Tuesday, March 27, 2012

LD Targeted Killing - The Security Critique

For more about Lincoln Douglas Debate including topic analyses, strategies, and links to evidence *click here*

The Security Kritik (Critique)
The March/April 2012 LD debate topic is now one month old.  If you debate in a region which tolerates the use of kritiks in LD, you may have already faced or you may consider using one of the several variants of the security kritik.  In a nutshell, the security K presents an a priori argument that the language of securitization creates a mindset which dehumanizes other people by characterizing them as potential enemies.  When a government uses this kind of language, it justifies the nation (i.e. the U.S.) assuming a defense posture and taking steps to defend itself even if the threat is imagined or constructed by way of rhetoric and building upon the fears of constituents.  Many variants of the security K are available across the web.

In general, I really like the security K because I think, properly done, it can be a cogent argument that even the most inexperienced judges can comprehend.  In fact, the clever debater can utilize the general framework and cards to present a very  legitimate and powerful neg case which need not be viewed as a kritik at all rather a philosophical justification for why we should be reluctant to support tactics like targeted killing since such tactics are the results of variant forms of racial/cultural profiling and dehumanizing mindsets.

The All Important Link
As with most "off-case" or Negative offensive arguments, the link is all important and potentially one of the weakest parts of any kritik or disadvantage scenario.  In a typical security K file, there are usually numerous links provided from which the negative can choose and most of them will have nothing whatever to do with the topic being argued by the Affirmative.  So why is the link important?  If you don't know the answer to this question, you probably should not be debating a kritik.  But, as a reminder, without a good link, Neg will establish an elaborate "strawman" argument which essentially claims Aff is saying something it is not and then proceeds to beat down the argument, Aff never made.  The bottom line is this.  If you want to prove certain forms of rhetoric should be rejected, you must at some point clearly show how the Aff is using such rhetoric. If certain ways of thinking are dangerous or undesirable, you must show how Aff is promoting such ways of thinking in her case.

Hegemony Links
In most cases, Aff will not be arguing that targeted killing is morally permissible as a means for a nation to increase hegemony or soft-power and so links to heg should not be used.  However, if the Aff takes a position, that targeted killing is necessary to maintain international order, it opens the door to a form of heg link because international rule or order can be viewed as an extended form of hegemony since some entity is writing the rules which dictate international norms.  Personally, I think it will be a difficult link to make, not because the general principle is incorrect but rather because the mindset of the judge.  I think many judges will view international norms as a majority expression of moral behavior and will very quickly be swayed by an Aff counter-argument that Neg is proposing a rejection of international law and perhaps embracing anarchy.

Positive Peace Links
Positive peace arguments claim security is necessary to prevent war but I doubt many Aff cases are going to make such direct claims.  Nevertheless, I foresee cases where Aff may show how terrorism threatens stability and the loss of stability results in war.  Therefore targeted killing indirectly prevents war by promoting international stability. In general, the premise behind the Positive Peace type links is that Aff is promoting a form of "forced" peace through its tactics and this is probably NOT going to be the major premise of the Affirmative case.

Security Construction Links
As I see it, these links establish the idea that Aff is essentially constructing threats and then arguing a security mechanism must be established to prevent the threats.  Under such a mindset, threats are projected from interpretations of external situations.  In some contexts, it is a clever argument but in the context of a targeted killing debate it is a difficult link to make because Aff has empirical evidence that such threats are real and perhaps imminent and more than interpretations or theories arising from the analysis of international events.

Neorealism and IR Links
Personally, I find IR (International Relations) theories interesting and as a result have spent some time studying various theories which predict how nations align themselves and the forces which drive their responses to scenarios.  Nevertheless, unless you as a debater are well versed in such theories and are capable of expressing your ideas in a way the judge can comprehend, you may find youself in a difficult debate.  Not because the Aff can easily refute the premises but because the judge will not typically follow the reasoning of the argument unless you spent some minutes reviewing the concepts of the particular IR theory you are presenting.

Otherization and Centrism Links
If the Aff case attempts to justify targeted killing because the targets represent a threat to cultural identity or "western" ideologies then perhaps such a link can be used.  For example, a minor premise of the Aff case may claim that terrorism is a threat to "our way of life" and so we have a right or duty to protect our lifestyle.  If an Aff debater takes such a stand, you could probably take out such cultural-centric points of view without need to run a kritik and have no problem convincing a judge that such a premise is not a moral reason to target people for elimination. 

Homeland Security/Terrorism/Crises Management Links
I think it is safe to assume, the majority of Aff cases will be justifying the morality of targeted killing as a form of homeland security or terrorism prevention since the targets represent direct threats to the security of the people and these are the links you may want to consider.  Nevertheless, I would choose carefully because some of these links will directly speak of constructionist scenarios (see Construction Links above) and these are easily answered with practical examples of recent terrorist attacks.  Potentially powerful links exists in the terrorist discourse arguments when it can be shown that such links characterize individuals as aggressors when they may in fact be victims of aggression trying desperately to defend themselves from superior power.  To be sure, such an approach must be properly framed so to avoid the perception that Neg is justifying terrorism as a legitimate response to threat as most judges will find that a bitter pill to swallow.  In my opinion, the Neg needs to convey the idea that Aff's discourse and characterization of individuals as terrorists eliminates other potential ways of diminishing or eliminating threats to national security and that is why such discourse should be rejected.

A Word About Link Tags
(When I use the terminology tags, or tag lines - I am referring to the headline or brief explanation of the content of the card which is read prior to the actual evidence.)
I think the LD debater who intends to run a kritik type argument against targeted killing could benefit from ignoring the supplied tags and reading the cards within the context of having written an affirmative or better still having argued against affirmative positions for this particular topic. Familiarize yourself with what your evidence is saying, then tag your cards.  Proper tagging is essential and the tags written in camp files are directed toward specific arguments which may or may not properly express the concept you are trying to convey.  Consider rewriting your tags to suit your point of view in the context of the targeted killing debate and in some cases, tag your cards in round during prep time.

Since the beginning I have been thinking about the application of the security K to this LD topic.  Especially since it is a popular kritik in the present Policy debate topic, the arguments are familiar and some really good camp files are easy to obtain.  I have been reluctant to present it at the beginning of the month because I think the present topic is easily debatable on both sides of the issue and I encourage debaters to have a good understanding of the various points of view and available research rather than whipping out a "stock" camp file and preempting a debate with a K merely as a strategy to chalk up wins.  Sometimes K's are run simply to confuse and overwhelm an inexperienced Aff team.  On the other hand, this particular kritik presents a really good opportunity to learn how to run and defend against kritiks as it can be a very legitimate philosophical argument in the context of this resolution.


  1. Hello, as a newer coach in NV, I read your blog with great interest and have been learning a lot from you. I do wonder about the phrase "in your typical security K file" though.

    What is a typical security K file? Where does one get such a file? Are there articles that are standard?

    I ask because I have read such statements on other blogs as well, and while a long term coach might have ready access to a background of information, where does a new coach gain such a file?

    Thank you for your service to the debate community with your blog!

    1. I apologize and as a result of your comment realize now I have been presumptuous. Therefore I am determined to answer you questions in the form of a tutorial of sorts which I will begin to post this evening.

  2. Wow, thank you very much. That is far more than I expected. I know some of us newer coaches are getting together this summer to help each other out, and I will make sure I share your blog and your materials with them as well.

    Thank you!


Feel free to leave comments relevant to the topics and activity of competitive high school debate. However, this is not a sounding board for your personal ideologies, abusive or racist commentary or excessive inappropriate language. Everyday Debate blog reserves the right to delete any comments it deems inappropriate.