Dec 1, 2009

Resolved: Economic sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives.

The January / February NFL Lincoln-Douglas debate topic has been released:
Resolved: Economic sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives.
The "ought" ostensibly makes this a matter of morality, which leads to the Affirmative's main question: why might economic sanctions be immoral? There are many reasons; perhaps the most common would be because they harm innocents, concomitant with the argument that they don't actually work, or, worse, are counterproductive, increasing the power of those they're meant to weaken. (Cuba and North Korea spring to mind.)

In essence, this is at least a two-layered debate, since the Negative will likely have to argue that not only are sanctions morally good, but good for something.

A deeper question concerns the role of morality in foreign policy. Idealists will value human rights (and any binding obligations to upholding them), while realists will call for prudence. Moral cosmopolitanism might come into play, as might international law and the role / effectiveness of the United Nations in enforcing sanctions.

Links and Further Analysis
As a kick-starter, an oldie but goodie from Franklin Foer, distinguishing trade from economic sanctions, determining whether they work (the upshot: hard to say), and summing up the costs.

Iraq and the "terrible price" of sanctions.

Looking at some empirical research to answer the question, Do sanctions even work?

Can the Neg justify the use of sanctions even if they largely aren't successful? And what's the cost/benefit analysis of the alternatives? A consequentialist take on the resolution.

Added 12/13: A nascent list of value/criterion pairs.

Added 12/15: Some alternatives to economic sanctions are considered.

Added 1/3: The Negative's use of "targeted sanctions" is considered.

Added 1/3: I answer a bushel of questions about the resolution.

Added 1/10: Some strategic considerations about the definition of economic sanctions.

Added 1/24: A critical view of sanctions, slanted toward the Aff.

Added 2/8: Some economic analysis, plus an alternative approach for the Aff.

As always, more--much more!--analysis and links will follow. And, of course, your questions and comments are what really make this website worthwhile.

71 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello. Just got word of this resolution and went over it with my team, so I'll put my two cents in.

Aff: Justice, morality, or even rights; whichever you may wish to run, are good valuea. Good ideals in which to determine ought we do something or not. As a value criterion, there are several options. You could do a Rawl's veil of ignorance, where you wouldn't want to be one of the people negatively affected by the sanctions. You could do a straight up rights issue, saying that you as a human are having your rights violated for the government's action, therefore not giving each their. Finally, you could do a categorial imperative. Obviously, if sanctions were universal law it would be bad, and sanction treat people as a means to an end. Efficacy arguments don't work here because consequences aren't what are considered; means are.


Neg: First of all, we have to make sure that we are not saying that sanctions are all we use. They just have to be an option.

Rights, governmental obligation, or national sovereignty are good values. The good old social contract can help explain that point; that you have to respect other governments as well protect your own. For criterions, you could do justice or whatnot, anything to push the point that sanction don't violate other's sovereignty yet protect your own.

Not a huge fan of policy-ish arguments, so this is the pool of traditional ideas my team came up with.

Anonymous said...

This shouldn't be a ld topic. Its more suited for pf

Infernobones95 said...

Was wondering why we cant go with a normative definition of ought instead. Economic sanctions shouldn't be used to achieve foreign policy objectives. And i'ld like to say some level of theory will be necessary on the neg so you dont get stuck defending every economic sanction in every situation in all of time.

Sarah Kho said...

Anyone think of good negative arguments and/or example where economic sanctions worked?

Jolles said...

Jim -

Ideas on Capitalism K's?

Matt said...

Jolles

There is definetely alot of room for Cap Ks in this resolution. Thinking about it Zizek might be perfect for this resolution.

Anonymous said...

can you argue that rights do not exist?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the post about the effect of sanctions (or, rather, the threat of sanctions), but I'm also wondering about negative arguments here.

I can see a lot of solid affirmative arguments, but all I can see on the neg is Utilitarianism, and even that's not particularly strong in the specific context of economic sanctions.

Anonymous said...

NEVER use Util it is to easy to shred apart

Jim Anderson said...

Infernobones, there are two ways to defend against unreasonable Aff burdens (to prove that sanctions work always, everywhere): take a utilitarian / consequentialist perspective, or argue straight off of the NFL ballot: "Each debater has the burden to prove his or her side of the resolution more valid as a general principle. No debater can realistically be expected to prove complete validity or invalidity of the resolution. The better debater is the one who, on the whole, proves his/her side of the resolution more valid as a general principle."

Anonymous, Utilitarianism / Consequentialism is definitely a possibility for the Neg. I'll write a post in a while explaining how/why I think the Neg can argue that sanctions are moral from a utilitarian perspective, even if they're not entirely effective.

Oregon Debater said...

I don't know, I ran a full-page contention against Util. on the immunization resolution and I killed everyone until finals, and the guy I was against was really, really good. Utilitarianism isn't that easy to pull on some debaters.

Anonymous said...

same here. i used utilitarianism for the last topic (compulsory immunization) and went undefeated.

Anonymous said...

I ran autocracy on Aff and Darwinism on my neg for the immunizations and killed :)

But here I plan to run heg good and turn cap against them and argue that rights don't exist

Anonymous said...

What are you guys thinking as the link between Cap and E.S.?

I presumed people would be running Cap K on this topic (some do every topic..) but I don't see really blatantly obvious links.

Wouldn't it hinder cap by preventing transcontinental companies from profiteering?

Perhaps the link would be imposing capitalist ideologies on other countries by forcing them to sanction-bust?

I'm just not sure, I guess.

Heg Good is a lot harder to run without a specified actor. What if it's a multilateral sanction? How does that promote Heg at all? Without a specified actor, what if the ideals of the pro-heg country are blatantly immoral? What if you're promoting the Heg of Iran and cause extinction to bring back the last prophet? Just some of the questions I would ask in cross-ex. Curious to hear answers as you've probably done your research :]

Anonymous said...

Woohoo!!!
SANCTIONS!!!!!!!!

Jam Dog said...

Woohoo!
No Sanctions!!!

Justin Fritz said...

Neitzsche could work EASILY on this topic because sanctions are neither moral nor immoral they can and SHOULD be imposed

Oregon Debater said...

v:Duty
c:Social Responsibility of business

Businesses have a duty to give back to their shareholders; they can't do that if there are sanctions imposed on their most profitable clients. Therefore, oppression of businesses.
(This is an AFF standard)

Anonymous said...

On the negative, would it be better to heva a pragmatic framework, or a moral framework? "Ought" could imply either.

Anonymous said...

Hey, could someone please explain to me what Capitalism K is? There have been several references and I'm unfamiliar w/ it.

Anonymous said...

can someone please help me think of a good reason of why morality should be used for aff. and what the value criterion should be i'm having a hard time thinking of it. This is my first debate and i'm so nervous.

rockrgirl said...

The U.N website is a goldmine for anything relating to human rights. Try this: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/ga10901.doc.htm

Gild said...

a few thoughts:

1) a country (such as the US) can only apply economic sanctions to a country from itself. so, the US cannot tell UK who to sanction, or China, or anyone else.
2) an economic sanction can be used as a statement. What if the US has no such securities, stocks, or assets in say, Cuba. The economic sanctions will not affect Cuba if the US decides to proceed.
3) if it does affect the citizen base (which is the body we are protecting) is it justified? Are the citizens "Evil" such as those anti-jewish populace in germany during WW2, OR are the "innocent" such as Iranian citizens during the corrupt regimes in the past years.

there needs to be a game plan to see if the economic sanctions actually DO HAVE A POSITIVE OUTCOME. Most economic sanctions do, but the respective governments who are considering this option will not tend to play such a risky card if it will hurt innocent citizens.

Anonymous said...

What is Capitalism K? I have seen several uses of this term, and I am unfamiliar with it. I know that I am not the only person who doesn't know its meaning, because someone else also asked the same question.

Jacob Less said...

Uh, I don't mean to be rude, but are you planning to update your posts anytime soon?

Jim Anderson said...

Jacob, I've taken a break from "serious" blogging for the past two weeks. Since questions have started piling up, and since I'm gearing up for school again, I'll soon have some fresh LD posts in the pipeline. Starting tomorrow, in fact. So thanks for asking.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, the "Cap K" is the Capitalism Kritik. You can watch a lecture on it here. (Fast forward to the 7:55 mark, Part IV.) It's a little sardonic, but might help you understand how a kritik works, and particularly how the Cap K works.

More generally, Wikipedia explains what Ks are and how they work.

Kritiks originated in Policy debate, and your mileage will vary depending on your level/location.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

Do you think that you could post something with Negative arguments? I just finished my Affirmative case, but I'm having a really hard time with my Negative.

I was thinking that my first contention could be that economic sanctions are a peaceful alternative to war, and my second contention could be that economic sanctions are highly effective. Do you have any links to websites with evidence that could support those claims? And what could my third contention be?

Also, my value is morality because of the word "ought", and my criterion is utilitarianism because you can use utilitarianism to measure the moral worth of something. Is that stupid?

Please reply as soon as possible. Thank you so much! (:

Anonymous said...

The problem in my area (unpaid judges and a very right oriented populace), is that any evidences that show economic sanctions worked defeats the aff. The inclusion of "ought" to make this an LD topic is troublesome, in that it implies a bit of laziness on the part of the NFL. Especially when one considers the experience level of the judging pool in states like Montana.

I agree that efficacy arguments do not work, and this is the problem. I have instructed my LDer's to define the resolution as narrowly as they would in policy, since this is more of a policy style subject. I have suggested that they use the ideas and writings of the founding fathers to show that the rights of the people should be extended to those beyond our borders. time will tell if this will be an effective strategy.

Wormy said...

I am doing this same resolution and I'm BRAND NEW at debate. So forgive me if I make any mistakes. My value is, of course, morality. And I am having my value criteria be prservation of economy and preservation of life. This is affirmative.
But my question is: What evidence is there for the negative?
One of my contentions for the neg is "Economic sanctions are the countries way of communicating compassion for the suffering. If we don't at least try to help, then we go against our moral agency and therefore act immorally by ignoring the casting-aside of justice.
What does anyone think?

Anonymous said...

I would just like to thank you for posting all this cool LD stuff. I debate LD at my school and this blog always gives me good ideas to get my brain working and jumpstart other good ideas.

Anonymous said...

I think this website is great!! Now I need help on some resolution observations to start off my case please. anyone!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim!

You said in the post (or implied, at least)that sanctions strengthened Cuba and N. Korea. Could you PLEASE explain how? I don't understand.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

If a K is for policy, aren't we allowed to say that we are in ld debate therefore we can't use K's??
sorry i have no idea what to do for this topic. It's so confusing

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous 9:50, a lot of folks are running "smart sanctions" or "targeted sanctions" on the Neg, which I've briefly written about elsewhere. I think your first two contentions are a solid start; the best evidence for sanctions is comparative--you can argue that they're less costly than war, and more effective than noneconomic sanctions or diplomacy. Also, utilitarianism is fine as a moral criterion--it's well-trodden ground, but hardly "stupid."

Wormy, I've heard folks using South Africa as an example of effective sanctions. Again, the best evidence is comparative: sanctions aren't a magic bullet, but at least they're not bullets.

Anonymous 4:51, thanks.

Anonymous 8:11, no matter which side you're on, you should run an observation pointing out the fact that the resolution is to be proved true or false "as a general principle," taking blippy arguments to task at the outset.

Anonymous 4:15, perhaps I could've been clearer: arguably, sanctions have increased the power of Castro and Kim Jong Il; not only do they keep wealth concentrated, but they are able to blame sanctions for the ills their own faulty or tyrannical policies have caused.

Anonymous said...

One question..
Where would "Ought" be defined BEST as?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, that depends on your side / strategy.

On the Aff, if it's duty/moral obligation/justice, then you have to show that sanctions are immoral or unjust. If it's "appropriateness," then you have to show their inadvisable or unfitting. Although the second definition is likely to be trumped by a strongly argued Neg arguing that LD is value debate, which is a matter of morality. (You can always combine it with a moral criterion like consequentialism, though, which doesn't define The Good, but merely that goods must be maximized.)

On the other side, I'd think Negs would have an easier time arguing for the permissibility / moral neutrality / pragmatic value of sanctions instead of the higher bar of moral rightness--but if a Neg can make a strong case that sanctions are morally right, it could be more persuasive than just arguing that they're just not morally wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm working on my negative side and coming up with a contention that a nation has the freedom to do whatever it takes to acheive foreign security. I mean, the whole liberties to do what I want to do kind of thing. What kind of document can I find anything that resembles that?

ShelbyChappell said...

Jim,

Thanks again for all of your insight as it is greatly appreciated. I would really like to use Multilateralism as a Criterion on the Neg, but I do not know what to run as my value. Do you have any insight as to what value, multilateralism would most effectively uphold. I hope that you can help.

~Shelby Chappell
Sophomore Lincoln-Douglas Debater

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, that sounds a little like political realism, although it could also be tied to a Hobbesian social contract (in which the sovereign is invested with power to protect the citizenry, with fewer, if any, restrictions on action vis a vis noncitizens).

Shelby, I'm not sure multilateralism is a sufficient criterion--that is, if you're arguing only for multilateral sanctions, and not in defense of unilateral sanctions. (The resolution says "ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objective," which seems to imply that the agent of action is a nation-state.) Now, obviously, multilateral sanctions are a foreign policy tool--and are arguably more effective than unilateral sanctions--but to limit your argumentation to multilateral sanctions could be attacked as conditional negation. Here the Affirmative would point out examples like Cuba, where the U.S. has continued its embargo despite nearly universal disapproval.

Even if your case isn't conditionally negating, you'd still have to defend against attacks on unilateral sanctions.

That said, what is multilateralism good for? Peace or global stability, since nations that work together have a mutual interest in securing peace and/or preventing proliferation. Human rights, since nations use multilateral sanctions to check the power of tyrants. I'm sure there are other values you can implicate as well.

LL said...

Do you think it would be possible to avoid arguments of efficiency altogether? Perhaps with a definition of "achieve" or something like that?
And if it is possible, what would be the most convincing argument or observation that would make the efficiency of economic sanctions irrelevant?

Jim Anderson said...

I've heard some are using the "to achieve" phrase to argue that resolution isn't concerned with efficacy; don't know if they've been successful.

For anyone running deontology, the ends are immaterial. If sanctions use persons merely as a means to an end, then they're wrong regardless of the consequences. (As a block against utilitarian / consequentialist positions, some will argue that the future is difficult to predict, and various goods or rights are difficult to quantify and reconcile.)

anonymous35 said...

Hey Jim, as for the aff. using Kant's moral imperatives, would it be viable for the neg to respond that in today's complex world it is impossible for governments (when placed in a situation that calls into question the implementation of economic sanctions) to act in any such way that would uphold moral imperative theory

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble choosing a definition for ought. Can someone suggest possible definitions and give possible warrants for those definitions? Thanks.

Yunan said...

Hi! I was wondering how to justify/warrant/convince the judge that the burden of the neg does not include defending all economic sanctions as moral and that it is sufficient to negate if economic sanctions are justified in some situations? I just debated this resolution for the first time, and it was a problem in both of my neg rounds. If I can't sufficiently warrant it, how should I prove that economic sanctions are moral? I'm running morality as the VC. Thanks!

Yunan said...

Whoops, sorry, I meant morality as the value.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous35, that's one potential response. I'd combine it with a resolutional analysis that governments are the agent of action in the resolution, so we must look to moral standards that governments can use for the purposes of fulfilling their obligations--defense, societal welfare, etc. It's a contractarian position that could easily be combined with a consequentialist ethic.

anonymous, "Ought" has two general senses: morality/ justice/ rightness and desirability. The former, to me, seems to set the stage for a deontological framework, while the latter seems to work better with a consequentialist framework. And either can be warranted as commonly accepted. (A standard dictionary def should be fine--it's how you make the connection to your V/C that matters most.)

Yunan, given what I've written immediately above, you might employ a consequentialist criterion for morality, and argue that sanctions, which provide a better outcome than either diplomacy or war, are thus the moral option for governments that are trying to prevent nuclear proliferation or genocide.

Anonymous said...

This debate topic is just pointless and fucking bad

Anonymous said...

How would you counter Political Realism if that's what Neg runs?

anonymous35 said...

Hey Jim,

My neg value is POLICIES UPHOLDING NATIONAL INTEREST... If I was to make the point in a debate that economic sanctions are beneficial because they can be used to reduce oppression and human rights violations would I be condracting myself? Human rights violations in another country don't really fall under the "national interest" goals of the sender nation. In fact, trying to guarantee human rights in another nation may even go directly against national interests due to the import/ export losses that the sender nation suffers in implementing economic sanctions

anonymous35 said...

Hey Jim,

How could I link my value of governmental legitamcy to the resolution

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous 1, you can do better: warrant your assertions!

anonymous 2, Political Realism can be addressed on several grounds: first, that its foundational argument (that the relations among states are anarchic) is obsolete in a globalized era of international human rights law, and second, that by denying the role of morality in international proceedings, it would allow extreme rights violations in the name of national security. (I'm sure there are other ways to attack it as well; other commentators wish to chime in?)

anonymous35, the first argument (about upholding national interests) can be made indirectly / instrumentally; it's probably in a nation's best interests to not have neighbors that massively violate their own citizens' rights. After all, this leads to wider conflicts, political and/or economic instability, refugee crises, and more. So I don't think it's directly self-contradictory.

As to governmental legitimacy, that's a value related to the social contract. Since it can be argued that government is the agent of action in the resolution, under a contractarian framework, all actions governments take must maintain / uphold their legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

Jim -- are you going to start posting soon? Because a lot of our tournaments are coming up, and although there is a decent amount of info on your blog, it would be nice if there was more. Thanks

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, I'm a busy guy. Blogging--I know this is going to sound crazy--but blogging isn't my full-time job. Now that there are two resolutions out (the March/April jury nullification topic was just released), we're in a weird zone where many debaters are moving on from this resolution to the new one, and so am I.

That doesn't mean I'm done with this topic, but it does mean that I'll post mostly in response to people's questions. Your best bet, if you'd like to see a specific issue addressed, is to ask a question right here in the comments, or send me an email that you don't mind having blogged about. Otherwise, it's sometimes tough for me to figure out what readers are looking for.

SimplyCiciLD said...

Any opinions on a "necessary evil" aff? : "I'm not arguing that economic sanctions be removed, I just have to prove that they are immoral. They are still by all means practical, but governments can't be held to morality (inseet realism citation,Morgenthau etc. here) and morality is just a lofty ideal that can't be achieved anyway. Economic sanctions are immoral but must be used nonetheless."

Jim Anderson said...

SimplyCiCi, that perspective is debated in the comments to this post. I would warn that it might be a risky move to downgrade morality, with that "ought" looming large in the resolution--if morality is unattainable, and nations have to use sanctions, isn't that too easily turned by the Neg?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, You said to take a "utilitarian / consequentialist perspective" when argue against the neg claim that aff has the burden to prove that all ES's are fault. Could you please elaborate on this? Thanks.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, sure. If you're running utilitarianism or consequentialism as a criterion, you never have to accept a 100%-of-all-cases burden, since you are arguing from the perspective of maximizing utility. If sanctions are--in comparison to other alternatives--generally ineffective, then they can't produce "the greatest good for the greatest number."

Anonymous said...

Hi,
What were the most effective values and criteria for neg you have seen?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, that's a tough question, not only because I haven't seen enough debate rounds in the past few tournaments--that's what I get for helping run Tab and Extemp Prep all the time--but I can't say for certain whether it was the VC combo, or the debater, that really made a difference.

That said... I think that the Neg is strongest when raising the matter of proliferation, harboring terrorists, and other national security problems. Absent sanctions, military action can seem like the only other realistic option. Whether argued from a consequentialist position (which requires, as backing, some anti-deontology blocks) or from a Just War perspective (we have to exhaust every available alternative first, to meet the requirement of jus ad bello; sanctions are an available alternative) or some other framework, this seems like a good way for the Neg to go.

Your strategy in CX, with this second kind of argument, is to force the Aff into accepting either Just War (of some sort) or pacifism. The former sets up your case; the latter can be dispensed with as utopian.

Anonymous said...

hi,
I think your just info is very helpful

Will said...

hey idk when the ld debate topic came out "Resolved: Economic sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives." but i was just wondering if u had any time could you post some info on the topic

Will said...

Well more info if you could using national security as the core value

anonymous35 said...

Jim, what do you think about the observation that the neg should only have to defend the most ideal, competent and efficient types of sanctions?.. i.e. smart sanctions and multilateral sanction
Also does anyone have good evidence for the success of sanctions.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous35, as the Aff, I'd jump all over it as abusive, taking away Affirmative ground and "conditionally negating." Nothing in the resolution implies a particular brand of sanctions. (As the Neg, I'd argue that, generally speaking, targeted sanctions are the present and future of economic sanctions, while broader punitive schemes have fallen out of favor. But I don't know if this can be empirically warranted.)

Anonymous said...

Jim: I just wanted to thank you for this blog. The amount of time you spend definitely helps us high school debaters! You are our first source for debate help and your commentary, sources, and ideas are excellent!

Chelsea said...

On the negative, would it be possible to use critical arguments about the furtherance of national interest in the name of political realism? If so, what would be some possible contentions and sources to look at for evidence?

Jim Anderson said...

Chelsea, it certainly would. Realists traditionally value prudence instead of grand ethical or democratic projects, and balance-of-power or hegemony over nation- or empire-building. Sanctions are a way for nations to keep their enemies in check without resorting to force, which is too costly. (That's probably the central realist argument for the use of sanctions.) Morgenthau's "Six Principles of Political Realism" is a good place to start.

barclay_2_blogger said...

Ought does not always equal morality. Many people define ought as a "moral obligation" but if I use that definition in another example, it makes no sense. Like "I ought to go to Walmart" or "I ought to eat a hamburger." These examples have no meaning to morality, as in, I do not have a moral obligation to go to walmart or I do not have a moral obligation to eat a hamburger.

Anonymous said...

What's a reply to this killer conditional negation? :/

"The negative only has to prove that economic sanctions are appropriate in some cases, whereas the affirmative has to prove that they are never appropriate"?

ugh.

Jim Anderson said...

The answer is just above in the comments. The magic phrase is "general principle," and I wish more people knew it.