Monday, October 25, 2010

Making 2AR Choices

Making 2AR choices - Claire McKinney

Often in debates, the 2AR snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. What I mean is that sometimes a 2NR fails to do any of the following things:

1 ) Does not do impact calculus, picks the wrong impact to heavily favor, or fails to
even extend a terminal impact (this is common when they go for a counterplan with an internal net benefit, or when the terminal impacts to both the affirmative and the negative positions are very similar like hegemony and deterrence)
2 ) Does not kick out of a turned argument well or at all.
3 ) Fails to hedge their bets by making even-if statements or comparative risk analysis (similar to impact calculus, but may have more to do with comparing warrants on uniqueness, link, or internal link questions)

As a judge, one often expects the 2AR to easily exploit these mistakes and make use of that Aff Side Bias to easily dispense with a poorly executed 2NR. Yet more often than not, the affirmative replicates the mistakes of the 2NR. I think there are three main reasons the affirmative might do this.

1 ) The 2AR is seduced into thinking that where the negative went was the most
important part of the debate.
2 ) The 2AR feels pressure to refute everything the 2NR said.
3 ) The 2AR tries to extend everything the 1AR said.

These are not mutually exclusive and all point to the problem of not thinking about the big picture and making strategic choices. Here are a few tips of how to begin to think systematically about a winning 2AR and how to capitalize on 2NR mistakes.

--The 2AR overview. Write one. Many overview naysayers think they serve little purpose, but I believe that the 2AR overview is where you isolate what you need to win and why winning it means you win the debate forces you to do two thinks that are vital in prep time. The first is that you force yourself to make a strategic decision. Will you win on a dropped turn? On a solvency deficit to the counterplan? The permutation? Because you needs to isolate THE reason you win (not three reasons), you will have to analyze what arguments you have to answer to do so, what arguments are irrelevant, and how to persuade the judge that the negative was inadequate on those positions. Second, you are reminded of the importance of impact calculus. Do this impact calculus in the top of the 2AR and you won’ t forget to do it later on the flow.

-- Less is more. Sure, you need defense on the key negative arguments, but you shouldn’ t extend ALL your defense or EVERY solvency deficit to the counterplan. You should extend the solvency deficit that is most true or is the largest and thus gets you access to the largest impact. In a debate I recently saw, the 2AR extended two solvency deficits to a counterplan, one for each advantage. However, the counterplan obviously solved one advantage and the time it took to extend the second solvency deficit made it such that the 2AR didn’ t extend a terminal impact to either advantage. If the 2AR had focused on just one solvency deficit, then there would have been a complete argument as opposed to two distinct halves of two distinct arguments.

--Evidence comparison is your friend. Even if you are behind on an issue after the 1AR, if you do evidence comparison, you can make new arguments in the comparison of the
warrants of the evidence. For instance, even if the debate had hitherto been as shallow as heg solves war versus heg doesn’ t solve war up until the 2AR, you can use the evidence as a place to argue that the 2NRs evidence just says hegemony cannot stop a conflict from beginning, but your evidence indicates that hegemony can stop the escalation of war because political leaders will avoid entangling other powers through escalation for fear of losing to a preponderance of American power. IF your evidence actually supports your warrants (and that’ s a big IF), most judges will allow this type of evidence comparison because the extension of the evidence in the 1AR made this comparison predictable. It’ s better if the warrants come out earlier, but if they don’ t, you can argue the evidence extension gave the negative ample opportunity to do their own comparison. A corollary, of course, is that if you hide new arguments in warrant comparison and your evidence DOESN’ T make the claims you say, you are very likely to lose.

-- Making new arguments is often a no-lose prospect. While your first instincts should be depth is better than breadth and the 1AR ought to set up your 2AR strategy, sometimes, especially in impact calculus, new arguments will be accepted and even welcomed.

For instance, if the 2AR is the first time you make a timeframe outweighs magnitude argument, if it is the ONLY such comparison, the judge may very well allow it because there is nothing else to guide their decisionmaking. Even if the judge doesn’ t allow the new comparison, all it did was waste 5-10 seconds and the payoff is potentially much greater than the cost. Notice that this advice is conditioned on what else happened in the debate. Impact calculus that the neg starts early and goes unrefuted will make this strategy much less likely to payoff. Exploit the failures of the 2NR to give the judge something to hang onto.

In the end, remember that the greatest strategic asset of the 2AR is that you get to ignore a lot of what the 2NR says because if you make one argument very well, that often is much better than answering all their shallow arguments with an equal number of shallow arguments. Shallow versus shallow makes for unhappy judges and coin flip decisions.Shallow versus depth makes for happy judges and much more certainty in your wins.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Congratulations to UTNIF St. Mark's participants

Congratulations are in order to the College Prep team of Vinay Pai and Tatsuro Yamamura on being top seed and also on their SEMIFINALS appearance at the Heart of Texas invitational. Vinay is an '09 alum of the UTNIF and two of his coaches, Daniel Sharp and John Hines, are members of the UTNIF teaching staff.

Congratulations also to the Kinkaid team of Zach Rosenthal (UTNIF '09) and Vivek Dathla (Doubles), and also the Kinkaid team of Robert Baldwin and Nikheel Bontha (Quarters). Both teams are coached by UTNIF lab leader Claire McKinney, who also was recognized by the tournament for her stand out assistant coaching!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Barbarians, Savages, and the Civilised" - New Security K article just in time for St. Marx...

Of interest: a new interview/discussion between Michael Hardt and Brad Evans from Theory and Event about security discourse and strategies of liberal governance. Beyond this article, the entire issue should be of interest to debaters.

Two among many interesting things in this essay:
1. An answer to the answer to the K that says "there are good instances of biopolitics"

Even if the Aff is right that there are good instances of human rights discourse or of liberal social programs, many of those examples assume a domestic, internal, liberal politics. This evidence is calling into question the use of human rights justifications in the service of campaigns of warfare against an external enemy. This is not to suggest that liberal domestic human rights discourse ought be considered unproblematic. What it does suggest is that the "good" instances of liberal domestic politics cited by opponents of this argument are also threatened by the continued employment of human rights discourse in justifying externally prosecuted wars. That is, there is a trade off that takes place between the use of liberal human rights discourse in international military discourse and the possibility of good liberal reforms domestically. AT THE SAME TIME, the essay is calling into question the unwavering imperative of liberal governance strategies to govern and is drawing attention to dangers that are inherent to the rationality of liberal governance itself. So, in short: provisionally good liberal governance gets crowded out by the appropriation of liberality into war-making, and even examples of good liberal governance have questionable/dangerous imperatives.

Excerpt 1.
"Rather than pursuing that biopolitical question directly, though, I want first to understand better how the shift in the relationship between war and sovereignty that Toni and I propose relates to your notion of liberal and humanitarian war. In a war conventionally conceived, it is sufficient for the two sovereign powers to justify their actions primarily on the basis of national interest as long as they remain within the confines of international law. Whereas those inside , in other words, are at least in principle privilege to the liberal framework of rights and representation, those outside are not. When the relationship of sovereignty shifts, however, and the distinction between inside and outside erodes, then there are no such limits of the liberal ideological and political structures. This might be a way of understanding why contemporary military actions have to be justified in terms of discourses of human rights and liberal values. And this might be related, in turn, to what many political theorists analyze as the decline of liberal values in the US political sphere at the hands of neoliberal and neoconservative logics.1 In other words, perhaps when the division declines between the inside and outside of sovereignty, on the one hand, the liberal logic must be deployed (however inadequately) to justify the use of violence over what was the outside while, on the other, liberal logics are increasingly diluted or suppressed in what was the inside."

2. observations relevant to Afghanistan Affs that transition toward counter-insurgency and away from counter-terrorism

The evidence below frames this move toward counter-insurgency in the schema of "Barbarians, Savages, and the Civilized" outlined by Foucault in _Society Must Be Defended_. Barbarians are beyond the pale; irredeemable. Savages are redeemable, open to civilizing forces. The civilized are, well, civilized. The aff represents an acknowledgment of the failure of an externally oriented eradication strategy that seeks to eliminate "barbarians" in the battle of the civilized and barbarian. The aff also is an explicit move toward A. the process of civilization of the savage/insurgent class, and, B. the employ of the savage/insurgent class in the battle against the barbarians, in which the "proof" of the savages accession to the dictates of civilization is their success in aiding in the eradication of the barbarian. In this view, the affirmative is calling for the adoption of a quasi-liberal governance strategy which has as its aim to act upon both the barbarian/terrorist, and, the savage/insurgent.

Excerpt 2:
Evans: A logical corollary of this is the mixture of the strategic fields you mention. It is no coincidence today to find renewed priority being afforded to the insurgent. The RAND Corporation for instance have for some time now been calling for a more comprehensive and nuanced strategic paradigm that incorporates counter-insurgency into the wider remit of the Global War on Terror. I am reminded at this stage of a wonderful observation Foucault makes in a few incisive pages of the Society Must Be Defended lectures in which he identifies the three key figures which make up the modern condition: Barbarians, Savages and the Civilised. Barbarians he argues are a function of sovereign power. Existing beyond the constitutional pale, although sometimes penetrating with purely destructive intent, they represent those lives which show no respect for the constitutional order, hence they have and should be afforded no moral or political value. Savages on the other hand are a function of bio-political power. Open to remedy and demanding engagement, they represent those lives which are capable of being redeemed. No great conceptual leap of imagination is required here to draw out meaningful connections between barbarians/terrorists and savages/insurgents. Indeed, in the theatres of war today one can write of that all too familiar historical tendency of waging war by getting savages to fight barbarians in order to prove their civilising credentials. Even here however the lines in the sand have been blurred. Terrorists for instance no longer occupy a place of exteriority to the political realm, but are fully included within the bio-political order. What is more, the ability to set out clear parameters between the terrorist and the insurgent has proved rather elusive. This is compounded even further by a realisation that terrorists are no longer simply intent upon wanton destruction, but have showed a willingness to actually cross over to become insurgents posing a much wider social problem. This approach is clearly evidenced in the recent United Kingdom Contest II National Security Strategy (2009). What particularly strikes about this document is the style in which these threats are presented. Terrorists are now presented in a manner which is biopolitically fitting. Like some cancerous cell, not only are they seen to be capable of damaging a vital organ within the body politic, but they now hold the potential to infect the wider bodily terrain. The significance of this sovereign/bio-political merger can be read in two ways. First, through this coming together it is possible to detect a certain reprioritisation of affairs in which the once familiar problem of the sovereign encounter can now be dealt with bio-politically. And second, given that the bio-political is now tainted by the spectre of terror, then the biopolitical becomes truly moralised in that the war to redeem savages is equally a war to expel evil.

Hardt: I find intriguing and very productive your translation of barbarian to terrorist and savage to insurgent, along with the correlate that from the standpoint of the sovereign the latter couple has the potential to be civilized or redeemed whereas the formal couple does not. It strikes me that what is at play here, in part, is two relations to the body. In the first years of the new millennium, at the inception of the “war on terror,” I recognized in much of US military theorizing a fascinating doubling and inversion regarding the body of the terrorist and the body of the US soldier. On the one side stood the horrifying, barbaric figure of the terrorist defined by not only its power to destroy others but also its acceptance of corporeal self-destruction, characterized paradigmatically by the absolute negation of the body in the act of suicide bombing. On the other side stood the body of the US soldier that, it was thought, could be kept at a safe distance from all danger by technological innovations and new military strategies associated with the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). Precise missiles, drone airplanes, and other devices could aid a military strategy aimed at no soldiers lost, at least no US soldiers. So, I was interested in the way that these two figures—the barbaric body guaranteed destruction and the civilized body guaranteed preservation—arose at roughly the same time and seemed to be bound together in dialectical negation.

You are right that the insurgent body occupies an entirely different position. It does not threaten self-destruction or corporeal annihilation. The insurgent must be transformed through the mechanisms of biopower just as the savage must be redeemed and civilized. It is interesting, in fact, that at the same time that in the military and security discourses there has been a shift from the barbaric terrorist to the savage insurgent, as you say, there has been a parallel move away from the dreams of bodiless military actions and the strategic principles of the RMA. Antiinsurgency biopower is aimed at the transformable body. This gives us another level, I suppose, to the relation between war, biopower, and liberalism that you were insisting on earlier.

Of course, reading this evidence in conjunction with biopower o/w all will not be sufficient to win a debate. At least, it shouldn't be. The job of the negative is to show why an alternative approach/perspective on the action of the plan is superior to the approach of evaluation that the aff itself has advanced. The aff wants the judge to assess the value of the plan by looking to its prospective advantages as if they are necessary, determinate, consequences of a possible, instrumental action of the government. The negative wants the judge to assess both plan and advantages from a different vantage point. The negative wants the judge to see how it is, rhetorically/discursively, that the plan/advantage combo advanced by the Affirmative is not merely a descriptive prediction about the consequences of an instrumental action by the USFG, but also functions upon the listener/audience/judge as a prescriptive kind of statement.

What i mean is, there is a way in which the logic/rhetoric/discourse of the Affirmative puts the listener/audience/judge into a situation in which they are asked to endorse/accede to a certain "regime of truth." The consequence of acceding to that "regime of truth" is that certain, specific actions then appear as the only possible ethical actions, and therefore become in some sense inevitable. The purpose of the negative's kritik in these debates is to question the methodology by which the regime of truth of the aff was constructed, so that the rhetorical space of the debate is opened up in order to allow for the possibility of the emergence of competing ethical imperatives. The difference between the Aff and the Neg in these debates is that the Aff pretends that ethics follow from truth/evidence/fact in an unproblematic/opaque way (e.g. 'it is try or die', 'you have no other choice'). The negative, on the other hand, aims to show how the Aff's claim to truth is itself an exercise of power that ought be questioned in order to create a situation in which ethics/action can be related to in a more provisional/problematized/transparent way. The result that the negative is aiming for in advancing the argument in this way is not stasis or stale mate or absence of ethics or postponement of decision. The negative is aiming to reinvigorate the debate space's ethical potential through its successful critique of the affirmative's presentation. The choice presented by the affirmative is a false one and attempts to hide the power relations that shape its sense of ethics. At a meta-level, the function of this sort of critique is to ensure that those institutions (governments, think-tanks, corporations) that possess the most effective institutional descriptive power (in the form of studies, fact generation, policy memorandums, etc) do not as a result come to monopolize in totality the range/field of ethical possibilities. The logic of the aff, in which ethics follow from truth claims in an unproblematic way, is what hastens the advance of this monopolization of ethics.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Congratulations UTNIF Alumni on Closing Out New Trier!

Congratulations to the Kinkaid School team of Zach Rosenthal and Vivek Dathla, and, the Georgetown Day School team of Joe Krakoff and Ben Levy on their FINALS appearance at the New Trier tournament! Zach and Joe are both '09 alums of the UTNIF, and the Kinkaid team is coached by UTNIF lab leader, Claire McKinney.

UTNIF lecture 2010: Kirk Evans - K affs and Framework

UTNIF 2010 - Kirk Evans - Framework from UTNIF on Vimeo.