"Worst Case"

Many aff’s making security claims on the last two topics have responded to K’s with an argument along the lines of: we can’t ignore the worst case scenarios, to do so would cause disaster. Cards I would lump into this broad category are like that Macy SFP is backwards card, Fitzsimmons, most of the fear good cards like Sandman, a bunch of Krauthammer cards about terror/attacks on the US etc.

Most negatives respond to this by reading the monkeys throwing darts card, and maybe a Bleiker card about how prediction hurts agency with no impact. I don’t really think these cards are adequate.

Predictions fail is pretty good defense, but it doesn’t really address the offensive claim that if we don’t consider predictions bad things will happen (either because the crazies will takeover the political or because when we ignore our fears they remanifest themselves). To a certain extent you could say the idea that fears remanifest etc is a prediction, and therefore will fail! But I think that it is probably better to just read a more specific card.

Predictions “hurt” agency can be a decent argument, but it usually requires a lot more time investment/explanation then the neg invests in it to flush out the impact and explain it. Like the above, however, it is not totally responsive. You could obviously say that the the claim we must predict or face doom is the the link, but again that is sort of lame.

The reason I think these 2 arguments are sometimes inadequate is that the type of judges who like these predictions good arguments are judges who lean more towards policy than K on the spectrum. For these judges, engaging them on the merits of predictions substantively is a better option. There isn’t really a stock card to go to on that front though, so it may take some research. Here is a card I found recently that I think is moving in the right direction:

At a security conference recently, the moderator asked the panel of distinguished cybersecurity leaders what their nightmare scenario was. The answers were the predictable array of large-scale attacks: against our communications infrastructure, against the power grid, against the financial system, in combination with a physical attack.

I didn’t get to give my answer until the afternoon, which was: “My nightmare scenario is that people keep talking about their nightmare scenarios.”

There’s a certain blindness that comes from worst-case thinking. An extension of theprecautionary principle, it involves imagining the worst possible outcome and then acting as if it were a certainty. It substitutes imagination for thinking, speculation for risk analysis, and fear for reason. It fosters powerlessness and vulnerability and magnifies social paralysis. And it makes us more vulnerable to the effects of terrorism.

Worst-case thinking means generally bad decision making for several reasons. First, it’s only half of the cost-benefit equation. Every decision has costs and benefits, risks and rewards. By speculating about what can possibly go wrong, and then acting as if that is likely to happen, worst-case thinking focuses only on the extreme but improbable risks and does a poor job at assessing outcomes.

Second, it’s based on flawed logic. It begs the question by assuming that a proponent of an action must prove that the nightmare scenario is impossible.

Third, it can be used to support any position or its opposite. If we build a nuclear power plant, it could melt down. If we don’t build it, we will run short of power and society will collapse into anarchy. If we allow flights near Iceland’s volcanic ash, planes will crash and people will die. If we don’t, organs won’t arrive in time for transplant operations and people will die. If we don’t invade Iraq, Saddam Hussein might use the nuclear weapons he might have. If we do, we might destabilize the Middle East, leading to widespread violence and death.

Of course, not all fears are equal. Those that we tend to exaggerate are more easily justified by worst-case thinking. So terrorism fears trump privacy fears, and almost everything else; technology is hard to understand and therefore scary; nuclear weapons are worse than conventional weapons; our children need to be protected at all costs; and annihilating the planetis bad. Basically, any fear that would make a good movie plot is amenable to worst-case thinking.

Fourth and finally, worst-case thinking validates ignorance. Instead of focusing on what we know, it focuses on what we don’t know — and what we can imagine.

10 thoughts on “"Worst Case"

  1. Andre

    I'd like to note that the final round of CFL Nationals revolved around a similar question. LaSalle ran their prison rehab aff and used a "Rescher" framework effectively in this round — this evidence talks about how low probability impacts should be ignored (or "rounded down to zero"); hence their impact of solving for 500,000 crimes per year should outweigh a "flimsy chain of internal links" to nuclear war in BCC's politics disad.

  2. Layne Kirshon

    this clearly doesn't apply to *Every* aff but i think a good chunk — a lot of affs don't solve the claim fitzsimmons is making, which is that when policy-makers don't listen to security experts their gut reactions fill the void – a lot of, though certainly not all, aff internal link and impact cards don't come close to being the security experts fitzsimmons is advocating listen to. this is also true considering a lot of impact cards are "worst case scenario" claims that fitzsimmons indicts (nukes in iraq–>GNW = worst case scenario ergo invade)

  3. Uneducated Opinion

    @ Layne, if it's true most of the impact cards are NOT security experts writing from a securitized framework (and, if the first two are true, not in a securitized way) wouldn't that preclude generating security (as in K's of IR) links from those impacts? I think the neg pointing out the aff isn't securitized thinking because it's impact authors aren't actual IR and geopolitical experts forces you to end up with the security K as a K of threats and not necessarily their particular IR framework because you are basically conceding a no link-esque arg. To be fair the threats based thinking K can be useful but it might problematize your strategy if the 1nc is an IR K and 2nc/1nr 1 on the Fitzsimmons card is "They don't access it none of their authors are security experts and thus none of them describe the world in the way the security experts fitzsimmons says we need to listen to do." I think it would also moot any "security experts not true" type ev. that a lot of K teams seem to enjoy reading.

  4. miles

    2 things
    1 – layne – use of ergo = beautiful

    2 @ uneducated opinion
    No, it doesn't take out the link – the aff still uses apocalyptic rhetoric that is used to justify bad shit – BUT, it does take out the aff's offense b/c their authors aren't actually experts that Fitzsimmons says that we should default to – also, yes it does take away the neg's ability to read 'experts not true' ev, but if the aff's ev is from blogs, that's probably a better place to be in than having them read expert ev you can indict w/ 'experts not true'

  5. Layne Kirshon

    @Uneducated Opinion

    There are 2 different components here you are conflating
    1. Are the authors security experts
    2. Are they making claims about the world that our authors disagree with

    If I'm reading a security K, the qualifications of your authors are not related to my authors indicting your authors' approach to knowledge production. It doesn't matter if Collin Powell or Roy Levkovitz are saying China is irrational, simply the claim that China is irrational/will attack us presupposes ethnocentric understandings of IR that are bad for various reasons (destroys cooperation/peaceful relations, causes arms races, etc)

    If the aff responses with the Fitzsimmons evidence, which says that if Obama doesn't listen to experts about China being dangerous and possible solutions, his gut reactions will fill the void (i.e. lets invade china…)

    I can make the argument that Roy's suggestions are not any more credible than Obama's gut reactions, and probably worse – that does not affect whether or not Roy's worldview is gendered or flawed.

    Also, you can say experts not true and your authors not experts – you can impact turn politics and make a no link argument.

  6. Uneducated Opinion I

    @ Layne
    1. I agree with most of your 2nd post, as I think the term "security K" encompasses such a variety of link claims and K's that we can both be right. I understood your original post as essentially: "affs say our authors are security experts therefore fitzsimmons says obama should listen to us, however the mistake affs make is that their authors are not security experts." My original problem with this was saying that aff authors are not security experts guts links based on A. The security "complex" (if such a thing can be said to exist) B. Links based off of the worldview of security experts (this being solely derived from their status as experts and not the rhetoric of the card itself, for example if mearshimer were to write an article arguing for the possibility of limited international cooperation and the card, while potentially out of context, was only the concluding paragraphs endorsing the powerful role that international organizations can play in the world today or somesuch nonsense, you would indite his worldview as being realist and therefore based on a negative, violent, and/or destructive view of the international system as power politics, even if the rhetoric in the card was the most high flown liberal language)
    2. I think the qualifications do matter for certain versions/links of the security K, i.e. those krtiking the operation of the "academic security complex." While I agree with you that their qualifications have mostly nothing to do with whether or not their worldview is fundamentally flawed in certain ways (as these links are more rhetoric based than otherwise), being part of a think-tank that specializes in U.S. China policy would seem to fall under the purview of indites/links to China Threat Discourse. Take for example the famous Pan article, which, and correct me if I'm wrong, talks about the complex of foreign policy experts and think tanks which produces/[d] the China Threat. The aff's author being part of this complex seems to be a direct link.
    3. We don't disagree on rhetoric links, I just believe it would be dangerous for the neg to foreclose the possibility of going for the type of links I'm talking about because they essentially made terminal defense against themselves. While you are right you can no link and impact turn, the neg can kick out of the d/a by extending no link, while the aff could similarly squirm out of such links by extending your argument that their authors aren't "the security experts fitzsimmons is advocating listen to."

    @miles
    Most of what I said to Layne's post applies, but I think it also takes out some modicum (as to its import I leave that to the individual context of debates and debaters) of neg offense to say that the affs authors aren't part of the security complex, as it just reduces either link traction (if the rhetoric in the cards doesm't seem to really obey the categorization of your link evidence) or the number of links you can generate (which admittedly is not usually a problem with the Security K). For example you say the neg is in a better position saying ur ev is dildos and then lol'ing for 5 minutes in the 1nr, and while I would enjoy both giving and watching such a speech I think you are in a better position if at the end of the debate the judge has to say you indited the way they are educated (as being part of a bad institution) and their ability to understand the world as merely the product of an institutional worldview (don't get me wrong you can also make this arg with China threat type args) and thus I can't give even thier warranted and logical seeming cards any weight rather than the judge saying, well they are from blogs but they have good warrants so I give them some risk (if such a thing is possible and again not precluding any other links you may have generated throughout the round)

    Edited for spelling, because my spelling was worthy of one of the above mentioned 1nrs. Also for this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakin%27_2
    (and for those too lazy to click, I've included the relevant section: "Since the release of the film, the unusual subtitle "Electric Boogaloo," a reference to a funk-oriented dance style from the 1970s, has become a commonly used snowclone concerning sequels.[1] The implications vary, but tend to imply a sequel that is ridiculous, absurd, unwanted, unnecessary, formulaic, or simply obscure.")

  7. Futurologist

    I recently came upon an article that discusses the merits of predictions and futurology. It's actually pretty funny (a terrorism futures market, anyone?).
    Also, it post-dates your uniqueness… uh, I mean, predictions good evidence… which doesn't assume a post-9/11 world!
    http://rac.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/51/3/

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