I just received an interesting question on some mandates that will be at a tournament this weekend. I believe this will be instructive, because approaching mandates that seem strange can be a difficult and disorganized task. I will recommend the use of Standards, Violations, and Impacts as an organized, brief, and effective approach to communicating the problem.

“[edited summary] The mandates basically say that scientists and other government personnel will cooperate, establish a legal framework, ensure cooperation, and oversee implementation, without stating what those things look like

My thinking is that it fiats itself into perfection. Well first off, it’s incredibly vague. I have no idea what ANY of the requirements include or entitle. And then two, they just fiat that the government will ensure political and financial support from Russia.”

Here is how I would argue.

Our next contention deals with the Affirmative mandates. (insert number of argument, e.g. Solvency 1) Policy vs. Outcome. There are policies and there are outcomes of policies. One achieves a positive result, and the other just sounds good.


A) Standard: Mandate Policies, Not Outcomes — We are to debate about the policy, and whether or not it will have desirable outcomes. We need to know what actual steps the policy is taking, so that we can evaluate its outcomes.

B) Violation: No Policy. Our opponents’ case has no policy. It only mandates outcomes: we’re going to ensure support, cooperate, coordinate, establish a legal framework, negotiate individual projects, develop technical plans, and oversee implementation.

What is the nature of the support? How will we cooperate? With whom will we coordinate? What is the legal framework? What individual projects will we pursue? What technical plans will we develop? Over what will we oversee implementation?

C) Impacts:
1) Essentially Unevaluatable — We cannot argue whether a case will have solvency or not without knowing what the policy is. You as a judge cannot really predict whether the outcomes are worthwhile unless you can name what policies will cause those outcomes. The only argument we can make is that policies constructed this way fail. So.

2) Solvency: Policies constructed this way fail. When your policy is nothing but the goal, it inevitably fails. The Declaration of Independence sets out the goals of our country and the principles of foundation, but we had to actually have the policies to govern how we achieve those goals in order to get there. First the Articles of Confederation, and then the Constitution achieved this. Likewise, if the U.S. says “The State Department needs to ensure a desirable outcome in Libya” and that is the extent of the policy, there is no real way to ascertain whether that policy will have the desired outcome unless some individual at the operational (not the policy) level figures out what to do.

3) Topicality: Not a policy change. A policy can be defined as a “course of action”. These mandates begin to describe what a course of action will achieve, but they do not actually demonstrate what that course of action will be. Therefore, my opponents have not supported the requirement that they significantly reform policy towards Russia.

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