I’m a little frustrated by the affirmative?s repeated and sneering insistence that my arguments are irrelevant to the question of the justification of the invasion, that they constitute a distraction from the obligation to stare into the face of the suffering and say enough is enough, recognize and atone for past failure, prevent future genocide. My arguments are not cynical, strategery-laden pieces of gamesmanship. A general concern for the manner of construction of a philosophical or political question isn?t a distraction from the imperatives of ethical immediacy, especially in a setting where none of us have the power to steer our nation to go to war or not go to war, and within the confines of a debate whose focal event happened in the past. Instead, ethical immediacy is inseparable from the manner of constructing an imperative, a decree, that will/did affect people and that people are expected to collectively affirm.
There are many levels of affirmation. My advocacy, which (I presume) needn?t be any more specific than the affirmative advocacy, is to make a distinction between two levels of affirmation, and to suggest that there are positive reasons to make that choice, ?offense? in the language of debate?a useful language for arguing about public propositions and forced choices, a framework that the affirmative hurls ad homs against but doesn?t meaningfully discuss, beyond suggesting that if you evaluate arguments the way I think you ought to, you are ?goldfish.? The only way the affirmative could have prevailed in this debate was to make arguments as to the necessity of calling the Iraq war ?justified? rather than something else. That did not happen, and I do not have the opportunity to respond to such arguments if they are made in the affirmative?s final speech.
And yes, I?ll unapologetically say, it?s debate 101: you need disads to the alternative. You need offense on the inclusion of the word I PIC out of. No risk to the alternative. It ?solves case? because we could have?and did?invade Iraq without using as justification (public or otherwise) the reasons given in the affirmative?s opening speech. The question of whether this ?strategy? is a trivialization of those reasons will be addressed several times during this speech.
You are not ?goldfish? if you vote that the affirmative has failed to offer a positive defense of calling the invasion ?justified? when (a) the affirmative fails to explicitly define ?justify? or internally link his supposed imperative to the use of the term, and (b) there are reasons, found in the everyday language we use, to call the invasion something just short of justified?something that doesn?t imply that a process of consistent, deliberative justify-ing was used to make the decision to go to war. I give reasons why that distinction is important, reasons the affirmative doesn?t answer, instead electing to ridicule my framework and accuse me of viewing the world as chess pieces. The impacts of ignoring exactitude and relying on incomplete arguments outweigh any risk that we will be reduced to overly-analytic, sophistic cynics. Such ignorance, as I argued (and the affirmative conceded) is tied to poor decisionmaking and poor execution; it undermines our ability to decide when to wage war, and even mucks up the execution of the war.
I explicitly say that I believe the war was just, morally righteous, a good idea, and at least partially successful. I invited Stannard, when he asked me what I thought ?just? meant, to beat me by refuting any of these. He says I am hiding the goalposts. Hardly. I am merely refusing to reduce the discussion to a single thread of the tapestry. There can be no binary ?Did they, or did they not, bomb us first?? comparison, for reasons I discuss later.
Notice that in this seemingly conclusionary set of statements, there is no real argument about the meaning of the word “justified.” Synonyms do not constitute an argument, there may be a distinction between the words ?justified,? ?morally righteous,? ?a good idea,? and ?partially successful.? The inclusion of the last synonym is particularly troubling: Do we routinely call partially successful actions justified? Sometimes, but only as a result of establishing some kind of hierarchy?an act of calculability that, if inevitable, should be made transparently and carefully.
When the affirmative says he refuses to reduce the conversation to a single thread of the tapestry, well, that tapestry is ?the war in Iraq was justified.? Words have meaning, not just in the game of debate, but in life itself?especially collective life. There may not be any ?objective? meaning to words, I don?t know or care. But humans have the ability to collectively make functional distinctions between words, and I say that there is a functional distinction between those synonyms, and that in the context of warfighting, of the decisions we make to wage war, those distinctions may be a matter of life and death.
Did I prove the Iraq war was necessary? Yep, on the factual debate. The fact that I tried is enough to moot Stannard?s argument. As long as I claim my speech proves the war is necessary (?I?ve got three big Reasons why the Iraq war was necessary.?), then he has all he needs to begin arguing that the war was not necessary or that it doesn?t matter that it was. He tries to do this, ineffectually, due to his own decision of argumentative priorities. As to justifying the war to those affected by it, we are all affected by the war. Even if we weren?t, the Marsh Arabs certainly are, so even if you think only their opinions count ask the imaginary Marsh Arab reading the debate whether stopping the genocide of his family was reason enough.
?Necessary? is not ?justified.? ?Necessary? implies a state of being. ?Justified? is the past tense of ?justify,? which is a verb. Moreover, because of my argumentative priorities, I did the second thing the affirmative says I could have done, which is take the position that it doesn?t matter if the war was necessary if necessity needn?t require using the word ?justified.?
The point about the Marsh Arabs is especially important here: The Marsh Arabs have gone from a briefly-mentioned victim inside of a larger paragraph inside of a larger subsection of the 1AC to being the center of the ?justification? for the invasion. (I kind of warned you that this would happen…). But repression of the Marsh Arabs was not presented as a public justification for the invasion. This is important because it underscores my distinction between ?good? and ?justified.? We didn?t ask the Marsh Arabs, and the invocation of the ?imaginary Marsh Arab? is curious coming from the speaker who accuses me of making people into chess pieces. The affirmative never presents evidence saying the Marsh Arabs supported the U.S. invasion?such evidence would be hard to find because the U.S. did not ask them. The fact that they are benefiting from the invasion is something you can acknowledge by adopting my alternative?an alternative whose solvency and net-benefit are conceded by the affirmative. The Marsh Arabs are just as well-off whether you vote aff or neg. The alternative captures the benefit of supporting restorative action for the Marsh Arabs, but does not risk the moral cloudiness of casually calling the war ?justified? on the basis of things that were not included in the primary justifications for the war; as well as not risking the papering over of our lousy and brutal execution of the war.
?my use of analogies and enthymemes provides for a superior debate compared to Stannard?s requirement that we have explicit resolutional analysis, criteria, and impact statements. Among other reasons, my framework provides for direct and meaningful disagreement and for a debate which engages this audience.
The relevant audience in this debate consists of (a) judges who believed themselves to be entrusted to render a decision in a game called debate, and (b) argumentation students who hear platitudes about Iraq all the time, but hadn?t seen an academic debate on the subject. I consider my objections both direct and meaningful.
Ever seen a debate where both sides run from the issue to avoid giving up competitive advantage? ? I didn?t have to rigorously prune subpoint 47C to avoid giving Stannard links.
Mischaracterization of my intentions and it ignores the extrinsic justifications I give for making the arguments I make. It also feeds into negative stereotypes we debate folks have to deal with far too much. To the contrary, it?s perfectly ethical, publicly accountable, and smart, to concede some arguments in order to prove others.
I told you that the war was just. I told you that it was morally required. I told you that it was necessary to avert a coming genocide. I told you that it had actually stopped one genocide.
All of which can be true without the invasion being justified.
What does Stannard?s alternative leave you with? Can Stannard tell you the war was unjust?
Not my responsibility. My alternative allows you to acknowledge the reasons without going the next step and saying that makes the war justified.
No, he merely says ?not proven sufficiently?, but reserves the right to make up his mind in the rebuttal.
My argument was that when the affirmative gives an internal link between his narrative and the concept of justification, I will answer that internal link. If it established, either through re-explanation or new information, in the next speech, I don?t get the opportunity to answer it.
Stannard?s central claim against my analogy is that war is justified by self-defense alone, but he runs screaming from that claim when questioned.
This is a mischaracterization of my argument?especially the word ?alone.? Recall that the affirmative says the following in cross-examination:
- The author argues, by construction of an elaborate analogy to the second world war, that the war in Iraq is just.
- The author uses the reader?s initial expectation that the narrative is about Iraq, and then inverts it. He intends this inversion to be jarring, and that it cause the audience to rethink logic they may have already made up their minds about.
Subsequently, the affirmative attributes an argument to me that I never made: that the only ?just? wars are those waged for self-defense or treaty defense. Just because I said those differences existed in public justification of the war with Japan doesn?t mean that I believed those were the only possible prerequisites to a just war. Ask yourself: Can the negative believe the Japan analogy was inappropriate AND believe that the war with Japan was, in fact, unjust? Hypothetically, I could. The affirmative later uses that same unproven assumption concerning self-defense/treaty defense to answer my alternative.
I told you to use your own conscience (perish the thought!). Maybe that will make this a harder debate for you if you are wedded to being a goldfish. But there can be no doubt about the claims I was making, and I have never been evasive in the slightest about what I believe and why.
Your conscience should dictate voting for the better argument in this debate; your conscience should be complex enough to acknowledge that some good things are not positively justified. Rather than accusing the affirmative of being evasive, I argue that the affirmative doesn?t intrinsically link to the resolution. This distinction is’t sophistry, and you are not a goldfish for endorsing it.
Stannard?s brain seized on ?wars are just only for protecting Country and Treaty?
Wrong. I seized on the fact that the affirmative deployed a narrative about a war that had been justified on the grounds of protecting country. This distinction is extremely important. Absent a distinction in modes of justification, Japan is a dangerous example to analogize to Iraq: especially since the affirmative, by his own admission, was playing upon the assumption that he could tell the narrative and then later say ?surprise! That was Japan, and everyone knows we were justified in going to war with them!?
Stannard says that procedural debates are a matter of life and death, and I also love a good T throwdown. But this debate is not for Stannard and it is not for me. It is for his argumentation class, and if ?explicit justifications? means you have to produce pseudo-English like ?The second net-benefit of the counter-interpretation is that ? it solves all of case while avoiding the disadvantage of conflating just with acceptable?, then phooey on that method of argument. My argument was, by contrast, engaging from the very first sentence. You want to hear the story, and in hearing the story you absorb my larger framework.
Then your expectations are upended, and you are forced to contemplate your own innermost justifications or anti-justifications for the war. Then, having been refreshed of why you think the war is a good or bad idea, you are in a receptive mood to critically reflect on my moral and pragmatic justifications for it.
I never attempt to persuade by battering your consciences into submission, and I never have to resort to transparently unproven idiocy like ?Pragmatism means 51% of the world rapes the other 49%? in the hope that my opponent doesn?t reach it on his flow.
If the affirmative insists on assigning an overriding purpose to this debate and saying ?vote on framework,? he loses here, precisely because of his derisiveness and dismissal of ?debate structure.? In fact, the theme of this semester?s argumentation course is that rule-based debate, adherence to structure, and the imperative of transparency, would make the world a far better place, and would revitalize democracy. Missing from the affirmative?s casual and caustic dismissal of ?procedural? debate is any development of an impact: no ?t is dehumanizing? or ?rules are oppressive.? The Bush administration itself lacked any commitment to rule-based justification or communication. Agreed-upon criteria for justification (which the affirmative has the burden to propose because he is responsible for the proposition) does not constitute ?battering? anyone ?into submission.? The risk for that is greater in expecting you to ?absorb my larger framework? by ?upending your expectations.? We should not make decisions about war based on playing upon peoples? desires to hear stories. The affirmative admits he meant for his stories to be ?jarring? which sounds eerily similar to beating someone into submission.
Also, terms of debate are not ?pseudo-english,? I don?t think my concerns constitute unproven idiocy, and I?m not trying to spread out the affirmative. If the affirmative wants to continue to make this a debate about style, then you should vote against him for his accusations concerning my motives.
So if you prefer direct conflict over the issue of the day and an accessible debate for Stannard?s students over some parsing of irrelevant parli traditions about resolutionality, Stannard?s fibers tell you to vote for me.
False dichotomy. And traditional debate-ish terms are appropriate for argumentation students. The affirmative doesn?t prove those traditions are irrelevant. If you prefer direct conflict over the issue of the day, hold the affirmative to a standard of establishing correct parameters for the conflict and acknowledge an alternative that says: You?re partially right, but you don?t prove the resolution true.
Even if you are put off by my Socratic pressure on the affirmative to make a categorical statement concerning when wars are justified, you have to admit it was precisely that pressure that forced the affirmative to eventually say (imply, really) something very simple:
?A war is justified when the weak are being oppressed by the powerful and nobody else is doing anything about it.?
Instead, my alternative says: The Iraq war was not, per se, justified, even though some good things came of it. A war might be regrettably necessary when we are the ones who empowered the powerful and encouraged and turned a blind eye to their oppression of the weak, but we should not comfort ourselves by calling such a war ?justified.?
My alternative accounts for moral complexity. It ?solves? Darfur because it envisions a world where our leaders will say ?We should intervene in the Sudan because people are getting murdered? rather than ?We should intervene in the Sudan because they will soon have nuclear weapons capable of hitting us in 45 minutes, and they are a whole lot like the people who crashed planes into our buildings.? The fact that the affirmative offers those reasons now does not do anything for the Iraqis, who were not part of that process of initial justification. The divergence from the initial false justifications, in fact, makes it more difficult for us to invoke ethical and humanitarian justifications in the future. It is because I recognize the legitimacy of such justifications that I offer an alternative to calling this war justified. The affirmative framework is not necessary to recognize both the affirmative?s moral imperatives and the negative?s moral complexities.
The affirmative?s only vaguely competitive argument against the alternative rests on a misinterpretation of a different part of the debate, further distorted by his non-reciprocal insistence that it?s my job to define ?just war? and ?justified.? He?s in a bit of a pickle now: If he explicitly defines either, it?s new. But if he doesn?t, then he?s incapable of proving why the alternative is worse than his own advocacy. He hasn?t offered a permutation. Look at his factual claims in the 1AC and ask yourself: do I really need to call the Iraq war ?justified? if all these claims are true. Vote negative with a clear conscience that you have acknowledged the aff?s concern for the people of Iraq AND my concern for a transparent political process of justification.
As to the question of when a war is justified, and the affirmative?s attempt to pigeon-hole me as being some crass nationalist: First, remember that the affirmative never gave ANY explicit criteria for when a war is just or when the act of advocating a war constitutes ?justifying it.? As I predicted, the affirmative merely waited for me to offer a counter-criteria and then said it was bad. Even if it?s as bad as the affirmative says it is, it?s not as bad as an affirmative not offering any explicit criteria or definition of ?justified? in the first place.
Second, the alternative isn?t so easily pigeon-holed. When I said that ?just? wars might be those that result from invasion or treaty obligations, I also clearly indicated other interpretations would be possible. There might be a variety of reasons to JUSTIFY a war. In this instance, the Iraq war was not justified, but it could have been. Because of the moral ambiguity surrounding it, because the public justifications given were not the same as the 1AC in this debate, you should prefer my alternative. The alternative no more ties me into selfish, state-centric nationalism than the affirmative is tied into being responsible for all the bad stuff the state does when he chooses to filter his moral obligation towards the Marsh Arabs through the state (it wasn?t a bunch of concerned private citizens who prosecuted this war).
Finally, the affirmative argues that I am running a ?consult Saddam? counterplan. This is a misinterpretation of my advocacy that justifications should occur in the context of a conversation with those who are affected by a decision. Lots of ordinary, innocent Iraqis were affected by this decision: Some were made better off, some were not, and some are dead, or their children are dead. Those are the people I?m talking about, and the alternative accesses them by raising the threshold of what constitutes ?justified.?
As for the assertion that I don?t want to discuss Iraq, or that I?m denying the affirmative the opportunity to do so: Wrong. The alternative solves for all of the affirmative?s factual claims about Iraq. It solves better, and here?s why: There are competing interpretations of the PCP and Japan analogies. These competing interpretations could, in fact, both be true. That?s moral ambiguity for you. We did enable Iraq. We did manipulate and falsify claims. But the Iraqi people were suffering. The alternative acknowledges the paradoxical nature of these facts by saying: Not justified per se, but acceptable in a problematic world.
(If the affirmative objects to the different ways I have phrased the alternative, remember that the aff said the ENTIRE 1AC was the warrant for the resolution. My vagueness is no worse than his, and is at least partially necessitated by his.)
And, the fact that the alternative captures the reasons why the affirmative feels compelled to go to war also means that I don?t have to provide an ?alternative? in the form of sanctions or proxy invasion, etc. Our concrete policy alternatives were few and far between because we messed up Iraq, the region, the globe, with a bunch of bad policy choices?precisely because we have never followed explicit, transparent criteria of JUSTIFICATION for those actions. My alternative acknowledges this, the affirmative doesn?t, and the affirmative doesn?t make a permutation.
Moreover, don?t let the affirmative turn this debate into a childish contest of ?who talked more about what was really going on in Iraq.? I am giving the affirmative his own voice on Iraq rather than silencing it with ridiculous arguments like Saddam wasn?t that bad, or that the U.S. hasn?t done anything good. I am merely offering a different conclusion based on his premises.
Let?s wrap this up:
I remember making a locally controversial claim on a message board (?The Iraq war is just?), then getting asked to do a public debate about the claim for pedagogical purposes. The resolution was an afterthought, which I happened to write. My only goal was to make it broad enough to encompass the arguments I thought Stannard would want to run.
The most reasonable way to resolve this debate is to ask whether the statement, the proposition, the affirmative is asked to defend is literally true. This meets the affirmative?s genealogy of why this debate happened. It?s the most pedagogical, and it teaches argumentation students about?argumentation. As for the arguments the aff thinks I wanted to run?I have been arguing for years, in a variety of forums, that the reason this war was not justified was that its persecution and execution failed the criteria of public justification: a utopian objection, perhaps, but a predictable one given any familiarity with my public stance on it.
The affirmative asks you to look inside your soul to decide which way to vote. I admit I can?t access your soul. My whole argument is about access: in justification through explicit adherence to clear criteria. Precision is necessary for transparency, transparency for access, and access for the ability of all of us to participate in the decision to war, or not. By going one step further in contemplating the meaning of a resolutional term glossed over by the 1AC (and only defensively reasserted among ad homs in the 2AC), my alternative garners 100% of the retrospective arguments in defense of the war, without any risk that those arguments would be less available were you to strip the term ?justified? from the statement in question.
And if there?s any talk in the 2AR of me being more concerned about the “game” than suffering people, that?s just not cool?such accusations are themselves “gamey” and undermine what was otherwise a very engaging, friendly, and important debate. You should also extend some leeway to me for sacrificing a lot of my word count to verbatim transcripts of the affirmative speech. Thanks for reading.