Aug 15, 2010

Resolved: States ought not possess nuclear weapons.

The September-October NFL LD topic for 2010-2011 has been released:
Resolved: States ought not possess nuclear weapons.
Simple, clean, and full of lovely clash. Should be good. More thoughts to come soon, but first, a few things to consider.

1. Where do oughts for states come from? Universal objective morality? A particular social contract? The answer to this question very well may determine the entire course of the debate.

2. Has it been long enough to declare the success of "Mutually Assured Destruction" as a deterrent? Or is this post hoc reasoning, and a fallacy?

3. Be sure to define "states" as "national governments," (see def. 5 here) and head off stupid cases about how New Hampshire should be nuke-free.

4. What are the (physical) effects of nuclear weapons? What might make them better or worse than alternatives (biological, chemical, etc.)? Can arguments against nuclear weapons be used against any weapon?

5. Half-serious questions: If states can't possess nuclear weapons, how will we fight off potential alien attacks, seal off catastrophic land-based oil fires, or knock killer asteroids off-course?

Additions

Back in '07, we had a similar resolution about whether the US was justified in using military force to prevent other nations from acquiring nuclear weapons. While I'm still working on new posts for this new resolution, I'd like to highlight two relevant posts from the past.

In the first, I showed how nuclear weapons cannot be reconciled with Just War theory--that they "destroy the moral fabric of war." This could be quite useful to any affirmative that shies away from arguing pure pacifism.

In the second, I described the idea of an "international social contract," which could make an interesting advocacy beyond the standard Hobbes / Locke / Rousseau / Rawls options.

Added 8/22: I try collecting and distilling some arguments for and against the resolution.

Added 8/25: Nuking an asteroid, FYI, may not be the best option.

Added 8/30: A list of value/criterion pairs. Your comments and questions are requested.

82 comments:

Anonymous said...

one of the best topics in quite a while

Anonymous said...

more like on of the best CX topics in a while...

Anonymous said...

Anyone care to give some arguments? =)

The Observer said...

One question? When using he plural "states", does the aff have to argue for states to dispose of nukes along based on the assumption that all other nuclear powers will do so as well, or does the aff have to have individual countries disposing of nukes regardless of the actions of fellow nuclear powers.

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to run an aff about the environmental effects of nuclear weapons/accidents? Also do you think nuclear terror is a strong case, or more like a DA?

Anonymous said...

Why should a state be defined as a national government? It's a perfectly valid definition (and an even more nuanced debate). If states fund armed forces such as the national guards, why shouldn't they be able to have nukes?

Anonymous said...

v and vc pairs?

Jim Anderson said...

Observer, LD doesn't involve plans, so the Aff doesn't have to argue for a particular disarmament scheme.

And the matter could be moot, anyway, when discussing "ought." For instance, simply saying "Persons ought not commit murder" doesn't mean that no one will ever commit murder, or that we can create a perfect world where murder is unheard of. Rather, it is wrong (for various reasons) to commit murder. How murder is punished or dealt with is tangential at that point.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous 4, the environmental impacts are certainly a moral matter. Nuclear war's effects can last for generations, and, in the worst case, might even wipe out human existence.

I think there's a case to be made solely on the unique horrors of nuclear war, but there are other reasons, so why limit yourself? Using Just War as a criterion, for instance, the argument is that nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatant and civilian, and are thus immoral.

Anonymous 5, states, to my knowledge, don't fund their own national guards. They manage federal funds and equipment. (See here, for instance.)

However, my point isn't that such an argument can't be made, but that it would seem to unnecessarily complicate matters. I suppose I'll ask a question in response: what really good argument against small-s states possessing nukes wouldn't also apply to nation-states?

Anonymous 6, all in good time.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with this topic. It seems unreasonably likely knowing most debaters that someone arguing affirmative will define states as something like georgia, then argue that the federal government should possess nukes rather than the states. Do you know of any way to stop this?

Phil said...

Sorry if this sounds dumb, but if someone does define states as the states of the United States, how would you counter that?

Julia said...

What I worry about with the whole nukes create nuke war impact is that it can easily be refuted by MAD, unless your using the terror argument. I was thinking of running a case about how states act on impact not risk, and inherently weigh extinction level impacts as the highest priority, and if there is any risk of that impact you affirm. Do you think that will be too easy to refute, because I'm worried that even if I win on the impact calc, if they prove there is no risk you still negate.

Also, do you think that will be too confusing for lay judges, because this is the topic all our league tournaments are on.

Anonymous said...

Would the value be morality and the standard cost-benefit analysis for affirmative?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous 7, using the definition linked above, and arguing that "states," in a political context, is a much broader term than just parts of a larger territory--so a case that shows that only small-s states ought (or ought not) has not met the full burden of the resolution.

Also, it'd be really tough to research either side of the argument for (or against) small-s states possessing nukes, because, in the world of academia, it's a non-issue, from what I understand.

Phil, I think that answers your question as well. (If it doesn't to your satisfaction, just say so.)

Julia, I'm not sure I'd buy the argument that any risk of extinction is, morally or pragmatically speaking, too much risk. Humans probably run an extinction risk merely by existing. Computers run amok, genetic engineering gone bad, zombie-like viruses created in a lab, etc: there's always a crazy, unpredictable way to destroy a civilization.

I don't think that style of argument is necessarily to complex for lay judges; you might do well to lay it out in mathematical terms. "The harm of extinction is infinite, so if we multiply it by even a tiny percentage of risk..." I think that's how the Nuke War disad is typically framed.

Latest Anonymous, that's one way. But how do you qusntify and compare the costs of human lives, environmental destruction, fallout effects, and the like? And in your cost-benefit analysis, where do you draw the bright line of ought/ought not?

USNA said...

Could you run morality as a CV on the neg side?

Anonymous said...

Do you know any arguments for why it would be morally desirable for states to posses nuclear weapons that don't hinge on their deterrence capabilities?

I guess my worry is that an aff like the one you discussed with "Just War" as the criterion could reduce the resolution to a moral rather than a practical question, and the justifications I can think of for the possession of nuclear weapons are practical (deterrence capabilities) rather than moral.

Samuel said...

Above anonymous, to link deterrence to morality, use a value criterion like utilitarianism, or minimizing warfare to show that by deterring attacks, you save lives and therefore achieve morality.

Samuel said...

Also, aside from deterrence from MAD, you could possibly argue that nukes are safer to use than the other alternatives when mass destruction is required such as biological weapons.

Anonymous said...

okay first of all, i'm going to just put it out there that washington judging is trash. just saying

secondly, why aren't policy style arguments like plans allowed in LD? I mean seriously, stuff changes with time. LD is perfectly fine with policy arguments

third, don't try to define states as something other than a sovereign nation.... that's just dumb. think about it. and besides, that just opens you up to theory.

Geordin said...

Jim-

What do you think about an argument (For the neg) stating that though states won't possess nuclear weapons, the research will still be out there for non-government unions and terrorist groups to use on now-less-defensible nations? Is that arguable? My inner devil's advocate is saying that since these groups don't own any land, having nuclear weapons wouldn't make a difference. I'm really not sure. Give me an opinion, please?

Jim Anderson said...

Latest Anonymous, sure, events evolve. But I think one of the practical reasons that LD has stayed away from plans is a matter of time. Policy gets much more time for its constructives and rebuttals--because arguing efficacy (and all the other things that go along with plans) takes precious time--time that simply doesn't exist in LD.

Philosophically, it's hard to determine what counts as evolution and what counts as something entirely new. I'd say that "no plans" is what (at least until the introduction of PuFo) made LD unique among debate events, at least in the NFL.

Geordin, depending on your case, you could probably argue that whatever reasons make nukes immoral for states also apply to individuals. So if "states ought not possess" means that states will disarm, it means that individuals will disarm as well. To borrow a policy term, you could fiat universal disarmament. (Which is why I think it's best to stay away from disarmament, as I argued above.)

Anonymous said...

What are some value ideas?

Samuel said...

National Security is a good value for both sides.

Possibly Human Life? I don't know how good that is.

Global Welfare is another ambiguous value; it's similar to the idea of national security.

I think coming up with a good VC will be much more difficult than a value. Would maximizing peace/minimizing global warfare be good?

Anonymous said...

Would a National Security value (from the social contract)and a minimizing conflict VC work for the negative side?

Also, I've been brainstorming, and most of the affirmative arguements I've come up with deal with how much damage could be caused by accidental use of nukes or terrorist use, so could a Global Welfare value work for that? If so, I can't figure out what my criterion would be. Minimizing nuclear war probably wouldn't work...

Caroline said...

I think this topic is a bit too generic. Didn't they also have it a couple years ago?
Even so, I'd been thinking about running something about the Social Contract on the Neg, and how the Government's first and foremost duty is to protect it's citizens any way possible.
(of course you can also take into account the fact that just because they posses them, doesn't mean they'll use them)
How many nuclear wars have we had so far??

any ideas?
good luck to you all, with your cases as well.

Asian Sensation said...

@Caroline
Firstly, your idea seems a lot like political realism. Just saying, hit that up to be a pro with some fancy terminology :D

Also, for shame Caroline... We have had one nuclear war in history with only two nuclear bombs used in that war. Ever heard of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The end of WW2? The resulting COLD WAR? tisk tisk tsik...

Jim Anderson said...

To all, regarding V/C combos, I'll have a larger post coming up this weekend that will go into depth. So far, most of your ideas sound fine. "National security" is an obvious choice, and "global welfare" is indeed broad, but it's pretty much the value for a criterion of utilitarianism, so there's that. I'd suggest Just War theory as a criterion as a way for the Neg to branch out beyond "nuclear weapons are horrific." More coming soon....

Anonymous said...

I am seeing the possibility of fun theory with the 'states' issue. Framer's intent??

Anonymous said...

what are some good reasons for the "states" to possess nuclear weapons?
any contention ideas jim?

Jim Anderson said...

Latest Anonymous, well, for one, the nations that already have them aren't giving them up any time soon, so the only way to have a counterbalancing deterrent is to keep some around.

As my semi-serious question up above shows, there are conceivable situations in which a nuclear weapon might be our best option to prevent or stave off catastrophe.

Mr. Hobbes said...

Mr. Anderson,

I'm going to be blunt. I don't think that a lot of your current ideas on this topic (and the directions these comments are going) are accurate. The resolution asks whether or not states should POSSESS nuclear weapons. So the neg does not have to justify using them in any way. The arguments, then, are more likely to concern holding nukes as a deterrent factor(ie Walz) and issues of sovereignty, vs. the potential for nuclear accidents (ie Sagan)and the atmosphere they create within the international community. You'll notice that this interpretation gives the neg a fair bit more ground, which makes sense considering that a resolution that asks a side to justify nuclear attacks probably isn't a very fair resolution.

With all due respect,
Thomas Hobbes

Samuel said...

@Mr. Hobbes,

I agree with you on this to an extent, but you have to keep in mind that possession invites use. There are several well written papers, for example: http://nuclearrisk.org/resources.php that show how just by possessing nukes, there is a good possibility of them being used.

Anonymous said...

What about mentioning the possibility that non-state terrorists mat get their hands on the nukes? If states possess them, then there is chance that they may get into the wrong hands.

Jim Anderson said...

I agree, Mr. Hobbes, that the word "possess" is important. The Negative does not, indeed, need to justify any and all uses of nuclear weapons.

However, regarding deterrence: what good is a deterrent that will never, on principle, be used? And if nuclear weapons will never be used (if that's the route the Neg wants to go), what is the point of possessing them?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but do you think that the resolution is specifying a utopian fiat, or a single-nation fiat? That is, would the affirmative be arguing for a world where no one has nukes, or just one where a single nation gives up their nukes and hopes for everyone else to?

Joe said...

Hey Jim,

Do you see potential for any good negative positions besides deterrence and your semi-serious positions?

ayushi30 said...

@ Samuel: thanks so much for that article, I think it will prove to be helpful.

Besides looking at the consequences of nuclear weapons, what could be another way to approach the affirmative side?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, that's a legitimate question that probably has to be addressed in an Observation or Resolutional Analysis at the top of your case,. I think either is arguable. I'll have a post up later this evening on that, as well as related topics.

Joe, another good question. There are a few option which I'll address in an upcoming post.

ayushi30, I am really starting to think that the Just War position (that nuclear weapons are illegitimate) or, its opposite, the pacifist stance, could work out well.

Great questions; more in-depth analysis coming in a few hours!

Geordin said...

@Samuel/Jim - As well-written and logical as the articles might be, there are only two recorded nuclear attacks in history, with possession of the nukes only going up since the attacks. Even if these nukes would never be used in theory, the simple fact that they are there creates a stalemate, as in the Cold War. It also prevents nations from fighting with non-nuclear weapons, due to the theory of arms escalation (You shoot me, I shoot you with a bigger gun, you find an even bigger gun, etc.)

@ Anonymous/Jim - I can only think the Utopian option would be provided in the resolution... I mean, to decide whether States, plural, should not possess nuclear weapons, you would need to look at the effects of a world in which they all do not possess them. Practical application of the theory doesn't seem like it has to apply. Tell me if I'm not getting something here. :)

@Jim - Could you elaborate a little on the Just War argument? I'd like to know more! :)

Thanks for all the ideas and information, everyone!

Jim Anderson said...

Geordin,

1. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, exactly which non-nuclear conflicts have been prevented by the possession of nuclear weapons? Certainly no conventional conflict has gone nuclear, obviously, but the U.S. alone has been involved in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan....

I think you might have meant that nuclear weapon-possessing nations have not fought conventionally, which is largely true--but the Cold War was really a series of conflicts-by-proxy between the USSR and the US, which, thankfully, never escalated to a nuclear confrontation. It came close, though!

2. If we get to fiat that the resolution is simply "A world without nukes is better than one with," then not only do we give the Neg less ground for debate, but by removing "practical application" we set an arbitrary condition on the Aff world. In the Aff world, would nuclear technology still exist? Why or why not? Would it matter, anyhow, if the prohibition on states didn't affect the ability of individuals or corporations to possess nukes? And why not just fiat the idea that rogue states will always defy moral resolutions?

3. The Just War argument starts out with Daniel Zupan's analysis, which I summarize here. The gist: nuclear weapons violate one of the rules of war, which is that noncombatants are not to be intentionally targeted. A nuclear weapon cannot discriminate between soldiers and innocents.

Josh G said...

It what ways can i make this debate more philosophically based? i know it's LD, but looking at the resolution... Hiroshima will come up a lot and i don't want to argue over things like that.

Majerle said...

I haven't seen any mention of this argument, but for my affirmative case, I plan on using cost for a contention. I'm specifically addressing the costs required to purchase, test, and maintain these weapons, especially since there have only been two instances of legitimate usage. I hope that helps anyone who might be stuck with "use causes damage" and "use is immoral" as their only arguments.

Anonymous said...

When will the value/criterion pairs be up?

Jim Anderson said...

Josh G, Just War Theory or the finer points of the Social Contract; our moral obligations to the future or to the environment; feminist or pacifist critiques of aggression and conflict.

Majerle, and be sure to consider "costs" as widely as possible.

Anonymous, looks like Monday. Family trumps blogging, sometimes.

Anonymous said...

What do u think of this AC setup.
OB before standards: we are looking at a hypothetical situation, thus argument of disarmament are invalid
V: Morality
VC: Protecting the Environment
(Awesome card saying that we should value Environment before human beings morally)
C1: Preempt MAD
C2: Environment
A. Previous Card
B. A few more... thinking of them
C. NUKE Terrorism
(Link to Enviro)

What do you think?

Jim Anderson said...

I'm a little unclear why your first contention is "preempt MAD," instead of saving that for defense. If your opponent isn't running MAD, then you've potentially wasted precious time.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the "Preempt MAD" contention could be phrased differently. ex)question the existence of nukes
through that you can then address MAD saying something like no nukes scenario = nuke scenario w/o risk thus better...perhaps?

Anonymous said...

True, probably use Preempt MAD, but phrase it differently so its not only preempting the neg, but can be used for offense as well

Bigstar72 said...

What's the general idea behind the just war theory method?

Jim Anderson said...

BigStar, the basic idea is that states need to defend themselves, but must do so in a moral way. The rules of war, especially concerning jus in bello, or right military conduct, are quite salient to this debate. See the SEP's article for a good introduction.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't you run something on the Aff saying that the world is already moving towards disarment, so obviouldy its the right direction. And you could maybe bring up the treaty that the US and Russia signed saying they had to reduce their nuclear weapons by a third.

Jim Anderson said...

If the U.S. and Russia were the world's only nuclear powers, and if both parties were truly acting in good faith, I might buy your argument. But even as those two nations are trying to hammer out arms treaties, others--Iran and North Korea, in particular--are trying to proliferate.

Anonymous said...

On the neg could you run something over the fact that were debating over the possession, not the use of nuclear weapons. And of course the aff would come back and say that possession promotes use, but then you could come back and say that it is the use that causes harm, not the possession of it.

Mariah said...

Im kinda new to this and i dont want to sound stupid but what do you mean by where do oughts for states come from??

Jim Anderson said...

Good question. I'm referring to the "ought" in the resolution. If we say a state "ought" to do something, which moral (or practical?) rules are we referring to? Where do those rules--those "oughts"--come from, or what gives those rules their authority?

For instance, I might argue from individual morality (like Kant's categorical imperative), or from a corporate form of morality (like Rousseau's social contract). Or might argue that the "ought" is legal, arising from international law. Each may lead to a different approach to the resolution.

Anonymous said...

If I'm using National Security for my value and Deterring Conflict as my value criterion in my NEG case, would defining "ought" as a pragmatic duty be better than defining it as a moral obligation? And if I define it as a pragmatic duty and AFF defines it as moral obligation. How would I counter that?

Parth said...

Yeh..so I have a nice AFF made and all..but I am having difficulty with my NEG. Mostly cos I don't know what to use as V/VC. The only thing my brief mostly goes over on my NEG is that Nuclear Weapons deter war. I am thinking of Morality and Human Life as my V/VC. Not sure. I need feedback please.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous,

1. Well, the pragmatic stance may seem "wishy-washy" compared to a moral obligation. What's practical depends on so much context, and seems justifiable largely in hindsight. (After all, pragmatism's main driving force is "what works"--but predicting the future is very, very hard.)

2. That said, pragmatism at least aims for success, while some forms of moral obligation have no regard for consequences. States, operating in the interests of the many, may not have such clear-cut moral interests as individuals. A pragmatic course is potentially far more cautious than a moral stance.

Parth, how about a value of Human Life and a criterion of maintaining peace or minimizing conflict?

Parth,

Anonymous said...

this sounds a bit noobish. actually a lot noobish. why is the moral fabric for war important? Does it make it so that wars don't get like progressively "dirtier" and "dirtier"? It's been coming up a lot recently, not just with this res.

Anonymous said...

Who else is pumped for like all out theory on the neg?!? Even aff has a few places they could do it on.

Psyche said...

Anonymous and Jim,

This is my neg case, tell me what you think.

V:National Security
VC:Deterring Destruction
C1:The Alternative to Nuclear weapons could be as destructive if not more destructive.
C2:Nuclear Weapons are an invasion deterrent.
C3:Mutually Assured Destrution, defined as a nuclear deterrent.

Any thoughts would be nice.

Jim Anderson said...

psyche, I'm not sure why you'd start with that C1. It doesn't seem to provide any offense.

Anonymous said...

Is this one considered a simple and easier one for a beginner and newcomer at debating??

Jim Anderson said...

I don't know if it's the easiest resolution, but it's definitely not one of the hardest.

Anonymous said...

I like men

ME? said...

i love women

Anonymous said...

Okay hey, i am a novice on the Oak Grove High School Forensics team and i debate in my first tournimate tomorrow. i was told i need some examples of the devistating effects that nuclear weapons have on the enviroment... any ideas?

Anonymous said...

no one cares where you are from... states should have nukes then we can win stuff and be happy. end of discussion

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, here's a helpful link.

Anonymous said...

I've had a few practice debates with this topic thus far and have run into one main problem with using just war theory on the aff. My value has been morality and my criterion JWT. But the neg opponents always say that possession does not necessarily mean use and that basing my case on JWT theory is not topical. I've tried to say that possession leads to a higher risk of use, but judges don't seem to buy it. Any suggestions?

Geordin said...

@ The Last Anonymous
Posting from my phone, so I can't look up my case and give you any specifics, but just getting a quote from a psychology prof or somesuch on the whole "Possession --> Use" bit helps a lot. Your logic can be flawless, but your credibility in the eyes of judges is minimal. Getting evidence to back your logic makes a solid case.

Another point that ties into that is nuclear war testing -- The affirmative, if arguing the negative effects of nuclear weapons, should bring this up. Though nukes have only been used twice in WAR, tons of tests have been done in supposedly remote areas, but even those have had disastrous effects in the area and will for years to come. This illustrates quite clearly that, even if they're not used in war, posession of nukes leads to their use as each new level of them are tested.

Jim Anderson said...

1. Judges don't buy that possession increases risk of use? Hmm. Even if the risk is .0001%, it's higher than 0% with non-possession.

Borrowing a common policy debate technique, multiply that tiny risk by infinite harm, and you have an infinitely dangerous weapon.

2. A world in which possession never leads to use is a world in which nuclear weapons are not an effective deterrent, potentially wiping out the Neg's offense.

3. After all, if they're never going to be used, or never can be used, why go to all the trouble of building and maintaining them? It's not like they're cheap and easy to develop.

4. That said, maybe JWT isn't sufficient as a criterion, if it's really not possible to persuade the judge that the risk of future nuclear conflict is real.

Anonymous said...

huhhhh

Anonymous said...

what are some possible criterion for SAFTY as my value??

Jim Anderson said...

Disarmament? Deterrence? International Law? The Social Contract? Pacifism? Lots of choices...

Anonymous said...

thank you very much just getting some keys for my debate tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Hello I want some help on my cases!

Neg:
V-Nat. Security

C-it was Hegemony but now its Social Contract

OB-that there can't be a world with no nukes(HOW DO I BACK THAT UP IF SOMEONE ATTACKS THAT)

C1-States have a moral obligation to protect its citizens/States need to defend themselves against other nuclear powers.

C2- Deterrence/MAD

C3-Violates nat. sovereignty

I also want to add hegemony somewhere but I don't really know how I would argue it or back it up

Aff:
V-Justice...should I change it to Human Life or Peace?
C-Kant Cat. Imp

C1-the possession of NW is immoral

C2-NW are highly destructive
SA)can destroy humanity
SB)destroys environment

C3-possession is risky
SA) accidental detonation
SB) Nuclear terrorism

also I see that you advocate the Just War Theory how would that fit in my case. Also should I add something about the cost of NW?

Anonymous said...

One thing that will probably come up a lot is conventional warfare vs. nuclear warfare. If you were neg and you said that NW helped save more ppl than if ppl were to just keep fighting conventionally and AFF says that NW kill more...Which one is more harmful and where can I find cards about this?

Anonymous said...

I have always been confused about argument of real world vs. hypothetical world..For example,On the neg you could run something over the fact that were debating over the possession, not the use of nuclear weapons. And of course the aff would come back and say that possession promotes use, but then you could come back and say that it is the use that causes harm, not the possession of it. Both are somewhat right if they back it up with evidence but...
Where is the fine line between hypothetical arguments vs. real world ones?

Jacklyne said...

Hey what are NWSs?/ this keeps coming up in my ev..packet and its bugging me. also anyone got some good vcs

Anonymous said...

Hi I was wondering for a criterion of "collective security" if I could stretch the meaning to have it be that everyone participates in the security for everyone.

Does that make any sense and can I do that, as well as mix in the real meaning of security for the whole?

Anonymous said...

Jim
I think your posts are really helpful, thank you for posting these. But would it be ok for the negative to argue that killing to protect is moral?