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Blake and the Military Spending Topic — Looking Ahead to January

December 19, 2016
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As always, I enjoyed my time at the Blake tournament. It is one of my favorites tournaments of the year, and if you the opportunity, you should attend.

We are working on preparing “Answers To” blocks for common arguments, though we do have a lot covered in the releases we have already done.

Icon of Core Pro Answers to Blocks -- Military Spending -- Updated December January 2-- 253 pages Core Pro Answers to Blocks -- Military Spending -- Updated December January 2-- 253 pages -- Subscribers Only (659.8 KiB)

Icon of Core Con Answers to Blocks -- Military Spending -- Updated December January 3 - 313 pages Core Con Answers to Blocks -- Military Spending -- Updated December January 3 - 313 pages -- Subscribers Only (934.6 KiB)

For now, to assist with your preparation, I want to highlight a few major arguments . —

My flows are here.

Con Arguments

Social spending. This is a common argument, as there is some good evidence that military spending trades-off with social spending, including Medicaid and food stamps.

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its initiative on The Public Good. He is the author of “New City States” and four other non-fiction books, October 21, 2016, Salon, The wasteful truth about military spending if Trump were to become President, http://www.salon.com/2016/10/21/the-wasteful-truth-about-military-spending-if-trump-were-to-become-president/

In September 2016, as the Republican nominee, Donald Trump the politician dramatically reversed his position. He now proposes a massive increase in military spending. And instead of making the military more efficient by cutting Pentagon waste, Trump will “fully offset” the increase in military spending by reducing spending on non-defense programs through reducing their “government waste and budget gimmicks.” For an idea of what that might entail for non-defense spending, consider the Republican budget blueprint passed by the House in early 2015 (no Democrat voted in favor). To offset a significant increase in military spending, the New York Times reports, Medicaid would be cut by $900 billion. Spending on the food stamp program would be shrunk by hundreds of billions of dollars. Spending for Pell Grants for college, job training and housing assistance would be slashed.

The link evidence seems pretty good for what it states, so I suspect that this will continue to be run. That said, there are some many problems that I outline in this essay.


Diplomacy trade-off. This argument claims that increased military spending trades-off with diplomacy for a number of different reasons. Some teams claim more reasons than others, but the most popular ones are – “military spending trades of with spending on diplomacy,” “if we have a bigger military we’ll have less diplomacy,” and private military lobbies will pressure the government for more militaristic and less diplomatic approaches.

This argument obviously has a lot of strategic utility – teams can claim it solves the Pro’s impacts, so that is probably why it is popular. But despite it’s popularity, there are a number of problems.


Essay — Defeating the Con’s Diplomacy Trade-Off Argument.  There are many more answers and cards in this essay.

Arms races.   The basic argument here is quite simple – increased military spending means that other countries develop weapons, creating an arms race that leads to war. This is probably a popular argument because it is strategic—it turns the case impacts, but it is a pretty weak argument.

First, other countries (China, Russia) are substantially expanding their own defense budgets now, either for their own general defense reasons or in responses to the current US military budget), at rates that are about as high as their economies can afford.

Second, the US military budget is already as high as at least the next 15 countries combined. If high US military spending is going to motivate an arms race, it should already be doing so.

Third, there is good evidence that says that as US allies doubt the credibility of US security commitments (particularly in East Asia), they are rapidly expanding their own militaries, triggering arms races with enemies in the region, risking the development of nuclear weapons and war. How American can lead in Asia   What future for the Asia pivot.   The Trump transition in Asia: Need for priorities and plans

Economy. One team had a few arguments that seem, in my mind, to be a bit contrived , as to why military spending would hurt the economy.

  1. Increased military spending reduces foreign investment (my guess is that this evidence is talking about developing countries, as I don’t see any reason why increasing the military budget would reduce foreign investment in the US).
  2. Increase military spending reduces foreign trade because our economic development focuses more on military development rather than on exports. While this may be true if the majority of our economy was focused on military development, increasing an already enormous military budget would probably not make much of a difference in terms of the types of produced in a massive economy (the US has an $18 trillion economy and a significant increase in military spending would probably be around $100 billion).   Moreover, if military spending acts as a stimulus on the economy by increasing overall employment and demand for goods, the diversity of goods produced would increase.
  3. Economic decline means we can’t use sanctions to respond to conflicts and sanctions deter conflicts. Yes, if the economy was in terrible shape we might be less likely to respond to threats with sanctions, but (a) That assumes a massive reduction in economic activity in a $918 trillion economy, (b) that assumes the Pro can’t win reasons as to why the economy increases, and (c) it assumes the Con can win that sanctions are an effective means to reduce conflict. It is really safe to say that the consensus of evidence is that sanctions are not an effective means of reducing conflict.  There are sanctions fail/bad cards in our Pro Answers To blocks.

And there is a whole file here —

Icon of Core Con Answers to Blocks -- Military Spending -- Updated December January 3 - 313 pages Core Con Answers to Blocks -- Military Spending -- Updated December January 3 - 313 pages -- Subscribers Only (934.6 KiB)

  1. Military spending reduces innovation in the private sector. This argument basically says that if there is more military spending that there will be less innovation in the private sector and that private sector innovation is important to the economy. Again, this assumes that (a) military spending would have any sizable impact on innovation in a $13 trillion economy, that military spending doesn’t also trigger innovation (there is good evidence that military spending results in the development of new, cool products), and that innovation would decline enough to have a meaningful impact on the economy.
  2. Education spending trade-off. This argument simply claims that military spending reduces education spending, threatening the economy. There are a few problems with this. One, most education spending is funded through state and local taxes. Increasing military spending would not divert this revenue source. Two, the Republicans already want to reduce federal support for education. This will occur with or without increases in military spending. Three, the Pro can argue that military spending improves the economy in multiple ways (see above).

Waste.   The argument that the military wastes money got a bit more play than I thought it would, with some teams making reference to the argument that a Pentagon study has demonstrate the military has “wasted” $125 billion over 5 years (some teams claim it is over a single year. I think it makes sense to try to argue that we could fund new programs out of the waste rather than increasing spending, but it is also difficult to figure out what the waste is and how to reduce it. What is waste to some is value to others. And if the military is wasting some money, maybe they need to a budget increase to account for the fact that some of it is wasted.  More answers — Reports of saving the Pentagon $125 billion are just fake news; Trump can’t cut military spending 

Essay — Defeating the Con’s Military Waste Argument 

Additional Con Arguments

more military spending means more military intervention and genocide,

more military spending strengthens the military industrial complex,

funding goes to private security companies that increase conflict and war,

militarization/hegemony trades-off with multilateral solutions to problems (can also be a part of a diplomacy argument),

militarization increases anti-Americanism,

militarization means more drones and drones are bad, militarization increases anti-American terrorism.   Can we prevent the next ISIS? 

military spending undermines cooperation with Russia and strong relations with Russia are important to reigning in Iran, it’s good for US allies (NATO, Japan, etc.) to increase their defense spending to fill in the gap,

space militarization/weaponization is bad,

increasing spending supports NATO, NATO Bad    In defense of NATO;

Pro Arguments

Most of the arguments that were made were what we were expecting and I’ve included a comprehensive list below, but there were a few popular unique ones that I’ve added an explanation for here.

Allied/developing country social spending. This argument contends that US military spending means that our allies and some developing countries can spend less on their militaries and more on their own socioeconomic development. Pro teams who make this argument contend that societies that develop reasonably well have more internal security reducing the risk of conflicts and threats to the US.

Cyber security – democracy/elections impacts. The general cyber security argument had some traction and was to be expected. One interesting spin I heard on the argument was that Russian cyber security threats are a problem because the Russians are intervening in elections not only in the United States but also in Europe to tip the outcomes in those countries in favor or more authoritarian/right wing/nationalist/white nationalist candidates. Some argue that this is a direct threat to democracy, not just in the US but also abroad. Senator John McCain made this argument clearly today. . While general “Pear Harbor/cyber escalation to nuclear war” arguments are harder to win, this is an interesting and, I think, strong take on cyber security challenges and something that could possibly be prevented.

Some Pro teams also impact cyber security with, “fake news bad.” Yes, cyber intrusions are one way to push fake news, but fake news can also be pushed through legitimate public channels and fake news is difficult to crack down on, at least by the government, without repressing free speech.

Russia cyber threats — An eye for an eye: Deterring Russian cyber intrusions; US faces tall hurdles in detaining or deterring Russian hackers. Why Trump should support a probe into Russian hacking; Does election hacking signal a new era of espionage? ; A Strategic approach to the Russian hacking affair; Russia’s actions, Obama’s options 

Russia Cyber Answers — Critiques of the FBI’s/DHS’s Grizzley Steppe Report; Were Russian hacks really a threat to American democracy?

Threat of authoritarianism —  Europe and the globalization of unrest,  Globalization fears strongest in Austria, FranceEurope’s far right anger is moving mainstream,  Researchers baffled by nationalist surge , Authoritarianism goes global: The challenge to democracy,; Will the liberal order survive? (gated); Out of Order (gated); Liberalism in retreat (gated)

China A2/AD. This was covered a bit in our existing releases but the argument got a little more traction at Blake than I suspected. The basic claim is that China is currently investing in anti-access (A2) and anti-denial (AD) capabilities and that we need to need to counter those to defend against China in the South China Sea and vis-à-vis Taiwan.

SCS Answers: South China Sea distracts from bigger problems;

Private Military Contractors (PMC) shift. The argument is that if we don’t adequately fund our military that we will employ more civilian military contractors and that civilian military contractors are bad for a number of reasons – human right abuses, not as subject to military laws and regulations, create profit motives for war, undermine the credibility of the US military abroad.

Army Corps of Engineers. This argument says we need to strengthen the Army Corps of Engineers in order to better defend the homeland and to provide better military power projection capabilities from the US in a crisis.

Additional Pro arguments

[Note: There are answers to these in the “Answer to files” that you can access in our topic resource section.  I’ve included some links to some articles that you can read yourself for answers

need a strong military to stop genocide in Syria and other places,  Aleppo isn’t Rwanda, Stop the hand wringing about Aleppo, Can UN monitors stop the slaughter in Aleppo,

need to fund the US military to reduce reliance on private contractors,

need to deter Iranian aggression in the Straits of Hormuz,

general hegemony/US power projection (need to defend the global commons), Answers: The 2016 election damaged US credibilityMaintaining perspectives about US adversaries; Why the State Department is worried about Donald Trump and his tweets. Restrained strategy, lower US military budgets.

Related: The Return of Hard Power

Essay — Answering the Pro’s Hegemony Good Argument 

A2/AD (Russia China), need to deter in the South China Sea (China escalating maritime territorial disputes) and Russia in the Medeterranean Sea,

generally need to deter Russia, Russia missing from Trump’s Top defense priorities (how can military spending deter Russia if Trump won’t direct the spending in a way that deters Russia),

Related: A Blueprint for Trump to fix relations with Russia,

generally need to be able to deter China,  Beijing is ready to go eyeball to eyeball with Trump

need a strong military to back up diplomacy, more military spending will strengthen the economy and boost employment, general military readiness/personnel –

we need to boost the number of combat forces and pay to prevent people from quitting the military,

we need to strengthen our military commitments to Japan so that they don’t militarize further (including developing nuclear weapons),

we need to build missile defense.  Will missile defense help in a global nuclear war?  Missile defense and threat at CSIS

General Thoughts

INCREASING MILITARY SPENDING. The resolution asks the question of whether or not military spending should be significantly increased. It doesn’t ask whether or not the US should simply spend money on its military. Many teams are reading basic arguments about whether or not the current levels of military spending are good or bad and no about whether INCREASES in military spending are good or bad. The US already has a defense budget that is around $600 billion ($617 under the recently passed National Defense Authorization (NDAA) Act.). Most of the general impacts that people are reading on the Pro and Con are not unique to the INCREASE.   Teams that are reading arguments about why increasing military spending is good or bad are the ones who are winning more of the debates (as they should be).

Researching increases. The simplest way to find proposals for increases is to research Trump’s military plans, which generally call for a substantial increase in military spending.

President-elect Donald Trump believes the the Obama administration has weakened the American military. He campaigned on a promise of greater security, particularly against terrorism; although the vast majority of military spending has nothing to do with anti-terrorism activities, that should translate into a whole lot of military spending, especially when coupled with the Reagan-legacy view of Trump’s party that defense spending is the most legitimate form of spending to stimulate the economy.

In his campaign, Trump called for 90,000 more Army soldiers, a 350-ship Navy, 100 more fighters, and strengthened nuclear and missile defenses. That sounds like detail, but it leaves out quite a bit.

The best pre-election analysis of the expected Trump budget came from William Hartung, a veteran and insightful analyst, who is at the Center for International Policy, drawing on Ross Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

What we do know is that Trump has been drawing many of his defense proposals from the National Defense Panel and the Heritage Foundation. Both of these organizations have advocated for returning the defense budget to the levels proposed in the FY 2012 budget request (the so-called Gates budget). Without any other details from the Trump campaign, I think this is a good ballpark estimate for what Trump is aiming for in terms of the defense budget. The FY 2012 request is about $800-900B higher over ten years than the most recent president’s budget request.” (Forbes, November 9)

This is a 13% increase:

Pentagon contractors celebrated this week at the prospect of even more government dollars headed their way. From Election Day to Tuesday the 15th, stock prices for military aerospace and defense companies rose nine percent. For all of the president-elect’s lack of policy clarity, his position on Pentagon and military spending has been pretty clear: it’s headed higher. While specifics are scarce, a reasonable rough guess of how much military spending might increase under a Trump presidency is about 13%, or $80 billion. For context, an increase of $80 billion is more than the federal government currently spends on education ($72 billion), all of international affairs ($43 billion), or energy and the environment ($43 billion). [National Priorities, November 16]

That’s a massive increase:

In September 2016, as the Republican nominee, Donald Trump the politician dramatically reversed his position. He now proposes a massive increase in military spending. [Salon]

On December 16th (the day Blake started) the Navy proposed increasing its size to 353 ships, which is very close to the Trump proposal. [The navy’s new plan for a 355-ship navy, A quick review of the navy’s new force structure assessment]

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the studies’ framers will conclude it takes more than 308 ships. The navy leadership agrees. On Friday the service released its much-anticipated “Force Structure Assessment,” espousing a 355-ship fleet. The leadership will review the fleet-architecture studies and, if necessary, refine the official tally for recommended ship numbers. (National Interest, December 16)

These are all very ripe areas for Pro case ground. Pro teams should research the proposals and defend them, including the specific impacts to the value of the increase in the a particular area. If they do this, it will basically be impossible for the Con to defeat them with the very general/generic “defense spending bad” arguments that are often talking about the status quo or just general problems with increases. The specific impacts that the Pro can articulate to these increases should outweigh.

Teams need to answer each other’s link arguments. Decent teams are good at extending their own links but even the best teams are struggling to answer each other’s link arguments. What do I mean? I mean, for example, that the Pro says,, “Military spending reduces terrorism because increased military assaults on terrorists cause them drain their own resources, reducing terror attacks..” Then, the Con says, “Military intervention increases terrorism because it generates anti-Americanism.” Both sides extend their argument, but they don’t (a) Explain why the other side’s argument is false (the resource diversion argument isn’t true/significant) and (b) Talk about why their link argument is bigger than the other side’s link argument (that the increase in Anti-Americanism would be much bigger than any resources reduction). Without attacking the other team’s link and making comparative claims, it’s basically impossible for the judge to resolve the debate. The judge either has to conclude that the debate is a wash or simply pick one of the arguments.

Is the topic “biased” for a particular side? If it is , it’s hard to say. I think there is some slight bias for the Pro simply because there are so many different scenarios they cold read and if they chose one of the Trump proposals then they can argue the unique advantage to that against the generic disadvantages presented by the Con. So, yes, I think there is a substantive bias, especially since I think many of the common Con arguments (social spending trade-off, diplomacy trade-off, economy are pretty weak), but as always, there seems to be a strategic advantage to speaking second and the better teams tend to win, regardless as to what side they are on.

Diversity of arguments. Judges seem to be a bit opinionated on this topic – like on whether they think Russia and China are threats/are not threats. Given this, I think it is important to have a diversity of arguments so that you can increase the chances that your judge will find a particular argument to be persuasive.

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