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TOPIC COMMITTEE => Archive => 2011 - 2012 Topic => Topic started by: stables on June 13, 2011, 06:17:04 PM

Title: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: stables on June 13, 2011, 06:17:04 PM
I will post some summarizing thoughts about the topic and the committee in the next few days, but here is the slate of resolutions approved by the topic selection committee. Thanks to all of the committee and the volunteers for their hard work. All of the specific information about voting and deadlines will be provided by Jeff Jarman, CEDA's Executive Secretary.

Because the resolutions are use a common stem I have also attached a pdf chart of the countries included in each topic.

1. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Egypt, Iran, Libya, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, Tunisia.

2. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Syria.

3. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Egypt, Iran, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen.

4. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

5. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Egypt, Morocco, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, Yemen.

6. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: BrianDeLong on June 14, 2011, 10:34:07 AM
Before the discussion of these resolutions begins, I want to congratulate and thank the topic committee and the University of Michigan team for their hard work. Gordon Stables deserves special recognition for his ability to guide the deliberative process of forty community member's opinions and advocacies for altering the topic options. The professionalism that Stables and the topic committee members bring to the table is an indication of their love for as well as the strength and cohesion of our community.

Great job everyone.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: jtedebate on June 14, 2011, 01:07:03 PM
Can someone explain the rationale for using "for" vs. "to"?  The meeting doc has several definitions...most fairly vague, one that says they mean the same thing, one in context of DA that assumes aid to former Soviet States...?  So is it gov't-to-gov't, NGOs, or both?  From what I've seen, the vast majority of DA goes to entities other than the government.

Thanks again TO all of you who worked hard on crafting the topic!
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: stables on June 14, 2011, 01:15:28 PM
I will have a longer note that details some of these items, but I do think the committee felt as though there are many forms of US democracy assistance that is provided to a range of organizations, including NGOs. The decision to use 'for' (a change from past practice) refers to the purposeful nature of the aid (i.e., democracy assistance to an NGO specializing in helping Egypt conduct their elections) even if the aid is not to the government or even spent in the country. An example of the latter is the USAID support for bloggers and journalists that eventually helped to lay the foundation for use of social media in the recent demonstrations. Much of that program didn't occur in the Egypt, but it was purposeful to assist the rise of those democratic institutions.  The committee knows that we don't dicate community practice, but we felt it important to try to reinforce that democracy assistance to institutions other than 'to the government' is an important part of the literature for this topic.

Gordon
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 14, 2011, 07:28:11 PM
I will have a longer note that details some of these items, but I do think the committee felt as though there are many forms of US democracy assistance that is provided to a range of organizations, including NGOs. The decision to use 'for' (a change from past practice) refers to the purposeful nature of the aid (i.e., democracy assistance to an NGO specializing in helping Egypt conduct their elections) even if the aid is not to the government or even spent in the country. An example of the latter is the USAID support for bloggers and journalists that eventually helped to lay the foundation for use of social media in the recent demonstrations. Much of that program didn't occur in the Egypt, but it was purposeful to assist the rise of those democratic institutions.  The committee knows that we don't dicate community practice, but we felt it important to try to reinforce that democracy assistance to institutions other than 'to the government' is an important part of the literature for this topic.

Gordon

  Gordon is right. I can't think of a way to be true to the topic literature (believe I have tried) without going the "for" route. This is a substantial change from traditional policy debate resolutions. I am not sure of the outcomes of this decision. For example, I have been working on a Poland case---yes, I am serious--because the way the real world works, the USFG targets a country, but works through various NGO's and other countries. I am interested to see what happens when the desire to be honest about the literature on a topic runs into the "fakeness" of competitive academic policy debate. My prediction...top teams will run cases that claim zero advantages linked to the enhancement of democracy in the Mid-east. A sad, but true consequence of the need to win in policy debate. For the first time in years, however, I commend the Topic committee for writing resolutions that are true to the literature and not stupidly obtuse.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 15, 2011, 10:32:08 AM
is there good evidence that to be topical you'll have to deal with NGOs that are physically in the country?  So, for instance, you could not give money to an NGO in China that then externally supports democratic movements in a target country.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 15, 2011, 11:43:21 AM
is there good evidence that to be topical you'll have to deal with NGOs that are physically in the country?  So, for instance, you could not give money to an NGO in China that then externally supports democratic movements in a target country.

The evidence I have found is the opposite. For example, USAID often funds democracy assistance programs in other countries "for" a target country. For example: Last weekm the U.S., through USAID and NED, gave Poland money so Tunisian politicians can fly to Poland for seminars on how to build a democracy from the ashes of a post-authoritarian state. You can't make this stuff up. LOL.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 15, 2011, 04:00:45 PM
hmm i wonder why the word "for" was chosen instead of "in".  sure, it might cut out a few examples of how DA works, but i hope a majority of the best affs are at least directed within the borders of the target country.

not a lot of diversity on the ballot. 
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Sarahjane on June 15, 2011, 07:46:44 PM
From what little Gordon has said above and this conversation: http://www.facebook.com/sarahjanegreen/posts/105446512883498 that includes members of the TC and others who were present- they selected "for" rather than "in" quite intentionally to preserve core literature about how the US can best support democratic movements in the nations listed. It does seem quite shocking to me that the TC has made this move, but it is a welcome shift/experiment in topic construction from my perspective.

the affirmative will still obviously have to win that the US is key-people will have to be open and prepared for all sorts of alternate agents that can do things like train bloggers in London. Which seems to severely limit crazy affs that use 3rd parties in 3rd locations.

It seems as if it would be an indication of unwillingness to accept different ways of wording resolutions that attempt to direct topics in ways that correspond with what seems to really be happening in the world if we were to insist that "for" necessitated "in".
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 15, 2011, 09:27:41 PM
i don't think would deny what's really happening in the world.  if democracy assistance is sometimes given in a country, and sometimes occurs outside of it, a resolution that only deals with the assistance in a country is not denying the real world, it is having us debate some parts of it and not other.  not much different than the 'exclusion' that happens when we pick rez 1 vs 2,3,4,5, or 6.   we'll inevitably be debating some parts of arab spring and not others.

i haven't read any of the reports they did on 'for' v 'in' (just now reading through the updated country reports), maybe it's more limiting than i think.

it's certainly one of the big three surprises from the meeting.  iran being in 1/2 of the resolutions and the incredibly limited nature of the ballot are also a bit surprising.  seems like we coulda wrapped this up right after the paper won!
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 16, 2011, 06:06:45 AM
Just to throw it out there....doesn't the inclusion of "for" not only gut the negative team's ability to run consultation counter-plans (IMO, a good thing), but now make consultation Affirmative ground? That should make a lot of teams that make their living on the neg by running "consult" shudder.

Scott
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kevin kuswa on June 16, 2011, 08:07:41 AM
You can read about the "in" vs. "to" debate in the Misc. Mechanism paper. 

"In" was too limiting if it was applied geographically.  Some countries have a majority of the democracy assistance taking place outside the physical borders of the country.

"To" would also have worked, but would have either been way too vague (in the direction of...) OR would have moved to the exclusively "government-to-government" direction which we definitely wanted to avoid.

"For" became the best middle ground quite quickly---it means "for the purpose of" the target country, but could stil occur outside the physical borders.

The idea of democracy (freedom for) leant itself to something "for" the countries in question rather than just "within their borders" or "to them."

These may not be the views of the committee, but it is the explanation as I understand it.  There was solid deliberation about the preposition for sure.  The agent, of course, is still the USFG and the democracy assistance has "to belong to it" so there are some good checks in both directions.   Enjoy, Kevin
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: jonahfeldman on June 16, 2011, 10:21:27 AM
Just to throw it out there....doesn't the inclusion of "for" not only gut the negative team's ability to run consultation counter-plans (IMO, a good thing), but now make consultation Affirmative ground? That should make a lot of teams that make their living on the neg by running "consult" shudder.

Scott


Oh snap, GBN is f'd.  But if the "for" pic is as good as the "the" pic....I've said too much
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kelly young on June 16, 2011, 12:41:00 PM
Just to throw it out there....doesn't the inclusion of "for" not only gut the negative team's ability to run consultation counter-plans (IMO, a good thing), but now make consultation Affirmative ground? That should make a lot of teams that make their living on the neg by running "consult" shudder.

Scott

No
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ozzy on June 17, 2011, 10:42:58 PM
is it too late to add this to the slate?

Resolved: The United States Federal Government should increase its constructive engagement with the government of one or more of the following countries: Afghanistan, Iran, the Palestinian Authority, and Syria, and it should include offering them a security guarantee(s) and/or a substantial increase in foreign assistance.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 20, 2011, 07:33:20 PM
The risks of voting for "overly-timely" topics: "In March, the U.S. Agency for International Development published ads in Egyptian newspapers asking for grant proposals on a $100 million program to support "job creation, economic development and poverty alleviation" and a $65 million program for "democratic development," including elections, civic activism and human rights.
Egyptian officials, who insist they should be allowed to vet or select recipients, were incensed by USAID's bypassing the government to solicit proposals directly from the public. They reacted with fury when a line of applicants snaked on the street to USAID's offices in a Cairo suburb, and USAID organized seminars to explain the application procedures to packed audiences outside the capital."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304665904576383123301579668.html

Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kelly young on June 20, 2011, 08:44:55 PM
The risks of voting for "overly-timely" topics: "In March, the U.S. Agency for International Development published ads in Egyptian newspapers asking for grant proposals on a $100 million program to support "job creation, economic development and poverty alleviation" and a $65 million program for "democratic development," including elections, civic activism and human rights.
Egyptian officials, who insist they should be allowed to vet or select recipients, were incensed by USAID's bypassing the government to solicit proposals directly from the public. They reacted with fury when a line of applicants snaked on the street to USAID's offices in a Cairo suburb, and USAID organized seminars to explain the application procedures to packed audiences outside the capital."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304665904576383123301579668.html



From the Category 1 Core Countries Report:

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/pubPDFs/PolicyFocus110.pdf Egypt’s Enduring Challenges Shaping the Post-Mubarak Environment David Schenker Aufzien fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at Washington Institute for Near East Policy Policy Focus #110 | April 2011

As with the revolution, Egyptians will be responsible for doing the heavy lifting to ensure the transition goes in a democratic direction. But Washington can play a role in making the process transparent. One way to engage in this effort would be to provide funding to the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, as well as to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, to work with Egyptian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) during the complex period ahead. These U.S. entities have experience in providing much-needed technical expertise and can share critical lessons learned from similar transitions for which achieving maximum public buy-in was a priority. Given Egyptians’ long experience with authoritarian government and dirty tricks, any experience that Washington can provide could go a long way toward building confidence among Egyptians that a credible process of reform is under way. On February 17, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that $150 million in foreign assistance funding had been “reprogrammed…to put ourselves in a position to support our transition [in Egypt] and assist with their economic recovery.”170 While this assistance offers a good start, it falls woefully short in both economic and humanitarian terms for a country of 83 million people.

I'm also curious to now how many of those grants described are available to anyone associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the core affs listed in that same country paper?

See, the funny thing about overreacting to news in June is that most of this won't be a factor in September. Much like when the U.S. "aggressively" went after China for Yuan devaluation in June 2005 and when NATO finally agreed to peacekeeping (but not reconstruction) in Iraq in May-June 2003. Like our typical foreign policy response in the Middle East, the Obama administration will likely give the Egyptian government veto again over this aid (although we have given part of our demo assistance as direct grants to NGOs without Egyptian approval since 2005, so it's a tad surprising the uproar now) or we will scale back the aid, etc.

Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 20, 2011, 09:27:08 PM
Kelly, Uh, that is what the WSJ article is specifically responsive to...including specifically responding to the two organizations you mentioned. Not an overreaction...just pointing out the wrinkles in the topic: 1) for Egypt, your uniqueness on the neg is pretty much screwed because the U.S. began the application process for $63 million in specific democracy assistance programs....I doubt those will be approved by September; meaning, your links to disads and K's better be pretty damn specific or 2) your inherency has been lost on the Aff...see, e.g., the very two programs you mentioned (National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute) will be getting funding in the Sqou by September. Your April, 2011, evidence is already out of date.  Too late to do anything about it now. But, maybe people can learn for future topic selections.

Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kelly young on June 21, 2011, 05:16:00 AM
Kelly, Uh, that is what the WSJ article is specifically responsive to...including specifically responding to the two organizations you mentioned. Not an overreaction...just pointing out the wrinkles in the topic: 1) for Egypt, your uniqueness on the neg is pretty much screwed because the U.S. began the application process for $63 million in specific democracy assistance programs....I doubt those will be approved by September; meaning, your links to disads and K's better be pretty damn specific or 2) your inherency has been lost on the Aff...see, e.g., the very two programs you mentioned (National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute) will be getting funding in the Sqou by September. Your April, 2011, evidence is already out of date.  Too late to do anything about it now. But, maybe people can learn for future topic selections.



Imagine what would happen if someone invented the novel idea of a uniqueness CP before then? *Shudder* But the inclusion of "for" probably killed those too.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 21, 2011, 11:11:35 AM
Well, I think it sucks when negative teams have to counterplan in uniqueness for disads.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 21, 2011, 08:16:55 PM
Well Kelly, it could be worse....we could be debating whether to build 10 inch sewr pipes versus 12 inch sewer pipes. LOL
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: DSDebate on June 26, 2011, 11:47:09 PM
All -

As you decide how to vote, I would encourage the community to consider factoring ethnic and sectarian demographics into their choice of country lists. I heard some chatter about the desirability of debating Iran as an Aff, and I wanted to send out some thoughts about how I've seen these issues contested in the Middle Eastern and African countries I've worked on/with.

There's no real way to avoid debating Iran entirely - with the exception of the states that border Israel, Iran is the central foreign policy issue for all the Gulf Arab states. Containing Iran isn't the only US security objective in the Middle East, but it matters for virtually any Arab Spring topic, because limiting Iranian influence and power has been one of the key arguments rationalizing US support for unsavory Arab regimes.

I'm not going to weigh in on whether debating Iran as an Aff has gotten stale or boring, because I'm not qualified to assess that. I have no dog in any topic fight. I'm contributing this because I think that there's a decent chance that the role of ethno-sectarian demographics in the MENA area is not 100% clear to the entire community.

Some key facts that dictate the role of Iran in Arab political discourse:

- Iran is not Arab. Iranians don't generally speak Arabic, they speak Farsi. The two languages do use a common script, and share some words, but they are not really mutually comprehensible. But in any case, the linguistics aren't very important - 'Arab' is an ethnic designation, so this isn't a question of fuzzy geography or culture, it's a demographic fact.

- Farsi is also called 'Persian,' and Iran is essentially a nation-state that contains much of the territory of the last incarnation of the Persian Empire. It is a multicultural state, but it has only a tiny Arab minority (less than 5% of the population). The restive minority populations that really concern Iran are Kurdish and Azeri. These populations are much larger than the Arab population. I do not know this for certain, but given my work on the Iraqi provinces that border Iran, I would guess that many of these Arabs - at least half -  are members of the Shi'a sect, and are bilingual Farsi and Arabic speakers.

- Iran is about 90% Shi'a, and about 10% Sunni. For the total Muslim population globally, those numbers are roughly reversed.
This isn't some trivial thing - it's a disagreement about how to understand the Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) legacy that has been a source of violence for over a thousand years. It is true that Sunni and Shi'a have lived in harmony in many places, but it is also true that the theological disagreements between the sects are very significant, and basically irreconcilable - when the sects are at peace, it is because they agree to disagree about fundamental questions. 
A lot of nominally secular Arab nationalism is tinged with a pride in Arab ethnicity that is mixed with disdain for the synthesis of pre-Islamic Persian religious traditions with Islamic culture that characterizes modern Iran. Syria has a similar issue. The Alawi (who live in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon) self-identify as Twelver Shi'a, but it is not uncommon for conservative Sunni to view them as infidels (kuffar) or polytheists. Theologians generally characterize their beliefs as syncretic - combining elements of pre-Islamic religions, Islam, and Christianity.

- A general note about the Arab world: people should appreciate that if a Muslim says they are not religious, it generally doesn't mean the same thing as an American who says the same. Religion simply plays a much greater role in life in the Middle East and North Africa, even in secular states than religion does in most rich Western nations. I have met a number of relatively secular, Westernized Sunni Arabs in the US who think that Shiism is heretical, if not pagan or polytheistic. These folks don't disagree with Sunni fundamentalists about the nature of Shiism - they just don't think it's worth fighting or yelling about.

- There are sizable Shi'a communities outside of Iran, but Iran is the religious heart of the Shi'a world. This is because the most prestigious Shi'a religious schools are physically in Iran (in Qom), and because Shiites, unlike Sunnis, have a hierarchical clerical establishment. A good way to understand this would be to say that Shiism is like the Christian churches that organizationally imitate the Vatican (like the Anglican church, for example). By contrast, Sunni clerics are more like evangelicals in the US - a sect that has a loose, informal hierarchy based on prestige and resources. Iranian clerics have links with non-Iranian Shi'a abroad, and all prominent Shi'a clerics who live outside Iran were trained in Iran, and speak Farsi. Because of the way that zakat (mandatory Islamic charity) payments work, this means that a lot of money comes into Iran's clerical establishment from abroad. This explains some portion of the economic clout of the clerical establishment and its associated bonyads.

- The closer a country is to Iran physically, the more likely its culture is to be influenced by prior Persian conquest and Shi'a diaspora. Iraq and Bahrain are the two Arab states with Shi'a pluralities, and they both border Iran (Bahrain's border is a maritime one). The Afghan language referred to as Dari is basically a dialect of Farsi, and there are large Shi'a populations there, and in Pakistan as well (Pakistan and Afghanistan border Iran).

- The political parties and insurgent groups that Iran has funded or otherwise supported overseas are usually Shi'a and have a religious or sectarian agenda. This isn't always the case - Iran did support Pakistan's efforts to support the Kashmiri jihad, and did reach an accommodation with the Taleban - but it is the case for the most prominent groups sponsored by Iran. Hezbollah, Badr Corps, Jaish al-Mahdi (Sadr), al-Dawa, are examples. 

- In addition to the factual ties between Arab Shi'a and Iran, there is a fact-based, but paranoid conspiratorial narrative that plays a huge role in sectarian politics outside Iran.
Consider a short summary of the above:
Iran isn't Arab
Shi'a elsewhere have religious (and financial) links to Iran
Shi'a regard Sunnis as usurpers and Sunnis view Shi'i as heretics
Shi'a are a minority in most Arab states
Iran has funded overseas Shi'a groups, including violent ones
This means that when a group is using sectarian or religious arguments to mobilize a Sunni population politically, it is common for them to argue that Shi'a political power represents a foreign, un-Islamic, non-Arab subversive threat. A similar set of arguments are often made about mobilizing the resources of the state to combat Iranian influence or military power.
Because the Iranian SAVAK (the pre-revolution secret police) and Mossad worked together, and because Jews and Persians are perceived as existential threats to Arab interests, it is not uncommon to hear conspiracy theories that link Israel and Iran. There is a darkly amusing discussion on jihadica.com, for example, about how jihadis debate whether al-Qaeda or Hezbollah (hence, Iran) and/or Israel was responsible for 9/11 (despite multiple attempts by AQ affiliates to claim the attacks and dismiss the Shia-Jew claim).

- Most of the autocratic regimes in the Middle East have a sectarian character. The families and tribes that have come to dominate the governments of many Arab states tend to contain only members of a single sect. There are some Arab tribes that include multiple sects, but these are not the dominant tribes in any Arab regime that I am aware of. Most Westerners think of a family as a nuclear unit with a small number of first-degree relatives. In the Arab world, a tribe is a collection of extended family lineages and in Arab politics 'ruling family' can refer to a very large group of people - the terms clan, clade or lineage are probably less confusing and more accurate.

Sectarianism in some topic states:
- Shi'a Islam is the state religion in Iran. Although it is common to refer to the regime as "Islamist," and to also use this term to define groups like al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, the terminology is misleading. Sunni Islamists generally view Iran's system with even greater disdain than secular democracy. This is logical, because in Sunni Islamist thinking, Iran is openly ruled by heretical perversion of God's message, whereas secular democracy replaces the rule of God's law with the human-created rules. Like many religious conservatives, Sunni Islamists reserve their greatest vitriol for apostates - those who profess to be Muslims while embracing (what they regard as) heresy.
- Bahrain's ruling family is Sunni; the Shi'a majority claims to be systematically victimized and has pushed the protest movement forward. Saudi Arabia's intervention there is at least partly a result of the fact that it also has a restive Shi'a population (a minority, but geographically clustered near oil-producing regions). In the 1970's and 80's, Saudi Arabia dealt brutally with Shi'a uprisings that were in some ways linked to Islamist activism in Iran.
- There are substantial Shi'a communities in Afghanistan, which is mostly Sunni. They are mostly Hazara, I think (not sure).
- Syria's ruling family is Alawite. The Alawi are a relatively insular community that has some of the characteristics of an ethnic confederation, but they also have a particularistic religious creed, which they define as an offshoot of Twelver Shiism. The majority of Syrian Muslims are Sunni (hence, not Alawite). The army units and police that are most loyal to the regime are dominated by Alawis.
- The Baath regime in Iraq was dominated by Sunni tribes - which is one reason that the Syrian Baath and Iraqi Baath were never particularly friendly. The Iraqi Baath repressed both the Kurds (who are not Arabs either - there are both Shi'a and Sunni Kurds), and the Arab Shi'a ruthlessly. The current government is a coalition of Kurds and Shi'a; the movements referred to as 'insurgents' are Sunni Arab, and draw from the populations that benefitted from Baath largesse. The other armed groups that fight the government are not rebels, they are properly referred to as 'militias.'
- Northern Yemen is majority Shi'a, southern Yemen is Sunni (the areas closest to Iran have the largest Shi'a population). The total population is split - there are slightly more Sunni than Shi'a. President Saleh, who was the leader of North Yemen prior to reunification in 1990, is Shi'a. His relations with his own tribe are strained - the tribe has rebelled against the government. I don't know enough about the ongoing rebellion to define its sectarian character - but I do know that the urban areas tend to have mixed populations. Rural tribes tend to be more exclusive, and the tribes (which have a great deal of power in the home regions) have been prominent in the rebellion.
- The breakdown of Lebanon's consociational regime in the 1970's was linked to the relative growth of the Muslim population. The French-written constitution reserved increasingly disproportionate power to Christians. Dissatisfaction with this pushed Muslims towards rebellion while fear pushed Christians towards aggressive efforts to protect their status. The sectarian split in Lebanon's Muslim population is highly significant. Hezbollah is backed by Iran and is the most powerful military force in the country, and is a Shi'a political party. The Hariri family is backed by Saudi Arabia, and is Sunni, as are the Palestinians who live in Lebanon. Pro-Hariri and Hezbollah forces have fought street battles in the recent past. Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (whose son was Prime Minister until recently) was assassinated by Syria, and that government (which again, is Shi'a dominated) also helps back Hezbollah's power. The groups represented in the security forces the US helped to arm are generally associated with Hariri, the Druze or Christians (if Hezbollah were incorporated into the military, US security assistance would face both legal and political problems). There are slightly more Sunnis in Lebanon than Shi'i. The two sects together represent about 60% of the total population. 

- The decision to use 'for' rather than 'to' or 'in' in the resolutions creates the possibility that Affirmatives will engage transnational political factions - expatriates, exiles, diasporas, etc. The lack of a phrase like 'government to government' also means that Affirmatives may choose to target aid at groups that are opposed to the incumbent regimes in the topic countries. Ethnic groups and sects that face repression at home tend to have the most active expatriate communities.

If the US were to support exiled Shi'a, that would, in most cases, align the US with Iran's position towards the topic country in question. Many groups have been pushed out of their home countries, or blacklisted from US assistance programs at least partly because they are sympathetic to Iran (or accepted/currently receive assistance from Iran). Or, to put it differently, some groups that have been exiled or repressed from US-supported governments have turned to Iran. Since US sanctions legislation restrict involvement with Iran-linked groups, assisting them will functionally weaken the unilateral sanctions regime.

 A somewhat related concern are other minority groups that exist across topic countries. The relevance of minority rights for 'democracy' is contestable, but there's no question that ethno-national identity issues drive a lot of undemocratic politicking in the Middle East and North Africa. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have been at the center of a number of political crises. Iran, Iraq, and Syria all have struggled to accommodate their Kurdish populations, and have at times used force to crush their national aspirations. They have also sponsored Kurdish rebels in unfriendly bordering states - Iran and Iraq are notorious for this. The general rule has been that the sect that dominates a regime will tend to sponsor Kurdish groups that match its sectarian affiliation and that are opposed to its enemies'. The (Sunni) Baath sponsored Sunni Kurdish opposition to the (Shi'a) regime in Teheran, and so on.
The Druze are a wild card in Lebanon and also live in Israel (and serve in the Israeli military). Afghanistan and Pakistan's border regions are populated by the same ethnic groups - and those ties combine with hostile terrain to make those regions porous, insular and difficult to govern from afar. Dealing with violent Pashtun (aka Pakhtun, Pathan) politics has been a perennial problem for governments in both countries. Pakistan recently renamed its restive Northwest Frontier Province Khyber-Pakhtunkwa. There is a debate in the legal academy about whether the Pashtun system of unwritten tribal law (Pushtunwali) is a barrier to democratization or not, and how our aid programs ought to treat it. Incidentally, Pushtunwali prescribes rather strict rules of hospitality, and some Afghanistan experts suggest that this explains why the Pashtuns who sheltered al-Qaeda could not and would not turn them over to the US even when it was obvious that a crushing American strike might be on its way.

To reiterate a point I made earlier about Afghanistan as a topic country: I suspect that one of the two-time NDT champions from Northwestern could deliver an extended monologue on this subject, given his time in Afghanistan and bar card.

Outside of the Islamic community, there are some quirky minority rights issues in some of the topic countries - Coptic Christians are clustered in Southern Egypt, and there are the Maronites in Lebanon. I cannot recall exactly what the relationship between these sects and the Chaldean Christians in Iraq is. I recall that one is closer to the Vatican than the others. Christian communities also inhabit Palestinian territory - whether these are Armenian Orthodox, or some other sect, I am not sure. Obviously, the exact religious distinctions are not as significant as whether or not these communities have links to a diaspora, or strong trans-border linkages with other groups, and whether their socio-political status generates substantial impacts. I didn't ever deal with these communities, so I can't speculate about this - but I suspect that other members of the community will have more knowledge.

Ethnic and religious minority communities could factor into your topic selection votes for the same reason as the sectarian question - supporting one of these groups, or enabling reforms that protect them could have trans-border consequences. This could impact the functional size of the topics. I do not think there is a good way to avoid debating these small communities, because an Affirmative that uses a broad plan to avoid these discussions would face potential exclusion CPs, and there are other ways to access these ethno-religious issues. For example, France is the traditional protector of Maronite rights - French or EU implementation would likely build on that pre-existing affinity in a variety of ways.

There are some fairly small religious communities that do not have substantial trans-border communities. Syria has its Alawites, and there are some groups in Iran and Iraq that are basically unique to those states - Zoroastrians (Iran) and Yazidis, for example. Beyond the old 'does substantial mean anything' debate, helping these populations might have a plausible defense, precisely because of their quirkiness. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Persian Empire. When Arab Sunnis want to say something nasty about Iranian Shi'a, they not infrequently call them "fire-worshippers" or "Magi," which are both references to Zoroastrianism. Because of their historical role and the religious sensibilities at issue, they are potential 'canaries in the coal mine' for a society's willingness to tolerate difference. The Yazidis are significant for similar reasons - they pray to the "Peacock Angel," and there's some question as to whether this literally means Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, one of the above, all of the above, or none. Needless to say, Yazidis have been hit with some pretty brutal atrocities over the years.

These smaller minority groups could be go-to ground for small-ish Affirmatives for precisely that reason (empowering them won't affect nearby states very much).

That's all for now.


DAS
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 28, 2011, 05:50:52 PM
Thanks DS for the detailed analysis.  It's quite comprehensive and a great way to explain the differences between countries. 

I think the inclusion of Iran is a big issue for many voters-some really want Iran in the topic and some really don't.  I have no idea how it got on 1/2 of resolutions given that it was not considered a core topic country in the paper, and the ballot seems to vehemently stick to most other parts of the paper (namely the stem).

Since the options on the ballot show zero diversity between mechanisms, countries should have an even larger effect on how the topic plays out.

I will throw in some more traditional 'debate-speak' reasons to rank the 3 Iran options last (though DS's analysis sheds light on how Iran's characteristics will inevitably effect the topic, and may provide some very unexpected twists).

1) been there, done that.  Iranian adventurism and nuclear proliferation will be core issues, and aid conditions affs may be topical.  I understand the inevitable response:  the debaters of this generation weren't around for the ME topic (unless they are 5th year seniors, which there will be plenty of).  I think we need to expand the timeframe for recycling topics beyond the 4-5 period of debaters.  The coaches and educators have a generally longer involvement in debate.  We will push all the same arguments and issues on our students out of convenience and strategic pressure (other squads will dust off the same args, so we'll have to do the same).  We should go for fresh ideas.  That was part of the spirit of picking this topic, and unsurprisingly people at the committee meeting were anxious to hijack that process in favor of getting some old favorites in.

2)  it will dominate the topic.  This is unquestionable to me.  Let me be clear:  I am not saying there won't be other awesome core affs on the topic.  I am saying that many teams, especially the most influential teams that drive the upper levels of competition, will run Iran.  They will find internal links to the core Iran advantages of adventurism and proliferation (oddly enough the exact cards the Topic Comm prioritized when researching Iran) and run with those advantages.  It will not just be that there is a recycled idea in the topic, it will be that that idea dominates the landscape of the topic.

3)  The above 2 arguments trump the "iran is a core middle eastern country" complaint.  Yes, Iran is a core country, but so are many of the nations in the resolutions.  Egypt and Tunisia are at the heart of the topic (even though Tunisia is not in all of the resolutions), and we never debate them.  The same can be said of other countries.  Once again, there are pedagogical choices to be made.  Why would we choose to embrace and make the focal point of the topic a recycled place when we have the chance to create a space that entirely focuses on new areas for debaters and coaches to explore?  I know the answer-  the shiny object principle.  Iran is a place where we know there might be big bad wars etc.  It seems to always be an important criterion for the topics we pick.  I assure you, given the region we are debating those impacts are there no matter the country talked about.

Thanks again to DS for the input.  As per usual your analysis is thorough and compelling.

I'll close with a deep, philosophical, and mentally stirring statement:  The star is the shiniest part of the Christmas tree, but the presents underneath are where the real magic happens.

Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 28, 2011, 08:58:11 PM
I think the inclusion of Iran and Syria makes those versions of the resolution bidirectional. How so? 

"For" is typically defined as "in reference to," or in the "direction of." If you default to "for" meaning, "in the favor of," then I want to see cards out there that says we should be supporting the Syrian or Iraq regimes. Recall, the resolutions do not say "for the people of X," it just says, "for X." I blieve most people are going to default to "for" meaning "directed toward," or in "reference to." Therein lies the problem of bi-directionality.

In the case of democracy assistance "for" Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt, democracy assistance is what I believe msot people think it is...assistance to help the current government that is quasi-democratic, or an emerging democracy become more democratic. These countries have relatively good relations with the U.S. and the U.S. is trying to help these respective governments. The four pillars of DA seem to indicate that this is the general purpose of DA.

However, in the cases of Syria and Iran, any democracy assistance "for" those respective countries, is, in fact, directed toward overthrowing there totalitarian regimes. The U.S. has an antagonistic relationship with both Iran and Syria. Any assistance would be going to dissident groups working to overthrow the governments. In other words, DA would be promoting a U.S. hard-line policy.

It is conceivable that a clever Affirmative could give assistance to the governments of Iran or Syria to stabilize their authoritarian regimes (plenty of evidence out there that says DA does exactly that---see, e.g all analyses of DA to Egypt prior to Novemeber, 2010.)

It seems to me that a resolution is not good when Affirmatives can choose to be both hard-line and soft-line toward a government, and still be topical. It also seems to me to be difficult for negatives when half the topic countries would be a U.S. soft-line, supportive role, and the other half would be a U.S. hard-line antagonistic role. 

Excluding Iran and Syria would eliminate this bi-directionaly, or at least severely limit it.

Scott
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 28, 2011, 09:18:30 PM
there was an effort to put countries in every phase of transition on every topic constructed.  many people, myself probably the most vocal, pointed out that this creates problems with coherency etc etc etc pre meeting.  I do not know if anyone with those opinions was present at the meeting/being vocal at the meeting.

apparently those concerns were not considered relevant or they were ignored entirely.  it happens.  the ciiiiircle of liiiiiiiife. 

no matter how much input we give you still need the committee to reach some consensus on broadening mechanisms, creating more coherent country lists etc.  that support was insufficient to create any movement on the resolutions constructed to generate options that satisfy these requests.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ozzy on June 30, 2011, 09:49:02 AM
iran may overshadow other parts of the topic because of the total amount and currently-evolving nature of its lit base compared to the other countries. i think these are good reasons to include iran in the slate and perhaps the final topic. it dominates for a reason. i dont think the debaters who actually researched/ran iran are under the impression that it is a stale or played out conversation. i don't want to speak for everybody but i know many iran debaters feel that there was more than enough variation for it to have been the entire 07/08 topic. how sweet that would have been. we won't run out of iran. anybody that wants to go to war over a lit base can sign right up by reading iran or going deep against iran affs. the other countries are less likely to stay fresh over the course of a debate season. maybe we haven't debated them before. maybe ... so what ..

also thank you to DSDebate for the excellent posts!
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 30, 2011, 11:07:37 AM
I am trying to figure out what anyone thinks they are going to be able to claim as solvency for any major advantage for the "USFG increasing its democracy assistance for Iran." No doubt Iran is going to play into the topic. But I am not sure how democracy assistance, as traditionally defined (the four pillars--elections, governance, human rights, etc.) gets to any big Iran impacts. You all are obviously brilliant researchers. Please show me at least an article or two that says U.S. democracy assistance will somehow stop Iranian proliferation or lead to some major change in the Iranian political structure. This is so obvious, I am sure there will be a million solvency advocates posted within minutes [insert sarcasm].The "really cool" stuff with big-boom impacts can't be accessed through democracy assistance. Just because Iran is cool and big does not mean it makes for great Affirmative ground.

Scott 
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on June 30, 2011, 11:20:40 AM
Before you vote for Iran as a topic country, consider the following article:

http://armscontrolcenter.org/policy/iran/articles/democracy_promotion_funding_iraq/
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 30, 2011, 12:31:58 PM
iran may overshadow other parts of the topic because of the total amount and currently-evolving nature of its lit base compared to the other countries. i think these are good reasons to include iran in the slate and perhaps the final topic. it dominates for a reason. i dont think the debaters who actually researched/ran iran are under the impression that it is a stale or played out conversation. i don't want to speak for everybody but i know many iran debaters feel that there was more than enough variation for it to have been the entire 07/08 topic. how sweet that would have been. we won't run out of iran. anybody that wants to go to war over a lit base can sign right up by reading iran or going deep against iran affs. the other countries are less likely to stay fresh over the course of a debate season. maybe we haven't debated them before. maybe ... so what ..

also thank you to DSDebate for the excellent posts!

i assume this is not a joke, though it sounds like one.  no one thinks we'll run out of things to say-as others have pointed out every issue is so deep innovation is inevitable.  don't have much else to say; you ignored all legitimate reasons to exclude iran and went all in on "it's a shiny toy."  i think other people are approaching it more from a comparison of educational opportunities.  i think debaters will have a lot of shiny objects with the resolutions without iran, but they will be unique educational opportunities, provide more topic coherence, and avoid the slew of issues outlined by DS.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: KnOlsn on June 30, 2011, 12:45:04 PM
I do not think there are very many intelligent people advocating democracy assistance in Iran.  I think people from Harvard will have more insight then me, but I remember the literature being overwhelmingly against "anti-Iran-government" assistance.  My research was cursory given most of Harvard's affirmative was not concerned with democracy assistance, but it was very difficult to find anything peer-reviewed that supported such activity.  I am similarly unsure about what democracy assistance the U.S. could provide to Iran itself; I think Iran would probably refuse governmental reform type assistance.  Including Iran would create big, but stupid, debates.




Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on June 30, 2011, 01:26:17 PM
my favorite part of your post was when you focused on peer reviewed research as the core of any issue.  please tell me you are teaching 10000000s of high schoolers this every summer.  we need more of that attitude in debate
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ozzy on June 30, 2011, 04:10:17 PM
iran may overshadow other parts of the topic because of the total amount and currently-evolving nature of its lit base compared to the other countries. i think these are good reasons to include iran in the slate and perhaps the final topic. it dominates for a reason. i dont think the debaters who actually researched/ran iran are under the impression that it is a stale or played out conversation. i don't want to speak for everybody but i know many iran debaters feel that there was more than enough variation for it to have been the entire 07/08 topic. how sweet that would have been. we won't run out of iran. anybody that wants to go to war over a lit base can sign right up by reading iran or going deep against iran affs. the other countries are less likely to stay fresh over the course of a debate season. maybe we haven't debated them before. maybe ... so what ..

also thank you to DSDebate for the excellent posts!

i assume this is not a joke, though it sounds like one.  no one thinks we'll run out of things to say-as others have pointed out every issue is so deep innovation is inevitable.  don't have much else to say; you ignored all legitimate reasons to exclude iran and went all in on "it's a shiny toy."  i think other people are approaching it more from a comparison of educational opportunities.  i think debaters will have a lot of shiny objects with the resolutions without iran, but they will be unique educational opportunities, provide more topic coherence, and avoid the slew of issues outlined by DS.

TAKES 1 TO NO 1. i just put in my 2c. you out-debated me enough irl malgor, i think u can give it up now <3
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: repko on June 30, 2011, 10:48:03 PM
1. Several Iran indicts are as true -- if not more true -- of Palestine and Lebanon

...If you worry about 5th years, recall that the 2008 topic called for security guarantees and-or foreign assistance. To me, foreign assistance is a lot closer to the 2011-12 mechanism than a security guarantee-style Aff.

A fair assessment is that most Iran and Syria Affs (in 2008) were Bargain-style Affs with QPQ's... Way, way more of the Lebanon and Palestine were foreign assistance Affs. And a few of them -- in part because Palestine remains the province of K-land and in part b/c the Lebanon lit has less turnover -- could honestly be wholescale recycled.

That is unthinkable for an Iran Aff on many levels.

2. The non-Iran crowd has to step-up to the plate with some solvency advocates for wordings that don't include Iran

I went to the topic meeting as a non-Iran guy. In some ways, I still wish I was not.

I've been to countless topic meetings, and I have never seen a greater volume of relevant reports or more ev cut by the attendees.

After these reports, I -- like a large percentage of people in the room -- was left longing for solvency advocate from... almost any of the country reports... That drives my concern about non-Iran topics.

The Feith & Weiss ev, the Allen ev, the 2nd Clawson, and the "Beyond Orthodox Approaches" ev all made Iran look like the *only* topic report where one felt like there was a bunch of lit *about the mechanism*. Each of these aff cards is written after the experiences with Harvard's 2008 version of the Aff. In fairness, no report on Egypt was done in Ann Arbor b/c it was on every ballot.

I still believe the Neg will do just fine against Iran -- I just feel those rounds will be about the mechanism and will be less contrived. I think the debate about this particular mechanism as it relates to Morocco, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain, etc  all stand to be considerably less academic/peer-review-ish.

3. There are plenty of reasons to oppose Iran, but a blind faith that there are a million shiny Affs (that are more than one-hit wonders) is not one of them.

If people vote down Iran b/c it makes for  bigger topic or a less "Arab-Spring-y" topic, then I can get that. We all have different reasons for voting.

... but Malgor has said "Iran bad" and "you probably like it because it is shiny"... he then closes by adding "the star is the shiniest part of the Christmas tree, but the presents underneath is where the real magic happens".

Well, actually, I am not at all wild ecstatic about Iran -- but I think, based on the Committee wall of research, I am comparatively more worried for the Aff in a world without Iran.

...better put, I am open to being persuaded on "Iran bad", but not based on conjecture.. before July 13th, open up your presents and show some of them to the rest of the family...

  -- Will
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on July 01, 2011, 05:31:22 PM
Will-

I'll keep this short.  I admittedly can't "step up to the plate" and give you a bunch of syria/libya/all the other countries affs.  I agree with your characterization of most topic evidence as "peer reviewish", and it might be difficult to base any core arguments off of peer reviewed scholarly work given how new the Arab Spring.  

I think your use of the topic papers done at the meeting as proof that Iran may be the only aff with evidence, and that other countries are lacking affirmatives, is not helpful and quite inaccurate.  It's never reasonable to expect the committee to map out every aff on a topic, every person in debate has a varying degree of research prowess, and many of those reports were in a time crunch that involved less than a full day's worth of research.  

I also don't agree that the Iran section contains a lot of 'hot ev'.  The only specific affs proposed are exchanges/conferences and affs to give people social networking (though there are great debates to be had over how self absorbed America must be to think that twitter is the key to the rev).  Michael Allen, who writes the best broad defense of why we need to re-focus our policy on democracy assistance, writes about more than just Iran and applies his concepts to other countries.  A quick search turned up an older article where he is outlining the same shortcomings in US policy for other nations.

Journal of Democracy 17.2 (2006) 36-51, The Assault on Democracy Assistance

the faith and weiss card outlines the lack of funding for opposition groups from obama and makes a broad solvency claim that, if opposition groups were powerful, we might curb some iranian adventurism (post-nuclear proliferation).  It is not a solvency claim about specific assistance programs (certainly not that would pass the us key test).  I am quite confident that people write the same generic claims about the benefits of supporting the opposition in countries like libya and syria.  I have to do my ceda posting between labs at camp so excuse me for not stepping up the plate.  The purpose of these links is just to show people that a) the us is doing some things now in other countries in the topic b) some people argue these efforts are inadequate or should increase and c) there are consequences to not supporting the opposition in countries in transition.  These points are consistent with most of the *broad* ideas outlined in many of the cards in the iran paper (save the twitter/facebook/internet/cell phone aff)

i think we can all agree egypt has plenty of affs about civil society reform, hence the lack of a paper done at the meeting

http://www.nimd.org/documents/B/beyond_orthodox_approaches.pdf
that is a paper used in the iran section that also has chapters on morocco and egypt


current congress people are advocating an increase in assistance to Syria opposition groups
http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press_display.asp?id=1811


http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33487.pdf
good report on Syria-outlines common neg scenarios and has some good scenarios for why there needs to be a democratic transition in Syria.  Outlines efforts of regime to quash civil society and states the case for more civil society-only focuses on historic account of sanctions when it comes to solvency.

US has some programs going on in Syria
http://www.rferl.org/content/syria_/9497613.html
The money reportedly continued to flow under current President Barack Obama despite his administration's efforts to repair ties with Assad. According to the newspaper, it is unclear whether the United States now still funds Syrian opposition groups. The article cites a diplomatic cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time warning that Syrian authorities "would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change." In reaction to the report, the U.S. State Department denied that it has been attempting to undermine Assad's government, but acknowledged it supported civil society groups dedicated to democratic reforms and freedom of expression. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the United States is "working with a variety of civil society actors in Syria with the goal of strengthening freedom of expression."

http://www.cfr.org/syria/washington-institute-battling-lion-syrias-domestic-opposition-asad-regime/p13746

the US is funding political opposition/dissent groups in libya.
http://pomed.org/blog/2011/06/libya-donors-pledge-billions-to-help-opposition.html/

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-04-05/world/libya.us.envoy_1_opposition-spokesman-assistance?_s=PM:WORLD

http://freelibya.org/pressreleases/205-how-to-help-free-libya.html

here's a good article outlining the problems with the administration's lack of support for democratic resistance (section on tunisia is good)
http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/the_united_states_and_the_prospects_for_democracy_in_islamic_countries

anyway, these are searches done in a few minutes. Libya, Syria, tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain all seem to have a lot of people advocating for the US to fund the growth of civil society and legitimate political opposition in those countries.  If you truly think that the only viable arguments were found at the topic meeting, then you are in fact basing your decision on conjecture, and may god be with us in the months ahead.




Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: brubaie on July 02, 2011, 06:52:57 PM
I don't have a horse in this race, but I am interested in learning whether I correctly understand the major arguments at hand. I'm particularly interested in whether I accurately understood and appreciated the excellent work of DAS.

Repko/Ozzy say that it's a hard year to be aff. The reason they provide is that the solvency literature is a little half-baked. Therefore, Iran should be part of the topic because it strengthens the number and variety of quality affirmative proposals. To summarize it roughly; although it is different than the rest of the topic, the "Aff ground advantage" o/w the "topic coherence DA"

DAS argues a middle ground, avoiding a conclusive stance against Iran while offering several reasonable cautions that most voters would typically overlook. Iran is radically different from other nations in the Middle East -- politically, culturally and religiously. This would make it difficult to identify a coherent center of the topic. "Democracy assistance" doesn't unify the topic because what that assistance leads to could be radically different. Therefore, the relevant negative literature would require the Negative to defend arguments with meaningful, substantive differences based on the Aff.

Malgor answers Repko/Ozzy by challenging the argument that it is necessarily a hard year to be Aff. The pessimism over the number of available solvency advocates is a hasty generalization (Kansas roots shining through...) based on an examination of the topic that only scratches the surface. He argues that we've debated the issue of Iran recently on the Middle East topic, 5th year debaters in particular. He also argues that Iran will dominate the topic, shifting it away from the topic voters thought they were getting (and subsequently utilizing DAS' arguments to prove people won't be getting what they bargained for).

I apologize if I mischaracterized anyone's arguments. Can the relevant posters please clarify and explain any mistakes I made in summarizing this debate? Thank you in advance!
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kearney on July 05, 2011, 10:07:51 AM
I don't have a horse in this race, but I am interested in learning whether I correctly understand the major arguments at hand. I'm particularly interested in whether I accurately understood and appreciated the excellent work of DAS.

Repko/Ozzy say that it's a hard year to be aff. The reason they provide is that the solvency literature is a little half-baked. Therefore, Iran should be part of the topic because it strengthens the number and variety of quality affirmative proposals. To summarize it roughly; although it is different than the rest of the topic, the "Aff ground advantage" o/w the "topic coherence DA"

DAS argues a middle ground, avoiding a conclusive stance against Iran while offering several reasonable cautions that most voters would typically overlook. Iran is radically different from other nations in the Middle East -- politically, culturally and religiously. This would make it difficult to identify a coherent center of the topic. "Democracy assistance" doesn't unify the topic because what that assistance leads to could be radically different. Therefore, the relevant negative literature would require the Negative to defend arguments with meaningful, substantive differences based on the Aff.

Malgor answers Repko/Ozzy by challenging the argument that it is necessarily a hard year to be Aff. The pessimism over the number of available solvency advocates is a hasty generalization (Kansas roots shining through...) based on an examination of the topic that only scratches the surface. He argues that we've debated the issue of Iran recently on the Middle East topic, 5th year debaters in particular. He also argues that Iran will dominate the topic, shifting it away from the topic voters thought they were getting (and subsequently utilizing DAS' arguments to prove people won't be getting what they bargained for).

I apologize if I mischaracterized anyone's arguments. Can the relevant posters please clarify and explain any mistakes I made in summarizing this debate? Thank you in advance!
Rubaie described his opinion on horse racing. He also talked about Ozzy, Repko and Malgor.

Hope I got that right.

:)
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: louiep on July 05, 2011, 10:21:01 AM
All interesting posts by Malgor, Will, and DAS.  Martin, I enjoyed your humorous plea for Iran and share your longing for a good Iran SG debate.  However, I fear the Iran debates will not be as good as they were in 07/08.  Funding opposition groups in an attempt to overthrow the hardliners or increase democracy/civil society building in Iran does not have the fun or the US key warrants as the SG lit base had.  In all of the post, the part that I find missing, and the part that I have yet to identify from topic the meeting papers or my own research (as bad as it is) are the US key warrants for any of the these topic countries.  Yes there are authors calling for the US to increase DA, but NO defense of why it has to be US action.  Some papers, I think the Libya paper was one on the best, has cards saying the US should act, but I do not think that is the same as a warrant as why the US should act or is the only country that can act.  Maybe I am off base, but I think the US should act evidence would not stand up to most judge scrutiny or neg strats by round 4 at Kentucky.

It would have been sweet to allow the AFF some leverage, but that would have meant writing 1 of the 6 resolutions with the term "democracy promotion" instead of DA.  How dare the topic committee provide the community with options and/or AFF ground.  

If that sounds harsh, then please respond with a post that explains what AFF ground with US key warrants looks like and where it can be found.  I understand that I was not at the topic meeting, stupid summer classes and teaching them, but the day the mech was discussed the feed was not working.  I do not think I am the only person sitting around discussing with my friends the following: "what are the US key warrants", "why did the TC act without considering what would be AFF gorund", "did the TC think cell phones and internet connections was quality AFF ground", "did the TC operate under the assumption the debate over international fiat legitimacy was over",  "was the Kuswa paper not considered serious, because it said this might be a problem with DA", "whoa Brovero's T definitions were on spot, and really suck for the AFF".  

Just thought I would sound off before I begin Day 21 of TERRIBLE AFF RESEARCH..  Iran or not Iran, still sucks for US key warrants.

Louie

Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: brubaie on July 05, 2011, 11:45:42 AM
I don't have a horse in this race, but I am interested in learning whether I correctly understand the major arguments at hand. I'm particularly interested in whether I accurately understood and appreciated the excellent work of DAS.

Repko/Ozzy say that it's a hard year to be aff. The reason they provide is that the solvency literature is a little half-baked. Therefore, Iran should be part of the topic because it strengthens the number and variety of quality affirmative proposals. To summarize it roughly; although it is different than the rest of the topic, the "Aff ground advantage" o/w the "topic coherence DA"

DAS argues a middle ground, avoiding a conclusive stance against Iran while offering several reasonable cautions that most voters would typically overlook. Iran is radically different from other nations in the Middle East -- politically, culturally and religiously. This would make it difficult to identify a coherent center of the topic. "Democracy assistance" doesn't unify the topic because what that assistance leads to could be radically different. Therefore, the relevant negative literature would require the Negative to defend arguments with meaningful, substantive differences based on the Aff.

Malgor answers Repko/Ozzy by challenging the argument that it is necessarily a hard year to be Aff. The pessimism over the number of available solvency advocates is a hasty generalization (Kansas roots shining through...) based on an examination of the topic that only scratches the surface. He argues that we've debated the issue of Iran recently on the Middle East topic, 5th year debaters in particular. He also argues that Iran will dominate the topic, shifting it away from the topic voters thought they were getting (and subsequently utilizing DAS' arguments to prove people won't be getting what they bargained for).

I apologize if I mischaracterized anyone's arguments. Can the relevant posters please clarify and explain any mistakes I made in summarizing this debate? Thank you in advance!
Rubaie described his opinion on horse racing. He also talked about Ozzy, Repko and Malgor.

Hope I got that right.

:)

Give me some love Kearney -- you've worked w me and know not all of us are as quick and good-looking ;) Wish we could run the EKR lab back
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ozzy on July 05, 2011, 02:04:23 PM
Martin, I enjoyed your humorous plea for Iran and share your longing for a good Iran SG debate.  However I fear the Iran debates will not be as good as they were in 07/08.  Funding opposition groups in an attempt to overthrow the hardliners or increase democracy/civil society building in Iran does not have the fun or the US key warrants as the SG lit base had.  In all of the post, the part that I find missing, and the part that I have yet to identify from topic the meeting papers or my own research (as bad as it is) are the US key warrants for any of the these topic countries.  Yes there are authors calling for the US to increase DA, but NO defense of why it has to be US action.  Some papers, I think the Libya paper was one on the best, has cards saying the US should act, but I do not think that is the same as a warrant as why the US should act or is the only country that can act.  Maybe I am off base, but I think the US should act evidence would not stand up to most judge scrutiny or neg strats by round 4 at Kentucky [was awesome]

Louie



<3

lets allow www.google.com to choose the topic for us...

egypt:      About 632,000,000 results (0.11 seconds)
iran:        About 498,000,000 results (0.10 seconds)
lebanon:   About 380,000,000 results (0.14 seconds)*
bahrain:    About 346,000,000 results (0.10 seconds)
yemen:    About 345,000,000 results (0.09 seconds)
morocco:  About 339,000,000 results (0.10 seconds)
tunisia:     About 328,000,000 results (0.10 seconds)
syria:        About 229,000,000 results (0.10 seconds)*
libya:        About 32,900,000 results (0.10 seconds)
wb/ gaza:  About 4,500,000 results (0.25 seconds)

thus, we should pic topic 2

*there are clearly not v many articles about syria on google, but i think it'll mean a lot to seungwon to have it in the topic
*lol yeah right
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: DSDebate on July 05, 2011, 07:55:08 PM
To address some questions asked about my previous post:

I do not have a dog in the fight - I'm not a director or a full time coach, and in general I have views on most big-picture debate issues that are distinctly out of sync with the community consensus. I'm also not qualified to asses questions about the desirability of big vs. small topics because I don't have a good sense of how the community understands 'small' or 'big' - that's something that we usually establish based on the logistics of research burdens, the kinds of arguments we want to debate and by comparison with recent topics, and I don't know much about any of that.

I was trying to flesh out some facts that bear on the functional size of the topic (as opposed to the textual length of the topic), that I didn't think many people in the community were familiar with. In other words, I was trying to lay out the terrain of the controversy, in light of certain facts, not advance a particular vision of a desirable discussion.

I tried to lay out some of the ethnographic issues in the topic countries so that folks could understand that the number of countries listed might not be the best predictor of the functional scope of the topic, or its basic direction. A list of 3 countries where supporting democracy means empowering 3 radically different sets of ethnic or sectarian groups is much bigger than a 4 country topic where the 4 countries share a common demography and/or are all in the same part of the world.

Furthermore, if there are groups that are barred from receiving US assistance in the SQ because their religious or sectarian orientation ties them to Iran, then aiding them constitutes a soft-on-Iran element in the topic whether Iran is named or not. Iran and its sectarian role ought to factor into your evaluations of how you understand the applicability of generic arguments. Democratizing Bahrain, would mean majority rule in a country with a Shi'a majority, and could mean removing a Sunni regime that is a bulwark against Iranian influence (this is evidence-dependent, of course - some top-down reform might help maximize Sunni power in the longer-term, as compared to the alternative trying to quash the protestors with force and Saudi help). Democratizing the Syrian government in a way that removes the Alawites from power (and there might be mechanisms that actually empower the Asad family), would empower the Sunni majority of that country and most likely reduce the significance of the Iranian-Syrian alliance.

I do think that the members of the TSC I spoke with were very focused on making the topic about the Arab Spring. I do not think that Iran as an issue can be excluded from any intelligent discussion of that subject. That, as others have pointed out, is not a reason to make Iran an Affirmative.

That said, I think the factual case for arguing that Iran's internal politics are substantially enmeshed in the Arab Spring is weak.  I don't think that the struggle between the regime and its opponents (inside and outside the system, at home and abroad) fits the rubric of a discussion about the Arab Spring, understood as a series of protest movements that began in Tunisia and have spread across the Middle East and North Africa.

For one thing, the high point of public protest in Iran substantially precedes the revolution in Tunisia. Second, Iran isn't Arab. Third, the contest between the regime and its opponents there is multi-dimensional - it includes voices from within the system that are more Islamist and less populist than the Ahmadinejad administration. Many of the articles I have read about Iran in the last few months have focused on that axis of contention, not the fight between the regime and pro-reform and pro-democracy groups, which has gone relatively quiet. One could reasonably argue that it's too early to determine the scope of the Arab Spring and its consequences for non-Arab states (it might spread to Pakistan or Afghanistan, for example), and that in any case, there are other reasons to include Iran (Will Repko made some arguments along these lines).

I also think I should add that Afghanistan has some similar mis-match issues, which I mentioned previously:
- it's not Arab, ethnically
- most Afghans don't speak Arabic, and the languages that are spoken there are not mutually intelligible for Arabic speakers
- it's not physically within the Arab world - none of the states that border Afghanistan have Arab majorities, or have a big Arabic-speaking population
- the current regime is elected in a multi-party system (albeit one with significant flaws)
- the prospect of regime change that most concerns mainstream political-strategic discussions of Afghanistan is a Taleban resurgence that openly advocates dismantling nascent democratic institutions, not a pro-reform protest movement that unintentionally precipitates state failure or some other adverse development
- there haven't been substantial protest movements mimicking the goals and strategies used in Tunisia and Egypt, or borrowing from their rhetorical strategies

Finally, my reference to ethno-sectarian politics that are extremely complex and/or feature small groups (Druze, Christians, Yazidis, etc.) was to point out that there might be more small Affirmatives than a first look at the literature would suggest. It was also designed to point out that because these groups sometimes have in-country factions as well as distinct diasporic communities, and both are topically accessible, that might mean that each time you find a "US should support political factions representing x population" card, it might generate two or even three kinds of topical mechanisms, or one Affirmative and two exclusion CPs - one for in-country groups, and one for diasporic groups, one for both. 
I have not seen an article that advocated providing US democracy assistance to the Lebanese Druze, or the Coptic Christians, or any of the very small ethno-sectarian groups. However, I do think that once you drill down into some of the budget items that are included in the topic mechanism, you might* find that some articles advocate external support for some sub-populations' political agenda or its advocacy groups, and a defense of US engagement with that group, and a T card that says a particular kind of support would be classified as democracy assistance. I suspect the chances of finding a single 'advocacy and T defense' card for any small ethnic group, or a T card and an advocacy card from the same author are not very good (with the possible exceptions of the Kurds, Mujaheedeen e-Khelq [MEK], HAMAS, and some high profile Shi'a parties). 
In my experience, defenses of US action often have to do with advantage internal links and solvency claims about the need to build relations between the targeted group and the US, or pre-existing ties between the recipient group (or its opponents) and the US. This position is entirely speculative, and is subject to all kinds of constraints, including the community's threshold for T/solvency evidence, the need for compelling impacts, and my own unfamiliarity with democracy aid literature.


DAS
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on July 05, 2011, 08:55:07 PM
to clarify, i have no kansas roots.  i have always had a staunch and unrelenting opposition to kansas.  missouri 4 lyfe homies.  ps the chiefs are in missouri so suck it :)
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kevin kuswa on July 05, 2011, 09:46:52 PM
a few quick comments from the road to Cali (via the magnificent yellowstone):

1. DS has amazing posts--just tracing a few of his references will produce as much education as many of us hoped would occur during an entire year of research.  He knows a lot to say the least--soak it up!

2. We will find good affs on all the countries.  The comment that Malgor and others have made about not being able to fully predict the strongest areas for research now could not be more accurate.  The tree will continue to yield presents all year of many different sheens and gleams.

3. Events will change and create new space for exploration.  That's one reason we are taking this area on as a research endeavor/curriculum.

4. The Palestine debates (the West Bank and Gaza from the perspective of the US government at this point) are not just claims to respect basic human rights without policy underpinnings.  I am not going to re-post the topic wording papers on this, but the recent dismissals of the area are just flat wrong.  The US key warrants are abundant, especially if you consider the domestic political implications that will emerge further during the season (connected to the UN, etc.).  The solvency evidence is quite strong, including some very good cards found at the meeting (and in the supplement) cut by Dan Bagwell and Mathew Petersen, not to mention Gordon's original paper.  The evidence should also show a close relationship to the famous laundry detergent known as Arab Spring if that is an important variable for you.  To have a topic in this area without a chance to advocate US action in Palestine would be a shame, would replicate much of the problem in the region itself, and would allow misplaced fears to swamp important and viable debates for the aff.

5. we could be debating the region as a whole--including 30 countries or more.  All of these topics are smaller than that possibility.  Too big is not an argument.

6. Vote for one of the bigger topics--we can handle it.  R: US foreign policy toward one or more African nations should be substantially changed was a great great season.  I still agree with DS's assessment of Iran being unlike some of the other countries in some significant ways and an area that will be debated by both sides regardless of its specific inclusion on the aff, but at least it's not a separate treaty or a separate resolution into itself (harmonization of intellectual property/aid to Greece anyone?).  Just a quick aside here as well--Afghanistan is not on any of the lists.

7. Finally (for now), these discussions themselves prove we are headed for a very animated and eye-opening season of debate no matter what topic gets selected--and that cannot be a bad thing.

Kevin
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: jonahfeldman on July 06, 2011, 10:21:40 AM
The worst topics offer a choice of related, but fundamentally distinct, aff's whose common denominator is not the defining characteristic of the debate.  These topics become scattered, distracted, and are ultimately unsatisfying because we end up feeling like we haven't been able to lock down and debate/learn about the central themes of the controversy.

The Europe topic is the best demonstration of this phenomenon.  All the aff's were issues of concern to European countries, but they ended up having nothing to do with each other.  Assistance to Greece-Turkey, Ag subsidies (which became it's own topic independently), Genetic patenting (which ended up having nothing to do with Europe), withdraw from NATO, and remove TNW's.

None of the topics on this years ballot will be quite that extreme, but Europe offers a useful guide for what we should be striving for in a topic: focus.

I can't do better than DS on the disconnect between Iran and the Arab spring:

-The high point of public protest in Iran substantially precedes the revolution in Tunisia.
-Iran isn't Arab.
-The contest between the regime and its opponents there is multi-dimensional - it includes voices from within the system that are more Islamist and less populist than the Ahmadinejad administration. Many of the articles I have read about Iran in the last few months have focused on that axis of contention, not the fight between the regime and pro-reform and pro-democracy groups, which has gone relatively quiet.

The West Bank/Gaza is an even greater outlier:

-The struggle for democracy precedes the Arab spring by several decades
-Their problem isn't overthrowing dictatorship; its reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and coping with two disparate geographies.  They don't have a lack of political structure or participation, there are established political parties who represent the views of their constituency.  Palestine actually has much more of a democratic culture than most of the rest of the Arab spring countries.  They vote, we just don't like who they vote for.
-Palestinian protests against Israeli occupation appear to have decreased since the beginning of the spring (The only major protest was an annual one during the anniversary of what Israeli's call independence and Palestinians call the naqba/disaster)

This topic is appealing because it deals with a current, exciting, and dramatic political movement.  If we include Iran and Palestine it's not because they are part of that same movement, it's because they also...have issues...with...democracy...which is a word we have been using to describe the thing we actually voted to talk about.  This is not a good basis for inclusion.

The cool thing about the Arab spring is that it shows that a small action in a country we don't think about very often can have a profound global effect.  A vegetable peddler in Tunisia sets himself on fire and it sparks a series of revolutions throughout the region.  Tunisia and Bahrain may not be the media sensations that Iran and Israel/Palestine are, but important things happen there that we should know about.

The best argument in favor of Iran inclusion seems to be that the strongest literature exists for Iran aff's.  If true, that means that including Iran in the topic will drive aff's towards Iran.  If we debate an Iran aff 70%-80% of the time than will we really feel like we debated an arab spring topic?  We might have to dig a little deeper for aff's about the Arab Spring countries, but we're debaters, we're good at that.  There were lots of solid aff solvency mechanisms on the Europe topic, but it didn't stop it from sucking.

We will talk about Iran and Israel no matter what the topic is.  The same cannot be said for Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen.

Cheers,
---Jonah

Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kevin kuswa on July 06, 2011, 11:26:12 PM
@ jonah feldman

gotta admit that this post is more than...a little shocking....

1. For starters, "talking about Israel on the neg" is NOT the same thing as Palestine being an option for the affs.  Think about that for a second.  To suggest such a thing is a blatant erasure of the struggles going on there.  To equate the arguments about the wisdom of including Iran with the need to debate Palestine may be an even bigger error because, while Iran may suck some oxygen out of the room, Palestine is being suffocated further and further by the day.

2. Palestine is not "an outlier" in this sense--such a claim amounts to a settlement on an issue that is deeply implicated by, and crucial to, the Arab Spring.

3. Read the many topic papers--including the one written by the topic author--Palestine is a very important part of the democracy assistance debate outlined in the topic paper and the larger sense of the Arab Spring.  This is why Hamas and Fatah are working on reconciliation and it is also a place where the US matters.  The Tunisian moment has quickly and powerfully spread to Palestine in the same way it galvanized Egypt, Yemen, and other places.  Moreover, the standard that "democracy movements have taken place prior to Tunisia" is provincial in the sense that these are all ideas and inspirations building on one another.  The "origin" moment seems self-serving at best and the literature concludes that Iran and Palestine are on the continuum.

4. To quickly assert that Egypt and Tunisia are the core without reading the evidence linking Egypt (and the other countries in the topics) to the Palestinian struggle is a misreading of what is happening in the region.  The Arab Spring has profoundly influenced Palestine and will continue to shape the future of democracy there.  Four different topic papers speak directly to this point.

5. The argument that we need focus to have a good topic is not linked to the exclusion of Iran and Palestine.  To take this argument to an extreme, one small aff would be the best topic...and...that...is...absurd.  Europe was bad because it was multiple topics WITH DIFFERENT STEMS.  The current slate of topics has the same stem and will allow outstanding focus even with (Iran and) Palestine.

6. The substance of the reasons given for Palestine being "an even greater outlier than Iran" (wow) are not substantiated.  Democracy is not perfect there--the majority of Palestinians have problems with the representation offered by both political parties, even if they are "established"--a tricky word given the violent occupation they are under.  The US also has a role in democracy assistance in Palestine--a concern voiced about other countries on the list and an argument not addressed in the "focus best" post.  

7. If need be, there is a choice without Iran and with Palestine--do not let the "No Iran" crowd try to simultaneously exclude the distinct issues represented by Palestine and a set of crucial debates within the orignial topic paper and a wording paper writted by the topic author.

8. Another plea for some further reading: there are "dictatorship" issues in the Palestinian leadership--that evidence is quite strong.

9.  "Lack of protest" is not only wrong, it is a crazy way to define a group living in total occupation.  Protests take many forms, including attempts to provide a viable platform for democracy assistance under US law.  Protests in Syria, for example, are often low-level (and include Palestinian causes/groups).  

10.  A part of your post, I must note, is...simply...sick.  "People vote in Palestine" so it should be excluded from US democracy assistance debates?  Seriously? Even more offensive, occupation is not just a "geographical problem," a characterization that cannot go unchallenged and probably begs for some other criticisms.  If people think that the physical separation between the West Bank and Gaza (not to mention the refusal of the right to return and the inability to enter East Jerusalem) are reasons that democracy is not important to Palestine, than we have a much deeper problem than picking a topic.

Important things happen in small places that we should know about, true, which is exactly why we should not pave over those important things that fit within the topic rubric by creating false distinctions.

signing out from Jackpot, Nevada.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: jonahfeldman on July 07, 2011, 09:33:23 AM
Kevin – First let me say how much I appreciate the collegiate and civil tone of your post.  I am especially grateful for the helpful research suggestions you provide as my own research skills are meager and my knowledge of the Israel/Palestine conflict limited.  But still….allow me to retort.

It’s hard to say who comes off as more crazy: the hard core pro-Israel factions who see every criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic or the pro-Palestinian groups who see every perceived slight as an attempt to “silence the oppression of the Palestinian people.”

I am in no way trying to erase the struggles occurring in the West Bank and Gaza.  I would love it if we had a debate topic about Israel/Palestine.  In fact, I would be so ecstatic if we chose an Israel/Palestine topic that I would throw a party that would make Carnival look like Liberty’s end of the year debate party.  But Israel/Palestine should be its own topic, not a piggyback edition to this topic.  The ag subsidies debates that happened during the ag subsidies topic were a lot better than the ag subsidies debates that happened on the Europe topic.

I think you misunderstand many of the arguments made in my original post.  My claim is not that geographic separation means that there is no democracy problem in the West Bank and Gaza, it was one example of how the democracy problems that exist in the Palestinian territories are fundamentally distinct from the democracy problems that exist in the Arab Spring nations. 

This division is not arbitrary – one easy way to think of it is that the core topic countries are transition countries while Palestine and Iran are consolidation countries.  The unifying theme among the countries we include in the topic should not be “is there an issue with democracy,” it should be “is there a democratic transition mobilized by events in Tunisia that sparked new resistance efforts.”  Palestine doesn’t fit the bill because even if there is some renewed momentum for Palestinian democracy post-arab spring, the evidence is very weak that the nature of this 60 year old struggle has dramatically changed in the past year.  They may not have a perfect democracy, but I assure you that Hamas and Fatah gained power and sustained power in a way that involved a lot more elections than Gaddafi.

The stem argument is just outrageously terrible.  Having the same stem does not mean that everything you put on the end of that stem becomes unified.  For example: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its democracy assistance for one or more of the following: Egypt, England, and South Africa.

The logical extreme of trying to having a topic that is focused is not one case.  I am not suggesting that we throw affirmative diversity completely out the window.  It’s good that there are a bunch of different aff’s, we just need to make sure that all those aff’s are connected to the core of the topic, and not just thrown in there because we are overwhelmed with fervor for the plight of the Palestinian people.

I’ve read your topic papers and find them lacking, and your reading of the original topic paper massively overhypes the importance given to the Palestinian territories.  This seems like a prime example of personal politics clouding judgment about what would make the best debate topic.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kevin kuswa on July 07, 2011, 10:06:33 AM
@ Jonah:  There is not much to respond to in your post.  One very fundamental problem for the Palestinians (thus the plea for more research--don't be insulted by that, just realize that a lot of Palestinians are writing and speaking about this very thing) is that their leaders are NOT democratic--they are corrupt and not responsive to the needs and demands of the people.  The four papers talking about this may be insufficient for you but this point is made there and elsewhere with clarity.  If you think there are personal attacks besides pointing out where more research would help, that is incorrect.  The fundamental point that Palestine is part of the larger topic area and that the debates would be timely and robust is still intact.  Do you have a cite or reasoned argument that the Palestinian people feel as though the leaders of Fatah and Hamas are democratic and could not benefit from democracy assistance from the US?  There are some other repeat positions made in your recent post...that's fine.  The only additional explanation needed is on the stem issue and it is clear that the same stem plus the careful vetting of the list of countries is very different from the Europe topic.  Look, I know you are a great researcher and a great guy--the point here is about WHY you believe Palestine should not be debated and I think you are wrong.  Your flippant treatment of this is more dangerous than the inevitability of politics entering into the debate.  It is more dangerous (and further clouding of the issue) to point the blame finger at my motives and dodge the debate than it is to balance complicated belief structures with research.  Let's continue this with vigor and respect.  Kevin 

PS--being sensitive to charges of not being collegial, I re-read the posts and feel as though I have been quite restrained given your claims that Palestine is so democratic (they vote) that the area should be excluded from debate, that the problem is simply one of geography, that "talking about Israel" on the neg. covers the area, and that no protests are taking place absent an annual rise on the day of Israeli independence.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: jonahfeldman on July 07, 2011, 10:36:28 AM
I would say the high point of your previous post was when you called what I said "sick."  I do appreciate that you've tried to scale it back in this most recent post, I'll do the same.

It's possible that what I have to say may be a little redundant, but it doesn't seem like it's getting across, so I'll try one more time in a different package.

Concede that Palestine could benefit from democracy assistance.

Concede that Palestinian leaders can be corrupt and are not as responsive to the needs and demands of their people as they should be.

Concede that there may be a more hopeful feeling in Palestine because of the arab spring that explains some actions such as the recent overtures between Fatah and Hamas.

None of this proves that the Palestinians are in a state of democratic transition in the same way that the core arab spring countries are.  For Palestine it's about fixing democracy, not assisting in the creation of democracy.  To me, that feels like it would be a distraction from the central theme of an Arab Spring topic. 

Would it be as bad as Europe? Probably not. I said in my original post that Europe is useful as a framing device for good/bad topic, not as a direct analogy to this topic.  This is not a flippant attempt to dodge the debate, it's just my opinion about which of the choices given to us on the ballot would make a better topic. 

PS - Was it really so out of line for me to say that the existence of regular elections with pretty good voter turnout is a sign that democracy problems are not quite as severe as elsewhere?  You don't think that large scale protests have been a defining feature of Arab Spring resistance?  You really think it's unlikely that Palestine would come up as an issue on the neg in combination with Israel arguments and arguments about Palestinian populations in other countries?  Were those really such insulting things to say?  I'll admit I don't totally understand why that set you off to the degree that it did, but I accept that it may be because I'm missing an important piece of the puzzle that would help me understand your perspective better.  I'm willing to listen.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ScottElliott on July 07, 2011, 11:14:33 AM
I am not a particular fan of Palestine. But, to me, the issue is whether a country/area can support viable affirmative plans without having to distort the meaning of the resolution. I think people will find that the West Bank/Gaza will make for perhaps the strongest, middle of the road affirmatives out there. Why? Because there is real inherency (advantage uniqueness) for this area.

If one were so inclined, a plan to remove the restrictions of democracy assistance toward Hamas generates a lot of good affirmative advantages: terrorism/terror-talk kritiks; over reliance on Israel; human rights promotion in Gaza; recogniton of the the Fatah-Hamas merger as, indeed, the formation of the Palestinian state; pressure on Israel to finally accept a viable two state solution; pressuring/persuading Hamas to change its views toward Israel; breaking Hamas away from Iran's grip; U.S. credibility on supporting democratic outcomes...regardless of who is elected; U.S. credibility as a negotiator for the Peace Process; Justice for Palestinians; reductions in civil war violence (evidence of this is really good); reductions of terrorism; reuction of corruption; respect for Rule of Law.

On the negative, Right Wing Zionists would flip out; it would undermine U.S. credibility on fighting against the War on Terror; and money given to Hamas would be used to promote violence against Israel; Iran would flip out if we somehow became friends with Hamas; Hamas will never renounce violence against Israel; Egypt flips out because they lose a bargaining chip; U.S. looks weak and other countries take advantage of the weakness; China and Russia will move to counter increased U.S. influence int he region; the U.S. conservatives will flip out---real elections and politics links.

In other words, whether the U.S. should increase democracy assistance to the West bank and Gaza is highly debatable and unique. Sounds like a good policy debate topic to me.
 
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Malgor on July 07, 2011, 02:18:39 PM
I must admit that the evidence outlining the problems facing democracy in the west bank and gaza is pretty good.  that being said, I do not think that Palestine is a good addition to the topic, though i would take palestine over iran in a heartbeat.

Jonah has some fine points.   especially:

-The struggle for democracy precedes the Arab spring by several decades
-Their problem isn't overthrowing dictatorship; its reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and coping with two disparate geographies.  They don't have a lack of political structure or participation, there are established political parties who represent the views of their constituency.

In the main source for the topic meeting report on Palestine (can't remember exact cite, but it was assessing DA in Palestine), they note that most people surveyed/consulted for the study thought:

"the all-pervasive nature of the Israeli occupation, the lack of Palestinian sovereignty and the internal split between Gaza and the West Bank are irredeemable barriers to effective democracy assistance."

There is also no shortage of funding for civil society NGOs in the west bank and gaza.  In fact, the card in the paper with a 'civil society overfunded' header, directly says the problem isn't really with democracy assistance.  There are tons of programs training Palestinians to be activists and promote effective democratic institutions.  Unfortunately, the above problems preclude any effectiveness and implementation of the training.

Palestine is not a sovereign state, they are an occupied people.  They also have geographical separation, as Jonah pointed out.  This is a set of complex problems and despite what you may believe, democracy assistance does not adequately address the situation.  Palestinians are willing to tolerate the non-democratic nature of their government because they believe progress on these more fundamental issues is more important.  I don't see why you were so offended at Jonah's simplification, as inevitably you do the same *because we all do-the issue is incredibly complex and impossible to convey in a comprehensive manner*.

I think Iran is an important nation in global affairs, and most would agree that the Israel/Palestine situation is also quite important.  That does not mean they belong in a topic centered on democracy assistance.  The mechanism doesn't do the area justice. That, coupled with the valid concerns outlined by Jonah, is enough rationale for me to recommend against including Palestine into this topic.  

ps- I think a topic revolving around disputes over land would be interesting (israel palestine, india pakistan, china taiwan?)


** forgot to mention-the best barrier is that the US won't fund Hamas, so the aff would fund them thus removing them from the terrorist list.  The advantages based off the lack of funding are easily solved by another actor funding them instead.  This makes the US key warrant more about Hamas being on the terrorist list and less about the funding itself.  This could potentially present some topicality problems for the aff and assuredly undermines the most topically relevant 'us key' warrant for the palestine area.
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: ozzy on July 07, 2011, 06:56:53 PM
if this thread gets too heated ill start trolling again dont make me now
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: Whit on July 08, 2011, 03:47:55 PM
if this thread gets too heated ill start trolling again dont make me now

Did you just say 'meow'?
Title: Re: Resolutions for the ballot
Post by: kevin kuswa on July 09, 2011, 02:19:56 AM
Jonah,

Just got out to California—the Sonora Pass was probably not the best route out of Nevada and across the Sierras, but the 9,000+ foot elevation was spectacular despite passing the U.S. military’s “mountain training facility.”

Thanks immensely for the considerate response, the willingness to make some concessions, and the continuation of the dialogue.  I apologize as well for any insensitive tone and tendency to gravitate to the hyperbolic.  I have always had a great deal of respect for you and your debate acumen and that has not changed.  Furthermore, I am listening to your arguments and know that there is some validity in the position that Palestine may be so distinct from the Arab Spring movements that we would not want to include it on the final list of countries.  On the other hand, I still believe that US democracy assistance to Palestine would make for a good set of debates and should be given serious consideration when voting on the options.  The main reason the initial post raised a degree of ire—which certainly could and should have been tempered—is because I know that the Israel positions (DA, even CP) will be quite common no matter what topic we select.  Giving the aff a chance to really engage the debate and take into account the quite massive political changes taking place in Palestine seems like an important counterbalance.  I am also still not sure why occupation is being called a “geographic” problem (which is usually used to de-emphasize political configurations), but I guess in a literal sense the inability to move freely in one’s own country is an issue of place.  Finally, the tendency to group Palestine with Iran in an attempt to exclude both has become more and more pronounced and I don’t think those comparisons are fair given the radically different status of each.  That said, these are all things we can pursue further and I’m glad the door is open.

Going a little deeper into the specifics and trying to address some of Malgor’s comments alongside the position that Palestine is not worthy of inclusion, I would stress the following:

1. The lack of geographic contiguousness (if that’s a word) between the West Bank and Gaza does not mean we can easily associate the two major political parties with each respective region.  The parties do not fully (or even partially) represent the people in either location and the need for greater freedom of movement seems to call for better and more focused democracy assistance, not staying with the status quo.

2.  Yes, there are forms of democracy assistance going to Palestine now, but these “flotillas” are limited in scope, are not headed to the right constituencies, and often complicate the chances for progress because they mainly go to the bureaucratized parties (adding to corruption) or NGOs that end up going through those same parties.  Some progress is being made, demonstrating a potential that we have not seen in many of the other countries in question, but the US needs to do more and the nature of the assistance needs a different and more durable focus.  One benefit of democracy assistance “for” a given place is that it can be highly specified and targeted, both characteristics that could make US assistance to Palestine more productive and effective.  There is a good debate about the saturation level, the US role, the fungible nature of assistance, and the best recipients—Scott Elliot’s post points to a lot of these research areas even though I disagree that the aff would have to go through Hamas.

3. The degree of connection to the Arab Spring movements is a subjective assessment and does not leave us with the desired level of consistency in the list of countries.  From one perspective, the Tunisian self-immolation was preceded by events in both Iran and Palestine, while another angle would say that youth groups demanding further freedoms were emboldened by the fall of Ali and Mubarak, hoping for similar changes in their own countries (true for the Palestinians as well).  What we do know is that Yemen, Syria and Libya are in very different situations than Tunisia and Egypt (which themselves are quite distinct), let alone the political uniqueness of Lebanon, Morocco and of course Iran.  DS’s posts prove nothing if not the complexities of all the interests involved, diminishing a claim that one of the vetted countries is somehow so distinct that it should be left out of debates.  Maybe the degree of Arab Springy-ness is no longer helpful as a variable once the country has gone through the committee’s initial phase of research, has appeared as a possibility in the original topic paper, and has been linked to a series of nuanced arguments on both sides of the question?  Algeria, Iraq, and Kuwait are all absent from any list, and Tunisia has been left off one of the options.  We should look more toward variables surrounding solvency, the US role, and the need for fundamental freedoms in the country than to the immediate and most obvious Tunisian cascade.

4.  The “established” political parties do not represent their constituents and the Palestinian people are not willing to give up on democracy for larger gains because those larger gains are all about a deeper sense of democracy.  There are too many contradictions being floated here—if the struggle for democracy started years or decades ago, why does it no longer matter for the people?  If the people are under occupation (and geographically imprisoned), how can any political party represent the full interests of the people?  If democracy assistance is flowing from countless sources, why is it impossible to imagine such assistance transcending disparate physical locations?  If civil society includes more than the major political parties and other entities are involved in the process, why must all assistance go to Hamas and always require fiat over the terrorism and violence preclusions in US law?  What is so abhorrent about the debate concerning US assistance to Hamas when all of the other countries are struggling for warrants about the US role?  I understand different posts are making different arguments here, but it seems as though competing aspects of the political context are being used to make a larger point when all of those aspects cannot be true simultaneously.  Where some of you are highlighting obstacles, others of us see debate.

All of this will probably be for naught if recent voting trends bear out because we’ll be left with one of the two small options (no Iran, no Palestine and a somewhat arbitrary choice between Yemen and Bahrain).  Nevertheless, the conversation is bearing fruit and there is always a chance that voting squads will get excited about the great debates available in the Palestine area, the ability to discuss the historic vote approaching in the UN as it relates to US action, and the chance to run a policy affirmative that is not swamped by a generic agent counterplan.  Negative-minded voters should not worry about adding Palestine because they will have a great Israel link among other quite powerful options and affirmative-minded voters should lobby for Palestine’s inclusion to open up what we all recognize as one of the most important and intractable conflicts of all time to a mechanism and an agent that makes sense and could even solve (a little).

Thanks again for the sincere olive branch and I look forward to seeing how this shakes out in the voting and beyond. 

Kevin