Saturday, May 17, 2014

PF 2014 NFL Nationals - NATO in Ukraine - Overview

Resolved: NATO should strengthen its relationship with Ukraine in order to deter further Russian aggression


If you are reading this, I assume you are a Public Forum debater or coach planning to attend the National Forensic League National Speech and Debate Tournament for 2014.  Best of luck to you. The National Tournament is an incredible achievement and experience. You will be asked to debate a topic which is currently a high-profile news item nationally and around the world.  I am rather surprised at the wording of this topic because the Pro side concedes there has been recent Russian aggression in the Ukraine. In my opinion, that is a decidedly western-centric and political position in light of the fact Russia has denied aggression and even the UN non-binding resolution condemning the annexation of Crimea fell short of accusing Russia of "aggression".  So, the definition of aggression can be important in this debate as well as the definitions of other words. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this analysis, I do not feel it is necessary to review each and every word in the resolution as I usually do.  First, the teams debating in this tournament are going to be advanced and have already spent time gleaning what they can from defining the words, and second, I feel it is important to look at the broader meanings and interpretations of the this resolution with respect to potential positions for Pro and Con.

UN-Ukraine Relationship

The resolution states NATO should strengthen its relationship with Ukraine.  There is a relationship which has been in place since Ukrainian Foreign Minster Anatolly Zlenko signed the NATO Partnership for Peace Framework Document in 1994. The relationship, however, was not without controversy and consequences.  While cooperation with NATO may have been deemed a worthwhile pursuit of the Ukrainian government, the idea of joining NATO did not have popular support for more than 10 years after the signing of the framework document. The election of Viktor Yushchenko as Ukraine's President in 2004 helped to boost support for joining NATO among Ukrainian citizens and in 2008 the nation signed documents officially expressing their desire to join the alliance despite some very persistent opposition actions.  However, due to resistance from certain European member nations, NATO voted not to admit Ukraine at that time. During the 2010 Ukrainian election, another Viktor, this time Yanukovych, was elected president.  Yanukovych was aligned with powerful groups of Russian speaking nationalists who were opposed to NATO membership so after election he declared his intentions to defer the decision to join NATO until some future date while maintaining the current cooperative relationship. The degree to which Yanukovych's decision to not join NATO was pressured by the Russian government is a question history will need to answer but the decision to sign an agreement to pay less for Russian gas in exchange for allowing the Russian Black Sea Fleet to remain in Crimea until 2042 signaled a tightening of the relationship with Moscow in deference to Europe and NATO in particular.

Yanukovych's turn toward Moscow may have sent an unintended signal to not only the west but pro-western Ukrainians that the government in Kiev was becoming a "vassal" of the Russian state. The subsequent decline of the Yanukovych government and the eventual rise of the opposition with culminated in the coup d'etat of 2014 was the unexpected result.  These events were played out on the world stage as Russia was preparing to host the Olympics. It was shortly after the end of the Olympics, the events which led to the so-called Russian aggression occurred as Russian increased its presence along the border of eastern Ukraine with the stated purpose of protecting Russian Nationals living in Ukraine.

Strengthening Relations

Given the history of tenuous relations between NATO and Ukraine it is unreasonable to claim NATO should strengthen its relationship unless Ukraine wants to have a better relationship with NATO. In other words, the action must begin with Ukraine, not NATO.  In reality, the word relationship in the resolution is unqualified so it is not clear what kind of relationship should be strengthened. For this, we must consider what NATO believes its role in international relations to be by looking to their own webpage.
"NATO’s essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. POLITICAL - NATO promotes democratic values and encourages consultation and cooperation on defence and security issues to build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.  MILITARY - NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations. These are carried out under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty - NATO’s founding treaty - or under a UN mandate, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organizations." 
History being a guide, there has never been overwhelming support across Ukraine to join NATO. Even more importantly, there is zero support in Moscow for having NATO once again encroaching upon its borders in violation of international agreements made between U.S. and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev during the reunification of Germany.  This is why Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov very recently said, any attempt by NATO to draw-in Ukraine would be viewed as a national security threat to Russia.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines aggression as "a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master or the practice of making attacks or encroachments; especially; unprovoked violation by one country of the territorial integrity of another".  In this resolution, we can look to a definition provided by the United Nations pursuant to international law:
"Article 1: Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, as set out in this Definition...Article 2: The First use of armed force by a State in contravention of the Charter shall constitute prima facie evidence of an act of aggression although the Security Council may, in conformity with the Charter, conclude that a determination that an act of aggression has been committed would not be justified in the light of other relevant circumstances, including the fact that the acts concerned or their consequences are not of sufficient gravity. ... Article 3:
(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof,
(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;
(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;
(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State;
(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;
(f) The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;
(g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein."

Why NATO? Why Ukraine?

I think the real crux of this debate will be the answer to these all important questions.  Is it just an unfortunate choice of words in the resolution to single-out the quasi-political, military arm of the Western-power bloc, NATO, as opposed to simply the US or UN? Perhaps in the context of this debate it does not matter since most often, in the minds of debaters and Public Forum judges, NATO is often viewed as an extension of the U.S. military with, perhaps some kind of international legitimacy arising from its multi-national command and control structure. After all, it was certain European members which opposed Ukraine's membership in NATO in 2008 reportedly out of concern over the effect it would have on relations with Russia.

So why Ukraine? Let's break it down.  Ukraine is a border state between Europe and Russia and as such serves as a buffer from potential European aggression or expansion. In addition, the Crimea region is of extreme military importance to Russia. It is the site of the Russian Black Sea Fleet which is key to Russia's defense as well as vital to its economic support through the import and export of goods with the rest of the world.  Most Russian sea-ports are cold-water ports which freeze-over and operate with reduced capacity in the winter. The Black Sea is home to Russia's warm-water ports. For the west and in particular Europe, Ukraine serves as an important source of energy since 80 percent of the gas, Europe buys from Russia is transported through Ukraine. We could also look at the emergence of Ukraine as an economic resource for the EU as a market of consumers. Also, many consider Ukraine the "breadbasket" of the region so an important source crops and food. But EU is reluctant to expand its relations with the embattled nation because its present instability poses a regional threat. No matter, this debate is not about the EU strengthening its relations with Ukraine so perhaps it brings us back to the question, why the UN?


Having looked at the history, glimpsed the issues and evaluated the intent of the resolution we can see a position for the Pro in establishing the critical importance of Ukraine as a vital and strategic source of energy and economic benefits for Europe.  This alone presents a compelling motivation for the European member states of NATO to move closer to strengthening military ties with Ukraine to prevent Russian violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. No doubt, the U.S. itself would be a willing supporter in the interests of promoting democratic ideals throughout the world and democratic ideals can win debates with many Public Forum judges. On the other-hand, the Con must take a serious look the big-picture and question the political ramifications of an expanding NATO and the seemingly obvious containment strategy aimed at limiting Russia's influence in the world.  While the west and by extension, the Pro may paint Putin as an imperialist, he may also be seen as a staunch defender of Russian interests and security in the face of western expansion.  Admittedly, it may be a hard sell to some judges, but I think Con will have more than enough to win many rounds.

LD 2014 NFL Nationals - National Security vs. Digital Privacy

Resolved: The United States ought to prioritize the pursuit of national security objectives above the digital privacy of its citizens


If you are reading this, there is real good chance you will be attending the National Forensics League National Speech and Debate Tournament in 2014.  This year, Lincoln-Douglas debaters will be debating the conflict between national security objectives and individual privacy.  A similar topic was debated in Public Forum in November 2013 following a summer of controversy as Edward Snowden, sought refuge in Russia. You will recall Edward Snowden was the National Security Administration contractor employee who exposed evidence of wide-spread NSA data-collection of private citizens phone-records.  Those allegations awakened people to the stark realities of life under the USA PATRIOT Act and sparked lots of debate over the right to privacy versus the need for national security in post-9/11 America.  You can read my analysis of the Public Forum topic starting here.

Since you are probably going to be competing in the national tournament, I assume you know what you are doing and so I will not spend much time dealing with novice-level issues.  I want to focus on the argumentation.  This topic is much better suited to Lincoln-Douglas than Public Forum in my opinion, because LD better tolerates an in-depth analysis of the philosophical implications of the advocacies. The core of Lincoln-Douglas debate is the so-called value framework and so we must not allow the judge(s) to lose sight of how important it is to maintain our values.


As usual, I will begin this analysis with a look at the definitions and interpretation of the resolution.  There are some things we can note about the wording which may or may not impact the advocacy.  However, first let's define the terms.

The United States
We know what the United States means and there will be no real need to define the terms.  The use of "The United States" limits the scope of the debate and establishes the United States government as the principle actor. Therefore, while we can look to the actions of other nations or entities, the core of this debate will center on the actions, decisions, and laws of the United State government with respect to the citizens of the U.S.

Merriam-Webster (verb)

  1. used to express obligation, advisability, natural expectation or logical consequence.

various sources:

  1. used to indicate duty or correctness, typically when criticizing some one's actions
  2. used to indicate a desirable or expected state
  3. used to give or ask advice

This is a word which should be very familiar to Lincoln-Douglas debaters.  There are several ways to spin the definition of ought depending on the sources used and intention of the case.  Some will claim ought means obligation others will claim it carries a meaning suggesting "strongly advised". Quite often, ought is defined in such a way to suggest there exists a moral imperative so you can expect some debaters will try to force the advocacy into a moral framework for both sides.

For an interesting and very detailed philosophical exploration of the word "ought" look at this essay entitled The Meaning of Ought by Ralph Wedgwood.

prioritizing (prioritize)
Merriam Webster:

  1. to organize (things) so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first

From Google:

  1. Designate or treat (something) as more important than other things
  2. Determine the order for dealing with (a series of items or tasks) according to their relative importance.

As I have stated many times in this forum, the word 'prioritize' can be very important.  On the one hand, we have the idea that prioritize means things should be done in sequence.  So, in this resolution we should first focus on national security and when we have achieved our security objectives we can delegate remaining activities to preserving digital privacy.  On the other hand, according to some definitions of prioritize, we do not act sequentially rather we can do both at the same time while placing greater importance on national security.  This means we pursue both ends but when the two come into conflict such that it forces us to choose, we must defer to national security since it is the greater priority.  Under the definition of prioritize which suggests a first, do this, then, do that definition, it is important to remember that a threshold or brightline must be provided which establishes the point at which it is time to shift the focus from one set of objectives to another.  Of course, we must consider in this case, the two ideals may be mutually exclusive.  In other words, we can have security or digital privacy but not both. Think of it this way.  We have security objectives and we have privacy concerns.  The places where the two overlap or come into conflict defines the debate. When the overlap widens to the point that every attempt to achieve our national security objectives infringes our digital privacy, the two are mutually exclusive.


  1. the act of pursuing
  2. an activity that one engages in as a vocation, profession, or avocation :  occupation


  1. to follow and try to catch or capture (someone or something) for usually a long distance or time
  2. to try to get or do (something) over a period of time
  3. to be involved in (an activity)

national security
"National security is a corporate term covering both national defense and foreign relations of the U.S. It refers to the protection of a nation from attack or other danger by holding adequate armed forces and guarding state secrets. The term national security encompasses within it economic security, monetary security, energy security, environmental security, military security, political security and security of energy and natural resources. Specifically, national security means a circumstance that exists as a result of a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or group of nations, or a friendly foreign relations position, or a defense position capable of successfully protesting hostile or destructive action." (src:

I would like to bring to your attention, there are two key meanings to "national security" and the above definition reflects only one.  As seen above, national security is an ongoing action or specifically, as a noun, a policy which results in action aimed at achieving or maintaining a state of national security.  It is the state of national security which defines it as a condition rather than a policy to achieve or maintain the condition although in reality national security tends to be an umbrella term which includes both the policy and state of security.  I very much like the Walter Lippmann and following quotations given in a Wikipedia article which defines national security:
"a nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war". A later definition by Harold Lasswell, a political scientist, in 1950, looks at national security from almost the same aspect, that of external coercion. "The distinctive meaning of national security means freedom from foreign dictation."

Oxford Dictionary

  1. A thing aimed at or sought; a goal

It may be worthwhile to look at the meaning of the term "objectives" with respect to a similar term, "goals". There is a lot of discussion online about the subtle differences with the implication that a goal is a somewhat vague, future "end" whereas objectives are specific "ends" which occur in specific time frames.

pursuit of national security objectives
Putting it all together, we can extract some interesting interpretation of what this resolution is expecting for an affirmative advocacy. It could be assumed pursuit of national security objectives suggests a focused attempt to achieve discrete national security targets (milestones or conditions) rather than some vague definition of national security as a feeling of personal safety or more broadly as the concept of doing whatever it takes to avoid a terrorist attack or war.


  1. in or to a higher place
  2. in or to a higher rank or number


  1. of or relating to information that is stored in the form of the numbers 0 and 1
  2. using or characterized by computer technology


  1. the state of being alone : the state of being away from other people
  2. the state of being away from public attention

Digital privacy is often used in relation to Internet privacy and certainly that is a legitimate concern.  Digital privacy is broader, however.  In today's world, virtually all forms of information and communication ends up in a digital format. When in digital form, there exists numerous technologies to store, search, categorize, and review the information and in many cases, because computers are linked together around the world, there is almost no way to know who may have access to the information. Sadly, the growth of technological capability has far out-paced the ability of governments and laws to control and prevent potential abuse and misuse of information.

DeVries 2014:
The modern evolution of the privacy right is closely tied to the story of industrial age technological development' from the telephone to flying machines. As each new technology allowed new intrusions into things intimate, the law reacted slowly in an attempt to protect the sphere of the private. Digital technology computing, databases, the Internet, mobile communications, and the like thus calls for further evolution of privacy rights, both conceptually and in law. Unlike previous technological changes, however, the scope and magnitude of the digital revolution is such that privacy law cannot respond quickly enough to keep privacy protections relevant and robust.


Superficially, we can conclude this debate will center around that idea that the U.S government should sacrifice its citizen's digital privacy in order to achieve its national security objectives insofar as those rights may clash with the pursuit of those objectives. It is an interesting and important distinction to note we are debating the actions of the United States government and not the actions or decisions of the citizens. We are not debating whether people should be willing to sacrifice their privacy in order to achieve the security objectives. Potentially this minimizes the impact of evidence such as public opinion polls and such. One of the key points will be how much conflict is there between pursuit of national security objectives and the digital privacy of citizens and what are the impacts of this collision of ideals? Neg, no doubt, must concede there is value to maintaining national security and both sides will agree the impact of failing to achieve national security objectives has severe harms. So what does this mean for Neg? Intuitively, Neg must show that national security can be achieved without sacrificing privacy or that some important value is being harmed by affirming the resolution. In fact, Neg should probably take both positions.

Protecting Privacy in the Digital Age
Berkeley Technology Law Journal; Volume 18, Issue 1, Article 19
Will Thomas DeVries
February 2014