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.