Aug 30, 2010

value and criterion pairs for the nuclear weapons resolution

The August/September NFL LD resolution for 2010 offers many options for frameworks. The following list should be taken as a set of suggestions. You might have better ideas--and you know what you know, and what you'll need to research. If you have any brilliant ideas or questions, feel free to share in the comments.

Note: I'm publishing this list before the analysis is complete, to spur your thinking. More coming soon!

Let's recall the resolution:
Resolved: States ought not possess nuclear weapons.

Often I like to separate V/C pairs into advocacies--those that trend Aff or Neg. However, it seems that many of the arguments cut both ways, as you'll see below. So we'll go straight to the pairs.

V: Human Life
C: Reducing / Deterring Conflict; Preventing Extinction; Environmental Protection; Utilitarianism

V: Morality
C: Fulfilling obligations to the future

V: Justice or Morality
C: Just War Theory

V: Justice or Morality or Gov't Legitimacy
C: The Social Contract
The key to this kind of case is strongly establishing the moral obligations of states.  Since the resolution concerns "ought," which, in a philosophical context, is most commonly defined in moral terms, and since the agent of action appears to be states, the Aff or Neg can argue from a contractarian perspective: that the only rules that bind states, morally speaking, are those of the Social Contract.  Which one?  Well... that's where it gets interesting.  A Hobbesian will definitely argue differently than a Rawlsian.

V: Freedom
C: Reducing state power

V: National Security
C: Deterring Conflict; Preserving the balance of power; maintaining military dominance

The Negative can concede that a world without nuclear weapons is better than one with: but that is not our world, and never will be; Disarmament is a utopian dream, and a dangerous one at that. So, if states must protect their citizens--a key argument that the Negative might want to get the Aff to concede to in CX--then they must fend off potential nuclear (or conventional) attackers. And besides, possession doesn't require use.

But it risks use, the Aff will counter, and raises the stakes of any potential conflict. Add to that the risk of accidents, theft, and the instability of collapsing nuclear regimes (the rise of a nuclear black market, say, after the fall of Communism), and it just might be that national security is better served through conventional weaponry.

Besides, the costs of developing / purchasing and maintaining nuclear weapons means that proliferation is necessarily limited. Furthermore, with international cooperation / enforcement regimes, IF states made a concerted effort to eliminate nukes, it could be done.

Lastly, National Security as a value might be troublesome: any nation that values security above all risks becoming a police state.

V: Peace or Human Life or Morality
C: Reducing "Warism" / Promoting Peace / Pacifism / Disarmament

Warism is "the uncritical presumption that war is morally justifiable, even morally required," according to Duane Cady (whose newly revised text on the subject I'll be reading as soon as I can get a copy through the local college library--hopefully as soon as it's published).  A state that possesses nuclear weapons is itself possessed by warist thinking, which will inevitably promote conflict.

V: Prudence or Security
C: Political Realism / Military Realism


OregonDebater said...

I like the Social Contract for the neg. What do you think about pairing
V: Duty
C: Paine's Social Contract

Basically State's have a moral obligation, or a duty, to their citizens before anyone else. Therefore, in a nuclear-capable world, a State that wishes to fulfill its moral obligations must possess nuclear weapons in order to defend its citizens.

Matze said...

What do you think about V Morality VC Protecting Innocent Life?

Jim Anderson said...

OregonDebater, why Paine, out of curiosity? And when is it in a state's interest to pursue nuclear disarmament rather than deterrence? (Paine, himself, in The Rights of Man, actually called for reduction in naval forces across Europe, writing that "If men will permit themselves to think, as rational beings ought to think, nothing can appear more ridiculous and absurd, exclusive of all moral reflections, than to be at the expense of building navies, filling them with men, and then hauling them into the ocean, to try which can sink each other fastest. Peace, which costs nothing, is attended with infinitely more advantage, than any victory with all its expense.")

Matze, could work, and it seems like you'd be aligned with some of the basic principles of Just War theory, which is where you might want to look for warrants.

Anonymous said...

First of all, thanks Jim. Your work is always appreciated.

On to my question: do you think Nietzsche could work with this rez? Will to power could be an interesting neg (nukes show strength), but his lack of any real political philosophy is kind of crippling to the argument in my opinion. Thoughts?

Jim Anderson said...

Your reservations are correct, I think. I'm no Nietzschean scholar, but as far as I can tell, the will to power isn't normative. It's just a fact of existence--and not only explains life's brutality, but acts of benevolence.

It actually strikes me as more in accordance with a realist position.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it is going too far for neg to say nukes prevent heg/heg bad because of imperialism?

OregonDebater said...

I've used Paine before, and most judges I've met seem to like him. He's also the one I've worked most with when I use the Social Contract.

In this world, with numerous factions vying for political power and bargaining chips, peace DOES cost something. There must be ways to preserve peace, and if war is something one party is willing to accept, they'll also have to consider accepting the threat of extinction by radiological means.

Anonymous said...

So I have been thinking about this resolution and I think I am only going to discuss non-nuclear states. For example, does Egypt have a moral obligation to pursue nuclear weapons? Or should they simply stay out of it?

Do you think that this would work? I think I can use for both AFF and NEG.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous up above, it's not about "going too far," it's about making good arguments based on the evidence you have available. The "nukes prevent heg" argument is definitely doable. (It also depends on the kinds of judges you have--it's a fairly "progressive" argument.)

Latest Anonymous, how would you defend your choice against an opponent who claimed you're only conditionally affirming or negating?

musicallyinclined said...

What about this pairing on the aff:

V: A functional and prosperous/productive society
C: Minimal loss of life

Jim Anderson said...

musicallyinclined, interesting, although I wonder how you'd respond to the argument that your criterion isn't necessarily linked to your value. For instance, we could probably minimize a loss of life by severely reducing certain risks--driving a car, for instance, is extremely risky--but at what costs to overall prosperity?

Anonymous said...

On Aff, what about Value of Safety and a Criterion of Minimizing Fear?
And on Neg, what about Value of Safety and Criterion of Nuclear Deterrence?

Matze said...

Hello what about

V International Justice (more state sovereignty, less state inequality, each state being able to protect rights of citizens)

VC nuclear proliferation

I think I can argue this the most effectively on neg but I dont know if judges will buy it. I will be arguing that states ought to possess nuclear weapons bc it leads to justice on an international scale.

RainyDays said...

What do you think of the Negative pairing of,

V=International Stability
VC=Deterring Conflict

Could this possibility work if I am going along the lines of mutually assured destruction?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, those pairings could work--and also raise interesting paradoxes. We feel safe when we are unafraid, but we also take stupid risks when we lack healthy fear. (And, similar to the above, a society that values safety above all else may end up restricting liberty.) And when it comes to deterrence, the first time it fails may also be the last. Is that "safety?"

Matze, proliferation may prevent strong nations from dominating weak ones, the "heg bad" argument. (For the uninitiated, "heg" is short for "hegemony.") However, the obvious rejoinder is that a world with more nukes is a world with more nuclear accidents, at the very least.

RainyDays, interesting idea. Would you consider today's world "stable?" How about in comparison to the Cold War era?

Anonymous said...

I ran into an interesting argument today during practice rounds and didnt really make a good response to it. The AC laid out several cards explaining how terrorists will have more access to nuclear weapons if states have them, and another that explained the nuclear black market being related to nuclear states collapsing.

He then had a big impact analysis saying explaining how bad it would be if terrorists had access to nukes.

any ideas on how to make arguments against this, or some kind of responsive turn?

thanks to anyone who helps

Alex said...


what do you think about running a VP of international peace or relations on the Aff side?

Anonymous said...

Hey, for NEG I'm going with human life as my value, deterring conflict as my criterion, and my argument is going to be that having nuclear weapons actually prevents wars, thus saving human lives. Are there any relatively unknown philosophers/basis's that I can use, because the way I roll is by taking an unknown argument that no one has heard of and then destroying my opponent when they are not ready for it.

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, terrorists are tough for the Neg, but not impossible.

It's quite difficult for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons from states that don't want terrorists to have them. In other words, a terrorist group that gets hold of a nuke most likely is acting as a proxy or agent of the state that gave the terrorists access. That initially sounds bad--but what keeps this from happening?

1. A state that was attacked by a terrorist with nukes would accuse the state that "lost" the nuke with purposeful action, leading to countermeasures equivalent to a state launching a nuke. (For the closest parallel, see the U.S. response to September 11--treating states that harbor terrorists as targets in a War on Terror.) This alone may be enough deterrent to keep "rogue nations" from giving nukes away.

2. Giving a nuclear weapon to a group that is already operating outside any sort of norms is an inherently risky maneuver. One of the most dangerous sayings in foreign policy: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Not for long, usually.

Where I'm going with this: it's at least intuitively plausible that the standard deterrence calculus works regarding terrorist groups (in the non-collapse scenario). You might dig around to see if there are any cards to support my intuition.

The "collapsing regime" argument is also tough--but if even the collapse of the Soviet Union didn't lead to a widescale nuclear black market, then it might also be a minimal risk. (The collapse of a country like North Korea might be another matter, though.)

Jim Anderson said...

Alex, it'd be a good value to tie into an International Law criterion. (For everyone, if you haven't looked for information on the international legal approach to nuclear weapons, you're missing out on some key arguments!)

Latest Anonymous, hmm... I'll have to think about it and get back to you. If you weren't taking a pacifist angle, I'd suggest looking at Sun Tzu's classic The Art of War.

Anonymous said...

hmm.. how would you counter if the negative used moral nihilism as a value?

musicallyinclined said...

Is there a similar criterion that could be used? Most of my contentions are based on the idea the nuclear bombs will kill people (sounds weird, but it works right now)

Greg said...


What do you think about running something like Societal Welfare as a VP with Maintaining International Relations as a VC on the aff?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, moral nihilism is a tough thing to value. What value is it to believe that nothing is right or wrong? By what metric do we prefer moral nihilism to any other value? Isn't that preference, at some level, itself a moral commitment?

musically, actually, I think you were pretty close. "Reducing unnecessary loss of life" seems like a good way to phrase your (negative utilitarian) approach.

Greg, I'd think that "international peace" or "international law" would be more normative / stronger than "international relations," which is primarily a descriptive term.

Anonymous said...

What about humanitarianism as a value criterion under morality as my value?

Anonymous said...

What do you think about national security/preserving self defense? Are they too similar?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous 1, I guess it would depend on how you define / warrant humanitarianism. It seems like it would trend Aff.

Anonymous 2, they are similar, but not the same. National security can be maintained through diplomacy, economic strength / trade, and a host of other means--and a defensive approach is different from an aggressive approach. So I think you could make that work.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking about using a value like human life/peace, and I want to know what to say to those who argue that the way the resolution is worded makes the value automatically morality.

Jim Anderson said...

A couple things you can think about:

1. Even if the word "ought" makes the resolution moral in scope, it doesn't make the value morality. Morality could be the means to an end--a flourishing society, a guilt-free life . Why presume that morality means doing good for its own sake?

2. The morality of states might be different from the morality of individuals, making them value different ends.

3. What good is morality if everyone is dead?

Anonymous said...


Hey! I just wanted to say that I thoroughly appreciate your dedicated blogging, it really helps new debaters and even experienced ones who are new to LD, like myself. I've been painstakingly searching for an appropriate V/C for my Affirmative case. The reason for my dilemma is the fact that my case has both a moral and a practical dimension. I was wondering if you could help me out.

Con 1: Nukes Immoral
Con 2: Nukes Impractical
Subpt. A: Deterrence Ineffective
Subpt. B: Nukes Expensive
Subpt. C: Conventional Weapons More Practical

My coach was pressing for a crit of fiscal responsibility, but overall I'm in a fix. Any ideas?

Jim Anderson said...

I guess it would depend on the way you argue they're immoral in contention 1. So far, all of your 2nd contention seems utilitarian in its moral orientation. Does your C1 argument square with utilitarian reasoning?

Anonymous said...

I guess my Con 1 is somewhat utilitarian. I just address the immorality of actually POSSESSING nuclear weapons rather than using them, in my Con 1.

musicallyinclined said...

What V/C pair could you use for these neg contentions:

Nuclear weapons can save more lives than they cause (see Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

While they're bad, possession doesn't imply use (if one possesses a gun, that does not imply that one will use it)

Jim Anderson said...

1. I'd say the second seems more like an observation (or a block) than a contention. It doesn't really have to fit a criterion, since it's an argument about the nature of possession, rather than taking a particular stance about the rightness or wrongness of possession.

2. That said, the first contention (that nuclear weapons can save more lives than they take) is clearly utilitarian.

rosser313 said...

What about Practicality for a aff value, my arguements being
Contention 1: Nuclear Gains Outweigh the Costs

Contention 2: Nuclear Weapons are Not Necessary for a States Defense

Contention 3: Nuclear Proliferation Increases the Risk of Nuclear Accidents

Psyche said...


What do you think of this pair for AFF?

V:Quality of Life
VC:Categorical Imperative

Jim Anderson said...

rosser, other than flipping your first contention (it should be "costs outweigh the gains"), that could work--although I'd be curious about your choice of a VC. Right now it looks like something utilitarian-ish or cost-benefit-analysis-y.

psyche, I don't see the immediate link between the two. Usually Kant's Categorical Imperative is linked to Morality or Justice, as it's not concerned with consequences per se.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim i love your advice! im struggling with building a case around a V of life and crit of maximizing life like my coach said im using my C1 for safety provided by NW's and using deterrence, MAD theory, and the U.S. example of any states harboring terrorist as a target in the war (alot of people in practice rounds have ben using terrorists so i thought this could be pretty good and an earlier comment confirmed it)and my C2 is how having nuclear weapons prevents nuclear power vacuum that could be started by programs such as new START, in which the terrorists get their hands on nuclear weapons that countries such as U.S.dont have, causing the world to be at hands of the terrorsists nuclear weapon wise, do you know where i could get cards to back this up or have any tips on improving this case while still having a value of life and criterion of maximizing life?

Anonymous said...

What do you think of VP: Preservation of Life and VC: Schweitzer's philosophy Reverence for Life?

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous,

I think it'd be tough to argue that terrorist groups are going to be completely deterred by the mere possession of nukes by their target state. (For instance, if Basque separatists threatened to nuke, say, Madrid, and Spain responded by threatening to nuke... well, they couldn't exactly go and nuke the Basque regions of Spain. That's the problem with terror groups: they can operate within the very states they target.

This is a roundabout way of saying that the normal deterrence calculus may not apply (although I tried to defend a version of it here). In short: the terrorists-with-nukes argument is either a nonstarter or nonunique under most normal argumentative circumstances.

Instead, merely argue that states owning nukes is the prerequisite to terrorists acquiring nukes, so to reduce the risk of the latter, we need to affirm. It's the only way to solve for terrorists-with-nukes in the long term.

I hope that makes sense. Let me know if it doesn't.

Second Anonymous,

I think it could work, and would presume it trends Affirmative / pacifist.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was wondering what you would think of this as an Aff:

V: Societal Welfare
VC: Utilitarianism

C1: Misuse of resources (costs, conventional weapons do the job, etc.)
C2: Possession leads to proliferation which leads to increased risk of accidents and theft along with international instability.

Also, do you have any suggestions on whom I might look for for my justifications?


Jim Anderson said...

The structure can definitely work.

You'll definitely want to research the stats--how much it costs to start, build up, and maintain a nuclear program (with all its security apparatus, etc.). It's not cheap. Then compare it to the cost of conventional weapons and potential future technologies--think about resources lost in R&D.

For your C2, the U.S. has had a number of accidents and near-accidents, although, thankfully, never an accidental launch to start World War III. (Quick Googling brings up this slightly old list, for starters.)

It also takes a fission reactor to produce nuclear weapons-grade material, and Chernobyl is your cautionary tale there.

One thing that's essential for a utilitarian case is to emphasize the overall impact of a nuclear war, which is always a possibility in a world with nukes.

The tough thing, for the utilitarian, is to somehow quantify / draw a bright line for what counts as acceptable risk / suffering, and what is sufficient welfare to justify a policy.

Californiagirl said...

Hi Jim. I don't know if this kind of thing is up your alley, because you seem like a more traditional coach, but would you be interested in doing a post on the common theory arguments on this topic? Some possible standards to use for a shell for and against multi actor fiat, and disarmament stuff in general would be extremely useful. If you could help it would be great, or maybe LA coach could guest post. My aff is nukes hurt democracy, so it's difficult to work without some degree of multi-actor fiat. If neg says I can only fiat one state my cards don't have much of an impact.

Jim Anderson said...

Theory is definitely not my area of expertise (although I'm learning more all the time). I'll ask LACoach on another thread if s/he's interested in putting together a guest post. It's a great idea.

LA Coach said...

I wish I could do a guest post, but our debate circuit also leans toward the "traditional" side and away from using fiat in LD.

From a strategy standpoint, you could reduce the theory burden by reading something on international disarmament modeling. You could also lean toward nuclear tyranny as a prime threat to democracy, which doesn't require an international model. You can pull from old Statism kritik links, and from George Orwell's writing on nuclear weapons for that.

Theoretically, you're going to have a standard "lit checks abuse" argument (which has always rubbed me the wrong way) and much stronger argument that readily available camp files set the reasonable standards for interpretation of the resolution and the limits of fiat. Since the WNDI file is available for free, everyone should be able to read it's global perspective and prepare to answer that. You've also got the plurality of the resolution ("states" not "a state" and not "the United States") in favor of multinational fiat, and a tenuous argument about the reality of disarmament as a multilateral process. Sadly, fiat and reality don't usually mix.

I wish I could be more help, but I have zero experience seeing or teaching theory in LD. We simply don't do it here.

Anonymous said...

How could you uphold a value of government legitimacy compared to Justice or Morality?

Jim Anderson said...

Two paths that I can see, immediately:

1. You can either go the route of distinguishing what binds states and individuals, or

2. You can talk about how Governmental Legitimacy isjust and moral, according to social contract theory.

I'd go with the second--and maybe with having justice as my value, with governmental legitimacy as a criterion... could work.

Anonymous said...

for aff:
value of protecting innocent human life
criterion of deotological ethics
basically saying that with nuclear weapons the intention is to use them to cause harm to civilians, undermining deontological ethics and thus human life

Anonymous said...

Since my aff case has both moral issues and realistic parts, i was thinking to run a value of prudence and a vc of political realism, but im confused on how i would explain the importance of prudence and how i could link political realism to this?

Anonymous said...

I am thinking of running this for Aff:

V: Security
C: Maximizing military utility

What do you think?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous with the question about political realism, have you read Morgenthau's classic essay on the subject? Essentially, realism "...considers prudence--the weighing of the consequences of alternative political actions--to be the supreme virtue in politics."

Next Anonymous, the two could be well linked. I guess I wonder how you'd defend your framework against the argument that a state obsessed with security / safety through military utility is likely to turn into a dictatorship or oligarchy (through a coup, junta, or the like).

Anonymous said...

Your not supposed to use morality in your debate because in CX they could kill you by saying the following

" what definition of morality do you have?"

" is that an opinion or actual definition?"

and either way could go badly for the defender, if you say opinion you look ignorant by telling your judge to vote to change the would based on your personal opinion, or if it was an actual definition they could also say that you would have to hold everyone to the same morality which is very unintelligent because a suicide bomber doesn't have the same morality as a priest. Or a murder doesn't have the same morality as an everyday person.

In the end morality is to broad for a value, value criterion or your three contentions.