Judges Ballots 2012
Georgetown (Andrew Arsht & Andrew Markoff) vs. Northwestern University (Ryan Beierneister & Layne Krishon) -3-2 Neg Georgetown
Round: the Finals 2012— Ryan Galloway - Samford
Finally, the debaters—
Finals ballot - David Heidt - Michigan
Congratulations to both teams for an exemplary finals debate. It was a very enjoyable debate to judge, and quite difficult to decide – but only because both teams were performing at their best, which made it very close.
I voted affirmative for Northwestern on the permutation. I thought Georgetown was ahead on most parts of the critique, but that they needed more explanation time in a few areas to overcome the permutation. This is based upon several factors:
1. the negative alternative alone leaves me with some uncertainty. The 1ar’s principal attack against the alternative is their Fitzsimmons evidence, which suggests that policymakers will inevitably make predictions, and that rejecting prediction means they will enact based on unconscious predictions anyway. The primary negative response is that the alternative doesn’t reject prediction; it creates a different basis for predicting events based on complexity instead of linear scenario planning. While this addresses the majority of the affirmative’s argument, I still think there is some risk involved with the alternative alone. The 2ar response is along the lines of ‘Fitzsimmons still indicates the difficulty of changing mindsets, and the neg’s inability to explain the new basis for prediction means the alt can’t solve.’ The 2ar also does a fairly good job connecting Fitzsimmons as a reason to prefer the permutation. There are two reasons I gave the affirmative some credit here:
a. Fitzsimmons is specific to the difficulty of changing minds for uncertain or ambiguous alternatives – using the phrase ‘the greater the ambiguity, the greater the impact of preconceptions’. I think it probably applies to an alternative that is best described as ‘the world is complex’.
b. the negative’s alternative evidence is under-highlighted. At the end of the debate, I have very little idea of what ‘complex IR theory’ is, and the negative’s explanation is weak when describing this. This under-highlighting problem is true for a good deal of the negative’s evidence and it is quite possible that I would have changed my mind had there been more explanation behind some of the negative’s cards. For the most part, the negative’s actual debating was outstanding, but the evidence fell a little short. The affirmative had fewer cards, but across the board were higher quality on this critique (although not all of the affirmative’s evidence was responsive).
2. I am not *fully* convinced that linear scenario planning is a bankrupt exercise (although, on the whole, the negative is pretty far ahead on this part of the debate). The negative’s argument amounts to ‘there are unintended consequences when we view the world through linear models, and those consequences can be catastrophic’. I think the affirmative is unquestionably based upon linear scenario planning, and the negative is correct that even their environment impact is based upon a view of economic forecasting that ignores complexity.
Having said that, the affirmative’s appeal to their specific truth claims (supported by the 1ar Ulfelder evidence and the aff’s reference to expert data within the 1ac) suggests that the affirmative’s predictions are not worth throwing out altogether. I thought the Ulfelder evidence said that prediction was an inherently uncertain exercise, and that even if those predictions turned out to be incorrect, parts of them will be accurate and that nonetheless creates better decisionmaking. I do think that (in theory, assuming perfect adoption by policymakers) complex prediction models are probably better than the affirmative, but I do that the Ulfelder evidence is very good to suggest that even faulty prediction models create better decision-making and adaption. This leads me to conclude that the risk of error suggested by the negative’s evidence is not nearly as high as the negative would like, and helps to reduce the cost of adopting the permutation.
3. The permutation doesn’t foreclose complex prediction, and creates a better bridge to policymaking than the alternative alone. This conclusion is entirely based upon the affirmative’s de Mesquita evidence – which is the only card the affirmative has read that explicitly accounts for the complexity of human behavior in prediction models. Without this card, I would have voted negative despite everything I wrote above. The de Mesquita evidence makes at least two arguments: that game theory can be used to make accurate predictions (that account for complexity) geared towards specific policy recommendations; and that de Mesquita’s models were accurate in predicting events in the Middle East.
The negative’s evidence indicting de Mesquita is poor, and extremely under-highlighted – word for word, the highlighting – removed from the context of the unhighlighted portions - creates this:
“We require theory as a prerequisite. He quotes Mesquita ‘the field has languished without progress. Scientific study of war has not occurred due to the dynamic character of war.”
To me, this doesn’t say very much, and I don’t know how it implicates the permutation, which would presumably help develop that study. The affirmative doesn’t directly answer the de Mesquita indict so a strong argument could be made that I should just accept it anyway. But I chose the affirmative’s story for 2 reasons – first, the neg’s evidence is woefully unclear and the explanation of that evidence in the 2nr didn’t provide much guidance, and second, the affirmative explanation of de Mesquita in the 2ar is vastly superior.
The negative has two other cards they’ve referenced to answer the permutation. The Olson evidence, which says that the US searches for enemies in the Middle East with little factual basis, seemed to be answered by a variety of arguments – the appeal to specific data, the non-enemy specific nature of several affirmative impacts, and the Middle East-specific context of de Mesquita.
The Rosenau evidence about cooption is much better to answer the permutation – it asserts that seeking specific policy solutions to complex problems is impossible. By implication, it probably precludes any policy action altogether and eviscerates the alternative, although this is not an argument the affirmative makes. They do, however, say that cooption is probably inevitable due to status quo policies. This is not a perfect response – because it relies on the affirmative winning that policymakers may not change their minds about prediction theory – but my evaluation of Fitzsimmons above supports that conclusion – it at least suggests that it will be extremely difficult to engineer a wholesale change in attitude. More importantly, I think de Mesquita is just much better on the empirical foundation for tying complex predictions to policy solutions. Both cards to some extent are assertions without foundations, but de Mesquita at least suggests that he has already developed a viable model.
I did not vote on the ‘judge choice’ arguments or any other framework claim. This would have required greater affirmative development – preferably in the 2ac. I do think the 1ar could have done quite a bit more on this claim though, simply because the 1nc shell was under-highlighted and lacked an explicit framework argument. However, the 1ar (and 2ar) would have had to include a better justification for this approach.
Jarrod Atchison - Wake Forest
RFD: I vote negative for Georgetown. I believe that the alternative represents a better way of simulating policy decisions. The alternative will improve policy makers’ powers of prediction while avoiding the pitfalls of linear modeling which link to the Affirmative's description of conflicts based on phases of escalation and the Affirmative’s attempt to remedy environmental destruction through economic rationality.
How I arrived at this decision:
The role of the ballot:
My assessment of the role of the ballot debate changes things dramatically because it means that the kritik is challenging the Affirmative at two levels. First, a meta-framing level question that asks whether the Affirmative simulation is based on a notion of complexity or not? Second, are there specific problems with the Affirmative’s simulation? In order to answer those two questions I do need to look at the justifications for the plan, but I am not evaluating them from a traditional representation perspective wherein I would try to determine whether the language used to describe the impacts is objectionable or not. Instead, I am evaluating whether the impacts prove that the simulation of the Affirmative is flawed or not.
The two 2NR links that became extremely important:
1- Mann Stages of Conflict argument that I do not believe is answered sufficiently in the 1AR/ 2AR. The closet answer is the 2AR explanation of all the internal links to the pipeline scenario. Although the internal links may be persuasive, the negative's argument is that the precision of the linear thinking that is articulated so clearly in the 2AR is actually a very reductionist understanding of conflict that tries to separate it into stages of escalation. The 15-20 seconds that the 2AR spent explaining all the internal links to the pipeline scenario could have easily been the 2NR’s explanation of the link. The fact that the terminal impact to this scenario is based on EU/US/Russian conflict was also important because some of the Affirmative’s best 2AR defense of predictions (de Mesquita) was premised on the idea that policymakers have better predictive tools in the specific context of the Arab Spring, but the terminal impacts to this advantage assume stages of escalation between great powers outside of MENA.
2- The economic rationalization link (Arthur evidence): The 1NR ad hom attack on Layne should have signaled that the negative was very excited to have a piece of evidence that argued that economic rationality is an ineffective way of determining how people interact in the world. This becomes especially important because Arsht prompts Markoff to go back to the environment advantage and argue that since the scenario depends on economic rationality to access the scenario that this evidence takes the scenario out. Once again, the 2AR is great at explaining the Amazon scenario through the lens of the 1ac, but needed to take the time to address the 2NR application of the kritik to this scenario.
What, then, are the impacts to attempting to make a policy decision with a flawed simulation?
2- Extinction Impact (Skyttner and Saperstein): the world is in fact a crazy place so having the best predictions actually gives us the best chance to avoid extinction (try or die)
3- Root cause of war argument (Kavalsk): more global claim that resolves the long term uniqueness that conflict is inevitable or coming now.
Lastly, what about the permutation?
2- Too much of the 2AR is built on conditional statements: "IF X then Y" such as “if the alt can deal with the current aid/police reform then the permutation solves any link to the AFF” or “if the links are built on reps then you can vote for the perm which only includes the plan." The problem with depending so much on conditional arguments is that there is a risk that the judge does not agree with the initial premise and then the conclusion that is presented ends up being wrong. For instance, the alt claims that it is the purity of the method that is crucial to overcoming the problems with aid now and the current police reform so the permutation either includes the advantage framing of the AFF which links or a plan that is the result of a linear calculation which sacrifices the purity necessary to resolve the links to the status quo.
William Mosley-Jensen, University of GeorgiaIntroductory Remarks
The 2012 final round of the National Debate Tournament is one of those rare debates that challenges a judge to not only decide a close match between two excellent teams, but also to reflect on some of the broader principles of the activity itself. I voted Affirmative for the team of Ryan Beiermeister & Layne Kirshon from Northwestern University over the team of Andrew Arsht & Andrew Markoff from Georgetown University. Before making any other remarks, I want to congratulate both teams on being here; it is incredible that there are three sophomores represented in this mix including both debaters on the national championship team from Georgetown. This is especially impressive given that Georgetown has only fairly recently made a resurgence onto the scene of nationally competitive policy debate. I am sure that there are many epic matchups in the offing, and it was truly great to adjudicate this one.
In making this decision, there were three issues that I needed to assess for each side, framework, impacts, and solvency. I focus the most attention on the impacts portion as that constitutes the largest devotion of time by the affirmative and negative throughout the debate and has the most bearing on my decision. I will go through a rather lengthy treatment of these issues, focusing in particular on the evidence that each team reads and how I resolve each section of the debate. I then present some synthesizing thoughts on how the issues bear on the decision.
The affirmative argues (along a fairly traditional track) that I should understand myself as a policymaker with control over the implementation of USFG policy. The negative argues that rather than simply engaging in the implementation of policy, we should ask the question “how do we construct the policy simulation” arguing that the model is as important as the simulation itself. The negative does not argue that the implementation of the affirmative does not occur, but only that the critique offers reasons for why that implementation would be undesirable or unsuccessful. Consensus emerges that the judge does have the power to implement policy, but that the strategy of policy planning should be taken into account. I will discuss the negative’s framework cards more specifically in the “predictions” section.
The affirmative argues that the plan (The United States Federal Government, through the Department of Justice, should make available requisite democratic police training for Tunisia) restores the confidence of foreign investors by alleviating the corruption of police officials, which imposes a “corruption tax” on business interests. This boosts foreign direct investment in Tunisian energy infrastructure, facilitating the transport of North African energy to Europe, and obviating the need to build an alternate energy pipeline (Nabucco) which would bring natural gas through Turkey. The affirmative argues that preventing the construction of the Nabucco pipeline is essential to forestall a new conflict in the region involving Russia. Conflict in that region is particularly likely to spill over, they say, because of the general instability, as well as the Russian perception that the Caspian is a part of its sphere of influence. Northwestern’s evidence for each of these internal links is excellent, in particular their Akan 9 evidence. It argues that Russia will start a war over Nabucco and quotes Russian sources analyzing the likely response to the pipeline construction. They also read a source that cites a number of experts (Central Asia News 11) that believe the Caspian region is the most volatile region in the world. Additionally, the 2AR analysis of this conflict scenario is the most complete and in-depth description of any internal link/impact read in the debate.
Risk of Offense - Given the specificity of Northwestern’s evidence and their detailed description of the scenario, Northwestern was winning a healthy risk that the plan would stop a US-Russian conflict, which could cause the destruction of humanity. I outline below why I think the risk of the negative’s offense is low, fails to implicate NU’s impacts, and why the permutation addresses any residual risk.
Linear Scenario Planning Bad
The primary argument of the negative is that linear scenario planning encourages conflict and inevitable wars (they hint at the possibility for the creation of other problems, such as environmental destruction and terroristic violence). The 1NR/2NR explanation is a bit thin on warrants for why this might be the case. I am afforded no historical examples of conflicts that arose because of linear scenario planning, nor are there reasons presented for a logical relation between linear planning and conflict (which would likely be indicted by the thesis of the negative’s argument). In order to substantiate the claim that the affirmative’s model of linear scenario construction is more likely than not to cause conflict, I am forced to turn to the evidence that is read in the debate. There are three pieces of evidence that the negative points to in support of this claim.
1NC Jervis 97 – The entirety of the highlighted portion of Jervis states: “identical behavior does not produce identical results: organizations confront each other through time. Like linear social scientists, statesmen see actions produce a desired outcome, and project future states caught in a conflict spiral believe that they have little choice.” I believe that a number of these claims are essentially nonsensical unless read in the context of the rest of the evidence, but I am disinclined to do that in favor of the team that has highlighted away the warrants of the claim. While it seems likely true that a government caught in a conflict spiral may not see other ways out, I am unsure why the affirmative keeps us trapped in a conflict spiral, when it could be equally as true that they attempt to avoid that same spiral. Absent a specific argument about why the affirmative would be interpreted as an offensive military strategy by other states (such as Russia) it seems unlikely that the democratic police training assistance of the plan would leave the United States with “little choice” but war.
1NC Skyttner 5 evidence – The entirety of the highlighted portion reads: “systems are integrated incomprehensible and unmanageable. Circumstantial planning is a thing of the past. A war with disastrous consequence can happen without early warning in a situation which we apprehend to be in deepest peace. Traditional managing is no longer possible. ‘Everything is connected to everything else.’ The theoretical basis is the prerequisite for relevant decisions studies in a complex area scarcely are possible without theory.” This is the evidence which includes the impact that the 2NR is going for, AIDS, poverty, environment and Russia in the UN-highlighted portions. In those sections, the evidence is decidedly ambiguous, if not aff leaning. It notes that” extremely fragmented scenarios of a threat exist… Russia still has attacking capability via distant and NBC-weapons.” Also that “[j]ust now the most probable threat comes from terrorism. The last years have signified a development towards an ever increasing extent of terrorist groups with better and better armaments. No doubt, some of these groups have NBC-weapons. Those who not have access to such weapons strive for them…” This seems to argue that both Russia and terrorism are threats that need to be addressed, and Skyttner suggests that the best method of addressing these problems is “a smaller, more modern and flexible elite-force…a more flexible way of handling a new situation – to combine different entities and components for more complex tasks. One of its main duties will be peace-keeping international contributions.” This could be read as supporting the affirmatives peace-keeping engagement, and is in line with the affirmative’s strategy of conflict avoidance with Russia, as well as the strategy that the affirmative has in dealing with terrorism, which targets terrorist ideology as well as improving intelligence, and does not engage simply in military counter-terrorism strategies.
2NC Saperstein 97 evidence – The entirety of the highlighted portion reads: “One of the prime reasons for failure with Iraq—is that we fear confusions policies towards China have suffered It is not evident that a tool is useful in dealing with "complexity." Instead of specific new tools, metaphors can contribute to new attitudes required for the more complex world. the act of moving over the surface can change the surface. we may not be able to look for the "good strategy" but settle for the appropriate strategy." successful military and political policy makers have entertained chaos If pre-WWI states recognized the railroad schedule was a source of instability they would have avoided the process. But this recognition would have required the chaos metaphor in the "intellectual air" Given a Newtonian paradigm chaos is to be avoided complexity should be required to survive our future. no specific tool—like predicting comes to mind.” This evidence is stronger than Skyttner or Jervis at making a claim for the introduction of complexity to the analysis of international relations, but does not connect the dots between a reliance on linear scenario planning and the “inevitable conflict” that the negative presents as their impact. Saperstein is also successfully indicted by the affirmative as talking primarily about military interventions; not the democracy assistance of the plan. Additionally, this evidence is the first card of Georgetown’s which establishes the bar for successful policymaking. It argues that “it may not be useful for the policymaker to always look for the uniquely ‘best solution.’ It may be necessary to settle for a local temporary maximum—a good solution, rather than the best. In the elastic fabric of our present and future world, the ‘perfect’ is often the enemy of the good.’” Establishing the bar as something that is “good” rather than “perfect” is a rather low hurdle for the affirmative to meet. Nowhere does the affirmative make claims that the plan is the only possible solution for a US-Russian conflict, terrorism, or any of their other impacts. In fact the affirmative’s reasoning process is thoroughly inductive, relying on specific and narrow claims rather than sweeping generalizations. The 2AR argues that the aff represents a “snapshot” of the world as it is today, not a long-term end-all strategy for permanently solving stability.
Rollback – The negative also asserts that the affirmative has no access to the case because there are “unintended side effects” according to a piece of Jervis 97 evidence they read. Though Jervis cites a couple of historical examples, including the 1890 German withdrawal from the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, there is no specific articulation of what these side effects might be in the context of the aff. Had the 2NR extrapolated an argument about how the police assistance training of the affirmative would create a perception of foreign military involvement, inviting a backlash by the population, then the rollback argument may have had more purchase. As it stands, neither the negative’s evidence on this question, nor their analysis was sufficient to buttress more than a tiny (possibly zero) risk that unintended consequences would overwhelm affirmative solvency.
The Trick – The strategic utility of this K can perhaps be summed up by saying “predictions are good and possible, but not the type of predictions you make.” The 2NR points to three cards that they have read substantiating this claim; Saperstein 97, Osinga 5 and Curtis 11.
The 1NC argues that “The alternative is to reject linear scenario planning in favor of complex theoretical analysis—unconditionally inserting complexity analysis into the simulation creates better policy planning” and reads a Rosenau 97 card in support. The 2NR frames the alternative as being a form of “forecasting,” where we identify trends rather than the “linear” planning model of the affirmative. They argue that the reprogramming successfully re-orients us away from the linear scenario planning of the affirmative. There is not much analysis from Markoff in the 2NR as to how the alternative accomplishes this task, but they point to the 1NC Rosenau evidence as well as to a Kavalski 7 card read in the 2NC.
The permutation is debated very quickly in the 1AR and the 2NR. The 1AR description of the permutation includes two comments: first that the aff should be able to sever the representations that are problematic, and second that if the alternative can overcome the links to the status quo and the plan then the permutation should be able to as well.
I reflected on the broader question of how we can substantiate the claims of a debater in any given debate, and what this debate may suggest in answering that question. I think that my answer comes as no surprise to anyone that has judged a number of debates, but it may be worth laying it out briefly. There are essentially three ways to substantiate the claims of a debater. The first method is to rely on the debater to provide warrants throughout the debate, in cx, in prior speeches and in the final rebuttal. For me at least, this is my preferred means of substantiation as it leaves most of the work in the hands of the practitioners. The second method relies on the warrants in the evidence that is read in the debate as undergirding the claims of the debaters. A highly qualified and warranted piece of evidence can go a long way towards substantiating a claim, while a poorly warranted card can hurt that same claim. In this case, much of Georgetown’s evidence was severely under-highlighted stripping out many of the best warrants that the 2NR rests on but does not explain. The third method of substantiating the claims of a debater is to rely on background knowledge of the world around us and our experience with it to guide our intuitions on the “truth” of a given argument. It is worth noting that it would be rare for any given decision to be guided by only one of these methods, but usually incorporates some combination of the three, depending on the debate. Reflecting on how we can trust what debaters are telling us as true makes better judges, coaches, and competitors.