Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Case Discussion: Withdraw from New START/Use New START as leverage

For those of you who don't know, my years of Team Policy debate were spent being debate partners with a dude named Sam Paul. Sam was pretty much awesome at debate (he averaged 28.3 speaker points last year), but he is very particular about his hair. Once, right before a tournament, he asked his brother Aaron to trim up a few long hairs on the top of his head. Unfortunately, Aaron flunked arts and crafts in kindergarten and is highly unskilled at using scissors. Simply put, Sam went to the tournament with a tiny bald spot on his crown. 

This highly traumatic experience is nothing compared to the state of his head today. You see, when people run cases like withdraw from New START, it makes good debaters like Sam pull their hair out in anguish and despair. Please, loyal reader: kill this case, and save Sam's hair. 

Despite everything that would be dictated by human decency, prudence, and intelligence; despite cries of terror from alumni and coaches everywhere, people are still running this case, in two different veins. Some people want to use New START as leverage on various policy issues (withdraw if Russia doesn't give us what we want), while some people are just withdrawing straight up. The differences are fairly minor, like agnostics and atheists: both groups are doomed to eternal torment, the difference is just how committed they are to their blasphemy. 

The signs are already apparent for those that watch. Earthquakes in Japan, tornadoes in North Carolina, and Scarlett Johansson is dating Sean Penn. This case is like the apartment building in Ghostbusters: it's drawing all the agents of the devil to earth. Kill it quickly, lest we perish.

Let's discuss. 

1. Withdraw from New START
So basically, Heritage hates New START so people think this case is a good idea. There are a few big problems with this case. Let's go over them.

Read the advocates, people!
I don't think any of the affirmative teams have actually read the articles from Heritage that they quote so blindly. NONE of these articles advocate withdrawing from the treaty. They all argue against ratification in the first place. While that in itself shows they are crazy, the fact is that withdrawing from a treaty is very very different from not ratifying. These same Heritage huggers are the same people who cling so fiercely to the constitution. So, let's talk about that.

Terms of withdrawal from the treaty
Affirmatives like to point out that there is a withdrawal clause in the treaty. Let's look at what it says. Unlike the affirmative, I've actually read the treaty. Here's what it says:

New START Treaty, Article XIV
"Each party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests." 

It also says that we have to give Russia detailed notice explaining the "extraordinary event." So what does this mean? Well, the aff case blatantly violates/abuses this provision for a few reasons.

I. "Extraordinary events"
This is pretty self-explanatory. An extraordinary event needs to happen. Like, we get nuked, or Russia violates the treaty, or something like that. The treaty is very clear and repeats this phrase several times. You can't withdraw just because you change your mind. Bummer, doods. 

II. "Related to the subject matter"
Here's the other violation. It says that the reason for withdrawal has to be related to the subject matter of the treaty. This means that missile defense can't be used as a justification to withdraw. The subject matter of the treaty is the numerical limits and deployment guidelines for intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic nuclear weapons.. The words "missile defense" only appear once in the treaty, and not in the context of BMD. This means that any decision we make to withdraw has to be based on an event related to nuclear weapons; not missile defense. Oops. 

On that topic, let's hit the last issue here.

Missile defense is not limited
READ THE TREATY! There is no mention of missile defense limitations in the treaty. Russia tried to link BMD to the treaty in the preamble, but because it didn't make it into the actual text of the treaty, the aff has nothing to stand on here. 

2. Leverage New START
This case might be even more crazy than withdrawing, for two reasons.

It puts us in blatant violation of the treaty
Here's why. Remember the conditions for withdrawing from the treaty? Well, Russia refusing to comply with some crappy Human Rights standard, or not giving us CTR access, is in complete violation of those conditions. Linking START to some other random issue violates that standard on "events related to the subject matter of the treaty." 

Russia wouldn't comply
Maybe you've heard not to poke a bear with a stick. This case is equivalent to smacking a bear in the face with a baseball bat. There's already a distrust within Russia of American motives. To try and use START as leverage would vindicate all that distrust, and irrevocably strengthen anti-american sentiments within the government and the public. All those "return of the cold war" DAs apply to this case more than any other.

The bottom line
These cases offend me. They cling to outdated and offensive biases against Russia, and historically crazed sources. The effects of this case are being felt in galaxies far far away. Just look at what Obi-Wan had to say when this case won the Houston Open. 

Please, everyone. Listen to Ducreux. 


  1. Stuff from Heritage in debate and extemp makes me want to do the whole hari kari thing. Dx

  2. Does anyone indict Heritage? Ever?

  3. Most of the good teams do/can. They aren't a very good source.

  4. Yeah, I was the one who lost to this in finals at the Houston Open.

    The decision was a bit of a shock for a lot of people, considering the Aff basically conceded all their justifications. I can understand what the judges were thinking, though - we didn't emphasize some points we should have.

  5. (whoops - accidentally submitted before I was done typing)

    This is a good illustration of the fact that you can't just win on the flow, you have to convince the judges that you're right. A very wise person (aka another debater) once said, "The moment you blame your judges for a loss, you lose your ability to correct the problem." 9 times out of 10, the problem isn't the judges, it's the fact that you didn't correctly identify what would persuade them.

    (Although I'd rather not have clinically insane semifinal panels, either.)

  6. <3

    Luv this post.

    ~ Preston