Monthly Archives: January 2011

You Ask, We Answer: Season 2, Episode 7 of The 3NR Podcast

As promised, the latest edition of The 3NR Podcast centers entirely around reader/listener-submitted questions. With the full crew on board, the discussion covers a lot of ground including email evidence, the way that judges should (and do) balance explanation versus evidence, debating the case against COIN affirmatives, and more. Click on over to to download the new episode or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. We didn’t get to everything, so we will dedicate another future episode to the remaining questions we’ve received from our listeners. If you have something you’d like us to discuss, please let us know.

Watch Glenbrook North Take On Westminster

The final round of the University of Michigan tournament will be held on Friday morning at the Marriott Century Center in Atlanta. Featuring a matchup of Glenbrook North’s Alex Pappas and Zack Parker and Westminster’s Ellis Allen and Daniel Taylor, the outcome will have significant ramifications on the Baker Award standings. The 1AC will begin at 9:00AM in the Dunwoody Room. Guests are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Special Guest Podcast: Affirmative Approaches to Critiques

The latest edition of The 3NR Podcast features two special guests: James Herndon (Director of Debate Programs and Debate Coach at Emory University) and John Turner (M.A. candidate in Communication and Assistant Debate Coach at the University of Georgia). James, John, and Scott discuss affirmative approaches to debating critiques. Click on over to to download the new episode or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Baker Award Standings Updated

The unofficial National Debate Coaches Association David P. Baker Award for Season Long Excellence standings have been updated and are available below the fold. This update includes partial results from the Georgetown Day School tournament, full results from the Lexington tournament, and a few corrections from last week’s version. I will release another update along with the full spreadsheet after the Barkley Forum.

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New Kagan Hegemony Article

Has some good cards, including responses to the Mearsheimer article Alderete posted a little while ago

Others have. For decades “realist” analysts have called for a strategy of “offshore balancing.” Instead of the United States providing security in East Asia and the Persian Gulf, it would withdraw its forces from Japan, South Korea, and the Middle East and let the nations in those regions balance one another. If the balance broke down and war erupted, the United States would then intervene militarily until balance was restored. In the Middle East and Persian Gulf, for instance, Christopher Layne has long proposed “passing the mantle of regional stabilizer” to a consortium of “Russia, China, Iran, and India.” In East Asia offshore balancing would mean letting China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and others manage their own problems, without U.S. involvement—again, until the balance broke down and war erupted, at which point the United States would provide assistance to restore the balance and then, if necessary, intervene with its own forces to restore peace and stability. Before examining whether this would be a wise strategy, it is important to understand that this really is the only genuine alternative to the one the United States has pursued for the past 65 years. To their credit, Layne and others who support the concept of offshore balancing have eschewed halfway measures and airy assurances that we can do more with less, which are likely recipes for disaster. They recognize that either the United States is actively involved in providing security and stability in regions beyond the Western Hemisphere, which means maintaining a robust presence in those regions, or it is not. Layne and others are frank in calling for an end to the global security strategy developed in the aftermath of World War II, perpetuated through the Cold War, and continued by four successive post-Cold War administrations. At the same time, it is not surprising that none of those administrations embraced offshore balancing as a strategy. The idea of relying on Russia, China, and Iran to jointly “stabilize” the Middle East and Persian Gulf will not strike many as an attractive proposition. Nor is U.S. withdrawal from East Asia and the Pacific likely to have a stabilizing effect on that region. The prospects of a war on the Korean Peninsula would increase. Japan and other nations in the region would face the choice of succumbing to Chinese hegemony or taking unilateral steps for self-defense, which in Japan’s case would mean the rapid creation of a formidable nuclear arsenal. Layne and other offshore balancing enthusiasts, like John Mearsheimer, point to two notable occasions when the United States allegedly practiced this strategy. One was the Iran-Iraq war, where the United States supported Iraq for years against Iran in the hope that the two would balance and weaken each other. The other was American policy in the 1920s and 1930s, when the United States allowed the great European powers to balance one another, occasionally providing economic aid, or military aid, as in the Lend-Lease program of assistance to Great Britain once war broke out. Whether this was really American strategy in that era is open for debate—most would argue the United States in this era was trying to stay out of war not as part of a considered strategic judgment but as an end in itself. Even if the United States had been pursuing offshore balancing in the first decades of the 20th century, however, would we really call that strategy a success? The United States wound up intervening with millions of troops, first in Europe, and then in Asia and Europe simultaneously, in the two most dreadful wars in human history. It was with the memory of those two wars in mind, and in the belief that American strategy in those interwar years had been mistaken, that American statesmen during and after World War II determined on the new global strategy that the United States has pursued ever since. Under Franklin Roosevelt, and then under the leadership of Harry Truman and Dean Acheson, American leaders determined that the safest course was to build “situations of strength” (Acheson’s phrase) in strategic locations around the world, to build a “preponderance of power,” and to create an international system with American power at its center. They left substantial numbers of troops in East Asia and in Europe and built a globe-girdling system of naval and air bases to enable the rapid projection of force to strategically important parts of the world. They did not do this on a lark or out of a yearning for global dominion. They simply rejected the offshore balancing strategy, and they did so because they believed it had led to great, destructive wars in the past and would likely do so again. They believed their new global strategy was more likely to deter major war and therefore be less destructive and less expensive in the long run. Subsequent administrations, from both parties and with often differing perspectives on the proper course in many areas of foreign policy, have all agreed on this core strategic approach. From the beginning this strategy was assailed as too ambitious and too expensive. At the dawn of the Cold War, Walter Lippmann railed against Truman’s containment strategy as suffering from an unsustainable gap between ends and means that would bankrupt the United States and exhaust its power. Decades later, in the waning years of the Cold War, Paul Kennedy warned of “imperial overstretch,” arguing that American decline was inevitable “if the trends in national indebtedness, low productivity increases, [etc.]” were allowed to continue at the same time as “massive American commitments of men, money and materials are made in different parts of the globe.” Today, we are once again being told that this global strategy needs to give way to a more restrained and modest approach, even though the indebtedness crisis that we face in coming years is not caused by the present, largely successful global strategy. Of course it is precisely the success of that strategy that is taken for granted. The enormous benefits that this strategy has provided, including the financial benefits, somehow never appear on the ledger. They should. We might begin by asking about the global security order that the United States has sustained since Word War II—the prevention of major war, the support of an open trading system, and promotion of the liberal principles of free markets and free government. How much is that order worth? What would be the cost of its collapse or transformation into another type of order? Whatever the nature of the current economic difficulties, the past six decades have seen a greater increase in global prosperity than any time in human history. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. Once-backward nations have become economic dynamos. And the American economy, though suffering ups and downs throughout this period, has on the whole benefited immensely from this international order. One price of this success has been main
taining a sufficient military capacity to provide the essential security underpinnings of this order. But has the price not been worth it? In the first half of the 20th century, the United States found itself engaged in two world wars. In the second half, this global American strategy helped produce a peaceful end to the great-power struggle of the Cold War and then 20 more years of great-power peace. Looked at coldly, simply in terms of dollars and cents, the benefits of that strategy far outweigh the costs. The danger, as always, is that we don’t even realize the benefits our strategic choices have provided. Many assume that the world has simply become more peaceful, that great-power conflict has become impossible, that nations have learned that military force has little utility, that economic power is what counts. This belief in progress and the perfectibility of humankind and the institutions of international order is always alluring to Americans and Europeans and other children of the Enlightenment. It was the prevalent belief in the decade before World War I, in the first years after World War II, and in those heady days after the Cold War when people spoke of the “end of history.” It is always tempting to believe that the international order the United States built and sustained with its power can exist in the absence of that power, or at least with much less of it. This is the hidden assumption of those who call for a change in American strategy: that the United States can stop playing its role and yet all the benefits that came from that role will keep pouring in. This is a great if recurring illusion, the idea that you can pull a leg out from under a table and the table will not fall over.

Walt Post on History

Has some interesting points, on Afghanistan

Yet this sadly turns out to be no universal law: There is no inexorable evolutionary march that replaces our bad, old ideas with smart, new ones. If anything, the story of the last few decades of international relations can just as easily be read as the maddening persistence of dubious thinking. Like crab grass and kudzu, misguided notions are frustratingly resilient, hard to stamp out no matter how much trouble they have caused in the past and no matter how many scholarly studies have undermined their basic claims.

Consider, for example, the infamous “domino theory,” kicking around in one form or another since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1954 “falling dominoes” speech. During the Vietnam War, plenty of serious people argued that a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam would undermine America’s credibility around the world and trigger a wave of pro-Soviet realignments. No significant dominoes fell after U.S. troops withdrew in 1975, however, and it was the Berlin Wall that eventually toppled instead. Various scholars examined the domino theory in detail and found little historical or contemporary evidence to support it.

Although the domino theory seemed to have been dealt a fatal blow in the wake of the Vietnam War, it has re-emerged, phoenix-like, in the current debate over Afghanistan. We are once again being told that if the United States withdraws from Afghanistan before achieving a clear victory, its credibility will be called into question, al Qaeda and Iran will be emboldened, Pakistan could be imperiled, and NATO’s unity and resolve might be fatally compromised. Back in 2008, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Afghanistan an “important test of the credibility of NATO,” and President Barack Obama made the same claim in late 2009 when he announced his decision to send 30,000 more troops there. Obama also justified his decision by claiming that a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would spread instability to Pakistan. Despite a dearth of evidence to support these alarmist predictions, it’s almost impossible to quash the fear that a single setback in a strategic backwater will unleash a cascade of falling dominoes.

On the common empiricism arg

For starters, even smart people with good intentions have difficulty learning the right lessons from history because there are relatively few iron laws of foreign policy and the facts about each case are rarely incontrovertible.

And unfortunately, the theories that seek to explain what causes what are relatively crude. When a policy fails, reasonable people often disagree about why success proved elusive. Did the United States lose in Vietnam because the task was inherently too difficult, because it employed the wrong military strategy, or because media coverage undermined support back home? Interpreting an apparent success is no easier: Did violence in Iraq decline in 2007 because of the “surge” of U.S. troops, because al Qaeda affiliates there overplayed their hand, or because ethnic cleansing had created homogeneous neighborhoods that made it harder for Shiites and Sunnis to target each other? The implications for today depend on which of these interpretations you believe, which means that consensus about the “lessons” of these conflicts will be elusive and fragile.

What’s more, even when past failures have discredited a policy, those who want to resurrect it can argue that new knowledge, new technology, or a clever new strategy will allow them to succeed where their predecessors failed. For more than 20 years, for example, a combination of academic economists and influential figures in the finance industry convinced many people that we had overcome the laws of economic gravity — that sophisticated financial models and improved techniques of risk management like financial derivatives allowed governments to relax existing regulations on financial markets. This new knowledge, they argued, permitted a vast expansion of new credit with little risk of financial collapse. They were tragically wrong, of course, but a lot of smart people believed them.

Similarly, the Vietnam War did teach a generation of U.S. leaders to be wary of getting dragged into counterinsurgency wars. That cautious attitude was reflected in the so-called Powell doctrine, which dictated that the United States intervene only when its vital interests were at stake, rely on overwhelming force, and identify a clear exit strategy in advance. Yet after the U.S. military routed the Taliban in 2001, key figures in President George W. Bush’s administration became convinced that the innovative use of special forces, precision munitions, and high-tech information management (together dubbed a “revolution in military affairs”) would enable the United States to overthrow enemy governments quickly and cheaply and avoid lengthy occupations, in sharp contrast to past experience. The caution that inspired the Powell doctrine was cast aside, and the result was the war in Iraq, which dragged on for almost eight years, and the war in Afghanistan, where the United States seems mired in an endless occupation.

New Additions To The 3NR Results Archive

A large number of results packets have been added to The 3NR Results Archive over the past few days. We have about 50 packets in the queue to process and post and will continue adding them to the archive as they are finished. A big thank you to Tim Alderete for his contribution to this project: almost all of what is currently available from the 1990s is courtesy of Tim’s personal archive.

Many gems can be found in these results.

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Woodward Tournament Eligibility Questions

I’ve gotten a bunch of good questions over the last 10 days and to avoid repeating the answer I’ll post them here.

Q1- Does patricipation in Middle School Debate Tournaments effect eligibility

A– NO. Lots of places have people who debate in a middle school debate league.  These tournaments are one day with abridged speech times (4 min constructives 2 min rebuttals or some combo).

Please understand there is a difference between participating in high school tournaments with a high school debate format as a middle schooler versus competing at middle school only tournaments.  A 9th grader who went to the Glenbrooks as a 7th and 8th grader is not Eligible.  A 9th grader who debated at a MS only tournament is.

Limiting out MS debate completely would be too restrictive to areas and squads where participation in some MS debate exists.


Q2- What if my debater went to a Middle School debate camp-

A2- Thats fine, as long as they didn’t compete at high school competitions


Q3- What if my debater went to a high school camp before their 9th grade

A3- As long as they didn’t debate at any high school tournaments before 9th they are eligible


Inevitably some of you will disagree with these distinctions or clarifications, tough?

When in doubt (ask me) or ask yourself this question, “Would I feel it fair if my kids debated another school whose child had this level of experience in X division?”

This tournament is designed to be good experience for kids in their beginning stages of debate.  If you are interested in collecting trophies please consult Jon Cruz, he knows many many trophy and plaque makers and could help you procure some.