Category Archives: 2022-2023 NATO Emerging Technology Topic

A Debater’s Research Guide To NATO’s 2022 Madrid Summit

Last week, NATO held a summit meeting in Madrid, Spain. Leaders from NATO member and partner countries gathered to “discuss important issues facing the Alliance,” “set NATO’s strategic direction for the future,” and “ensur[e] that the Alliance will continue to adapt to a changing world and keep its one billion people safe.”

For students preparing to debate the 2022-2023 high school policy topic about NATO and emerging technology, the Madrid Summit was a significant event. Some arguments that were designed before the summit no longer make sense, and many new arguments can be constructed based on evidence reacting to the summit.

In this post, I will share resources to help students more effectively understand and research the summit and its implications for the topic.

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Researching The NATO Emerging Technology Topic: Recommended Congressional Research Service Reports

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is Congress’s think tank: a policy research institute housed within the Library of Congress that produces non-partisan reports for members of Congress and their staff members.

The research produced by the CRS is extremely valuable for debaters. Their reports are an excellent source of issue briefings that can help students quickly get up to speed on a policy issue. They are also a useful source for topicality, inherency, “normal means,” and other descriptive (“factual”) evidence. Think of them like Wikipedia entries, but written for a policy audience and with more depth and details. (Not surprisingly, many CRS researchers are former debaters.)

When learning and researching a new topic, CRS is always one of the first sources I consult. I was reminded of this today when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on her Instagram story about the importance and value of CRS reports:

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A YouTube Playlist To Help Debaters Learn About Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

One month after the 2022-2023 high school policy debate topic about NATO was selected, Russia invaded Ukraine. This will have major ramifications for many of the issues students will be researching and debating this year. Even when Ukraine is not the explicit subject of a debate, it will be the elephant in the room. In order to debate the NATO topic intelligently, students will need to know a lot about Ukraine, Russia, and the war.

To help debaters get started, I have curated a YouTube playlist with a series of videos about the history of Ukraine and Russia, the geography of the war, the important military developments so far, and the competing theories about the causes of the war.

I will continue to update this playlist throughout the summer with additional videos. Have a suggestion? Post a comment or email me.

Analyzing The NATO Topic Using Justification Burdens: Strategic Considerations and An Affirmative Case Selection Checklist

In sharing David Cheshier’s 1981 article “Justification vs. The Counterplan,” I noted the continuing importance of the justification argument in contemporary debates about counterplan theory. If you haven’t yet read Cheshier’s article, I suggest doing so before continuing.

More broadly, I think the concept of the justification argument provides a valuable tool for analyzing a debate topic and generating research ideas for affirmative and negative arguments. In this post, I will use the concept of the justification argument to break down the 2022-2023 high school policy debate topic:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.

When using this method to analyze a resolution, one starts by identifying each of the affirmative’s “justification burdens” as derived from the resolution’s wording. In other words, what does the affirmative need to “justify” in order to make their prima facie case for the resolution? When making this list, it is helpful to pose the burdens as questions: has the affirmative justified the need for XYZ?

For the NATO topic, there are five main justification burdens that the affirmative must arguably meet. For each burden, I will briefly explain the issues that it raises, the negative strategies it invites, and the strategic considerations the affirmative should therefore consider when selecting and designing their cases. For simplicity’s sake, these five burdens are presented in the order that they appear in the resolution.

After identifying and discussing these burdens, I have also provided a checklist that can be used to vet affirmative case ideas. I hope that students and coaches find this helpful as they begin their summer research.

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