It has been a long hiatus for discourse fueled by musings and takes, but we are back. Something actually useful might happen in this blog post. Preseason is a unique part of the season that most people do not do well. It’s very long, but prone to distractions. You really have to do some digging to have some arguments, even if predictable ones, that are good enough to cut through all the noise that makes up the tournament, and not just ones that only work if the other team drops them (though having some of those handy helps).
One way to improve your preseason game is to think about what went right and wrong, what you did see coming and what you didn’t, and why. There is no better place for such armchair analysis. Without further ado, THE TAKES!
1. NATO Expansion Affs
Fuck these. I don’t think notable debates were decided on topicality, but this affirmative’s days seem to be numbered. If you can violate my T sensibilities (when I have pretty much none) that is saying a lot.
2. So. Much. NATO.
I believe all of the policy teams in the octa’s read some version of NATO? I guess I get it. NATO does have the critical mass of cards for the Aff, but that is also true of the Neg. I feel like debate was maybe a little too scared of the Japan Prolif DA due to previous topics. The DA about the one country that has invaded a bunch of other countries in the last 15 years doing it again after the Aff seems pretty scary to me, but what do I know.
If you have already arrived at this shorthand internally and made the couple of try hards on your team mad by saying it out loud, good work. You did at least one thing right during the preseason.
4. Explaining war and IR stuff is a wasteland
Two ideas here. The first is this idea that the Aff read an advantage that says the risk of Russia war is high now and then the onus is on the Neg to completely disprove that idea. That seems…not correct. Wars don’t really just happen, particularly great power wars in the last like 60 years.
It seems like the burden of proof should be overwhelmingly on the Aff. Where are forces gathering? What troop movements are you citing? What diplomatic signals have been sent? Oh you have no idea what I am talking about? Yeah, that could be the issue.
What results is the second idea: we devolve into buzzwords. But miscalc. But fog of war. But miscalc again. But humans have been removed from the kill chain. But spirals.
The buzzwords are what is really plaguing things. This blog has already gone on the record about revisionism and its ilk. Now Russia is a declining power and that explains everything forever. Ugh.
This is a thing that invariably happens at the first tournament, people are debating the tags and the labels and doing too much conceptual grouping and not enough specific parsing, and maybe don’t have specific enough cards yet. But the ultimate outcome is muddled debating where buzzwords stand in for useful information the judge can use to decide a debate.
5. Deterrence on the Case
If the Aff shotgunned your war impact, do all that shit on the advantage. I don’t care if you technically have an external impact. Do it on the case page. Never split between war advantage and deterrence DA. You are only human.
At the most basic level you are setting yourself to be inefficient, delaying say something on one page or repeating yourself too much.
At a deeper level by making two pages interdependent in this way, you are creating opportunities for important arguments to slip through the cracks, or for key judge instruction or explanation to get lost in translation. You are setting yourself up to fail.
6. NATO Hybrid Aff
Seems to be one where there is a distinction without a difference. Meaning, if you actually did all the stuff in the solvency cards, you would link to most of the core NATO withdrawal negative arguments. The way teams are avoiding this dilemma now is by making their plans say stuff like “don’t activate Article 5 for hybrid aggression” – and since none of these teams define hybrid aggression, they not solving the ambiguity that is the core problem described by this literature base. Classic dilemma.
Are uniqueness CP’s for deterrence and PICs if the Aff says enough in the plan the only ones worth having? To me, the first tournament indicates yes.
8. Dartmouth TV
First of all, great fucking initials. Second of all, they won 6 straight Aff elims. Very impressive.
They are idiots. No one takes them seriously. One would assume the people that post on War on the Rocks all the time would call them out every once in a while, but they never even find the time to bother (passing reference in Lanozska 20 aside).
This one has been under development in the lab for quite some time. NHP is No Hassle Presumption. It is the idea that the negative can win with a CP even if it doesn’t have a net benefit if it proves to be less hassle than the plan.
Here is an example from the high school topic:
The affirmative reforms the Capitol Police to improve transparency through FOIA. That decreases the risk of abuse ever so slightly.
The negative counters with abolishing the Capitol Police. It solves much better and it is much easier than the Aff. Much less hassle.
Here is an easy way to know you have an opening for an NHP CP. If you would describe the Aff as jumping through hoops…there is a way to do it with less hassle.
For instance on the college topic instead of burden sharing the US just pays them. That’s NHP.
I will say that there are MANY judges open to this line of argument, but I WILL NOT tell you who they are. You are just going to have to try it and find out.
11. Questions to consider
Just some things to think about if you want your next preseason to go better than this one.
I am Lincoln, retired debate coach . This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.