Jan 6, 2008

abolishing nuclear weapons: a sound affirmative strategy?

Regarding the nuclear weapons resolution, a reader writes,
Do you think that having part of my Aff case be about the total abolition of nuclear weapons is plausible? This would severely shut down a majority of the Neg cases since they have to argue against the use of military force. Also, it would stop the Neg from saying that the US is hypocritical because the United States is wrong to prevent others from possessing nuclear weapons when it continues to possess them.

I stress that I want to run this abolition view in only a part of my Aff case. Is that possible? My value is justice, and VC is protection of human rights.

If so, how do I interweave this position into my case without jeopardizing my VC or other contentions that I might have? Could this be a contention? I could just not mention anything about the US having nukes in the first place.

Also, would abolition even be a relevant issue since the resolution deals with the justification of using military force, nothing to do with whether or not nukes are just.
I'll address each question in an order that makes sense to me.

Is abolition relevant?
Absolutely. If it is wrong, as a moral principle, to possess nuclear weapons, and that justifies the U.S.'s preventive measures against acquiring nations, then abolitionism is a valid affirmative position. If a Neg says, "That's hypocritical," the response is either to say, "That doesn't matter, because justice doesn't require that the agent be perfect," or "That's outside the scope of the resolution." (See here for an example of the first response.)

Is it plausible?
Maybe. Although I think the hypocrisy charge can be dismissed, it might stick with certain judges, especially if the Neg is running an anti-hegemony-style case. Also, a Neg might claim that abolition on the Aff is abusive, merely a form of super-negation. I don't know whether I'd buy that.

Would it work with a value of Justice and a criterion of Protecting Human Rights?
I think so. For example, in Nuclear Disarmament in International Law, Haralambos Athanasopulos argues that the use of nuclear weapons is both genocide and a crime against humanity*, violating human rights and international law.
[T]he prohibition of genocide is not only a positive norm of international law, but has become a compelling rule of international law with universal applicability and binding legal force.... Therefore, the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances against an enemy state or in the context of a total nuclear war would directly violate the Genocide Convention and would constitute a punishable crime of genocide....

The UN General Assembly Resolution 1653 (XVI), adopted by an overwhelming majority, provides that the use of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons would exceed even the scope of war and cause indiscriminate suffering to humanity and civilization and, as such, is contrary to the rules of international law and to the laws of humanity. The above resolution also states that the use of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons would represent a war directed not against an enemy or enemies, but against humanity in general, since peoples of the world not involved in such a war would be subjected to all the evils generated by the use of nuclear weapons. UN General Assembly Resolution 36/100, also adopted by an overwhelming majority, holds that states and statesmen resorting to the first use of nuclear weapons would be committing the gravest crime against humanity.
Thus, using military force as part of a program of complete abolition could be justified on human rights grounds. (This opens up the Aff to the charge that military force, even as just a part of the program, would lead to greater harms, since nations like Russia or the U.S. aren't going to disarm completely without a fight.)

Will it work with other contentions?
Depends on what they are.

This hasn't begun to exhaust the possibilities. Your comments, as always, are welcome.



*Distinct categories in international law.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

The hardest part would be getting this to flow nicely with other contentions since it's kind of "out there".

Jim Anderson said...

It could just be the sole contention of a detailed case, I suppose.

le radical galoisien said...

No matter how I try to diverge into other strategies, I keep on being pulled back onto a social contract approach.

I ran my first constructions this week, with mixed results -- using protection of human life as an Aff criterion and right to self-determination as a Neg criterion, but in the course of defending myself and attacking my opponents' contentions I found that by the end of the tournament that my updated Aff and Neg cases had become remarkably similar in analysis, agreeing that it was okay for the US to act multilaterally as part of a world consensus, but differing whether it was okay for the US to use a "shoot first, ask questions later" approach to prevent acquisition.

A major foundation of my revised cases so far is drawing analogies between the nations of the world and an "international consensus on justice" and individual members of society and the justice system of that society.

Per the hypocrisy issue, my solution so far has been to argue that nations of the world normally have the right to pursue their own defence policy, just like (in this country anyway) people have a right to own guns as part of the idea of personal self-determination. However, some people are deemed too dangerous to own guns, based on their history, such as felons -- analogous to "rogue states."

My concerns so far is eloquently tying this social contract idea to justice, especially since "international justice" is a relatively recent phenomenon: the "rules of war" didn't exist a few hundred years ago. How would you argue that that an action of what is unjust by international consensus (Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, for example) is truly unjust? Basically, how would you eloquently argue that violating another nation's self-determination is an unjust action? [I hope to use this analysis for both my Neg and Aff cases: for Aff, it is the 'rogue nation' violating international justice/self-determination, for Neg, it is the overzealous policeman -- the US.]

As Aff, I am also searching for an elegant way to argue that an "unfit" nation's acquisition of nuclear weapons infringes (international) justice by infringing upon other nations' right to self-determination, therefore international justice. [so far my link seems precarious] A part of the problem I realise is the pre-emptive problem -- the country threatens to violate self-determination -- but does this constitute an actual violation?

I didn't actually intend to use the social contract for Aff, but I quickly invoked it in the middle of one of my cases, when I was trying to resolve the value clash about other nations' self-determination -- I argued that the target country (the rogue state) actually was violating self-determination by possessing nuclear weapons itself. In order to avoid descending into a tu quoque fallacy, I had to quickly add that the target country's right to self-determination could be taken away under the social contract idea that the 'rogue nation' had forfeited the social contract by having violated it itself -- and on top of this, having to reanalyse the definition "pose a military threat" in the middle of the round to fit my new analysis.

It worked, but this sudden reanalysis made me rather ineloquent, such that I ended up winning on a Low Point Win.

Language, I think, will be important. Is it inherently unjust for a felon to own a gun, or rather because he has a good chance of committing injustice with a gun? The latter, right? Somehow it is just for society to deprive someone's social contract rights because that someone might violate that social contract, especially after that someone has already paid a debt to society? I am worried about such a possible rebuttal. (This I realise might be grounds for a whole other debate over how to justly treat released convicts a la Les Miserables.) How do I argue that such an action is just eloquently?

Another aspect is the internal social contract versus the international social contract -- I plan to argue that by refusing to respect its own citizens' right to self-determination, that nation has given up its own right to self-determination as guaranteed by the international social contract. Do you see any problematic issues with this analysis? How do I effectively tie it in with the rest of my "just to deprive" analysis?

P.S. Do you recommend updating strategies or cases between rounds, based on new arguments that you had to come up with in a previous round?

Jim Anderson said...

le radical, great series of thoughts and questions. I'm not going to have time this morning to respond to all of them, so I'll hit your PS first, and save the rest for later today.

I think between-round changes are fine, as long as...

1. They don't disrupt the flow of a case or create an inconsistency. There's always a risk that a last-minute change will be clunky, and make the speaker stumble.

2. The speaker has time to practice reading through the revised argument, to avoid the problem raised in #1.

To paraphrase the old saying, "Lose this contention once, good for the opposition. Lose this contention three times in a tournament, shame on me."

For this reason, I recommend double-spacing and leaving lots of blank space between contentions, in case the need to edit arises.

EGHS Debate said...

At the 2001 TOC, the main focus of my friend Kevin Farrell's affirmative case was that abolishing nuclear weapons is both the morally correct action and entirely possible. He broke at the tournament.

We can't find the original case, but it described a number of programs based on transparency that would gradually lead to global disarmament.

The wording on that topic was different, but an abolishing nukes case is certainly possible.

Jim Anderson said...

EGHS, thanks for the heads-up. TOC is sometimes a little more progressive than the NFL, so take any (and all, including this) advice with a good dose of sodium.

LD n00b said...

How many people have been killed by nuclear weapons? 10s of thousands.

How many people would have been killed in an invasion of japan, a war beetween the USSR and USA, wars in India and Pakistan that have stopped sicne they became nuclear, and in other "atomic peaces?" priceless. No, but 100s of millions, if not billions. I think the human rights thing could backfire if you point out nuclear weapons only have a history of creating peace and saving lives.

-LD n00b

LD n00b said...

Does Locke's origional SC theory pertain to both the social and international stage, or is it being addapted here?

Jim Anderson said...

It's a generic social contract case, potential ground-able on Lockean, Kantian, or even Rawlsian principles.

slug_man said...

Don't have to worry about the hypocrisy argument if your core is Unipolarity :D

Lucubrating Debater said...

Quote:-- If a Neg says, "That's hypocritical," the response is either to say, "That doesn't matter, because justice doesn't require that the agent be perfect," or "That's outside the scope of the resolution." --

I'm having trouble elucidating my concerns - but here goes:

1) I do not understand the abolition aff case. As the situation stands, the United States does have nuclear weapons. How can the Affirmative set forth a condition that would have the United States forgo its nuclear weapons?

2) I also do not understand how the "hypocrisy idea" does not work especially if one defines justice as fairness. Why is this "outside the scope of the resolution?"

3) If one raises the issue of whether the U.S. has the --right/moral obligation-- to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other nations, how would one go about connecting the idea of "the right or moral obligation" to justice and to just actions?

4) Would it be silly to try to denounce ideas of the social contract by saying that these contracts do not exist?
(i shudder in imminent discomfiture)

much gratitude in advance.

Jim Anderson said...

lucubrating debater, excellent questions.

1. It's not a condition. It's a case that says, morally speaking, it doesn't matter which nation is named in the resolution, the principles of justice (defined as "moral rightness, which could be key to the argument) demand the abolition of nuclear weapons, even via military force.

2. That's why an abolitionist says hypocrisy is outside the scope of the resolution. The agent doesn't have to be perfectly just in order to enact justice. (That's a controversial claim, I know.) Also, even defining justice as fairness begs for a definition of fairness. Does it permit any inequality? Rawls, for example, allows inequality as long as it benefits the worst off. One might argue that the US's "nuclear umbrella" means that it alone cannot (must not?) abolish nukes until everyone else has first, or at least simultaneously. (I think it's better to go with the "moral rightness" definition and head off the argument.)

3. Again, defining "justice" as "conformity to moral rightness." Or, defining justice in terms of balancing conflicting rights, or some other similar formulation.

4. I've seen it claimed; a better, sneakier way (which makes the opposition work harder) is to make 'em warrant / ground the social contract in C/X. Keep pressing them on the foundations until you expose vacuousness, subjectivity, contradiction, or inconsistency.

Does any of that make sense?