories, for example) is at least an evidence-heavy discussion. Big
cases can probably find lots of cards explaining how they move us in the
direction of disarm commitments. I think judges behave more predictably with
contextual evidence than with short definitions. I hope that people who have
a big problem with some part of topic 3 will at least put topic 1 ahead of
topic 2.

Here's some dialogue with T-Cram. Although some of it reflects other points
people have made, I have some time constraints today.

T-Cram: "Is multilaterialism inevitable under any of the resolutions?  Topic
3 people say 'well at least we only get Russia. Topic 2 is bilateral accords
with China, NWFZs, etc etc.'  If the wordings of 1 and 2 allow such
shenanigans, why wouldn't planks 3 and 5 of Topic 3 allow it as well?
 Saying 'those affs wouldn't be changes in posture' is confusing when the
rez simultaneously suggests negotiated cuts with another country are

Ermo: Given the possibility of negotiation failure (I don't see a basis for
fiating the other parties to a treaty under any of these topic wordings),
there is at least an effects T hurdle to any case. Topic 3 clears that
hurdle for Russia by specifically including it. I don't feel there is enough
consensus on this sort of effects topicality to preclude it on any topic.
Certainly, the negative will have the "just run Russia" argument if an
affirmative tries another country under topic 3, but that's just one
defensive argument.

T-Cram: "What consequences do the words 'negotiate and implement' have in
terms of the aff's relationship between solvency and topicality?  If Russia
ultimately says no and the plan reverts to the status quo, is it an
untopical affirmative because it did not achieve a change in nuclear posture
(policies governing the role, mission, and size of the U.S. nuclear weapons

Ermo: I think the intent of the wording is to make sure that you have to
implement that which is agreed to, and opposed to negotiation without
implementation or implementation without regard to successful negotiation.
Obviously, if negotiations fails, there is no agreement. If an affirmative
takes some unilateral actions in a direction as an act of good faith and
then negotiates for a position farther in the same direction (yes, I've seen
cards advocating that strategy), they are probably at very little risk. They
have some shield against extra-T on the Russia stuff, and yet could probably
meet another of the list options as well.

T-Cram: "Does the aff have to guarantee a deep cut on their side regardless
of what Russia does?  Does the aff get to fiat Russian acceptance to get
around these problems?  Is the aff bound to implement any changes Russia
offers during the negotiation process?"

Ermo: Maybe, no, and probably not. The former is probably a community issue,
and the latter probably hinges upon the plan wording and evidence read by
either side about Russia's counter offer. I don't really see any unique
basis for the fiating Russia interpretation, and it would be a substantial
departure from prior practice. Not promising that no one will try, but I
don't think the wording makes it necessary, which means deference to
limiting interpretations will be a problem for those teams.

T-Cram: "What consequences do the words 'negotiate and implement' have in
terms of counterplan competition?  'Offering' on the middle east created a
mess for what we typically consider to be competitive 'plan-minus'
counterplans.  To an extent, this was an interesting direction for debates
because the topic was fundamentally concerned about diplomacy, but is this
something we want to revisit as a subset of a much larger resolution with so
much other stuff going on?  This also taps into whether there's really
common ground on this topic beyond advantage areas (a very weak argument, as
Malgor has shown)."

Ermo: On the Middle East topic, the double offer perm was pretty effective
unless the negative had a very sophisticated argument. I might say that CP's
that handle that perm well deserve serious consideration. I'm comfortable
with the directionality imposed by the two more generic components of the
list topic for keeping the negative manageable (without imposing a precise
list of cases, for sure). I'm not convinced the word substantially does much
in topic 2, which means there could be cases that said "remove city X from
targeting because they have this cool museum or some important artifacts".
This concern is compounded by concerns that the specific missions for
particular weapons are classified.

T-Cram: "What are these numerous tactics and tools that the US can offer
that are both in the literature while also being limited to changes in
nuclear posture?  If reflecting the literature is a virtue, why do you
interpret a topic in a way that excludes the two most salient issues in
US/Russia arms negotiations?  NATO expansion and NMD are both outside the
scope of 'nuclear posture' in a definitional sense but are the core Russian
concerns and is also the first things to roll of the tounges of anyone who
is talking or writing about possible bilateral agreements with Russia.  It
seems 'you gotta change posture' has taken on the figure of your much
maligned 'you gotta have a cap.'"

These are REALLY good questions, but they are also community prediction
questions since they hinge on the intersection of two separate parts of the
topic. I would tend to think an agreement which included NMD or NATO
expansion in a deal that included changes in our nuclear posture would be a
deal that changed our nuclear posture and thus met the stem. See the above
part about whether having an initial unilateral component would make the
affirmative safer on topicality.

Whether there is a strong enough lit base to protect such a plan against
CP's to make unilateral changes to NMD and NATO is another question, because
the negative should be able to use such CP's to focus the debate back to
nuclear posture if they wish. I suspect the number of plans with enough
literature support to fight back against such CP's will be a manageable
number, but any firm prediction made before we even start debating is less
than fully certain.

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