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And the TP choices for the NCFCA 2016-2017 competitive season are out! Here’s my assessment of the choices, along with a brief overview of some of the issues for each of them.

Full disclosure, so you know where I’m coming from and the origin of my perspective: I was a TP competitor for four years and have been the TP coach of a local club for the past two years. I tend to emphasize bigger ideas, making me lean towards dense resolutions with an abundance of academic materials. This is because more broad resolutions allow for a larger variety of issues to be approached from an even larger variety of angles. I find more specific and focused resolutions to have a tendency to gravitate to a couple of core ideas that most cases revolve around.

With that established, let’s jump into the resolutions.

Resolution A: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its policies toward Mexico or one or more countries in Central America.

Issue Overview (info taken from a variety of reports from the Congressional Research Service; by no means comprehensive)

  • Violence: The “northern triangle” of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador has some of the highest homicide rates in the world.
  • Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime:According to the U.S. State Department, about 84% of cocaine trafficked to the United States passes through Central America and Mexico
  • Trade
  • Corruption: … there have also been serious concerns about corruption at all levels of the police, prisons, judicial, and political systems in Central America.”
  • Rule of Law:  For example: Of all the homicides committed in Honduras between 2010 and 2013, for example, only 4% Resulted In convictions.
  • Immigration/Work Visas
  • Refugees
  • Human Rights
  • Foreign Aid: Most of the issues in Central America and Mexico have been addressed using various forms of US foreign aid, mainly from the Merida Initiative in the case of Mexico and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) for the rest of Central America.

Pros and Cons

  • Pro 1: Relevancy. Mexico has been in the middle of a lot of issues in the past few years, especially in the drug war debate and increasingly hot-button immigration issues.
  • Pro 2: Trade Focus. While trade was touched on under the Middle East resolution, it was one of the least common issues that debaters had to discuss in depth. I think a focus on trade issues would something new for a lot of debaters in the NCFCA, which could be refreshing and educational.
  • Pro 3: Clear Resolutional Definitions. If you debated the Middle East resolution, you know how convoluted Topicality debates could be when the debate centers around the definition of a geographical region. Luckily for NCFCA this year, definitions of Central America are fairly consistent.
  • Con 1. Scope. Despite the fact that upwards of 6 or 7 countries fall under this resolution, the policy issues involving them are relatively narrow. Most of our policy debates about Central America are about drug trafficking and the organized crime and corruption that have resulted from it – which we address with foreign aid like the Merida Initiative and CARSI. Other than that, you are going to be debating about refugees and trade. While immigration is one of the first policy areas that comes to mind when thinking about this area of the world, most US immigration policies are more universal, making it hard to find immigration reforms that would be specific to Central America.
  • Con 2: Debating foreign aid… again. The dead horse that is foreign aid was thoroughly beaten Middle East year and in international resolutions before, and it would constitute many of the cases under this resolution.

Resolution B: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its policies toward the People’s Republic of China.

Issue Overview (info taken from a variety of reports from the Congressional Research Service; by no means comprehensive)

  • Cyberwarfare: (!!!)
  • Precious Minerals
  • Maritime Disputes: Territorial disputes in the South and East China Sea have been escalating over the past years as China becomes more willing to assert its dominance over those areas using its significant naval power. China has promised that its advances are peaceful, but that does not really assuage the worries of anyone, especially the US.
  • China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ): The Zone covers a large swath of airspace above disputed islands and forces ”the identification, location, and air traffic control of aircraft in the interest of its national security.”
  • Strategic Rebalancing/Containment of Chinese influence
  • Human Rights
  • Environmental Issues
  • Various other trade issues
  • Holding of US Securities (Public Debt)
  • Taiwan (Recognition/Arms Sales)
  • Tibet
  • Foreign Aid: Mostly for the promotion of democracy, sustainable development, and human rights promotion.

Pros and Cons

  • Pro 1: Scope. There is a lot to work with under this resolution. From territorial issues and Taiwan, to trade and public debt, the US certainly has a lot of foreign policy issues with China. Out of the three resolutions, I think this resolution offers the best in terms of having a variety of topics while still remaining focused enough to ensure depth in many areas.
  • Pro 2: Variety. The NCFCA has not had a country-specific resolution since Russia in 2011. This would be a nice sea change for those who debated UN and Middle East year, and would allow for a kind of depth that has been lost in the broader international resolutions.
  • Pro 3: New Topics. After doing a brief survey of the issues surrounding US-China relations, it became clear to me that NCFCA debaters would be exploring a lot of issues that haven’t come up in recent resolutions, which offers some great educational opportunities.
  • Con: Possibility for Monotony. In exchange for the depth of having a country-specific resolution, you have the tradeoff of the debates becoming repetitive and monotonous.

Resolution C: That the United States should substantially reform its foreign military presence.

Issue Overview

Issue Overview (info taken from a variety of reports from the Congressional Research Service; by no means comprehensive)

  • Global Conventional Presence
  • Global Naval Presence
  • Military Aid
  • Arms Sales
  • Various Military Technologies
  • Missile Defense
  • Nuclear Proliferation
  • Terrorism

Pros and Cons

  • Pro 1: Lots and lots of literature. With such a broad range of topics, there will be no shortage of academic literature to survey, which is one of the reasons I love broad resolutions.
  • Pro 2: Variety. The sheer size of the topic area makes it hard to see a situation in which debates get too repetitive or boring
  • Pro 3: Broad Topics. One interesting thing to me about this resolution is that it’s so broad that it allows for drastic changes in policy. Whereas in more specific resolutions you are confined by only being able to change policy towards a specific country, this resolution allows for wholesale shifts in US policy, which leaves a lot of potential for debating foundational foreign policy issues.
  • Con 1: Variety. The tradeoff of the broadness of the resolution is the possibility of having so many cases that it’s hard to keep up with all the cases out there. Those debaters out there who love squirrel cases are going to love this rez.
  • Con 2: Recycled cases. Not only was this exact resolution debated in Stoa in 2012, I can think of at least 3 cases I personally wrote Middle East year that could be run under this rez. The combination of cases from Stoa in 2012 and NCFCA from 2015 makes the possibility of an abundance of recycled cases and research a worrying concept.
  • Con 3: Surface-Level debate. With a resolution covering such a broad range of deep topics, there’s not a lot of incentive to go deep into the issues, especially when compared with a country-specific resolution.

TP Rez Post.001

Conclusion: B > C > A: In my opinion, Rez #1 is going to be too narrow, resulting in stale debates fairly quickly. Rez #3 is very appealing to me, but the idea of such a large amount of recycled material popping up in debates throughout the season spoils the idea for me in a pretty significant way. I think Rez #2 hits the right balance in terms of scope, while also taking the NCFCA in a direction that diverges from the international resolutions of the last 5 or so years.


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