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Author Topic: 2011-12 Topic paper - Treaties by Whit Whitmore  (Read 17473 times)
stables
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« on: April 25, 2011, 11:11:16 AM »

Whit Whitmore was kind enough to revisit the treaties topic and prepared this report.

I am also reposting the link for last year's paper.

Update - the link to the new report has been fixed.


* Treaties Paper.pdf (844.39 KB - downloaded 2171 times.)
* Treaties - 2011-12 Controversy Paper - Whitmore.pdf (211.11 KB - downloaded 1254 times.)
« Last Edit: April 25, 2011, 11:41:41 AM by stables » Logged

Gordon Stables
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David Arnett
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2011, 12:00:30 PM »

Breaking my moratorium on CEDA Forums posting to say one thing. This topic must include the CTBT. What does it say about the topic process that can produce a nukes and treaties topic that excludes the CTBT? I'll add that treaties 1.0 was largely a great topic because half the debates were about the CTBT. As sweet as the neg ground against the landmines treaty is...

Dave
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Brad Hall
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2011, 01:23:19 PM »

It seems like there is a lot of enthusiasm for the mechanism of treaties and nostalgia for the 2002-3 topic, but that doesn't guarantee a good topic for anything involving treaties. The treaties last time were, for the most part, timely - many of these haven't changed much other than they've occasionally been debated by the Senate. One of the main reasons the last topic was so interesting is because it occurred at a time when US foreign policy was undergoing drastic changes in a way that the topic directly addressed - unilateralism vs. multilateralism.

Very few of the treaties discussed in this paper are controversial in any sense other than the political (and, I'm sure, the biopolitical) nor does the fact that they're "treaties" guarantee a link to a heg DA. I'd encourage people who are generically supportive of a treaties topic to really look at the neg literature for CEDAW or Ottawa and ask how likely it is you're going to hear treaty-specific DAs or if most debates will feature exciting arguments like federalism and the Congressional-Executive Agreement CP.

I'm not against a treaties topic, but it needs to have good treaties to be a good topic.
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Malgor
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2011, 01:38:14 PM »

Brad is on-point.  the first treaties topic was awesome because of the treaties.  ICC, CTBT, and Kyoto were all experiencing their "last best push" at US ratification.

The ground based on the mechanism for a treaties topic is poor.  The best arguments will be about the treaties.  The first treaties topic was awesome because of the CTBT and ICC.  Even Kyoto, the most written about environmental policy ever, was not a common affirmative on the topic.

malgor
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Whit
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2011, 01:56:58 PM »

@Arnett (and others):

From the paper...

This section is called “potential treaties,” because it is not intended to be exclusive. The purpose of this section is to give the community some idea of what options exist and highlight some of the more fertile areas for debate. The wording paper stage of the topic process will allow a much more rigorous analysis of treaty viability. The lack of presence in this topic paper should not be interpreted as an attempt to exclude any treaty from consideration. Rather, the goal is to stress the desirability of mechanism itself as a subject for debate in the coming year. To quote Galloway from last year’s topic paper, “It is possible that further exploration in stage two of the process will yield even more treaties that…would allow for areas that debaters wish to discuss…not currently under consideration by our working group.  If treaties wins the controversy vote, I would encourage members of the community to submit papers on other treaties they deem to be pertinent and debatable issues.” Last year’s paper contained an extensive bibliography for a large number of treaties. Rather than replicate all of that work, my goal is to point to the evolution of the topic literature over the past year. Specifically, for the purposes of wording papers, the community could look into treaties that were previously debated on the treaties topic, as well as:

@Brad Hall/Malgor:

"last best push"

Are you joking? Bush was president. He 'unsigned' one of the treaties in the topic (ICC). He was the former governor of the state most known for using the death penalty. He probably doesn't believe in warming. He wouldn't touch the CTBT. SORT got done, but it never should have been in the topic to begin with (Sorry, Calum).

The timeliness issue is addressed in the paper. I'm sure every treaty will receive a thorough vetting by the topic committee for a balance of AFF/NEG literature before making it onto a ballot.
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Brad Hall
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2011, 02:12:43 PM »

That was actually just Malgor, and while I'm not sure if it's relevant, he is probably right that for some treaties, advocates knew this was their last chance for a while to get them ratified (the ICC was just being set up, so it was important for the US to participate; the Kyoto cap would have been too much for the US to implement if adopted much later than 2002/3 and Bush was actually a faux environmentalist during the 2000 campaign). What I really meant was that it was a unique intersection of both a broad debate about the direction of US foreign policy (preemption/prevention vs. limiting to specific responses; multilateralism vs. unilateralism) and treaties that actually affected those areas in substantive ways. There's a big difference between a one liner on "rights of the child key to soft power" and the possibility that the ICC could try US troops for war crimes or impose a two state solution in Israel/Palestine.

My basic point is treaty spec: knowing which treaties are likely to be included determines the desirability of the treaties topic - the mechanism alone isn't enough. Not all of the treaties from 02-03 make sense any more: SORT obviously passed; nothing has changed about the death penalty but not sure if that matters; ICC and CTBT both seem fine I guess; and Kyoto is outdated for several reasons. So if it's maybe a couple of those and then some mystery treaties with fair aff/neg division that will emerge during the topic process, voters should be cognizant of that. But absent specifics, I don't know why the mechanism of a treaty is better for debate than the mechanism of, say, a free trade agreement (which would be a good topic too).
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Whit
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2011, 02:27:12 PM »

Do you have any specific objections to LOST, Ottawa, CEDAW, or the CRC? Please keep in mind that my paper was just to update evolution in the literature over the past year. All of those treaties received a positive stamp of approval in last year's paper, which included an extensive bibliography.

To be honest, I wish I had more time to work on the paper before submitting it. I would have liked to explore the cluster munitions treaty (it seems more relevant today than the landmine treaty). I was also intrigued by the illegal arms trafficking treaty.

Would you object to a wording that included: CTBT, ICC, LOST, CEDAW, Ottawa, and CRC?
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Brad Hall
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2011, 03:09:45 PM »

No specific objections other than I don't know what the good treaty-specific neg ground is against most of those. CTBT is probably still legit, I'll trust Arnett on that one. Plus there's always Kato.

My understanding is that most of the rest only face political and not substantive opposition (other than from the Phyllis Schlaflys of the world and the black helicopter crowd).

If I remember correctly, CEDAW wasn't included last time because it was deemed to be too aff biased. There is definitely a lot of literature on this, but it's not really very good. I did some work on it during treaties because Fullerton (I believe) ran it as an aff. Most of the better neg arguments I found that were only mildly crazy were not really enough not to outweigh the aff or they relied on spilling over to things like Don't Ask Don't Tell which is no longer relevant.

LOST seems like it is more equally divided than the rest, mainly because it's tough to outweigh the Moon DA. So sure, this seems fine.

Ottawa was an aff that a lab of mine wrote once and I wasn't convinced then that the neg had any good arguments - the topic paper from last year  concedes it's an old debate. But there are relevant changes that make it even more aff biased - like the fact that control of landmines in Korea has been transferred to South Korea, so the North Korea DA doesn't make sense anymore. And since 67+ Senators urged Obama to ratify it a year ago, the politics DA goes the other way from the topic paper.

For CRC, the treaty-specific arguments listed in the paper are politics, federalism w/r/t family law, a treaty tradeoff DA that presumes the GOP is about to ratify the CEDAW, treaties bad, and no enforcement.

I honestly am not trying to pick on your paper - or the treaties topic. I loved the last treaties topic and am just worried about the leftovers topic. But I wanted to at least play Zizek's advocate against the idea that any treaties topic is a good topic in the hopes of generating some more specific discussion since this seems likely to be a popular topic. I'm mostly worried that even though there is a lot of literature on some of these treaties, the actual arguments contained therein aren't strong enough to dissuade reliance on process/ubergenerics, which was the main selling point of the last treaties topic.
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Ryan Galloway
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2011, 03:23:08 PM »

I thought I would write something today against treaties.  I have been on a big relevance kick, and assumed that papers like taxes and defense cuts would have more contemporary relevance.

But then I read Whit's paper, and thought he did a great job updating the relevance of the treaties paper.  Whit illustrates a wide variety of good aff's on the topic, something that has been in short supply on topics that primarily speak to the hegemony of negative ground.

I'll also ask people what topic they would like to have instead of treaties.  A frustration in the last round of voting was that treaties became the front-runner, and it seemed people were making the perfect the enemy of the good.  Instead of drawing topic comparisons, treaties became the punching bag because...

Maybe it should say ratify and implement instead of consent to be bound by...
Maybe it would be better if the CTBT was included...
Maybe Ottawa shouldn't make the final cut...
Maybe it's not quite as good this time as it was the first time...

All of these are considerations for wave 2 of the topic.  Remember that every single topic you compare it to is going to have those considerations as well.

Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.  Draw comparisons.  Just because treaties is the alleged front-runner, don't go light on the other topic papers.  Be rigorous, be thorough in your comparisons.  We have an important vote that affects an entire year worth of topics.  We'll have a good slate, but don't let most of our attention go to bashing one paper out of the process at the expense of a careful examination of them all.

Thanks to Gordon, Whit, and all who are putting hard work into this process. 

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Malgor
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2011, 03:40:47 PM »

i agree that it's always preferable to make comparisons.  you're being a bit dramatic about this enemy of the good stuff. there was discussion on nearly every paper on the forums.  that doesn't mean there was a LOT of discussion, but that is almost always the case.  Hell, a lot of people don't even vote for the topic.  We need more participation in both discussion and voting!

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ScottElliott
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2011, 06:11:43 PM »

Whit says, " I'm sure every treaty will receive a thorough vetting by the topic committee for a balance of AFF/NEG literature before making it onto a ballot."

Based on the results of past topics (Afghanistan stuck in a Mid-East topic; Indian Country; Visas instead of really addressing the core immigration issues facing the Nation; Sex trafficking included in the visas topic), I find the claim that the topic committee will thouroughly vett the balance of Aff and Neg literature for us is highly problematic. The structure of the TC cluster--f, uh, group encounter, virtually gurantees shallow analysis of the topic areas. 1) Everything is crammed into a three or four day session of people poking in random words on google to see if a search term comes up. 2) The focus on making everyone happy or appealing to specific personal poltical agendas leads to horribly worded topics that debaters then have to work around. I thought treaties last year was a good topic area...wrote a section of the topic area defending a specific treaty for inclusion. But, the thought of voting for "treaties...let the Topic Committee figure it out" is not very palatable.

Scott Elliott
 
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kelly young
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2011, 06:45:43 PM »

The structure of the TC cluster--f, uh, group encounter, virtually gurantees shallow analysis of the topic areas. 1) Everything is crammed into a three or four day session of people poking in random words on google to see if a search term comes up.

Yeah, you know, they should include a gap in time between the topic announcement and the topic meeting to let people write lengthy wording papers that help resolve these issues... [enter heavy eye rolls]

The TC created a number of different immigration topic options - the community voted to narrow it to visas. There was lengthy discussion of why Afghanistan was included in the ME topic, something that the topic authors strongly advocated. So, how are either of these the TC's fault?
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Whit
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« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2011, 08:06:12 PM »

Whit says, " I'm sure every treaty will receive a thorough vetting by the topic committee for a balance of AFF/NEG literature before making it onto a ballot."

Based on the results of past topics (Afghanistan stuck in a Mid-East topic; Indian Country; Visas instead of really addressing the core immigration issues facing the Nation; Sex trafficking included in the visas topic), I find the claim that the topic committee will thouroughly vett the balance of Aff and Neg literature for us is highly problematic. The structure of the TC cluster--f, uh, group encounter, virtually gurantees shallow analysis of the topic areas. 1) Everything is crammed into a three or four day session of people poking in random words on google to see if a search term comes up. 2) The focus on making everyone happy or appealing to specific personal poltical agendas leads to horribly worded topics that debaters then have to work around. I thought treaties last year was a good topic area...wrote a section of the topic area defending a specific treaty for inclusion. But, the thought of voting for "treaties...let the Topic Committee figure it out" is not very palatable.

Scott Elliott

If you think the TC will CF the Rez, then it's really irrelevant which topic you vote for. No matter what controversy is chosen, there will be wording papers. There is always a second half to the process.

Nevertheless, I disagree with your summary of the topic committee process. Yes it could be longer, but we can't lock up the committee in conclave like they were electing the pope. As long as the wording papers are well written and researched (they are due before the committee ever meets), then the committee isn't forced to do a ton of extra research on them. Also, nothing is ever put on a ballot solely on the basis of "a google search." The members of the committee and numerous volunteers always do an often thankless (at least by you) job of making sure the topic doesn't suck. It includes a lot of spot research and nightly homework assignments. Yes, they try to make everyone happy, or at least include something for everyone. Last time I checked democracy was still good (not an endorsement of the demo promo paper Wink ). Maybe one day they'll make you topic czar, though.

Lastly, it's a little absurd to say that I turned in a topic paper that reads: "Resolved: Treaties...let the TC sort it out, lolz." There are ways to limit the range of treaties. For instance, using Ratify/Accede (should the committee chose it as the stem) would have an effective limit on the topic by preventing treaties that we haven't signed.  Using "consent to be bound," which is a route the committee could take, would allow a different set of treaties. The good thing about it is that you are more than welcome to submit a wording paper in favor of the CBD (wushich I "did a few google searches on" and didn't find much action/literature on over the past year).
« Last Edit: April 25, 2011, 08:38:27 PM by Whit » Logged
ScottElliott
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« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2011, 09:20:11 PM »

Not a slam against you Whit, so don't take the following personal, or in reference to your paper. But you assumption that the wayt he Topic Committee currently does it is the best of all possible worlds is just wrong. Remember, Democracies have produced George Bush I, George Bush II, and Barak Obama....not a big fan of letting the masses make choices on important matters. Plato and Socrates had a point. There is ZERO reason why the topic selection process has to be driven by crisis politics and artificial time constraints. This funky thing called the internet means that the Topic Committee can communicate over a longer period of time. There is no need to stay in a hotel for four days to pound out a piece of garbage that vaguely appeals to everyone's interests. Structural changes need to be made to enable the Topic Committee to engage in more reflective thought.

I have a few suggestions:
1) pick the topic area a year in advance; give the Topic Committee time to think about wording a topic correctly.
2) Adopt a rotational schedule of topic areas similar to Galloway and other's suggestions. Example: Foriegn Policy, Legal, Environmental, Domestic policy, and Miscellanious. This would mean that say, for the Foriegn Policy Topic Year, all of the topic papers would be competing against each other within the realm of foriegn policy.
As it stands now, we have topic papers coming from all fields, it is like comparing apples and oranges.

Sco
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charrigan
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« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2011, 09:52:49 PM »

Looking for clarification:

To my understanding, CEA is an alternate way of ratification, not an alternative to ratification. It competes with a process by which the Senate normally ratifies treaties using a super-majority.

Is there an argument why the advocates of treaties think this competes if the plan says (as it will) "ratify" without further specification other than "normal means"?
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