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Stop the madness. (A debate post.)

Dec 19, 2009 • Karen

I just attended part of my sister's final debate tournament, Blake. The LD debate resolution for this tournament is "Resolved: Economic sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives."

Jen had a round with one of the top debaters at this tournament, with Jen affirming the resolution and the other debater negating. The other debater (let's call her C) ran a case where the WTO was the actor of the resolution, with her entire case* based on the WTO needing economic sanctions to have any power and arguing that without the WTO a wide variety of bad things would happen, including global war. C also ran an observation saying that she claimed the right to determine the actor of the resolution and arguing that only arguments that applied to the WTO should count.

As Jen told me about the round (she got creamed--C is very good :) ), a blindly obvious response occurred to me. Can you guess what it is? More on that later.

Jen said that, because of Jen's typically-low speaker points, she often debates against C. Frequently C tests weird or somewhat wacky cases on Jen to see how they go. She figured this negative case was one of those.

Later at the Blake tournament, however, I saw C compete in octofinals. She won the coin toss and chose the negative side. As we watched, she ran the same case as she ran against Jenny. I guess it WASN'T an experimental case.

Her opponent dropped a lot of stuff in the 1AR and, failing to conclusively win the standards debate, quite legitimately lost. The opponent, too, failed to make that one extremely crucial point, blindingly obvious to me, that might well have saved her the round.

The madness must end.

Here's how the cross-examination in that octofinal round should have went:

O: So, in your case the WTO is the actor. What does 'WTO' stand for, again?
C: World Trade Organization.
*snickers from the audience*
O: So it's a global trade organization--there aren't any trade organizations bigger than it?
C: Yes.
O: It has jurisdiction across the entire world.
C: Yes.
O: So what, pray tell, would be 'foreign' to the WTO?
C: ...
O: Alien trade organizations on other planets?
C: ...
O: Is the WTO a government?
C: No, but--
O: How exactly does a global non-governmental organization have 'foreign policy objectives'?
fin

"Resolved: Economic sanctions ought not be used to achieve foreign policy objectives."

The WTO CANNOT use economic sanctions to achieve foreign policy objectives if it does not have a foreign policy. Which it doesn't, because it's NOT a freaking COUNTRY. It's outside the scope of the resolution. And with that ten-second statement, there goes C's entire case and a good chunk of her rebuttals against the affirmative.

Does C have responses planned for this line of rebuttal? It seems unlikely: there's no reason to put yourself on such weak footing on purpose. Perhaps she does, though. In any case, for God's sake, question her on these grounds so we can hear it out!

Somebody stop the madness, people.

* Arguably, there is actually one cross-applicable point within it. Not really important.