Recommended Podcast Episode: Aziz Rana on U.S. Hegemony, the Liberal International Order, and Biden’s Foreign Policy

Podcasts are an excellent educational resource for debaters. I will occasionally recommend specific episodes that debaters might find particularly helpful.

Leftist foreign policy analysts Daniel Bessner and Derek Davison have a new podcast about U.S. foreign policy called American Prestige. The third episode (“Some Like it Cold (War)“) is particularly valuable for debaters. It includes a lengthy conversation with Aziz Rana, a Cornell law professor whose work has been cited often by debaters in recent seasons to make arguments about hegemony, imperialism, security, capitalism, and related topics.

In this conversation, Rana explains the historical context of U.S. hegemony and the domestic politics that have supported it. He then uses this history to establish several arguments about the contemporary politics of U.S. foreign policy. This wide-ranging discussion will help debaters better understand not just Rana’s arguments about Biden’s foreign policy, but also leftist critiques of U.S. hegemony and imperialism more broadly.

Practicality, Feasibility, and Plan Writing: Morello’s Critique of “The Retreat From Policy Advocacy” (From 1991)

I noted a few weeks ago that I had some “remainders” left to share from my research about plans in policy debate. One was the 1999 Rostrum article by Kenneth Grodd that bemoaned the decline of plan writing. Another is a 1991 conference paper by John Morello that made many of the same arguments; it is the subject of this post.

Morello’s paper is a contemporaneous reaction to the changes in plan writing that I documented in my series (especially part four, about the rise of topical and plan-inclusive counterplans). Seeing the dramatic reduction in plan size and specificity that took place in the 1980s, Morello argued that this was important proof that NDT-style policy debate had abandoned its vital function as a training ground for civic argumentation. “When advocates are excused from the duty to defend the practicality of the proposals they advance,” he argued, “they are learning an argumentative lesson which has little applicability beyond the competitive world.”

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Ulrich on Counter-Procedure Counterplans

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives is a series highlighting “old” debate theory articles that are particularly thought-provoking, influential, or illuminating and that active debate students would benefit from reading.

In part five of the recent series on the history of plans in policy debate, I quoted Walter Ulrich’s 1987 attempt to categorize the different types of counterplans. He distinguished between three major types: counter agent counterplans, counter policy counterplans, and counter procedure counterplans. While further sub-categorizations (like Solt’s twelve categories) may be helpful to distinguish between particular counterplans, the simplicity of Ulrich’s taxonomy can help students recognize their shared foundational assumptions.

Ulrich outlined his categorization scheme in a short article about one of the three counterplan types he identified: counter procedure counterplans. He defined them as counterplans that “develop alternative methods of evaluating and/or adopting the policy defended by the affirmative.” Popular examples included “the referendum counterplan, the study counterplan, planning counterplans, and other counterplans that advocate alternative processes for evaluating the affirmative policy.”

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A Guide To Affirmative Strategy vs. Advantage Counterplans

In early 2010, I offered suggestions for how affirmatives can answer multi-plank advantage counterplans. Massive multi-plank counterplans were first popularized during that era; they were typically paired with a politics DA net-benefit. At the time, the disposition of planks was a relatively new controversy: negatives would sometimes propose a counterplan with ten or twelve (or more) planks, each independently conditional. This predictably led to many theory gripes.

In retrospect, my advice did not age particularly well. I omitted important aspects of affirmative strategy versus advantage counterplans; my focus was too much on the “multi-plank” part and not enough on the “advantage counterplan” part. This is understandable: while advantage counterplans were “old hat” and already well-understood by that time, the multi-plank part was novel and strategically provocative. While there is still some useful advice in that post, it might lead contemporary students astray.

As a corrective, this post will outline the basics of affirmative strategy against advantage counterplans — whether single-plank or massive multi-plank. My goal is to provide a comprehensive guide that students can use as a resource when formulating their responses to advantage counterplan-based strategies.

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The Decline of Affirmative Plan Construction: Revisiting Complaints from 1999

Most of the research I completed about plan writing made its way into the recent six part series, but there are still a few “remainders” that I wanted to share on the blog. This is the first one.

In the same 1999 issue of Rostrum that published David Cheshier’s article about effects topicality, another article article was published that criticized the state of plan writing in policy debate. It was written by Kenneth Grodd, the Director of Debate at St. Pius X in Atlanta.

Articles critical of “modern,” national circuit-style policy debate were common in Rostrum during the 1990s. When contemplating whether and how to criticize current debate practices, I find it helpful to revisit these earlier complaints. Sometimes, they identified emerging trends that were indeed troublesome. But with the benefit of hindsight, they can also often seem to have significantly missed the mark. Either way, I think it is valuable to understand how critics of particular debate practices explained their gripes.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Cheshier on Effects Topicality

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives is a series highlighting “old” debate theory articles that are particularly thought-provoking, influential, or illuminating and that active debate students would benefit from reading.

In this installment of the series, I am sharing David Cheshier’s 1999 Rostrum article about effects topicality. Cheshier’s monthly columns in Rostrum were an excellent resource for debaters in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they addressed many of the most important theoretical controversies of the era. While some columns feel a bit dated in 2021, many are as relevant as ever. This one is a good example — especially for students preparing to debate the 2021-2022 water resources protection topic.

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How To Research Topicality: Suggested Sources and Search Terms

Topicality research is difficult. Because topicality is a semantic issue, the type of supporting evidence required is different than the evidence debaters typically offer in support of their other positions.

For one thing, it is often from “reference” sources: dictionaries, encyclopedias, “explainer” websites and articles, background sections in journal articles, etc. These are not good sources of evidence for most other debate arguments; their purpose is generally to document “facts,” not to argue in favor of a particular position or perspective. For the same reason, these reference sources also tend to describe the context of a controversy without taking a position on it.

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Topicality “Protection,” the Oregon Statewide Planning Goals, and the Legal Fight Over the Bradwood LNG Terminal

The fate of the 2021-2022 high school policy debate resolution likely hinges on the definition of the word “protection.” If it is defined narrowly, the topic has the potential to be much better than skeptics (and fans of the runner-up Russia topic) had initially assumed. If it is defined broadly, this season will be a frustrating slog. Unless “protection” establishes a meaningful limit on topical plan mechanisms, students will struggle to research and prepare for all of the many, disparate policy proposals that could, by effect, “protect” water resources.

One of the most promising topicality interpretations of “protection” is based on a protracted legal battle in Oregon over the construction of an LNG terminal. It defines “protection” of water resources as policies that “save or shield [them] from loss, destruction, or injury or for future intended use.” There’s a lot more to it, but this is a limiting interpretation that could, if it prevails, keep the water resources topic relatively manageable.

To understand this evidence, it is important to understand the context of the legal fight over the Bradwood terminal. This requires more background information than one might initially realize. In this article, I will share what I have learned about the Bradwood terminal, the Oregon Statewide Planning Goals, and the decisions of Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals and Court of Appeals. This is wonky stuff, but I think it is important for students to understand it. And at the end, I’ll share some A+ topicality cards.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Lambertson on Plans and Counterplans (from 1943)

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives is a series highlighting “old” debate theory articles that are particularly thought-provoking, influential, or illuminating and that active debate students would benefit from reading.

To this point, the articles in this series have been from the most prolific period of published debate scholarship: the 1970s and 1980s. But earlier eras also offer insightful articles that still hold resonance today. In this installment of the series, I will highlight a 1943 article about plans and counterplans. It is one of many interesting findings from my recent deep dive into the history of plans.

Written by Floyd W. Lambertson, a Professor of Speech at the Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa), it includes an early theorization of standards for evaluating plans and counterplans. The most interesting part is that Lambertson surveyed several other debate coaches (including A. Craig Baird and Alan Nichols) and documented their perspectives on plan writing, the role of plans in debate, and the affirmative and negative burdens associated with them. This gives contemporary readers insight into the era’s “community consensus” about plans and counterplans.

Current students will recognize many similarities with the controversies that still exist today about plan specification, solvency burdens, and counterplan competition. More than two decades before the formal development of the policymaking paradigm, the basic foundation for counterplan theory as it has been understood for the last fifty years was already being developed. Most histories of the counterplan don’t start until the paradigm wars of the 1970s — until a few years ago, that’s when I thought they were first introduced — but understanding these earlier origins can provide important historical context for the counterplan theory battles of later eras.

The full text of Lambertson’s article is below.

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Strategic Plan Writing in Policy Debate

I have recently been thinking a lot about plans. When I tried to formalize a set of plan writing suggestions for current debaters, it led me to undertake what became an unprecedentedly thorough (I assume) exploration of the history of plans in policy debate. I think the resulting series of articles and its accompanying research is worth reading in full:

  1. The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 1: The Early History
  2. The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 2: The Plan in the Age of the Disadvantage
  3. The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 3: Extra-Topicality
  4. The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 4: Topical and Plan-Inclusive Counterplans
  5. The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 5: “Normal Means” PICs and Process Counterplans
  6. The Evolution of Plans In Policy Debate, Part 6: Policy Testing, Planicality, and Hypothesis Planning
  7. Plan Writing In Policy Debate: Example Plans From 1970 to 2021
  8. “‘Planning’ Your Way To Victory”: Plan Writing Advice From 1982
  9. An Analysis of Plan Texts from the Elimination Rounds of the 2021 NDCA and TOC

However, I’m sure many students would rather skip to the tl;dr, please-give-me-a-checklist version. Below the fold is my attempt to provide that kind of formalized plan writing guide, although it still is not quite a plug-and-play checklist. As is often the case, it’s not that simple.

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