The AFF: Why shouldn't states possess nuclear weapons?
1. If states possess them, they will be tempted to use them, which leads to...
* Unjustifiable deaths of noncombatants--both now and in the future (thanks to fallout, "nuclear winter.") It doesn't take a sophisticated theory of Just War to argue that horrific civilian casualties are beyond the pale.
* Horrific environmental destruction, which is unjustifiable even if military use could somehow be justified.
2. Even if the nuclear weapons are not used...
* The potential for accidents, theft / terrorism, associated development and maintenance costs, future Terminator-esque robot uprisings (seems silly now, but wait a decade or two...) make the risks of possession too great.
* Possession leads inexorably to an arms race, increasing the risk and raising the stakes should conflict ever occur
* Possession increases fear and intimidation, not only of one's enemies or neighbors, but of one's own citizenry. This kind of fear is not only psychologically damaging, but fosters and empowers repressive governments.
*Possession sustains the perpetual hegemony of existing nuclear powers--hypocritically, they keep other nations from developing the technology they possess.
The NEG: Why shouldn't states not possess nukes? (I know, it's awkward--but the Neg doesn't have to make the case that states *ought to* possess nukes--only that it isn't wrong for them to possess nukes. Be sure to make that clear at the top of your case.)
1. There is no in principle objection.
a. Social contract theory at best offers flimsy grounds to prohibit powerful weaponry. Nuclear weapons are certainly frightening, but, historically, no more destructive than conventional weaponry. (Think about it for a moment: which has killed more civilians in the past 50 years?) Further, the social contract doesn't apply to non-citizens, which is sad, but necessary to a state's maintenance of its sovereignty and moral responsibility to its own citizens.
b. Another option: individual morality doesn't apply to states, which operate out of pragmatism and self-interest. (Call this "political realism" of a sort, or a Hobbesian view of sovereignty.)
2. Self-defense in a nuclear world requires nukes.
a. States need to defend themselves against other nuclear powers.
b. The only way to be safe without nukes is if no other country has them. That is an impossible scenario, pie-in-the-sky utopianism. "Mutual Assured Destruction" has worked, and will continue to work.
3. Similarly, smaller states need to level the playing field with more powerful nations--in their overall national security strategy, which includes more than just military might.
4. Nuclear weapons are an unfortunate side-effect of nuclear power, which is necessary to stave off global warming.
5. States have to be ready to protect themselves (and the planet) against existential threats (asteroids, space aliens, and the like). Right now, our best hope may be our most powerful weapons.
Some tough questions:
1. What moral rules bind states in the first place? It's likely that a strong debater can make the entire debate hinge on this question. It's the sort of thing that can be given away in CX if a debater isn't paying attention or hasn't thought their case through. If it's "the social contract," which social contract? A hypothetical or constitutional contract? Lockean or otherwise? If it's an absolute morality, is this morality consequentialist (utilitarian even) or not? Or do states even have to follow moral rules? (And if not, can the Aff still argue that "ought" need not necessarily be moral--that it can be pragmatic, and still to a state's advantage, to be nuke-free?)
2. What is an acceptable level of risk? Let's say that possessing nuclear weapons means a 1-in-a-something chance of starting World War III, and wiping out most of humanity. When is that risk too risky? One in a million? A billion? And how does the risk change when another nation proliferates, or disarms? Is such a risk even calculable? The Neg can hammer this question in CX. Without a bright line for risk assessment, even apocalyptic scenarios may lack argumentative force.
3. We also have to determine what the scope of affirmation must be--in other words, what the "Affirmative world" looks like. The Neg might try to press the Aff to support universal disarmament (see below), while the Aff might say the general principle of the resolution doesn't require all countries to abandon nukes--just that being nuke-free, as a general principle, is morally superior.
The NFL's LD rules are helpful here:
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.
No absolute defense of total disarmament is necessary to meet this standard. (If you're worried about this, you could include this language as a resolutional analysis at the top of your case.)
Coming soon: value and criterion pairs based on some of these arguments. As always, your comments, questions, and criticisms are welcomed.