Sunday, December 4, 2016

PF Jan 2017 - Increase Military Spending - Introduction

Resolved: In order to better respond to international conflicts, the United States should significantly increase its military spending.


Let's examine the January 2016 PF resolution. We are going to deal with yet another resolution dealing strictly with United States policy. There is an assumption perhaps, the resolution sees problems in our current military capabilities/capacity to respond to international conflicts arising from lack of sufficient military funding. Maybe there is a sort of undesirable equilibrium which allows us to maintain the status quo with respect to international conflicts and we may realize advantages by better responding to these conflicts.  Of course, we have yet to understand just what are these international conflicts and how should the U.S. be responding to them? Maybe we can at least think these 'conflicts' are of such a nature, they are best managed or answered by some sort of military action which currently requires funding to take to the next level of response. Another uncertainty is, are we currently responding to these conflicts or not? Does increase mean the starting point must be zero? The resolution says the U.S. should significantly increase military spending. So, how much is significant? This question often comes up in Policy Debate topicality arguments. Does significantly mean 10, 50, or 100 percent? Does it mean 500 million, 500 billion or one trillion dollars over and above current levels? What is the bright-line for significant increase? These are all questions which may or may not need to be answered in this debate and I guess the only way we will know which questions need be answered depend on the positions taken by the debaters. That of course, is not a profound statement. Naturally, we must answer the positions taken by our opponents and defend our own. How many different positions can be taken in this debate? That, dear debater, is yet another question which arises with this resolution which we can examine soon.


In order to...
We could define order separately but by dealing specifically with its use in the preposition, "in order" we can quickly narrow down a good definition. The online Harper Collins Dictionary says, "(preposition; foll[owed] by an infinitive) so that it is possible to". I think this definition is sufficient to claim it is currently NOT possible to better respond to international conflicts with current spending levels, at least as far as Pro is concerned. We could insert the definition into the preposition and derive "so that it is possible to better respond to international conflicts..."

We judge many things as better or best. Better is described as a comparative, and best as a superlative; for example, good, better and best. In this resolution, we do not respond good. That phrasing makes no sense. We respond well since well is the proper modifier for the verb to respond. So better is the comparative of the adverb well. According to the Cambridge dictionary, well, as an adverb, means "to a high or satisfactory standard".  As a comparative, better simple means something greater than high or satisfactory but less than highest or most satisfactory.

to respond
This is the infinitive form of the verb in the introductory condition which requires the increase in spending. To respond. Sticking with the Cambridge dictionary, this verb means "to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done".

international conflicts
The definition of this term is supplied by C. Malek of the Conflict Resolution Information Source.

CRInfo (2013):
Traditionally, the term "international conflict" referred to conflicts between different nation-states and conflicts between people and organizations in different nation-states. Increasingly, however, it also applies to inter-group conflicts within one country when one group is fighting for independence or increased social, political, or economic power (e.g., Sudan/South Sudan, Iraq (now that the US has largely left), and Syria.

The referenced article makes a distinction between, private and public international conflicts, which may be significant in some debates.

the United States
Once again, there should be no need to define this term. The United States is the nation or the federal government which rules the nation known as the United States. Generally speaking, governments have a duty to protect themselves and their citizens from outside enemies and they often create and fund a military for the purpose. I don't think any one will dispute the resolution specifies the United States Federal Government (comprised of the legislative, executive and judicial branches employing "normal means" to increase military spending.

The use of the word should is common in PF and policy debate and at its most simple, indicates the operative action is necessary.  We can get into all kinds of nitpicking arguments about whether should assumes could or would but I hope you won't have to face these kinds of time draining arguments. Let's just stick to the core issues.

This is the adverb form of significant which according to Merriam-Webster means "having or likely to have influence or effect". I do think some debates will argue this word, in context with increased military spending. We can look this more fully later in these analyses.

Intuitively even the most naive judge or opponent will understand "increase" which Merriam-Webster defines as "to make greater". Technically, one dollar more is an increase, but nothing is ever so cut-and-dry in the world of debate if someone wants to challenge it and of course one dollar will not meet the definition of significantly increase.

This is the possessive for the noun United States which we have already claimed means the government of the United States.  Thus, this tiny three-letter word allows the detail-oriented debater to claim the spending is only that which belongs to the USFG.  Is this important? I hope not but it does tend to rule out spending from sources other than U.S. government spending (if any exist).

According to Merriam-Webster, military is an adjective "relating to soldiers, arms, or war".

Generally, according to Merriam-Webster, spending means to use up or pay out. Spending is a verb so it is something different than a budget which is a kind of plan which defines an amount to be spent.

military spending
Combining the terms we obtain pay outs related to soldiers, arms or war.  We can get a better idea if we allow that an amount spent is an expenditure, which according to the Accounting Dictionary is "a payment in cash or barter credits, or the incurrence of a liability by an entity, in exchange for goods or services." Thus, the amounts spent for military purposes are military expenditures. Given that, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),  defines military expenditure.

Where possible, SIPRI military expenditure include all current and capital expenditure on:
  • the armed forces, including peace keeping forces
  • defence ministries and other government agencies engaged in defence projects
  • paramilitary forces when judged to be trained, equipped and available for military operations
  • military space activities

    Such expenditures should include:
  •     personnel

    • all expenditures on current personnel, military and civil
    • retirement pensions of military personnel   
    • social services for personnel and their families 
  •    operations and maintenance
  •    procurement
  •    military research and development
  •    military construction
  •    military aid (in the military expenditures of the donor country)

SIPRI excludes the following:
  • civil defence
  • current expenditure for previous military activities
  • veterans benefits
  • demobilization
  • conversion of arms production facilities
  • destruction of weapons

Analysis of the Resolution

Having defined the various words and terms of the resolution we can begin to discern the framer's intent behind the choice of words in light of current events. Through several decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military expenditures have been increasing throughout the period of 2000-2007. In 2008 when Obama took office, U.S. military spending increases dropped off and began to decline in Obama's second term. Bear in mind, the budget needs may have declined due to the military withdrawal from Iraq and sharp decline of numbers of active military in Afghanistan. Despite, the drop-off, very few nations are spending a larger portion of GDP on the defense budget than the U.S. As for spending needs, we are also aware of many hot-spots and what can be rightly defined as international conflicts are occurring throughout the world.  The opposition to ISIS and other international terrorist groups is well known as a source of conflict throughout many regions in the world,  The nuclear ambitions of North Korea and tensions with respect to the China, Taiwan, Japan and other nations in the East and South China Seas are threatening potential nuclear conflict. The war in Syria centered around the overthrow of the government of Bashar al-Assad has drawn in troops from many regions of the world and displaced millions of refugees. The ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region and the seemingly never-ending African Wars are troubling conflicts with literally millions of victims.

If we assume that U.S. national interests (whatever those may be) are best served by utilizing military resources to resolve or manage these ongoing conflicts or potential conflicts, then perhaps some additional expenditure is warranted. The resolution provides some context in the statement "In order to better respond to international conflicts".  Implicit in this statement is the idea the U.S. response is somehow assumed necessary and significantly increased spending is the mechanism required to achieve a "better" response. It is not explicit as to what should be the desired benefit of increased spending. We can assume at best, a decline in the number or severity of international conflicts now and/or in the future. Or we may assume the increase in military spending will have little impact on current conflicts but will provide more defensive security as a hedge against possible spillover effects arising from conflicts in other regions.

Additionally we must look at the other side of this debate and consider whether increases in military spending are truly justified. The U.S. does not have unlimited funds and one may claim there are better ways to spend our tax-payer dollars. After all, we currently spend huge amounts on the military already, and it can be argued that much of that money is wasted or frivolous. There is much discussion in the status quo of the need for infrastructure spending, border security and other spending priorities offset by talk of tax breaks for citizens and corporations. Meeting these additional spending priorities with reduced tax revenue argues for a more hands-off approach to international problems to reduce or reallocate funds toward different ends and indeed some predict the new administration which takes office in the middle of this resolution will opt for a more isolationist policy although it is very possible the administration hawks will encourage more intervention in conflicts with direct links to U.S. interests.

Regardless, debaters may need to reassess their positions after the new administration assumes power in January.  The newly empowered USFG is sure to change the game of international relations in unpredictable ways. Pay attention at least until the beginning of February when this topic runs out.

For links to the Pro and Con positions or for more information about Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.


  1. thank you for coming out with this resolution analysis so quickly, being novice it really helps me understand the topic

    1. More is coming. Look for the Pro and Con positions soon.


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