T Combat Troops

I wanted to get a discussion going as I think this could potentially have a really negative effect on the topic.

At least at Umich there has been a lot of discussion over the T arg that “military presence” excludes combat troops. This would obviously extremely complicate a chunk of Iraq/Afghanistan affirmatives. IMO, the topic was largely crafted to discuss just those two areas- that is where the most up to date and broad research is being conducted in the world right now- they are the hot topic if you will.

So in my mind, in a debate where it came down to the negative having a more precise or field contextual definition vs the aff argument that such an interpretation would exclude a really big part of what people thought they were getting when voting for this topic, the aff is in pretty good shape.

I will leave it at that for now and let people discuss amongst themselves a little, but I am interested to hear what people think.

UPDATE- Per request, below the fold are some of the cards in question

Presence requires regular, non-combat activities – forces engaged in combat or one-time noncombat missions aren’t part of U.S. presence

Thomason, 2 – Project Leader, Institute for Defense Analysis (James, “Transforming US Overseas Military Presence: Evidence and Options for DoD,” July, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=


Our working definition of US overseas military presence is that it consists of all the US military assets in overseas areas that are engaged in relatively routine, regular, non-combat activities or functions.

By this definition, forces that are located overseas may or may not be engaging in presence activities. If they are engaging in combat (such as Operation Enduring Freedom), or are involved in a one-time non-combat action (such as an unscheduled carrier battle group deployment from the United States aimed at calming or stabilizing an emerging crisis situation), then they are not engaging in presence activities. Thus, an asset that is located (or present) overseas may or may not be “engaged in presence activities,” may or may not be “doing presence.”

We have thus far defined presence activities chiefly in “negative” terms—what they are not. In more positive terms, what exactly are presence activities, i.e., what do presence activities actually entail doing?

Overseas military presence activities are generally viewed as a subset of the overall class of activities that the US government uses in its efforts to promote important military/security objectives [Dismukes, 1994]. A variety of recurrent, overseas military activities are normally placed under the “umbrella” concept of military presence. These include but are not limited to US military efforts overseas to train foreign militaries; to improve inter-operability of US and friendly forces; to peacefully and visibly demonstrate US commitment and/or ability to defend US interests; to gain intelligence and familiarity with a locale; to conduct peacekeeping activities; and to position relevant, capable US military assets such that they are likely to be available sooner rather than later in case an evolving security operation or contingency should call for them.

Presence only applies to military forces before combat

Greer, 91 – Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Charles, “The Future of Forward Presence”, http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA234227&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf)

To establish a conceptual framework for this paper, I developed the following definition of forward presence within the context of national defense: the visible employment of US military personnel and/or military material as a deterrent outside of the continental United States (OCONUS) at any point along the operational continuum short of involving major US conventional forces in combat.

My simplistic definition could be subject to endless scholarly debate.  It includes small unit combat operations of limited scope and duration and peacetime contingency operations such as Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia, but it excludes the subsequent combat operation designated Desert Storm.  It includes our military activities in Alaska and Hawaii.  It excludes any diplomatic, economic, social or psychological activities that do not have a military component.

The term “employment” in the definition could be criticized as denoting action or movement which could exclude what some may term passive measures such as storage of material or unmanned (i.e., automated) sites or systems.  However, there is always some activity associated with these so-called passive measures (e.g., maintenance, data collection, etc), and the term employment also encompasses emplacement.

The more controversial aspect of my definition lies in the terms “deterrent” and “visible.”  Deterrence is “the prevention from action by fear of the consequences.  Deterrence is a state of mind brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction.”  Once major conventional forces are engaged in protracted combat operations, it is clear that deterrence, by definition, has failed.

Visibility is inextricably linked to deterrence.  Visible to whom?  To those we wish to deter.  This is reminiscent of the old philosophical question, “If a tree falls deep in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  In the case of forward presence, the answer is “no.”

Target audience is the key to the concept of visibility.  A target audience may be the world at large, the senior leadership of a specific country or movement, the control cell of a terrorist organization or countless other possibilities.  Therefore, forward presence, by definition, also includes covert activities using military personnel and/or material, as long as the activity is visible to the targeted audience and deters that group or individual from taking an undesired action.  An invisible presence is both contradictory and serves no useful deterrent purpose, which goes to the heart of the issue.  Deterrence is the ultimate purpose of forward presence.

Presence is distinct from crisis response and combat missions – it is the deployment of military forces explicitly linked to deterrence or reassurance

Dismukes, 94 – representative of the Center for Naval Analyses to the London staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe. (Bradford, “National Security Strategy and Forward Presence: Implications

for Acquisition and Use of Forces,” March,  http://cna.org/sites/default/files/research/2793019200.pdf)

Beyond the direct defense of the United States, U.S. conventional forces fulfill three strategic functions: overseas presence, immediate crisis response, and sustained, large-scale combat. The definitions of the three provide the framework for decision on forces. Basically, forces needed for other tasks—for example, peace-keeping and peace enforcement—are lesser cases of these three. (The Bush Administration grouped the latter two together under the label “Crisis Response.” The Bottom-Up Review does not address crisis response except by implication as part of phase 1, before large-scale combat in a “major regional contingency.”                    Mr. Aspin tends to put the label presence on all forward forces whether they are forces for presence (as will be specified) or whether they are engaged in the tasks of crisis response.)

A basic problem with overseas presence is that the term describes both a military posture (military means) and a military mission (military means and political objectives). In the case of presence as a mission, the objective is influence on behalf of a variety of U.S. political goals. This ambiguity is made worse by the fact that the term has been in use since at least the 1960s, but it has never been defined in the JCS dictionary of military terms. As a strategic task of the armed forces, overseas presence is here defined as the routine operation of forces forward (the means) to influence what foreign governments,113 both adversary and friend, think and do (the ends) without combat.114

Overseas presence does not constitute a strategy, though it or a similar term may in time become the shorthand name for the national strategy. The national strategy is one of engagement of U.S. power in the key regions to promote their stability and democratic development. As described in the body of this paper, a national strategy would integrate the components of U.S. power to achieve stability in the short term and build cooperative relations in the long term. The latter would address the dangers inherent in the international system, outlined in table 1, on page 23.

An important distinguishing characteristic of overseas presence115— the absence of combat—places it on a continuum of increasing violence with the other strategic tasks, crisis response and sustained combat. Each form of the application of power aims to influence political behavior. Presence is nonviolent (though it is their potential for violence that makes forward forces influential); crisis response involves the threat, or the actual practice, of limited violence; sustained combat seeks to change an adversary’s behavior through large- scale violence aimed at destroying his armed forces in the field, denying him the means to control or continue to support his operations, and so on. Thinking about the three strategic functions as points or bands on a continuum fits the real world; yet the three define the need for distinct kinds of capabilities.

29 thoughts on “T Combat Troops

  1. Herndon

    I agree with you Scott that the topic was definitely 'suppose' to include a discussion of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is an issue where people have found limiting T cards that the people who crafted the resolution in no way anticipated. As a result, a good negative team will be able to credibly make the argument, "Topic excludes combat troops – that limits it down to fewer affs. Fewer affs good."

    [By the way, I don't think this is all that different from questions of whether Health-care should have been included in the Social Services topic. Obviously, there is an argument that the best definitions say it shouldn't, but all the research & "framer's intent" were to include that discussion.]

    The problem is that aff's have to stop being wusses and start defending that good topics are better than small topics. Arguments like, "this topic would suck without combat troops affs" need to be developed and defended by the 2a's. AND, "excluding Iraq & afghanistan from this resolution is an act of educational omnicide on the value of this resolution."

    Now I sound like a K debater. But, maybe that is my point, if teams can get away with talking about nothing [or certainly not related to military presence] because it has inherent value, shouldn't 2a's of military troops affs be able to win that debate as well. Certainly taking the premise of those T defenses [value in discussion outweighs overly strict limits] and applying them to the more germane questions about the topic can help improve the topic.

    Tying all this up with a nice reasonability/'good is good enough' defense doesn't hurt either.

  2. Charles A.

    I agree with both of you; in fact, 2a's definitely need to stop being "wusses" and defend against T. I myself am a K debater and I usually put "spikes" in my aff. For example, for last year's topic I would put "USFG needed" cards as a preemptive to States CP, as well as, "T is infrastructure made and limit our education cards" as a preemptive to T violations which would be followed up by a K of T in the 2a if they still decided to run it. This allows the aff not only to put a defensive wall put gain offense off of T's. As a debater and judge I hate T debates and believe T just ruins the round unless of course the aff is seriously infringing on neg ground. All in all, that whole arguments of military presence doesnt include combatants is ridiculous. The fact that these troops are part of the U.S. military, and are in other countries shows they are a "military presence" in one of the countries spoke of in the resolution which obviously shows the reasonability of the aff which goes back to Herndon's point on reasonability good args.

  3. Bill Batterman

    If you encourage students to go for this argument during camp, you are personally responsible (at least in part) for ruining this topic. I understand the need for limits, but if the "reduce military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq (etc.)" topic excludes cases that withdraw from Afghanistan or Iraq, we've gone beyond "limits" and are well into "insanity".

  4. Herndon

    The statement "I agree with Herndon" & "I like to K Topicality" made me shake a little bit.

    IN other words, I disagree. T is awesome and necessary. It just needs to be impacted in ways other than "limits good."

    If you need T answers in the 1ac [or get strategy off of K's of T] you are probably committing the same harm to the topic that a good 2a would be able to defend is valuable for actually learning about the resolution – which is how teams beat T arguments that have "definitional validity" but harm the topic in other more valuable ways.

    To simplify that. Kritiks of T beg the question of the value of T. Of course your cards that "X" subject is important OR "Y" framework is the best are great. Any reasonable interpretation of the topic keeps us from having done that research. [i think about Scott & Bill's K aff card project and why it is necessary not because the aff cards are harder to find but because its traditionally unrelated to the topic affs SHOULD be researching – with apologies to the more germane arguments that I do support].

    Ground forces affs should be Topical – but not for the reasons K affs are T, not for reasons of "come on you know they are," BUT for reasons of improved quality of the topic expressed in concrete ways tied to the resolution.

  5. Herndon

    WOW I got drawn in fast.

    If you don't teach students how to beat this argument during camp, you are personally responsible (at least in part) for ruining this and every topic. I understand the need for limits, but if the "reduce military presence" topic excludes cases based only on limits then we as teachers/coaches of the activity suck.

  6. Bill Batterman

    You can certainly encourage students to practice this debate in order to learn how to defeat it. My ire is with instructors that are encouraging their summer institute students to pursue "T—not combat troops" as a viable strategy *during the season*. The implication, of course, is that there's no need for students to research and prepare for debates about Iraq and Afghanistan withdrawal… they can just tech-out some T blocks and they'll be set. If some very good neg debaters adopt this approach to the Iraq and Afghanistan portions of the topic, they'll win some T debates early in the year based purely on technical superiority. The result will be a trickle down: *other*, less skilled teams will start relying on this strategy and will be less likely to read an Iraq/Afghanistan withdrawal affirmative because they're afraid they'll lose to this T argument.

    Instructors have the power to shape the development of the topic. Lending credibility to the "affs can't withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan" topicality argument does a disservice to everyone debating this topic.

  7. Brett Bricker

    No topicality argument should be excluded based on a subjective belief about what this topic should look like. In my opinion, there is a benefit to the (in-round) debate about which definitions of military presence should be preferred.

  8. Bill Batterman

    @Brett Bricker
    What benefit? We learn that there are DOD/military definitions of "military presence" that do not include warfighting and combat troops. "Prefer our precise interpretation — the military does not define its ongoing combat operations in Iraq as a military presence so the aff isn't topical" doesn't seem very exciting/educational, but maybe I'm wrong. Make the case for the other side, Bricker, and balance things out.

  9. Reuben

    I simply don't understand why allowing 'combat troops' as an affirmative explodes the topic. The need for limits for the topic is always important but in the 'real-world', the 'military' is usually considered the troops we send out to war, etc. IMHO, a smart affirmative team could just go into the Congressional record (or transcripts of hearings) to find discussion of our 'military presence' in Iraq and Afganistan to include the troops we have in active operations.

    Especially with the deadlines coming up of getting rid of all 'combat troops', this discussion should be huge in recent articles or congressional hearings.

  10. Scott Phillips

    Reuben- you answer your own question Iraq/Afghanistan would be the largest research areas.

    Batterman- I may be wrong, but I think Herndon/Bricker are saying the idea should be teach the aff to beat it, instead of saying "don't tell your kids to run it".

  11. Brett Bricker

    @Bill Batterman

    I agree with several of your sentiments. Lab leaders have a large responsibility to cut quality arguments, and to set the framework for what the topic often-times becomes. I also agree that debates at high levels often times have a trickle-down effect that changes argument choice for a wider community than just those in the late outrounds of big tournaments. I'm even on board that certain arguments should not be produced at debate camps to deter really terrible arguments – wipeout, spark, e-prime etc. However, I disagree with the exclusion of this argument.

    First, I feel that the words in the resolution should guide the topic as its debated, not the other way around. The topic is not the "let's figure out a way to include Iraq and Afghanistan" topic, it's the military presence topic. If the most precise, exclusive and qualified definitions of military presence exclude combat operations then it seems like these debaters would not be winning on "technical superiority" but on quality research skills (not to degrade the value of either technical debating or quality research).

    Second, precision debates are more important than you seem to give credit. Andrew Jennings has commented that "law school is like one big T debate." For him, and those in debate going to law school, debating about the most precise, qualified and exclusive definition is important education. The debate about competing standards that you want to exclude is exactly the type of education that helped Jennings through 1l. For all of the same reasons that this debate is important, I believe that the value of topicality research is equally important. Arbitrarily discarding some definitions because of a pre-determined vision of what the topic should be seems to deter this research.

    Third, it's totally arbitrary. K's of T are dumb, but what is "exciting" and "educational" certainly vary based on the individual. It would be more exciting for me to have a math topic, and SP prefers an education in Halo. Lab leaders matter, but lab leaders shouldn't change what words mean – if the definitions definitively exclude combat operations.

    Fourth, empirically denied. The topic committees have boned it to a much larger degree in the past, but debate was still awesome. Lebanon and Afghanistan should not have been included on the Middle East topic, rice shouldn't have been included on the ag topic, CTBT should have been included on the nuclear weapons topic, but the fact that the topic committee may have had an oversight does not mean that debating ABOUT that oversight doesn't still entail good research and good debates.

    Fifth, is it really that bad? We have non-combat presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are solvency advocates discussing their relative utility. This definition may even be better for the longevity of the Iraq area of the topic.

    Finally, debate solves. Discarding this argument because we will "only learn that there are DOD/Military definitions…that do not include warfighting and combat troops" could really be applied to all arguments. Why should we research japanese politics, so we can just learn what the Japan Times has to say…? Whey research the gender K, so we can learn what Tickner has to say…? Yes. We learn that there are differing opinions about issues, and debaters can discuss the relative benefits and disadvantages of each one. If a team is deterred from reading Afghanistan withdrawal because someone wins Greenhill on this argument, they have reached the wrong conclusion. Instead, the lesson should be that all teams should learn to better defend their arguments in the face of qualified evidence to the contrary.

  12. Bill Batterman

    @Brett Bricker

    Fair points, all. I would imagine that my kneejerk response to this argument is a product of the way I have experienced it so far at Georgetown (it's been terrible). Two issues, I guess:

    1. What is the best neg card for this interpretation? Perhaps I just haven't read the good one(s), yet.

    2. What Iraq/Afghanistan affs are viable/topical under this interpretation? In the debates that I've seen, the aff reads ev that there's no stable definition of combat troops and therefore *all* troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are at least partially "combat troops" and the neg responds by reexplaining their extremely precise military definition. Are there viable non-combat troops affs for Iraq/Afghanistan?

  13. Brett Bricker

    @Bill Batterman

    I get your concern, mostly because I was also annoyed by the shallowness of the "health care not T" debates last year.

    Dave has done this work in his ENDI file – which is where I think the def'ns that SP posted are from. Here are two other pretty good cards.

    Presence missions are anything short of actual combat
    Blechman et al, 97 – President of DFI International, and has held positions in the Department of Defense, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Office of Management and Budget (Barry, Strategic Review, Spring, “Military Presence Abroad in a New Era: The Role of Airpower,” p. 13)

    Occupying a continuum of operations short of actual combat, presence missions have included the permanent basing of troops overseas, routine military-to-military contacts, military exercises and training with other nations, participation in multinational peace and humanitarian operations, the provision of timely intelligence information and other data to leaders of other nations, military deployments in response to crises, and, when necessary, the deployment of forces in anticipation of combat.

    Presence excludes the direct application of military force
    Widnall and Fogleman, 95 – *Secretary of the Air Force and formerly was Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AND **Chief of Staff, US Air Force (Sheila and Ronald, Joint Forces Quarterly, “Global Presence”, Spring, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/jfq_pubs/jfq2007… Italics in the original

    At the foundation of this approach is power projection. Power projection is a means to influence actors or affect situations or events in America’s national interest. It has two components: warfighting and presence. Warfighting is the direct application of military force to compel an adversary. Presence is the posturing of military capability, including nonbelligerent applications, and/or the leveraging of information to deter or compel an actor or affect a situation. A sound national military strategy depends on coherent warfighting and presence strategies.

    2. The best distinction I've seen between combat vs. non-combat relates to the remaining post-August presence in Iraq. The remaining troops will support government infrastructure, provide police and military training. This is a good report defending an end to training or Iraqi Security Forces: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/06/st…. Eland agrees – http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?i

    I'll admit these affs have a more difficult time accessing large-scale conflict.

  14. David Heidt

    Bill –

    3 things:

    1. The alternative to having this argument at camp is to have some enterprising teams cut it during the year and beat teams on it by surprise. Suppressing the argument doesn't make it go away – particularly with a T argument that is pretty easy to find. And teams have incentives to construct T arguments and tech them out precisely because they require less work – so I think teams going for this violation is inevitable, even if it hadn't been turned out at camp. I get the "teach them to answer it" argument, but that's not particularly effective in a vaccuum – they have to be able to practice against people that are competent extending it.

    2. I don't think this violation will be particularly successful during the course of the year – at least not against withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan affs. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but the limits and ground arguments are pretty poor, and the counterinterpretation of presence = purely physical deployments combined with a substantially interpretation exclude the neg's worst examples of why it unlimits or hurts their ground. I also think – counterintuitively – that a withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan aff meets the violation. A withdraw aff doesn't effect the presence mission (or presence activities as described by Thomason) but it does end physical presence. It also doesn't mandate the elimination of the combat mission; it's an effect of the plan only. To clarify – Thomason's definition is a straight quote from Dismukes, and Dismukes defines presence as EITHER a military posture (military means) or a military mission (military means and a political objective). Removing the physical presence of forces removes the military means, even though it may not end a military mission except by effect. In any case – I think the neg may win some with this but the aff has a strong argument.

    3. I think this violation could nonetheless be effective against smaller affs that alter combat tactics (like banning drone attacks or DU bullet use in Afghanistan) without altering physical presence. There's a difference between removing combat troops (physical presence) and ending a combat mission (as opposed to a presence mission).

  15. CJ Clevenger

    There is actually a larger problem that I have seen coming from this topic as well. Terrible Plan text writing. The plan text being written to date are so vague that they do not even come close to doing what is advocated by the literature. The problem lies the wording of the resolution that arguably limits the Aff to only taking an action to reduce our military presence, which makes for about 6 cases (6 countries) when 90% of the solvency literature is really talking about much more in terms of reducing our military presence through restructuring our strategy. I actually think the biggest problem is not with military presence, but rather the restriction of reduce. Now I think there is an argument to be had that you can restructure our presence strategy and be a reduction, but from the get go, camps have gone the route of a "phased reduction" or some other brutal bit of poor plan wording. Unfortunately being Aff is going to be much more difficult than in recent years. The ground (especially when writing the resolution as the plan text) is in favor of the negative. PICs galore, and really they are good PICS.

    Now, in relation to the question of presence not being combat troops. This is just a fact. The topic paper, as much as I respect Stephan, was poorly researched. The information was common knowledge to me that presence was not combat troops, and when researching the topic was actually one of the first interpretations that I came across. Yes, unfortunately teams may not be topic while pulling out combat troops from Iraq or Afghanistan. I would much rather hear a discussion of whether or not we should continue our transition missions of training, than the Aff of, "we are going to do the Status Quo SOFA, Inherency is that we MIGHT keep troops there now…"

  16. Dylan Keenan

    Almost every high school and college topic faces the same problem with T. We don't fully research the terms before deciding the topic because no one, including those writing topic papers, has the time to do so. Consequently, wording choices for the main verb or object of the topic prove inadequate in one of two ways:
    1) There are no field contextual definitions, or at least no good definitions. Debaters scrap together contrived definitions from elsewhere.
    2) The words mean something, but not what the framers thought. Thus, affs that we think *should* be part of the topic don't get debated.

    I didn't always feel this way, but watching that process repeat itself ad-nauseam has made me reconsider the value of contextual evidence that defines a whole phrase inclusively and exclusively, and all the other definitional attributes that debaters fetishize.

    The world that T debaters inhabit, where contextually defined words have a chosen meaning and the cases of the topic follow from that meaning has very little to do with how the world actually works.

    Be honest. The first thing anyone does when they hear about a debate topic is to work with heuristic, common-usage definitions to craft a very fuzzy vision of what should be included. To simplify what I'm saying, people's brains work from concepts to language, not language to concepts.

    Perhaps this is only an angrier, more convoluted way of reiterating Herndon's comment. Affs need to be good about why it's important that we talk about Iraq and Afghanistan combat forces and why limiting a topic doesn't make it better.

    I believe, however, that there is more to it. Precise, contextual definitions serve the experts in the field. That's not us. We're trying to have policy debates about a subject area that we understood first as a set of concepts and ideas. The words should serve our common sense of those concepts, not the other way around.

  17. Layne

    this whole discussion is silly. basically it comes down to "here's an argument that is advocated in the literature but that would make debate bad based on some arbitrary measurement" see: aspec, consult, a host of other bad args. teams shouldn't be encouraged or discouraged for going for it as batterman advocates, but if you get slapped around on it you don't deserve sympathy. If you are good enough to slap around teams on it, more power to you.

  18. Bill Batterman


    That's certainly one perspective, but it's not one that I share and I don't think it's one that is shared by most coaches. Jarrod Atchison gives a lecture about ethos in debate that includes a section about the differences between debaters and judges; Seth Gannon has a "cover" version that he delivered to the students at the Georgetown Debate Seminar this summer. One of the highlights is that debaters care most about winning—"if you are good enough to slap around teams on it, more power to you"—whereas judges (at least the portion of the judging community composed of coaches) care most about the educational value of our activity and it's long-term outlook. They are invested in debate as an end in itself, in other words, while debaters are invested in debate as a stepping stone to success in other endeavors.

    "Teams shouldn't be encouraged or discouraged for going for it" is not a position an educator should take. Even if you believe strongly in Tim Mahoney's position that "coaches coach, judges judge, and debaters debate", the role of summer institute instructors is that of a *coach*, not just a *judge*. It's entirely reasonable to argue that *judges* should neither encourage nor discourage teams from utilizing a given argumentative approach (although I obviously disagree with that position), but it's unreasonable to demand the same laissez faire approach from educators with an investment in the activity.

    Brett and David have made good arguments defending the potential usefulness of debates about "military presence" and have persuaded me that there might be some merit that I initially missed. But this kind of discussion is EXACTLY what educators SHOULD be engaging in as they teach students during the summer… we are ALL effected in substantial ways by the approaches that our colleagues take during institutes and we should care deeply about whether what we as debate coaches are collectively teaching is pedagogically sound.

    "This whole discussion is silly" only from the perspective of someone with no long term investment in the activity and whose primary concern is "slap[ping] around teams". That's not my primary concern, and I don't think it should be the primary concern of other educators.

  19. Layne

    @Bill Batterman


    I see/value your opinion – that said, i think that what educators value, or what you elude to what they value, is slightly arbitrary. in reality, the entire purpose of this discussion is that while from an *academic standpoint* (i.e. what the literature reflects) the resolution terms clearly (or at least very likely) exclude combat troops, that would make for i guess "un-fun" debates where the affs can't access absurd impact claims as easily and the negative can't get absurd DA claims as easily.

    Bricker makes a very good point (which i also think is a reason why "t trades off with substance which kills education, err aff" claims are absurd) that from an educational/academic value, especially in the context of PORTABLE education, learning how to effectively classify terms contextually is probably more important than being able to string together Heritage Reports about how troops solve war.

    In addition, while my use of terms like "slapping around" was probably cavalier, it doesn't deny that there is clearly an educational value in debating Q's of limits/ground etc. The technical skills required to really effectively execute a T violation require a very fine-tuned skillset and a lot of practice – it is not something that lazy debaters do to avoid debating substance. In addition, finding contextual and good T evidence takes substantially more time than finding cards on a lot of substantive issues. While (some) educators (may) put a heavy/heavier price on the substantive Qs that T violations like this trade off with/deter (and that is clearly a valid position), I think that, in my opinion at least, it's a bit narrow minded in terms of what is valuable about the activity.

  20. Scott Phillips

    "whereas judges (at least the portion of the judging community composed of coaches) care most about the educational value of our activity and it’s long-term outlook."

    This is most certainly false. Very few coaches of competitive teams share your views on education Bill, and even fewer actually live up to them- i.e. will sacrifice competitive success for "education" by limiting what their teams read- in fact other than Mahoney I can't think of a single one- your teams still read/have read arguments you consider to be nonsense.

  21. miles

    not even mahoney limits our args that much – we just chose not to read states this year, he even told us to have it for the toc

  22. Bill Batterman

    @Scott Phillips

    You don't think coaches care more about the educational value of debate than they do about winning?

    Even if you're right in the context of any single debate during the season (hence the compromises you speak of with regard to argument choices), I don't think that disproves my larger point.

    The discussion in this post is about the way we teach students during the summer to debate the upcoming year's topic. In that context, do you think coaches care more about winning than they do about teaching students in a pedagogically defensible way?

    Not all coaches—or even a minority of coaches—share my opinion about the educational value of certain arguments. But they do share my concern about the educational value of *debate*… they just disagree about whether the States CP is educationally defensible, for example. I think this is the argument you're making; you're right, but we're not really disagreeing if that's the case.

    And as far as coaching goes, I haven't allowed my students to read arguments which I could not defend as educationally sound (so no States CP and no Consult CP, for example). I think a lot of arguments are bad/nonsense (like Schopenhauer or Nietzsche or most Heritage Foundation arguments), but I think there is value in debating them. My concern with T—"combat troops" was/is that it will deter students from researching and debating about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As long as the argument is presented as a supplement to students' research about Afghanistan/Iraq and not a replacement, though, I think it's defensible.

  23. Scott Phillips

    @Bill Batterman
    As I said, few if any coaches sacrifice wins for education. It seems we are in obvious disagreement on this point-both in how many coaches do so and in whether or not normatively debate coaches should. Instructors at camp are more likely trying to teach students to be successful competitively than set aside arguments and ignore them because they think they are not "pedagogically defensible".

  24. CJ Clevenger

    @Bill Batterman
    "My concern with T—”combat troops” was/is that it will deter students from researching and debating about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As long as the argument is presented as a supplement to students’ research about Afghanistan/Iraq and not a replacement, though, I think it’s defensible."

    This is the statement at the heart of this debate so I have a few questions about it for you.

    1. Do you think this is a resolution about debating the "wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq, or is it a resolution about our military presence? If you think it is about the wars, then we should exclude the rest of the topic countries.

    2. Do you think it is more "educational" for students to have a debate about whether or not we should pull out troops based on the SQ time line or perhaps a month earlier or a month later. Is that really the debate that you think is so educational? Because pulling out our combat troops really has nothing to do with the presence left over in those countries for the purpose of rebuilding and training. Those are arguments that last the course of a year. That IS what military presence is about. I IMHO I would much rather hear a debate as a judge about whether we should stay to assist in the transition than whether or not we should pull out our troops on X date only to have the negative CP to pull out a week earlier to win that they solve better.

    In a world in which troop deadlines (especially in Iraq) have been set, I think that excluding those discussion is absolutely fine educationally. Both from a coaches and judges perspective, as it begins a conversation about issues that will continue long after we remove our "combat" troops.

  25. David Heidt

    @CJ Clevenger
    "1. Do you think this is a resolution about debating the “wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, or is it a resolution about our military presence? If you think it is about the wars, then we should exclude the rest of the topic countries."

    It's clearly both; there's no exclusion. The popular (and expert non-uniformed analyst) conception of 'military presence' includes troop deployments to countries like Japan and troop deployments to Iraq – because presence could be the physical stationing of troops. Military definitions exclude the wars, but even a ton of military experts contextually describe the wars as 'presence'. So it's more of a question whether you think the superior precision of the military definitions outweigh any benefit to debating the wars.

    "2. Do you think it is more “educational” for students to have a debate about whether or not we should pull out troops based on the SQ time line or perhaps a month earlier or a month later. Is that really the debate that you think is so educational?"

    YES. It is. Five minutes of Afghanistan research would reveal that the SQ time line for that country is more political spin than political reality. There is a large debate over the timeline – whether to stick with it, repeal it, or wait and see – and the timeline itself is only a small section of the literature because every single other aspect of troop deployments there is the source of a large debate. If you really think the major issue will come down to a CP to do it a month earlier, you should do more reading.

    Your argument is slightly better for Iraq because the deadline is more concrete. But – yeah – the question of whether we should impose the SQ conditional deadline vs. stick to the deadline no matter what is interesting to me, and I think it accesses a decent aff. I believe the debates over that aff will be vastly superior to any ban training aff simply because it's more controversial, and the evidence is better.

    You're certainly welcome to your opinion about what kinds of debates you prefer. I strongly disagree, however. I think the vision of the topic that reduces it to training is pretty boring because the literature isn't nearly as deep or controversial as it is for troop deployments – so what you've described as "absolutely fine educationally" seems like an awful monstrosity to me. It's like debating poverty under the constraint of 'social services are just social workers', but worse, because the opportunity for a good topic that addressed one of the most important foreign policy issues the US faces was missed. It would certainly be odd to debate a topic about military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and not be able to talk about a large portion of what our military actually does there.

    I think the aff has strong arguments for the combat troops argument. I certainly hope the aff wins these debates overwhelmingly. I suspect the 'ban training' topic you've described will really just be the withdraw troops from South Korea or Japan topic for most teams.

  26. Rick

    Bill when do you decide when something is educational?
    The states CP is a key distinction in a ton of debates over who has the role of engaging in an area of policy. Politics, while not a "real-world" style DA, teaches students about important peaces of legislation and the important votes in congress and how parties interact.
    The consult CP has a place on some topics. This topic seems to beg for us asking a country if we should remove troops.

  27. CJ Clevenger

    @David Heidt
    I agree with most of what you have said, and looking at my original post maybe took a slant to one side too much to prove a point. In that you can not attempt to arbitrarily define what the topic means. It means different things to different people. I guess I should state up front that I have no bias when it comes to what is topical and what is not. I (just like most) am looking for whatever ground can be provided based on whatever interp of the resolution that I can find and defend as a coach.

    And I think that not discussing the removal of combat troops (meaning ceasing combat operations) is an important discussion and definitely more so in Afghanistan. Iraq…ummmm hard for me to see the discussion as being more productive educationally than a discussion of whether or not we should stay there long-term for training and assistance. That is my personal opinion about the educational level of the discussion and what is interesting to listen to.
    Educationally though I am curious, do you think that debate wise it is more educational to have a negative have to debate against effectively the SQ as the negative? Do you think it is acceptable for the AFF to say "We will unconditionally enforce the current SOFA with Iraq because they MIGHT not get it together and we MIGHT keep troops there, so we MIGHT need to do the AFF"? This seems like some really terrible ground if you are negative in my opinion. I agree that the literature has this discussion, but is it acceptable for the AFF to say that something might happen in the SQ Inherency wise and take an action that could still occur in the Status Quo without the act of fiat?

  28. Herndon

    This discussion was fun to read. Felt my larger point got lost [thus the return to brevity] – thanks Scott for trying.

    1. If an argument makes debate bad, teach kids how to beat the argument.

    2. This T argument isn't all that damning.

    Also, Scott, I think the discussion of whether coaches privilege wins over value is an intriguing one.

  29. Poro

    All arguments can be beaten. Some way, some how. This is one of the great things of debate. There is no all mighty powerful argument. There should be a card somewhere in some obscure underground archive of some college library that effectively beats this argument. There must be.

    "Also, Scott, I think the discussion of whether coaches privilege wins over value is an intriguing one."
    Very interesting indeed, I would think that coaches (at least most) would defer value. But this T should be able to beaten even if the neg is OP. (over powered btw)

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